(Memphis, Tennessee) We venture south this week into northern Mississippi, home of my friend, the late Jim Dickinson, his sons, Luther and Cody of the famous North Mississippi All-Stars, and his sweet wife, Mary Lindsay. In the past couple of months I wrote articles about Jim and his artistic and scholarly contributions to music, particularly BLUES. This week my band worked in the very sanctum sanctorum of the man himself, his recording complex at the Zebra Ranch. I am endeavoring this week to share some of the experience of the place and the trials of our recording with you, my beloved readers.
The Zebra Ranch is about an hour’s drive from my home in Memphis and we ventured down the highway everyday this week to load in recording gear and lots of musical gear to do the job. This will be the seventh Reba Russell Band CD and it is shaping up to be the finest one we have ever recorded. There were songs proffered from many fine song writers and the inspirational value of the Zebra Ranch is not to be discounted either. We even recorded a couple of Jim Dickinson’s favorite songs in his honor and simply because they are so damn much fun. Jim loved to laugh and his wit was exceptional. His insight continues to unfold to me like the never-ending geometric permutations of a kaleidoscope.
(above)The legendary Jim Dickinson
photo courtesy of Tom Lonardo
guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Josh Roberts
the last big hit on SUN was by Jim Dickinson
surrounded by awards at the Zebra Ranch
Today’s article consists mainly of photographs (about 120 of them) because I was enthralled with all the visual stimuli at the Zebra Ranch and since most of you will likely never visit here, I thought you might enjoy a look around the grounds. It rarely ceased raining after our first day or so in the studio and we stayed for almost a week cutting songs all the livelong day and night. It was great to be able to hang out with my friends, my old band mates, in such a remote relaxed atmosphere and I knew that Jim was looking down on us and smiling throughout the week. He was always there with sincere advice, a witty quip or a ponderous opinion and his legacy among musicians across the world remains strong.
Lightening, Jim called him, “the long and the short of it.”
For our band, this may indeed be one of our greatest efforts to date, at least from my perspective. It is a tastefully crafted recording true to our blues roots and inspired by our surroundings. The last day of recording will be today, Monday, and then our beloved Dawn Hopkins is off to Wayne Russell’s secret Fortress of solitude to do the mixing. The record will be out this year, likely in a few months time before we begin our touring schedule for 2010.
The mighty BEB Production team produces the magic CD
Dawn Hopkins, Reba Russell
the Creature from the Black Lagoon is prominent on the wall
Jim’s favorite chair, a barber chair in the back room
bassist Wayne Russell
reads the wall
magic star with a lucky ladybug crawling on it
This is the rear isolation room for guitar amps. That’s Luther’s brown Fender Concert in there and Brother Duane looks down upon the happenings. Luther got that amp in honor of the late Lee Baker who played one just like it.
Reba and Mary Dickinson
Wayne and Doug
an old Farfisa organ, one of the first portables
Listening on the speakers after cutting a track
Doug strokes the zebra skins
The good luck horseshoe seemed to work as we cut 14 sides in about 4 days and then I overdubbed my parts on the big piano on the next 2 days. In order to keep the tracks separated properly we could not cut with the acoustic piano as we would get too much bleed-over on the other tracks.
buckaroo Doug McMinn
dons his hat to stay dry in the torrential monsoon
holy mojo candles from Tater Red on Beale
this holds up the ceiling and the roof
This beautiful piano is provided by the fine folks at Baldwin
, a division of Gibson Guitars
this was my battle station
Mr. D’s concept of the vast geographical expanse of Memphis
Vital coffee supplies rest on the Yamaha Zebra Leslie that I gave to Jim a couple of years ago.
a sculpture of me as a younger man
my friend Luther Dickinson
, son of Jim, is a world class guitarist