You might not know his name but I’m betting you’ve probably heard his guitar at some point during your life. That’s because Reggie Young has played on myriad hit records during an extraordinary career that spans over sixty years. You can hear his distinctive fretboard work on, for example, such classic ’60s records as Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away,’ Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man,’ Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline,’ and Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds.’ And the list goes on. And on. In fact, Reggie, who’ll be 81 in December, has played on hundreds of records in a multiplicity of genres but, remarkably, has never cut a full-length LP under his own name until now. It’s been a long time coming but ‘Forever Young,’ a collection of tastefully played, soul-infused instrumentals with his guitar firmly centre stage, has been well worth the wait.
“I’d been so busy doing sessions that I never really had time to put one together,” explains Reggie from his home in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. “I thought about it but it was time-consuming so I never pursued it until the last few years when session work became less busy around here.” Reggie lives 30 miles south of Nashville, the country music Mecca where he’s done most of his session work since the early ’70s. Before that, he was part of an elite session group dubbed the ‘Memphis Boys’ working at producer, Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis between 1965 and 1972, which became renowned for producing soul, country and pop hits. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Reggie played in Bill Black’s Combo, a quintet who scored a massive R&B hit with ‘Smokie,’ and also supported The Beatles on their first US tour.
Recalling how ‘Forever Young’ came about, Reggie says “It just fell right into place. In the studio when I was setting up my instrument, I would play snippets of tunes that I had written to help me get in tune. People started asking me, what is that you’re playing? They’d say, you ought to record some of that, that’s really good. I got to thinking about it and thought well, all right, and that’s what I did. Trying to make them five or six minutes long was a bit of a challenge but it worked pretty good.”
‘Forever Young’ is a beautiful record which reveals that the modest and softy spoken guitar player originally from Missouri to be a true master craftsman. Its seven songs – which feature brass arrangements by Jim Horn and cello parts by Reggie’s wife, Jennifer – range from elegant ballads (‘Soul Love’) to tight R&B grooves (‘Memphis Grease’) and elegant mid-tempo songs (‘Seagrove Place’). Unlike some guitarists, Reggie never overplays – everything is executed with a tasteful economy where each note or phrase just seems absolutely perfect.
Via an in-depth interview with SJF’s Charles Waring, Reggie Young talks about his new record as well as some of those classic recordings he’s appeared on and his close encounter with the ‘Fab Four’…
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