I heard the sad news today about Reg Presley passing. Encouraged by a friend who suggested that “a kind thought almost never falls on stony ground,” I called his wife, Brenda to offer my sympathy and to say a warm hello. I was so glad I did. Hearing her voice was a clear reminder of how special Reg & his wife were together… kind and loving to each other.. with a unique common-man sense of humor.
I met Reg and the boys in New York, maybe a year or so after Wild Thing went to #1 on the U.S. charts. I liked them immediately. There was no rock & roll posing – these were just damned good guys. Every so often our paths would cross again.
Then, about seven or eight years ago Reg & I were in each other’s company on a few occasions. We played Wild Thing on a UK TV show (with Carrie Rodriguez) and then Reg & Brenda showed up at a few of our shows. Each time he’d come with his trusted ocarina in his pocket and gladly join us for a show-stopping version of “that song.” I love those memories.
About Wild Thing
Back in the “Brill Building” 60s, my biggest concern as a writer, was that the artist and producer recording my song would capture the feel or the groove of the song correctly .. that is, like the demo recording that I produced. I’m happy to say that many did. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. But none captured the feel and the intent of the demo, better than the Troggs recording of Wild Thing, thanks to the true rock & roll spirit of Reg & the boys and Larry Page’s instincts not to overproduce. I remember the first time I heard it .. it killed me!
And Jimi Hendrix felt exactly the same way. I love the story about Jimi jumping out of the shower butt naked when he heard Wild Thing playing on his radio to tell his girlfriend, “That’s the record I was telling you about!!” Thanks to Reg & the boys, Jimi immediately included the song in his shows and his legendary Monterey performance soon followed.
REG – THE SONGWRITER
Aside from his unique – humble but passionate – delivery as a vocalist, it should be remembered that Reg was an important writer in his own right. Sandwiched between and around Wild Thing and another of my songs, Anyway That You Want Me, in the space of a couple of years, he wrote and had hits with some cool, simple little rock & roll heartfelt songs, With A Girl Like You, I Can’t Control Myself and Love Is All Around. Those honest blasts of rock & roll energy were unique in their day. Later on, you could feel similar energy with the Ramones and the Velvet Undergound. Reg & the boys should be remembered as sort of pioneers of that great stuff.
My deep condolences to Brenda, daughter Karen and son Jason – as well as to Jacqueline (Jackie) Ryan and all those from his passionate and wonderful fan club, who saw the beauty in what Reg & the boys did from the very beginning and were their champions for all these years. I’m proud to have known so many of you.
Here’s to Reg .. a talented guy – a humble guy .. a nice guy. It’s wonderful that he came by when he did.
I heard my dad mention her many times, and heard him say she was his “favorite singer.” It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I really listened to her myself, and I understood what she meant to my dad, and how influential she had been. I can imagine him listening to hear over the radio, that combination of spiritual and badass, and how my dad integrated that VERY combination into his own musical persona. Read Full Article
Although her outstanding recordings in the 1960s were critically acclaimed and she counted Dusty Springfield, the Hollies and Patti LaBelle among her fans and admirers, Brooklyn-born Evie Sands was the hard-luck girl of the era.
Songwriter Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing”) and guitarist Al Gorgoni (“Brown Eyed Girl”) teamed up with Evie in the mid 1960s and produced a string of singles for Lieber and Stoller’s Blue Cat label. The first, Take Me For A Little While, with an absolutely wonderful vocal, seemed to be a sure smash. Especially, as it turned out, to an unscrupulous promoter who took a test pressing over to the people working on Chess soul singer Jackie Ross’ followup to her monster hit “Selfish One”. A hastily recorded imitation version was released at the same time as Evie’s original. The subsequent litigation and confusion caused radio to back away and Evie’s version was only a regional hit.
Evie’s next single, Taylor and Gorgoni’s I Can’t Let Go, was caught up in the wake of the earlier fiasco and was relegated to an also-ran when the Hollies turned their version into an international hit.
In 1967, Sands and Taylor tried again with Angel of the Morning for Cameo Records. In its first week of release, the single was the most requested song on radio around the country. However, Cameo went bankrupt and copies of the single never made it to the stores. Several months later, Angel of the Morning was a huge hit for Merrilee Rush.
Finally, in 1969 Evie, teaming up again with Taylor & Gorgoni, had some success with Taylor’s Any Way That You Want Me which sold 500,000 copies and Rolling Stone called it one of the best singles of the year. An album of the same name sold modestly despite critical acclaim and Evie didn’t resurface until the mid 1970s when she scored two top 40 hits.
Evie then devoted her creative energies to songwriting, penning tunes for artists such as Barbara Streisand, Gladys Knight and Dusty Springfield but stayed out of the spotlight herself for many years.
A chance encounter with Taylor in 1996 led to a comeback album in 1998 called Women in Prison which featured a wonderful duet with Lucinda Williams. This led to a few appearances with Belle & Sebastian who, along with many others in the UK, had always loved those neglected singles from the 1960s.
I had the honor of being involved in the earliest days of Muscle Shoals Music. This is an area in NW Alabama that became known all over the world for the great records that were recorded there.
Some of the great people from the early days and beyond are – Arthur Alexander (who had the first Muscle Shoals R&B hit “You Better Move On”), Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Billy Sherrill, David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Carrigan, Peanut Montgomery, Travis Wammack, Rick Hall, and later on the brilliant rhythm section of Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins. Then the late great Eddie Hinton arrived and the list goes on. But I’m not here to tell you about those guys. I want to tell you about an unsung hero, a man named Hollis Dixon.
Hollis started one of the first rock and roll bands around town and believe me, he always had the best. He had a great voice, but even more important he was the best front man that I have ever seen and that still holds true today. He was so funny and always great with the audience. Just about all of the musicians and songwriters that made their mark in Muscle Shoals and went on to be extremely successful were, at some point, in Hollis’ band. Hollis provided us with a gig that honed our skills and helped pay the bills until we could make a living writing our songs, playing sessions, publishing or producing records.
Hollis Dixon’s contribution to the growth of Muscle Shoals music was unprecedented. Whenever I hear “Whole Lot of Shakin”, “Blueberry Hill”, “Johnny B Good”, “Shout”, or “Suzie Q”, I remember fondly the years I spent in Hollis’ band. We must have played those songs a thousand times.
Hollis could definitely have had a successful career in the music business but his family was much more important to him. He and his beautiful wife Rae, raised three wonderful children. Really, you can’t get any more successful than that.
To Hollis, Thank you from all of us. Hollis Dixon 1935 – 2010.