Author Randy Fox explores the history of Nashville blues label Excello Records and its partnership with WLAC-AM and Ernie’s Record Mart in the 1950s. Following a panel discussion, a concert celebrates the label’s soul, gospel, and R&B legacy.
The panelists for this program, held April 6, 2019, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, are musicians Bob Wilson, Freddie North, Regina McCrary, and Swamp Dogg. The concert includes performances by The Valentines, Jimmy Church, The McCrary Sisters and Swamp Dogg.
Moderator Fox—the author of “Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story”—first asks the panelists about their memories of listening to WLAC. Freddie North explains how he started to work and to record for the label shortly after Ernie Young (of Ernie’s Record Mart) sold his business interests in 1966 to the Crescent Company. Singer Regina McCrary speaks about Shannon Williams, who worked his way up from stock clerk at Ernie’s Record Mart to becoming head of A&R and a prominent gospel producer. A session keyboardist, Bob Wilson tells a story about producing blues musician Slim Harpo with Williams’ encouragement, then performs Harpo’s hit “Raining in My Heart” on piano.
After viewing a 1970 video clip, McCrary reflects on being part of the B.C. & M. Mass Choir at age 11. That ensemble (standing for Baptist, Catholic, and Methodist) recorded for the gospel label Nashboro Records, a sister label of Excello Records. Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams discusses his association with Mankind Records, a subsidiary label created just for his production. He also speaks about writing the classic song “She’s All I Got,” which became a million-selling hit for Freddie North. An audio clip of North’s version is played, followed by a portion of Johnny Paycheck’s 1971 rendition.
Dr. Dina Bennett, curatorial director of the National Museum of African American Music, speaks briefly before the program starts.
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