Willie Mitchell / March 1, 1928 - Jan 5, 2010

He produced Al Green and was an owner, engineer and staff producer for the Memphis-based soul label Hi Records. He also produced albums for Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Otis Clay and others. Papa Willie Mitchell was a major part of the Southern soul scene and his Hi Records company was one of the most successful independent labels in the world.

A Memphis native, Mitchell started playing trumpet at 8 and was writing and arranging music soon after. His early groups included musicians such as Booker Little, Phineas Newborn Jr, Charles Lloyd and George Coleman. He gigged with Elvis Presley in the mid-'50s and worked at Home Of The Blues. In '59 Mitchell signed with Hi, working in their studio and helping to build their sound. Al Jackson Jr (of the MG's) was the drummer on many of the hits.

After working as a staff producer and engineer, he became a co-owner of Hi Records in 1970 after founder Joe Cuoghi died. Mitchell brought us many of our favorite 70s soul hits, especially Al Green's best period. He played trumpet, composed, arranged, engineered and generally ran the show. After the sale of Hi to major label interests he started Waylo Records and Royal Recording Studio and in later years collaborated with Green, Joyce Cobb and Solomon Burke.

He had his own hit with "Soul Serenade" in '68:

He was the one who signed Green to Hi and coaxed his biggest hits out of him:

And who doesn't just LOVE this classic?!:

Tagged: Al Green, Ann Peebles, blues, Celebrate Icons, Memphis, soul!, soul/funk, trumpet, Willie Mitchell

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