Royal Recording Studio, 1329 South Lauderdale, Memphis, Tennessee >
HI RECORDS - Memphis record label started
end of 1957 by former Sun artist Ray Harris in partnership with former session musicians/songwriters/producers Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell. Cecil Scaife, who later joins Sun, is the label only's employee, operating from a rented house on Poplar Avenue
in Memphis. The capital comes from Joe Cuoghi at Poplar Tunes record store , and three silent partners, including Cuoghi's lawyer, Nick Pesce.
The first single, reviewed December 9, 1957, is Carl McVoy's ''Tootsie'' b/w ''You Are My Sunshine'' (Hi 2001), subsequently leased to Phillips
International, and re-released in April 1958. With the money from Phillips, the partners install a recording studio in an abandoned movie theater on 1329 South Lauderdale Avenue in Memphis.
Hi Records' first big hit was "Smokie Part 1/2" (Hi 2018), an instrumental by The Bill
Black Combo in 1959. Black was a...
player with Elvis Presley and a long time friend of Ray Harris. Founder Claunch was forced out of the label, selling his share in 1960 to Carl McVoy (Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin), who had been involved with label
since its first recording and worked with Bill Black.
Willie Mitchell joined the label
that year as a recording artist. He later went on to produce Al Green in 1968. Bill Black's saxophonist, Ace Cannon, landed a hit with the single "Tuff" (Hi 2040) in 1961.
Willie Mitchell became head of Artists and Repertoire and was
the label's producer. Mitchell met Arkansan Albert Greene in Midland, Texas, and asked him back to Memphis 'to become a star'. Using former Stax drummer Al Jackson, Jr. and three Hodges
brothers, Teenie, Charles, and Leroy, on guitar, organ, and bass, Mitchell cultivated an intense moody sound. Described as 'deep soul', the sound was perfected on Green's series of
million-sellers: "Let's Stay Together" (Hi 2202), "I'm Still In Love With You" (Hi 2216), "Tired Of Being Alone" (Hi 2194), and so on.
Recordings for Hi Records was done at the Royal Recording Studios located at 1329 South
Lauderdale in Memphis, Hi's offices were located at Poplar Tunes, Cuoghi's record store. The label became a subsidiary of British-owned London Records.
Years later, Hi artist Willie Mitchell performed at some of Elvis Presley's New Year's Eve
parties in Memphis.
Other artists on the label, including O. V. Wright and Ann Peebles, did not reach the same level of success. In 1970, when founder Joe Cuoghi died and Ray Harris retired, Nick Pesce
became president and Willie Mitchell was made vice-president.
Hi Records closed in 1977, but the studio, now known as Royal Recording, is still open and was run by Willie Mitchell. His Royal Sound Studio is the only survivor among the Memphis
sound studios. Royal Sound is generally not open to the public. Recent success has come from Scottish teeny-popper Wet Wet Wet, blues artist Johnny Mayo, Syl Johnson, Krysto (the
Polish Elvis), and Rappers 201.
The best place to experience the history of the label is at Willie Mitchell's own nightclub, Willie Mitchell's Rhythm and Blues Club at 326 Beale Street.
Willie Mitchell died in Memphis on January 5, 2010 from a cardiac arrest. His final work was
producing the final Solomon Burke studio album, ''Nothing's Impossibile'', released in June 2010.