Wilson Pickett found great success recording at Rick Hall’s FAME recording studios. He began his creative association with the Muscle Shoals team in 1966, with “Land of 1,000 Dances”, originally recorded in New Orleans in 1963 by Fats Domino and written by singer /song writer Chris Kenner. The song achieved the number one position on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles Chart week-ending September 17th 1966 (1 week). The single was co-produced by Rick Hall and Jerry Wexler, who was a recording executive on the Atlantic Records senior management team.
In May and October 1965, Wilson Pickett had recorded three sessions at Stax Records in Memphis, including the hit “In the Midnight Hour”. Jim Stewart, the co-owner, then decided to invite no more outside productions to the studio, so Jerry Wexler sent Pickett to FAME in 1966. Rick Hall was very grateful!
The follow-up and final number one single to be produced at Rick Hall’s FAME for Pickett was “Funky Broadway”, number one week-ending September 30th 1967 (1 week). The musicians included on the session were Jimmy Johnson and Chips Moman on guitars, Tommy Cogbill on bass, Roger Hawkins on drums and Spooner Oldham on keyboards. In addition Gene “Bowlegs” Miller, Floyd Newman, Charlie Chalmers and Jimmy Mitchell were all part of the horn section. Chalmers also played the tenor sax solo on the track with Jerry Wexler, who produced the single.
In November 1968, Wilson Pickett returned to Muscle Shoals to cut his ninth studio album. One day, whilst most of the musicians were out at lunch, Duane Allman, a young guitarist who was playing on the album, suggested to Pickett that they should record a cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. Hall and Pickett thought it was a strange idea, but Allman persuaded them to give it a go. The track became the title track for the album and, as a single, reached number thirteen on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and number twenty-three on the Top 200 chart. Eric Clapton was impressed: “I remember hearing Wilson Pickett’s ‘Hey Jude’ and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. I had to know who that was immediately.”
Wilson Pickett had a tremendous impact and influence on the recording industry internationally, as both singer and song writer. He recorded over fifty songs which entered the charts, a level of success which led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. It may have been recorded over fifty years ago, but “Land of 1,000 Dances” still makes me want to dance!