Skip Pitts was one of the coolest people that ever lived. He was an absolute fixture at the Ponderosa Stomp, and I had seen him with Isaac Hayes, and loved his recent work with The Bo-Keys as well. He was a consummate professional, and truly a 'musician's musician'. People knew him, of course, as 'the Shaft guitarist', but there was much more to the story... and stories there were. As anyone who knew him will tell you, Skip had a million of them. It was my great privilege to hang out with him over the course of several days at Royal Studio in Memphis during the sessions Bob Wilson booked there for Sir Lattimore Brown in June of 2008.
Fellow veterans of the Soul circuit, Lattimore and Skip hit it off right away, and listening to them swap tales of life backstage at places like The Apollo and The Howard Theater is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Some of Skip's most hair-raising stories had to do with his days as the guitarist for Wilson Pickett's road band, The Midnight Movers, in the late sixties.
Check out the 21 year old Soul Man just gettin' on down in this video from a 1968 European Tour... "Play it Skip!" He was the only one who could soothe the savage beast once The Wicked One really got out there, he told me. Those must have been some days.
When The Isley Brothers decided to start their own record label in 1969, they brought in The Midnight Movers as their backing band and cut this stone classic we have here today. It would spend a solid month at #1 R&B that Spring, while crossing over to the #2 slot on the Hot 100. It was just all over the radio, and has remained pretty heavy in the rotation ever since. When Skip told me he was the guy playing those funky 'chunk-chunks' on here, I was blown away. He had been such a part of the soundtrack of my life, and I never even knew it.
It was on the strength of this groundbreaking record that Isaac Hayes asked Skip to come to Memphis in 1970 and help him form his own band. Together they would put Theme From Shaft squarely on top of the Billboard Pop Chart for two weeks in the fall of 1971, and provide the ultimate 'moment when cool was born' at WattStax the following summer:
They would remain together for life.
I will never forget the day that Bob Wilson brought Skip back down to Willie Mitchell Boulevard to overdub the absolutely brilliant lead guitar part on The Itch. As he plugged in his trademark black Stratocaster, and began working that wah-wah, my jaw just dropped. He was as good as he ever was, man, a true guitar genius just creating on the fly. All those years of R&B history, the incredible life he had lived, came shining through at that moment. Here, truly, was an artist. Here was a real Soul Man.
This page exists as kind of a negative image of our real blog, the "B" side. It's sole purpose is to provide you with certain "A" sides
that are not well known in and of themselves, and might not be readily available on CD.