Sunday, March 11, 2007
PRINCE PHILLIP MITCHELL
Born in 1944 in Louisville, Kentucky, Phillip started singing at an early age. He learnt to play the trumpet, guitar & piano and by the age of 8 was already attempting to write songs. From singing in school and on street corners, he soon progressed to cutting singles with both the Checkmates & the Premiers. In 1963, the Checkmates won a Louisville talent contest, their prize of a recording session for Correc-tone Records unfortunately never materialised. Disillusioned, Phillip teamed up with Alvin Cash & the Crawlers but his new start was brought to an abrupt end when he was called up for a short stay in the military.
Next he joined a touring musical revue and eventually ended up in the recording hot bed of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Here he introduced himself to Fame Studio’s Rick Hall who cut him on the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham song “Keep On Talking”. Although recorded in 1966, it would be 2 years before this outing was released on Smash. In the meantime, Phillip had traveled to LA, but Muscle Shoals soon beckoned him back. On his travels, Phillip had amassed a bag full of select songs and this helped him secure a contract with Muscle Shoals Sound studio (started by the Fame musicians). It wasn’t long before Barry Becket & Roger Hawkins decided to cut him on his song “Free For All”. This was leased to Shout Records who later that year (1969) also issued his “I’m Gonna Build California All Over the World”. However Shout was slipping towards oblivion following the death of its supremo, Bert Berns, and neither single managed to make any real impact.
Phillip then penned “Starting All Over Again” for Sam & Dave but Atlantic’s A&R guys passed on it. In 1972, Mel & Tim were recording at MSS so “Starting All Over Again” was dusted off. Their version, when released on a Stax 45 entered the US soul chart in July 72, climbing to peak in the Top 5. Phillip’s own recording career had become moribund, but the success of his song resulted in Hi Records signing him. 3 singles followed, but with Hi putting all their efforts behind Al Green, Phillip’s releases were lost in the mix. He did however get to cut Beau Williams (Bo Bo Mr. Soul) for Hi on his impressive song “Hitch-hike to Heartbreak Road”. Meanwhile back at MSS, both Bobby Sheen & Bobby Womack recorded song’s penned by Phillip (in 1972 & 1973 respectively). Sheen cut “Something New To Do” with Womack including “If You Can’t Give Her Love” on his ‘Facts of Life’ album (Mary Wells also cut this). Mel & Tim’s second Stax album was released in 1974, this including “Forever And a Day”, yet another outstanding song Phillip had written,
Phillip himself signed with Event Records and the 45 “There’s Another In My Life” became his first ever chart entry in March 1975. Bobby Womack cut Phillip’s sublime song “Home Is Where the Heart Is” (Columbia) at MSS & this became a hit late in 1976. Meanwhile, Phillip had been recruited by drummer Norman Connors to handle lead vocal duties with his band. This association resulted in Phillip singing lead on the Top 20 hit “Once I’ve Been There”. At about the same time, Atlantic Records teamed Ben E King with the Average White Band for a joint project and they took Phillip’s song “A Star in the Ghetto” into the Top 30 in October 77. So Phillip, again without a recording deal, was offered a contract with Atlantic. Sent to record an entire album for the first time in his career, Phillip produced ‘Make It Good’ in ABC’s LA studio. The album (featuring all his own songs) escaped in March 78. The first single taken from it, “One on One”, charted in June. A second 45, the classy “You’re All I’ve Got in the World”, followed later in the year but didn’t sell as well.
For his next album, Phillip headed back to his spiritual home, Muscle Shoals Sound studio. ‘Top of the Line’ (June 79) again featured his own compositions with both of the resulting singles enjoying commercial success. Aided by the release of 12” remixes, “Let’s Get Wet” made the charts even before the album had hit the shelves. “If it Ain’t Love, I’ll Go Away” followed this into the national charts in August (the magnificent “I’m So Happy” featuring as its B side). Disco then took over, so Phillip let his songwriting royalty’s takeover paying the bills. Ichiban Records eventually coaxed him back and “You’re Gonna Come Back to Love” (from his ‘Devastation’ album) returned Philip to the charts. Surprisingly it would be 1991 before a follow-up album (‘Loner’) would be issued.
Interest in his back catalogue however just grew with a number of his songs gaining anthem status. Their standing here resulted in Phillip making his first visit to the UK to perform live. Further trips ensured interest in his past work didn’t wane and this encouraged Grapevine Records to raid the Muscle Shoals Sound studio tape vaults for his un-issued cuts. The 2 CDs they have released (‘In the Beginning’ & ‘Pick Hit of the Week)’ have included such classics as “Home Is Where The Heart Is”, “How Can I Go On Without You”, “Trippin On Your Love” & “I Don’t Do This (to Every Girl I Meet). So this time, when Phillip sings for his British fans, he will finally be able to claim full ownership of the superb songs he will be performing.
Phillip will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).