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Sandy Finds Her Calling

If you called to book a session at American Studios on Thomas back in the mid-1960’s, chances are you would talk to a lady named Sandy Posey. Similarly, if you were a song publisher wanting to interest producer Chips Moman in recording one of your tunes, receptionist Sandy Posey would be the first person you would talk with. Perhaps the conversation would turn to the fact that Sandy herself was a singer. All supposition aside, for one industrious song plugger, that information turned into a opportunity to say, “Sandy, I think I have something that just might be a perfect fit for you.”

Writer Roben Jones shares the story in her book Memphis Boys, The Story of American Studios. Gary Walker, representing Painted Desert Music, came by to pitch some songs for the Gentrys’ second album. And somewhere in his repertoire was a song Martha Sharp wrote titled “Born A Woman.” Walker invited Posey to come to Muscle Shoals and sing the demo version of the song. It didn’t happen overnight, but Chips got around to cutting the master of the song, and Sandy was his pick for the singer.

American Studios was still in the process of converting from monaural to 4-track recording, so the session was held at Royal Studios with Moman at the board. The home studio for Hi Records, Royal had immediate access to multi-track facilities. Scotty Moore played guitar on the session, and in the band were couple of guys who would become regulars at American Studios in the months to come, Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech.

MGM picked up the record. “Born A Woman” peaked at number 12 on the charts, but went gold, and Sandy received two Grammy nominations. The remainder of her first album, and its follow-up, were recorded in Nashville. Summer sessions in the Music City produced another number 12 hit from another Martha Sharp song, “Single Girl.” Sandy went country in the 70’s, working with producer Billy Sherrill.

Songwriter Martha Sharp also wrote “Come Back When You Grow Up,“ a hit for Bobby Vee, and went on to become a Vice President with Warner Records. Sharp is credited with discovering Randy Travis.

Throughout her career, Sandy Posey still did studio work, and popped up as a background singer, notably on “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge, and hits by Joe Tex, Bobby Goldsboro and Tommy Roe.

Chips Moman did get the bugs worked out at American Studios, and would produce an astounding number of major hit records in the next couple of years.

Chips moved to Memphis in the early 50’s from his native Georgia while in his teens, and played guitar in a number of bands. While backing the Burnette Brothers, he did session work at Gold Star Studios in LA. He applied what he learned there when given the chance as an engineer and producer back in Memphis for Jim Stewart at Satellite Records.

Satellite Records needed to move out of their home in Brunswick, Tennessee, so Moman scouted locations. He was the one who found the old Capitol Theatre on McLemore which became home to Satellite’s successor, Stax Records. Chips was instrumental in shaping the Stax sound, and produced the bulk of their early hits.

Moman’s parting from Stax was reportedly not amicable. Many felt the drive which powered his career was the desire to show Jim Stewart what he was missing by not having included Chips in his organization. In the waning years of the 1960’s, careers would be made, and resurrected, by the recordings that came from Moman’s studio at 827 Thomas Street in Memphis. Between 1967 and 1971, American Sound Studios and the semi-anonymous backing band it assembled would be responsible for 122 top ten hits. Artists would come to Memphis relatively unknown, and leave with the tracks which would make them household names.

My heroes have always been disc jockeys. I especially admired the ones who could take the canvas of the fourteen-second intro of a teeny-bopper song and paint a masterpiece. From my youth, I strove to emulate them. I had the good fortune to walk in some of their footsteps, albeit a respectful pace behind.