Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


MOMAN, Chips

(b Lincoln Wayne Moman, 12 June 1937, LaGrange GA; d there 13 June 2016) Guitarist, songwriter, and one of the most successful producers in popular music. He began on guitar at age 3, went to live with relatives at age 14, hit the road with rockabillies and landed on the west coast.  As a session guitarist at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, he watched the engineers and producers at work, then moved back to Memphis to Stax Records, and soon began producing top ten hits such as Carla Thomas’s 'Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)' and William Bell’s 'You Don't Miss Your Water'.

He sued Stax over a financial matter and used the settlement to found his own American Sound Studio, placing over 120 singles on the Billboard chart in six years or so, starting with the Gentrys, a local garage band, who hit with 'Keep On Dancing', and including the Box Tops' 'The Letter' and 'Cry Like A Baby', Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline', B.J. Thomas's 'Hooked On A Feeling', Joe Tex's 'I Gotcha', Dusty Springfield's 'Son Of A Preacher Man', Wilson Pickett's 'I'm In Love' and 'I'm A Midnight Mover'. As soon as he could afford to hire a secretary she turned out to be Sandy Posey, who had five Billboard hits of her own '66-7; Moman's other discoveries included Bobby Womack.

Meanwhile while getting American off the ground he had sessioned at Fame Studios, playing lead guitar on Aretha Franklin's first top ten hit, 'I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You)' in 1967. With Dan Penn he wrote  hits such as 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man' for her, and others.

Then in 1969 he had one of his biggest career successes, when Elvis Presley, who had not had a hit since 1965, insisted on recording at American in 1969 whether his manager, Col. Tom Parker, or his usual producer, Felton Jarvis, liked it or not. Mark James had been writing successful songs under his birth name, Fred (Francis) Zambon, and was invited by Moman to come to Memphis; one of his songs was 'Suspicious Minds'. During the sessions, Presley's 'business people' (i.e. Parker) told Moman they wanted half the publishing on the songs, and Moman threatened to call the whole thing off. But RCA's Harry Jenkins was there and apparently told Parker to behave himself, and 'Suspicious Minds' became Presley's last no. 1 hit. 'In The Ghetto', 'Don't Cry Daddy' and 'Kentucky Raid' were also hits, and From Elvis In Memphis one of Presley's best albums.

There was one week when American's productions accounted for 1/4 of the hits on the Billboard Hot 100, but inevitably the excitement started to die down: he closed the business in 1972 and went to Atlanta, then to Nashville, where he had successes with almost everybody in country music. He wrote hits with people like Larry Butler and Bobby Emmons, for B.J. Thomas, Waylon Jennings and others; he produced the first Highwaymen album, for the country supergroup with Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. He also worked separately with those stars, plus Townes Van Zandt, Tommy Roe, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap, Tammy Wynette, Billy Joe Royal and others.

He was lured back to Memphis briefly, but returned to Nashville and continued successful until retiring to his home town.