Graham Reid | | 3 min read
There's one particular annoyance when talking about music in a general conversation with people who aren't argumentative nitpickers and know the name of the second engineer on a Dylan album from the late Eighties no one cares about.
It comes in mixed company over dinner or at a function when you suggest a particular artist is “little known”.
Then some middle-aged man (it's never women in my experience, they have better things to think about) pops up from behind this parapet to declaim, “No they aren't!”
And then the bore will cite how much that non-name's classic but obscure album on secondhand vinyl now fetches on e-Bay. People look away and into their glasses of suddenly-too-empty-of wine and . . .
Ask anyone at a party or social function where you really want to invite ostracism, “Have you ever heard of Eddie Hinton?”
Unless its a dinner party of music cognoscenti or record store owners – who have just got in the latest 180gm vinyl pressing of Skip Spence's Oar on limited edition orange vinyl – then you will be met with blank faces, cold shoulders and turned backs.
As you should: You, sir, are the crashing bore we will always remember from that party.
Trivia, arcane footnotes and such are not the stuff of life, let alone parties.
All of which is to say that Elsewhere will never be the one who shuts down a dinner party by saying rather too loudly, “Whaddya mean you've never heard of Eddie Hinton!”
But we will sometimes point to the small but important print of life.
As with Eddie Hinton, who we readily agree that no one born after 1960 – and that is most people – has any reason to know, or know of.
Hinton died more than two decades ago, but if we can rise to our feet in his absence we would point out that he wrote songs – often great and seminal songs – covered by Dusty Springfield (the very adult Breakfast in Bed on her classic Dusty in Memphis album), Aretha Franklin, the Sweet Inspirations, the Box Tops, Bobby Womack, Percy Sledge . .
Eddie Hinton – born in '44 – was a white boy from Jacksonville, Florida who grew up in Alabama, and became a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals where he played on tracks by everyone from Elvis to Aretha, Joe Tex to Evie Sands, Toots Hibbert to Otis Redding.
And he wrote for great black (and white) soul singers, a man who tapped a deep well of gospel and southern country music.
Musicians know his work and the album Cover Me:The Eddie Hinton Songbook (Ace, through Border in New Zealand) picks up 24 songs by the likes of Dusty (yes, Breakfast in Bed), Bobby Womack (A Little Bit Salty), Candi Staton (Sure As Sin), Tony Joe White (300 Pounds of Honey), Mink DeVille (Help Me Make It), Aretha (Every Natural Thing) and many, many more.
Hinton himself appears at the midpoint with the pained It's All Wrong But It's Alright (co-written with Marlin Greene, as about half these were), bringing his cracked soul-filled voice to a song which is a complete stand-alone statement . . . but was just a demo as the excellent track-by-track liner notes observe.
His other main collaborator was the equally great Donny Fritts, and there are some co-writes here with Dan Penn. Songwriting geniuses both.
The final track is a Hinton-Fritts composition Where's Eddie given a lovely soul-ballad reading by Lulu, a song which was one of Hinton's finest and was revived by Drive By Truckers who have a strong connection with Hinton: Truckers' Paterson Hood is the son of bassist David who was in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and a friend of Eddie's.
Hinton's life was messy – a drug bust saw him exiled from Muscle Shoals – and his own recording career was sporadic.
His best album is considered to be Letters From Mississippi in '87 – and you can hear that bore shouting about it across the dinner party, right? – and its on Spotify.
There's probably a vinyl copy on e-Bay.
But let's not pretend that – great guitarist and arranger, natural songwriter though he was – Eddie Hinton is “known”.
Should he be?
Of course, that goes without saying.
But pick your time and place to shout it loud.