Tag Archives: Memphis

Song of the Day: Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” featuring Skip Pitts’ ghetto-powered wah-wah guitar groove


Isaac Hayes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “Theme from Shaft,” Gordon Parks’ 1971 blaxplotation masterpiece. Released as a double album by Stax Records’ Enterprise label, the mostly instrumental soundtrack became the best-selling LP ever released on a Stax label.

Of course, one of the main ingredients behind the song’s success is the mind-blowing wah-wah guitar of Charles “Skip” Pitts, who will be appearing at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp with the Bo-Keys and Harold Grimes. Pitts also lent his unforgettable grooves to Rufus Thomas’ “Do The Funky Chicken,” the Soul Children’s “I’ll Be the Other Woman,” The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” and Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow ’65.”

According to Wikipedia:

“The song begins with a sixteenth-note hi-hat ride pattern, played by Willie Hall, which was drawn from a break on Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness,’ a Stax record on which Hayes had played. Also featuring heavily in the intro is Charles Pitts’ guitar, which uses a wah-wah effect common in 1970s funk; the riff had originally been written for an unfinished Stax song. The synthesized keyboard is played by Hayes. Even on the edited single version, the intro lasts for more than two and a half minutes before any vocals are heard.

“The lyrics describe John Shaft’s coolness, courage, and sex appeal, and Hayes’ lead vocals are punctuated by a trio of female backup singers. At one famous moment, Hayes calls Shaft ‘a bad mother—’ before the backup singers (one of whom is Tony Orlando & Dawn’s Telma Hopkins) interrupt the implied profanity with the line ‘Shut yo’ mouth!’ Hayes immediately defends himself by replying that he’s ‘only talking about Shaft,’ with the back-up vocalists replying, ‘We can dig it.’ Other well-known passages include ‘You’re damn right!’ also uttered by Hayes, and ‘He’s a complicated man/but no one understands him/but his woman/John Shaft.'”

To see Charles “Skip” Pitts in person, buy your Ponderosa Stomp tickets here. For Stomp travel packages, see here.

Alex Chilton Remembered – Chuck Prophet

Tom Waits once described Alex Chilton as “the Thelonius Monk of the rhythm guitar.” He’s damn right. I heard it all for the first time live in 1986 at the 688 Club in Atlanta, Georgia. I was 22 years old; a kid in a band called Green On Red and we were playing on a … Continue reading Alex Chilton Remembered – Chuck Prophet

Scene Report: Eddie Bond at the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival

On Saturday night, exactly 54 years after he headlined the St. Francis County Fair in Forrest City, Arkansas, alongside Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Floyd Cramer, Sun rockabilly Eddie Bond took the stage at the Center for Southern Folklore‘s Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. At the fifth annual Ponderosa Stomp, Bond was backed by Deke … Continue reading Scene Report: Eddie Bond at the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival

Scene Report: Turner Family Picnic

Last night, the primal sounds of fife and drum music were echoing at the Turner Family Picnic, an annual North Mississippi Hill Country tradition, and Bo-Keys leader Scott Bomar, Ponderosa Stomp graphics designer Kerri Mahoney and I were there to listen. Since the death of Rising Star Fife and Drum Band founder — and Turner … Continue reading Scene Report: Turner Family Picnic

R.I.P. Billy Lee Riley – Benefit On August 30

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 30th, at the Silver Moon Club in Newport, Ark., Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, W.S. Holland, Smoochy Smith, former Little Green Men drummer J.M. Van Eaton and Carl Mann will join forces to celebrate the life of fellow Sun Records alumnus Billy Lee Riley, who died at the age … Continue reading R.I.P. Billy Lee Riley – Benefit On August 30