GITC Artist/Advocate – Russell Gulley
The Muscle Shoals Years
The 1970’s were exciting times for a young musical hopeful to be hanging in Muscle Shoals. With the likes of the Stones, Bob Seger, Blackfoot, Skynyrd, and even Bob Dylan coming in and out of town, there was always the chance that some of their magic might just rub off. But….. long before the town was dubbed “The Hit Recording Capitol of the World”, there was a group of unpretentious songwriters
that gathered there with some magic of their own. Their heartfelt love for anything “southern”, from Blues to Rock & Roll to Country and Gospel, gave the Shoals it’s “Soul”. In the fall of ’73, while on tour as the band leader for Polydor Records’ soul singer, Ruby Winters, Russell got the call that Muscle Shoals Sound Publishing was interested in his songs and he quickly agreed to meet with producer and publisher, Jimmy Johnson. Although Winters’ new single, “I Will”, was #5 in England and expected to climb the charts in the U.S. as well, Gulley had dreams of his own and with the encouragement of Johnson, he made the move. While at Muscle Shoals Sound, he developed as a songwriter and under the wings of producers Johnson and David Hood, he and his brother, Dennis, recorded for Capitol Records, as well as, the MSS label. With their band, JACKSON HIGHWAY, the brothers toured as the opening act for Ted Nugent, Blackfoot, Triumph, and UFO. As time went by, they found respect among their peers within the music business as “musician’s musicians” and proven professionals. Today, their skills are in demand as songwriters, session musicians and singers, producers, and performers.
The Beat Daddys
Russell has worked with such stars as, Ray Peterson (Tell Laura I Love Her), Ronnie Dove (One Kiss For Old Times Sake), Margo Smith (The Tennessee Yodler), Leroy Van Dyke (Walk On BY) and others. Most recently, he spent some two years criss crossing the country with the Malaco/Waldoxy recording group, The Beat Daddys. The band performed at premier blues clubs, festivals, and casinos, such as Stevie Ray’s in Louisville, Bourbon Street Blues Bar in Nashville, Tobacco Road in Miami, and at The Janis Joplin Birthday Bash in Port Arthur, Texas.
One of Russell’s songs, “Miss Dixie”, is featured on The Beat Daddys’ latest Malaco release and has been in heavy rotation on Direct TV’s Blues Channel, while the CD titled,”Delta Vision”, made it to #14 in The Living Blues Magazine’s Cd Charts. Russell continues to write, record, and perform. Collaboration with former Allman Brothers Band member, Johnny Neel, has resulted in one of his songs being selected as the title track for Neel’s solo CD,”Late Nite Breakfast”.The Cd also features two other Gulley collaborations. The popular Kansas City band, The Juveniles, has also recorded “Late Nite Breakfast”. Recording artists continue to discover Russell’s writing abilities. This year, the Chicago blues veteran, Carl Weathersby, the “heir apparent to Albert King”, recorded the Gulley composition, “Nothing Hurts A Man (Like A Woman Can). The song is featured on his comeback CD, “Holdin’ On”. Blueswaxx E-zine, a partner of the Blues Revue Magazine organization, has already nominated the Weathersby CD for CD of the year.
Back to the Swamp
With the release of his first solo CD, “Back to the Swamp”; Russell is revitalizing his recording career after a silence of more than two decades. His last release was in 1981 on MSS / Capitol Records with the Shoals- based Southern rock band, Jackson Highway, and his current one is a return to the roots of the music that has always influenced him most – a funky mix of Americana, blending blues, rock, country and gospel. Recording “Back to the Swamp” has reunited Russell with two former band mates: his brother, Dennis, and Tommy Patterson. Together with Patterson on harp and Dennis and as producer, “Back to the Swamp” is like a long awaited family reunion. Rounding out the sessions are guest performances by his buddy, Johnny Neel, Chris Anderson of The Outlaws and Blackhawk, Shane Sutton with the Gary Allen Band, and other members of the Straight Up Sound Recording family in Nashville. All of the songs on the Back to the Swamp CD are either originals or have been chosen for their connection to the Shoals Tradition. Several are autobiographical, such as the title track, “Back to the Swamp”, along with an acoustical remake of “Piece of Good Earth”, the first single released by Jackson Highway on the MSS label in 1977. One other title, “The Gospel According to the Blues”, is an a cappella performance that deals with intercultural influences as experienced by Russell as a young boy on the streets in his hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama. There he saw the Blues personified in the town’s legendary street sweeper, “Uncle Bud”.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
“What goes around, comes around” is an old expression that aptly fits the sound of Muscle Shoals Music veteran Russell Gulley. Just as during the 1960’s, when such English Rock groups as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds began to re-vitalize the Blues to bring the musical form back into the musical mainstream; today the Blues is intercultural and more alive than ever. Of course, the music is popularized and presented to large audiences by superstars, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton, but artists, such as Russell Gulley will carry the tradition well into the new millennium.