If Lennon Could See 'Em Now ...

Inside Sounds launches latest Beatles tribute CD using Memphis artists

By Andy Meek

STRINGS ATTACHED: 'Daddy' Mack Orr, shown at his band's June performance at the 2006 Chicago Blues Festival, has cut several records with Inside Sounds, an independent Memphis label that's recently churned out several new releases. -- Photo Courtesy Of Arnie Goodman

It's one of the great what-ifs in Memphis music lore.

What if The Beatles - the Fab Foursome who famously revered the Memphis sound - had gotten to record some of their precocious pop magic at Stax, the famed studio they admittedly always wanted to visit?

It's too late now, of course, to know the answer. But Eddie Dattel, owner of an independent Memphis record label that sells about 10,000 to 20,000 CDs a year, has helped record buyers, in the words of one of the most well-known solo Beatles tunes, to "imagine" how that might have turned out.

Dattel's label, Inside Sounds, is the company behind the Memphis Meets The Beatles franchise, for which he's gathered local acts of all stripes to infuse everything from funk to blues, country twang and Hi Records-soul into a few beloved staples of Britain's most famous rock quartet.

In the coming weeks, Dattel's label will launch the third disc in the popular series, spinning it in a slightly different direction under the title of "Memphis Rocks the Beatles."

We will rock you

The recordings, he says, are "some of the finest by Memphis musicians in years," which partly explains why he recently moved quickly against the music Web site Global Electronic Music Marketplace, www.gemm.com, where some of the music in the Beatles series was temporarily available illegally.

For the Memphis music connoisseur, Inside Sounds' Beatles concept recordings offer an aural Who's Who of the local scene. Names like Daddy Mack Orr, John Kilzer and Charlie Wood leap out from the track listings, all packing the same familiar punch as some of the CD artwork by local folk artist Lamar Sorrento, who's also lent his musical skill to the project.

A recent story in The Chicago Sun-Times said that "one of the best ways to look at Memphis is through the thick black glasses of Lamar Sorrento."

"When we first started recording the CD - the first CD - we really just wanted to bring different artists into the studio and record their version of Beatles songs. But once we got deeper into it, we started thinking in terms of having a more clear Memphis spin on the Beatles songs, and that's when we started thinking in terms of horn sections, of a Memphis groove, of Sun, Stax and Hi Records."
- Eddie Dattel
Owner of Inside Sounds

Thanks to concept recordings like these and others, one of the best ways to listen to Memphis is through the CDs produced by Inside Sounds, for which Dattel and others recruit an inimitable local flavor that springs from the homegrown talents of Sorrento and more.

"When we first started recording the CD - the first CD - we really just wanted to bring different artists into the studio and record their version of Beatles songs," said Dattel, whose label has created an extensive catalog of Memphis-themed music projects.

"But once we got deeper into it, we started thinking in terms of having a more clear Memphis spin on the Beatles songs, and that's when we started thinking in terms of horn sections, of a Memphis groove, of Sun, Stax and Hi Records."

A timely performance

Some of the 12 acts and individual performers included on the soon-to-be-released CD will perform their take on The Beatles' work at a concert Nov. 10 and 11 at Heartsong Church in Cordova. The CD will be released a week or so prior to the show.

Freelance engineer Kevin Houston spent some time in front of a control panel for the Memphis Meets The Beatles discs, and he praised the originality that Dattel brings to his label's concept recordings.

"The Beatles was just a great concept, because they didn't write a bad song," said Houston, who also recently was a music editor for Memphis director Craig Brewer's soon-to-be-released film "Black Snake Moan." "And when you're doing a project like this, it's really only as good as the songs. So we started out with incredible material to begin with."

"All You Need is Love," a Beatles cover included on the second Memphis Meets the Beatles disc, is the most downloaded song in Inside Sounds' catalog, Dattel said.

The label released its first CD in 1992 and has recorded CDs for the now-defunct Wonders series as well as a host of Memphis-themed sampler compilations.

'Lucky' breaks

The label also has plenty more going on than just the release of its next inventive take on Beatles tunes. Inside Sounds also has just released "Southern Livin'," a new CD by The Billy Gibson Band, stalwarts of everything from Beale Street to the Chicago Blues festivals. The band has been featured on BBC-TV and honored as Beale Street Entertainer of the Year.

The label also recently released "Lucky," the debut blues album by organist Charlie Wood. He's a veteran performer who's had a long tenure at King's Palace Café on Beale Street and who's played with the likes of B.B. King, Robert Plant and Herbie Hancock, to name a few. And as if that weren't enough to keep busy, Inside Sounds just put out "Bluestones," a new CD by The Daddy Mack Blues Band - which also performed on the label's Beatles CDs.

"I've worked with Eddie for a long time, probably eight or nine years," Houston said. "And he's always got really interesting, really novel concepts, and he's a great guy to work for."

To be sure, there already have been hints of what might have been had The Beatles recorded in Memphis. In 1970, the local band Booker T. & the MG's - whose name John Lennon once punned as Book a Table and the Maitre D's - recorded their "McLemore Avenue" CD, which is more or less an updated twist, down to the cover art, of The Beatles' 1969 classic Abbey Road.

"But as a collection of recordings," Dattel said, "I just think this is something the entire Memphis music community can be proud of."