Willie Mitchell (musician)

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Willie Mitchell
Willie Mitchell (1966).png
Willie Mitchell in 1966
Background information
Born (1928-03-01)March 1, 1928
Ashland, Mississippi, United States
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genres Soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop, funk
Occupation(s) Singer, bandleader, record producer, arranger
Instruments Singing, trumpet
Labels Hi Records
Website www.williemitchell.com

Willie L. Mitchell (March 1, 1928 – January 5, 2010) was an American trumpeter, bandleader, soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop and funk record producer and arranger who ran Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. He was best known for his Hi Records label of the 1970s, which released albums by a large stable of popular Memphis soul artists, including Mitchell himself, Al Green, O. V. Wright, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and Quiet Elegance.


Born and raised in Ashland, Mississippi, Mitchell moved to Memphis when he was in high school. He attended Rust College.[1] At the age of eight, he began to play the trumpet. While in high school, he was a featured player in popular local big bands. He later formed his own combo, which from time to time included musicians such as trumpeter Booker Little, saxophonists Charles Lloyd, and George Coleman, and pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.[1]

Mitchell landed a job with the Home of the Blues record label as a producer, then left to join Hi Records as both a recording artist and a producer.[1]

Known at the recording studio as "Papa Willie", Mitchell earned his nickname by taking over the reins of Hi Records in 1970 and guiding it through its most successful period. Mitchell's productions have been much noted for featuring a hard-hitting bass drum sound (usually played by pioneering Memphis drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. & the M.G.'s).[citation needed]

A trumpeter and bandleader in his own right, Mitchell released a number of popular singles for Hi Records as an artist in the 1960s, including "Soul Serenade." It peaked at #43 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1968.[2]

Through the 1980s Mitchell ran his own independent record label, Waylo Records. Acts on the label included Billy Always and Lynn White.[3]

In 1987 Joyce Cobb recorded several singles for Waylo, one of which made it to No. 3 on the British R&B charts: "Another Lonely Night (Without You)".

He and Al Green revived their successful recording partnership in 2003 when Green recorded I Can't Stop, his first collaboration with Mitchell since 1985's He is the Light. Their 2005 follow-up project was Everything's OK.

Mitchell died in Memphis on January 5, 2010, from a cardiac arrest.[4]

His final work was producing the final Solomon Burke studio album, Nothing's Impossibile, released in June 2010.


  • 1963: Sunrise Serenade
  • 1964: 20-75
  • 1965: It's Dance Time
  • 1966: It's What's Happenin
  • 1967: Ooh Baby, You Turn Me On
  • 1967: The Hit Sound of Willie Mitchell
  • 1968: Willie Mitchell Live at the Royal
  • 1968: On Top 1969
  • 1969: Solid Soul
  • 1969: Soul Bag
  • 1970: Robbin's Nest
  • 1970: The Many Moods of Willie Mitchell
  • 1971: Hold It
  • 1971: Listen Dance
  • 1977: Willie Mitchell Live
  • 1981: Willie Willie Willie
  • 1986: That Driving Beat
  • 2001: Poppa Willie The Hi Years / 1962-74
  • 2003: Walkin' With Willie
  • 2008: Best Damn Fool (with Buddy Guy)


Year Title Chart positions
1964 "20-75" 31 32 32
"Percolatin'" 85
1965 "Buster Browne" 96 29
"Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" 126
1966 "Bad Eye" 92 23
"Mercy" 127
1967 "Slippin' and Slidin'" 96
1968 "Soul Serenade"A 23 10 21 43
"Prayer Meetin'" 45 23 79
"Up-Hard" 91
1969 "30-60-90" 69 31 90
"Young People" 120
"My Babe" 115 37
1976 "The Champion" 47
  • A"Soul Serenade" peaked at #32 on Billboard Adult Contemporary charts


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Howard, David N. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers and Their Maverick Recordings, pp. 150–51. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-634-05560-7.
  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. Willie Mitchell interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' October 1987
  4. The New York Times, 6 January 2010

External links