Capricorn Records CD reisses

The legacy of Capricorn Records grows deep roots in Macon, Georgia. Known as the birthplace of Southern Rock, the thinly populated town has seen its share of celebrities. The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wet Willie all started in a then state-of-the-art multi-million dollar studio built a few blocks from the ol’ Douglass Theater south of downtown. Otis Redding was a regular at the theater and it was there Phil Walden and Redding first connected. Walden took over managing the soul singer and with 17 million on loan from Atlantic records built the king of southern recording studios.

Buried deep within the warehouse shell on 536 Broadway, Capricorn studios (now called Phoenix Sound) still looks much as it did when Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Kitty Wells and Clarence Carter used to frequent the whiskey stained upholstery. The musty smell of stale cigarettes tells the tale of midnight jams, soaring guitars and gut-wrenching vocals. The angular wooden ceiling caresses each sound and the aging wall fabric frays with memories of ‘Rambling Man’ and ‘Midnight Rider.’ It was here in 1970 that five guys calling themselves Wet Willie from Mobile, Alabama began a seven record history of white-bread rhythm and blues packed full of rock n’ soul.

Carpicorn have recently reissued on CD all seven of the bands recordings with the label including ‘Wet Willie’ (1971), ‘II’ (1972), ‘Drippin’ Wet’ (1973), ‘Keep On Smilin’ (1974), ‘Dixie Rock’ (1975), ‘The Wetter The Better’ (1976) and ‘Left Coast Live’ (1977). “Technology was at a certain point when we recorded these albums and these [reissues] really improved upon them,” states original vocalist Jimmy Hall. “We were pretty much the cream-of-the-crop of the Gulf states – the deep south. We had put the band together with some of the best players from the immediate area and for long-haired musicians in 1970 we needed to find a music city to fit our style of music.”

Hall documents the band’s steady climb from a honky-tonk bar-band to opening for Grand Funk Railroad. “At first the company wanted us to go with a Rolling Stones sound and teamed us up with an English producer (Eddie Offord),” remembers Hall. “We were deeply inspired by the Allman Brothers – we grew real close - they were like big brothers. It was like going to rock n’ roll school and having a ball. They took us under their wings as we grew as a band. By the time we released our third album. ‘Drippin’ Wet’ (Live) we were feelin’ pretty comfortable. That was a statement as to what we were about - the energy and the instrumental prowess that we had worked on up to that point. Toning, refining and getting’ better. You can hear all our influences from Gospel to Blues. We covered everything from originals to Freddie King, Leon Russell and Taj Mahal.”

Forth album ‘Keep On Smilin’ broke the band wide open with the album’s self-titled top 10 hit. “I found that the best things I ever wrote were things that were going on in my life,” says Hall of the single. “This one was about a relationship that went sour. It was a wild time back then so relationships went sour a lot. I also wrote about moving to the country (‘Country Side Of Life’) and being in a band and wanting people to understand what we were saying with our music (‘In Our Hearts’). I think our music affected a lot of people through many years and many miles - miles of smiles.”

Phil Walden’s one-time prize is rising once again. Wet Willie is a place to begin.

Wet Willie, Jimmy Hall