I have given myself twisted blood and the beginnings of a headache attempting to wrestle “Hard Luck Guy” by Eddie Hinton onto this post. The song is a chilling soul-blues by an artist who’s playing I have been listening to since the 1960s but did not know by name. I’m sure my advisor on all things Internet (aged 12) will patronisingly point out the elementary mistake I am making and we will have it here as soon as. No matter, Eddie Hinton made some great records and here’s one of them.
Eddie was a guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971. In this period the band moved from Fame Studios in Florence Alabama to their own Muscle Shoals studio. In 2008 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Eddie Hinton was not among the 9 names included. I suppose that thems the breaks but listening now to his smooth picking, so spare and clean, I can hear him on the roll call of gold records that came out of the two studios. I could list them but some great artists would be missed and my fingers would get tired.
He was a friend of the Allman Brothers, shared an apartment with Duane when he returned from Los Angeles. Eddie turned down an offer to join the band to remain with his session work. It is a fairly obvious decision because Eddie Hinton is, first and foremost, a Soul Man. “We Got It” is from his first record “Very Extremely Dangerous”. It is a sensational collection of self-penned songs based on Eddie’s sweet, almost gentle, licks (it would be wrong to call them riffs). He sings his heart out and the band, especially the wonderful horn section, plays all the right notes in the right places. There are times when Eddie Hinton’s voice can remind you of Otis Redding. In his later recordings there is a touch of Al Green. He is no copyist though, his individual soulful voice is the most striking thing about songs that have a lot else going for them.
With his songwriting partners he wrote a couple of for good songs for Percy Sledge. “Cover Me” is on “Very…”. He also wrote this classy thing for Dusty Springfield when she came to Memphis to make her magnum opus.
“Very Extremely Dangerous” was released in 1978. Rough hewn country soul and blues was not getting played much at the height of disco. The record label, Capricorn, folded and Eddie Hinton did not record again until 1982. Unfortunately there were problems in his personal life, divorce, mental illness, addiction. An old college friend who found him living on the street helped his recovery and motivated him to finish the record from 5 years earlier. “Letters From Mississippi” (1987) continues the fine work of the first LP. Eddie found an audience in Europe and began to play live shows. There are two more records on which, understandably, Eddie sings the blues like a man who knows what trouble is. In 1995, after a tour of Italy and while recording new songs, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 51.
Eddie Hinton is no forgotten man. The estimable Drive- By Truckers, led by Patterson Hood who’s father David was a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, have recorded songs by him and about him. Dan Auerbach has produced a couple of covers too. The finest tribute to Eddie came when some of his former collegues, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Donnie Fritts, those Muscle Shoals and Memphis veterans finished songs that Eddie had not. The posthumous LP “Hard Luck Guy” (1999) is a fitting tribute to a soul brother who played his part in making so much great music.
I only really know the first and the last of Eddie Hinton’s recordings and I love them. I am still hearing songs for the first time (in the UK there are still DJs who play the good stuff) and they stop me in my tracks when I recognise Eddie’s unique voice. Last week “Very Extremely Dangerous”, the soundtrack and inspiration for this piece, was uploaded to the Y-tube so what are you waiting for ? Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records thought that Eddie would be the “next big thing” back in the day. In the sleeve notes of “Hard Luck Guy” he wrote, “He remains unique, a white boy who truly sang and played in the spirit of the great black soul artists he venerated. With Eddie it wasn’t imitation; it was totally created, with a fire and fury that was as real as Otis Redding’s and Wilson Pickett’s.” This time he was right.