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Journeys of Discovery: Memphis’ Royal Studios—recording hits with 1960s vacuum-tube technology

Randi Hair
Correspondent Tom Wilmer (left) visits with Boo Mitchell, owner of Royal Studios in Memphis.

Boo Mitchell carries on the legacy of his father, Willie Mitchell, as a producer of chart-topping record hits. One of Boo Mitchell’s proudest achievements was taking home the “Record of the Year” Grammy in 2016—the first time in the history of the Grammy Awards that a Memphis-made record garnered the award. Boo’s father is remembered and revered as a pioneer of the Memphis Soul sound. A partnership between Al Green and Willie Mitchell created their first home-run hit in 1971, followed by a number-one hit every year for the next four years.

This show was originally broadcast June 1, 2017 and is reposted as a “best-of-the-best” podcast in celebration of Journeys of Discovery’s 30th anniversary producing on-air and digital media podcasts featured on KCBX and NPR One.

A distinctive nuance at theRoyal Studios, instituted by Boos father back in the 1960's and 1970's, is its reliance of old-fashioned tube technology recording equipment such as the 8-channel Ampex 351 reel-to-reel tape recorder, old-style mikes, and more.

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Boo Mitchell in the control room at Royal Studios located in the heart of Memphis,Tennessee. Al Green sold more than 20 million records while under contract with Royal Studios. A mere sampler of other artists who have recorded hits at Royal Studios include: Charlie Rich, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, Ann Peebles, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, Melissa Etheridge, and Bruno Mars.

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple PodcastiHeartRadio, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Underwriting support provided by Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, and the Society of St. Vincent De Paul.

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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