Memorial service set for Memphis music master Willie Mitchell

Willie Mitchell helps record the horn section with son Lawrence 'Boo' Mitchell during a recording session for local band Deering and Down at Royal Studios.

Photo by Mike Brown // Buy this photo

Willie Mitchell helps record the horn section with son Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell during a recording session for local band Deering and Down at Royal Studios.

Willie Mitchell helps record the horn section with son Lawrence 'Boo' Mitchell during a recording session for local band Deering and Down at Royal Studios.

Photo by Mike Brown

Willie Mitchell helps record the horn section with son Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell during a recording session for local band Deering and Down at Royal Studios.

The news of Willie Mitchell's death this week has prompted fans and critics to ponder the legacy of one of unassuming giants of Memphis music.

But for his grandson, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, there has hardly been a moment to pause and reflect.

"My phone hasn't stopped ringing," he said. "The reaction has been unbelievable. I've gotten calls, e-mails, texts from people in Asia, Denmark, France, Canada, Australia, from all over the world.

"Some are people who knew him, and a lot are folks who were just fans. We're finding out how many people his music touched."

Mitchell, 81, died Tuesday at Methodist University Hospital from cardiac arrest, after being in ill health for several months.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Mississippi-born Mitchell became one of Memphis' top band leaders. But his greatest contributions would come in the '60s and '70s as a producer and arranger at Hi Records and Royal Studios, where he developed a signature soul sound and helped mold Al Green's million-selling career, as well as those of R&B stars such as Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright and Otis Clay.

Boo Mitchell said the memorial will include a video presentation, featuring footage from throughout Mitchell's storied career. Speakers are expected to include Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford, as well as local Grammy chapter head Jon Hornyak and deejay George Klein.

A musical tribute is also planned, with a lineup tentatively expected to include Peebles, Clay, Solomon Burke, Shirley Brown and J. Blackfoot.

Green is on tour in Australia. He was traveling to the country when news of Mitchell's death broke.

Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald, Green said: "We are all dealing with the loss. He was the mecca of soul and R&B and we're just glad that we had him for so long."

The memorial send-off will be an opportunity to say goodbye for fans but, especially, for Mitchell's family.

"Everybody's been strong and trying to holding up," his grandson said. "It's been a busy time, so there hasn't been an opportunity for the devastation to set in, which is kind of a good thing. But the moment things quiet down, you get to where you miss him."

Boo Mitchell, who, along with Archie Mitchell, has been running the day-to-day operations of Mitchell's Royal Studios for a decade, plans to continue their work at the South Memphis recording facility.

"(Willie) wanted us to keep making music," he said.

In lieu of flowers, the Mitchell family requested donations be sent to the non-profit Willie Mitchell Foundation and Scholarship Fund c/o Royal Studios, 1320 Willie Mitchell Blvd., Memphis, TN 38106, or that contributions be made in Mitchell's name to MusiCares at 1904 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville, TN 37212 (or call 877-626-2748).

Services for Willie Mitchell

A public viewing will be 2 to 6 p.m. Monday at N.J. Ford & Sons Funeral Home, 12 S. Parkway West.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Hope Presbyterian Church, 8500 Walnut Grove in Cordova. The service will include a video presentation and performances by Solomon Burke, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Shirley Brown and J. Blackfoot, among others.

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Comments » 1

Big_Al_Todd writes:

Archie, Boo, Vonne, Lo & All The Members Of The Mitchell Family..
One of music's great one's has left us, he leaves a void that will never be filled. poppa was a unique individual. I will miss him terribly.
I am glad to hear that the boys will continue on the business of making music in Memphis,and good luck to you both. Willie and I date back to the 60's when Willie & Teeny (the Willie Mitchell Trio) were performing around the Memphis club scene, Willie could make better music with a trio, then most bands could with 7+ members!. In case you guys don't remember, I knew you both when you were youngsters, and I was jocking at WXSS radio. I have retired here in Phoenix now but miss my Memphis friends. I raise a toast of Stoli to Willie, the Greatest, his late beautiful, classy wife Miss Ann (I will never forget the time she cooked up a feast and invited the Temptations for supper and knowing what a fan I was, called and invited me as well), and to all the Mitchell family.
God Bless You All...

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