Reggie Young Leaves Behind A Giant Musical Legacy Split Between Two Cities: Nashville And Memphis | Nashville Public Radio

Reggie Young Leaves Behind A Giant Musical Legacy Split Between Two Cities: Nashville And Memphis

Jan 22, 2019

Reggie Young, who died last week at 82, played on hundreds of hits including some late-career favorites by the most famous singer to ever come from Memphis: Elvis Presley. 

In a short stretch, Young recorded "In the Ghetto," "Kentucky Rain" and "Suspicious Minds" with the king of rock and roll.  

LISTEN: Reggie Young's guitar features prominently in the Elvis Presley song "Suspicious Minds"

But Reggie Young's legacy is split between Memphis and Nashville. He lived in Leipers Fork until his death last week.

Young was born in Missouri but raised in Arkansas, not far from the place where he would eventually make his name as a musician. Before he settled down in Memphis, he had stints with rockabilly bands, was part of the house crew at the famous Louisiana Hayride and was drafted into military service, temporarily derailing his career. 

During his heyday, Young wasn’t the kind of player producers turned to for guitar solos. His style was more muted and melodic. He used a volume pedal to mimic the sound of a steel guitar and his lines would swim through a track like Dusty Springfield’s "Son of A Preacher Man." 

LISTEN: Reggie Young's intro sets the tone for Dusty Springfield’s Son of A Preacher Man

That was one of the more than 120 hits Young and the so-called Memphis Boys played on as house band at American Sound studios during just a five-year stretch. That group was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class. 

The sound those musicians made drew in singers like Springfield from all over the world and enticed Neil Diamond to record "Sweet Caroline" there. 

After the studio shut down, Young moved to Nashville, where he continued to be a top choice for artists like Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson.

WATCH: Pancho and Lefty was one of the many classics by Willie Nelson featuring Reggie Young on guitar 

One of the first songs he recorded in Nashville turned out to become one of his most memorable parts – the intro to Dobie Gray’s blockbuster hit Drift Away.

LISTEN: Reggie Young plays the signature intro to Dobie Grey's "Drift Away"

In the late 70s, Young helped secure higher pay for session musicians in Nashville, but he told a Country Music Hall of Fame audience he really was just burnt out and hoping to make the same money for half the time. 

“It served its purpose,” Young laughingly recalled. “It cut down, but then it kind of picked back up. And then other people started going double scale, and then everybody was double scale.”

Earlier in his career, Young was part of the opening act for the Beatles first tour in America and went across the pond with the Fab Four for a European tour as well. It was there Young met Eric Clapton, who called Young "one of the greatest guitar players I ever heard."