- by Joe Nolan, Friday, February 29th, 2008
“With his arms marked with self-inflicted tattoos and a cocky attitude shaped by years of survival on the road as a teenage vagabond, Chips was a social rebel with a penchant for playing cards and hustling pool…” - by James Dickerson, Goin’ Back to Memphis
Chips was hooked. Jim Stewart’s square appearance never got in his way when it came to communicating his passion for music. Moman saw Satellite as an opportunity to get back to the roots of the Southern music he had missed so much during his sojourn in the California sun.
It is also clear from the fall-out of Moman’s relationship with Stax (documented earlier in this series) that Moman harbored ambitions to be more than just a hired-gun producer. It is likely that Moman had partnership goals in mind from the beginning, and this wouldn’t be the first time that Stewart would enter into an ambiguous business relationship that would end in confusion and loss. No matter his original intentions, there is no doubt that his departure from Stax hurt Moman deeply. It is also true that Moman had always been a survivor. He didn’t stay down long.
- by Joe Nolan, Friday, February 8th, 2008
Lincoln Wayne Moman was born in 1936 in La Grange, Ga. From a young age, Lincoln had a love of and an interest in music. His father – a former pro baseball player – would eventually be very proud of his son’s accomplishments. However, when Lincoln was a boy, music seemed an utterly impractical pursuit to the Moman patriarch. Lincoln’s mom was a different story.
A piano player, Moman’s mother immediately recognized the latent talent in her curious little boy, and she didn’t waste a second in nourishing it to bloom. By the age of three, little Lincoln had his first ukulele. Shortly after, he was spending countless hours sitting on the edge of his bed, painfully strumming out chords on a Sears Roebuck, Gene Autry model, cowboy guitar. Soon Moman was staying up late at night, listening to his favorite music crackling through a little transistor over the A.M. Band, under the covers of his little boy’s bed - a hot-house of dreams in 4/4 time.
Always independent and self-sufficient, Moman left his family in Georgia at age 14. Moman made a living as an itinerant laborer - chopping onions in Texas, painting post offices in Arkansas. Even as a young man, Moman was successful at what he set his mind to. His hard work and hustling filled his pockets and fueled his passions - music and gambling.
Whenever he had the chance, Chips Moman made his way to Memphis. For Moman, Memphis was a place where music happened, a place where he might be able to get a foot in the door where his dreams were concerned. He introduced himself around at every little studio and radio station in town. He played every stage that would have him. He soon had gigs doing traveling shows with Johnny Burnette and Gene Vincent.
The money Moman made by the sweat of his brow also came in handy at the crap shoots and card games where Moman would inevitably find himself, late at night after a gig. Moman’s obsession with and love for games of chance soon earned him his nickname, Chips. It also solidified his image as a gambler who was willing to take a chance, qualities that would serve him well in the music business.
Despite establishing his reputation as a hot young guitar player in Memphis, Moman eventually traded in his Tennessee boots for a California tan and, by the end of the ‘50s, Moman had made a name for himself as a Los Angeles studio-session leader, especially at the happening, successful Gold Star Studios. Gold Star was arguably the most important recording studio in the country, and Moman’s reputation was boosted to a national-level through his work in California.
However, by 1960, Moman’s homesickness overshadowed his success and he decided to return Memphis. Soon Moman found himself back beneath the sticky heat of the Southern summer. He painted all day and played music all night.
Shortly after his return, Moman met a Jim Stewart. Jim told Chips about a studio he had started. Chips was all ears.
Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music, Harper and Row, 1986
James Dickerson’s Goin’ Back to Memphis, Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996
Michael Haralambos’ Right on: From Blues to Soul in Black America, Drake Publishers, 1975
Respect Yourself: The Stax Story, documentary film, produced by Tremolo Productions,
Concord Music Group and Thirteen/WNET New York, for PBS’ Great Performances, 2007
Wikipedia Entry on Chips Moman
Biography Research Guide for Chips Moman
Georgia Rhythm Interview With Chips Moman
Joe Nolan is a poet, musician and freelance journalist in Nashville, TN. Nolan writes about visual art for the journal, Number, published by the University of Memphis. Find out more about his projects at www.joenolan.com.
Previous in Soul Series | Next in Soul Series