Born: 18 March 1948 in Memphis, Tennessee

Lived in Tuscumbia, AL

Rock Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar Eric Clapton, George Harrison

Sources: Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Wikipedia

Bobby Whitlock & Kim Carmel ... ... an interview by Bill Thames

Bobby Whitlock began his career as a musician’s equivalent to a supercharged Ferrari racecar; laying rubber and burning-up stage, studio, and sensibilities, chasing, and finally capturing that fleeting star. Like many other successful Southern musicians, Whitlock seemed to go from “chopping cotton in Mississippi to being a rock star,” as he put it, “almost overnight.”

After signing with Stax Records during the late 1960’s, Bobby Whitlock began touring and recording with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, becoming forever associated with music icons, Duane Allman, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle.

As a result of those early bonds, Whitlock became an integral part of George Harrison’s, epic, “All Things Must Pass” recording along with Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon. The resultant amalgamation eventually became the nucleus of the world’s greatest “unknown” Rock and Roll band—Derek and the Dominos.

After the Layla recordings and touring with the Dominos, Whitlock reunited the Dominos, and recorded the first of four emotionally charged solo albums during the early 1970s. Then, after a few short years in the limelight, Bobby Whitlock became the musical equivalent to Rumplestiltskin; retreating from popular music and sitting perfectly still.

He spent most of the 80s and 90s, blissfully watching life pass him by from the back porch of his Mississippi homestead. Finally in 1999, Whitlock resurfaced as quickly as he disappeared, recording and releasing the appropriately titled “It’s About Time” CD.

Shortly thereafter, while still living the quiet life in Mississippi, Whitlock collided with another turbocharged musical Ferrari in the person of Kim Carmel; sparks flew, rubber burned, and in no time at all, Bobby was off and running wide-open, once again.

The couple’s subsequent “midnight” departure from Mississippi, flying in the face of false accusations of infidelity, is the stuff of Rock and Roll legend, including getaway cars, blue lights in their rearview mirror, running roadblocks, threats of incarceration, high-speed chases in the rain, and finally an all-out sprint for the Alabama State Line.

bobby whitlock and kim carmelThe rest of the Bobby Whitlock and Kim Carmel story is pure Rock and Roll fantasy, and the material that fuels heart stopping love songs. I caught up with Bobby Whitlock and Kim Carmel at their new home and studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, located almost directly behind the original Muscle Shoals Sound studio. Bobby had taken an old building that once housed a machine shop and he literally built an English style castle inside of that building with his own hands. It took me several minutes to fully comprehend the massive amount of custom stone and woodwork that had been done to the interior of the building. As the interview began, I was still reeling from the overwhelming coolness of their new home.

B.T. I still just can’t get over your home…I’m just in awe. I have never seen anything like this. It’s just amazing!

K.C. You didn’t see it before. Actually he had a week to make it shine up a little before I got here from California. He knew that I was going to just break down, and cry when I saw this place…

B.W. (continues)Well, because it really was a machine shop. There were big black and orange walls and a big Harley Davidson sign painted on that (points) wall over there, and there was no bathroom. There was nothin’!

K.C. And the roof had been leaking for thirty years…

B.W. …we’re talking about thousands of gallons of water. I fixed it, and managed to do it all myself. But then, I grew-up doing things like this.

B.T. Tell me what it was like being Bobby Whitlock, growing up, and living in Mississippi?

B.W. I grew up on a farm…well, not one farm…let me put it like this—my dad was a Southern Baptist Preacher, and he dropped us off in every cotton patch that he could. So, I grew up on other people’s farms, but consequently I learned how to do stuff like this (repairing roofs, and building a home inside of an old machine shop). I left a farm—I just built a great big place in Mississippi, and I left that sittin’. And it’s still sittin’ there, and I’m not. Thank goodness! That farm life is not for me! A forty-four-forty (John Deere tractor), with a nine-foot hydraulic blade does not turn me on! The only thing that came out of me owning a great big John Deere tractor, with a twelve foot stack, was the fact that I built a building to house it, and then decided to back the tractor out, and go ahead and turned that building into a recording studio. And that’s what I did (laughs). I turned the pole barn into my recording studio—just to do the “It’s About Time” record. Then I left that pole barn, and that studio—and it turned into a warehouse the instant I left.

B.T. “It’s About Time”(1999) is another momentous recording of yours, but I had to jump through hoops to find it. I finally ordered from a distributor in England. Tell me about that?

B.W. Well the company, Grapevine, folded, and all of the rights to that came back to me, but the building’s locked-up, and they can’t get anything out. So, whatever you have is going to be a collector’s item, because from now on it’s going to be on the Domino Label. Once we get this thing taken care of with the distributor, they want to go into a partnership with me on the label. So, all of these things are opening up for us, and we’re not going out, and doing anything. We’re standing perfectly still, and doing what we are supposed to be doing, and all these things are coming, without us doing a thing. I certainly didn’t say that I wanted to become a record executive, or own a record company. I’ve never had aspirations to do that. As a matter of fact, Robert Stigwood (Clapton’s onetime manager), offered me a position in RSO when it was formed—in an executive position, but I was into playin’ music and singin’. I told him, ‘I didn’t want any part of being part of your record company, even though you’re using our money to help start it.’ He used the Domino money to start RSO records. I had no aspirations of being on this side of the business!

B.T. What made you decide to launch the Domino Label and reposition yourself to the other side of the music business table?

B.W. Well, I got given the business for a number of years and now I’ve decided, well, why not me? An artist could not do better than to have something happen through me, because I’m going to treat them exactly how I would want to be treated, and how I should have been treated, throughout my career. Right now, this is still in the infant stage, but this one seems like such a natural. If it weren’t mine, and I was someone else, I would do anything to be on the Domino Label…it just sounds cool (laughs)! I’m the only Domino, and I guess it would put it in a prestigious kind of bracket…It’s just really a lot of fun being Bobby Whitlock.

K.C. It’s definitely going to be a label for the artists. It has to do with what we really are. It’s not going to have anything to do with corporations that make a lot of money. Money only—songs and artists later—it has nothing to do with that.

B. T. So, like most musicians that have been in the business for a while, you have had your share of problems with record companies?

BW. With the deal that Derek and the Dominos had, we took home 9% of something that we were 100% creators of. All someone did was to manufacture the product, and pay for our studio time. The Beatles got one penny on every dollar, and they split that; government and their management took the rest. Well, these people who got 91% of Layla can’t even hum—they can’t snap their fingers, keep time, or have a creative thought. The last creative thought, I would imagine, that they had was trying to add up the figures, and try and figure out how much money they have made off of something that they had absolutely nothing to do with.

B.T. Tell me about Layla? Is it true that, in the beginning, no one, including the record company, thought that Layla would do anything?

B.W. Layla was never advertised. It wasn’t a hit until a year and a half after the band was broken-up. And, it was somebody at a college (radio) station somewhere; I think it was in Ohio, someplace. I sure wish I knew who it was—but there was this guy that played the extended version—the “album cut,” and he kept playing it like Dewey Philips did with “Hound Dog.” He just kept playing it over and over, because this guy really loved the album version. Of course, Duane was dead, and all those things—everybody was strung-out, and broke-up, and doing other things. And all of a sudden, it’s like the National Anthem. “All Things Must Pass,” and “My Sweet Lord,” had already been #1, and it (Layla) became #1 while we were on tour with our stuff, and no one knew who Derek and The Dominos was, or couldn’t even find the record. It was never advertised—and that record is one of the biggest selling records in record history. But, it took its own wings, and flew itself.

BT. The nucleus of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends evolved into what I would consider the most influential group of musicians ever assembled; Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, and of course Bobby Whitlock. “Friends” worked with Clapton, Harrison, Cocker, and others on “landmark” recording projects. Did you realize, at that time how significant those recordings, and musicians would become?

BW. At the time, that wasn’t the case. And they are forever on you to try to emulate that, and try to recreate it, or duplicate it…yet one more time. It’s like this place here (pointing to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, less than a block away), still living in the past. This little building up here is nothing but a museum for lack of a better word, it’s just another place—a building where a bunch of great recordings were done a long time ago.

K.C. It’s like Layla—you cannot redo, or recapture Layla. You cannot recapture or redo those things that happened thirty years ago. It is impossible! There comes a time when you have to stop talking about the past, and living in the past, and you have to concern yourself with what needs to be done now. Otherwise, you can’t move on.

B. T. It looks like that you and Kim are trying to kick-start the music scene here in Muscle Shoals? Is it hard dealing with all of this history, and at the same time trying to move forward, musically?

B.W. What they do need to do here is to recognize why this place is even on the map! Period! And that is because of Jerry Wexler. Nobody ever gives him any credit for doing anything! If it wasn’t for Jerry Wexler, you and I wouldn’t be sittin’ in this building, right now, talking about this. Atlantic Records would never have happened. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section would never be called that! What they really need to do is name this road out here Jerry Wexler Boulevard. That’s about as far as the past needs to be brought into play right now, in this place (Muscle Shoals).


Read the rest of the interview:  page 2
and page 3

More info:





iTunes: Bobby Whitlock and Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel

Amazon: Bobby Whitlock

Bobby Whitlock: Vintage Bobby Whitlock
Bobby Whitlock: My Time
Bobby Whitlock: Esoteric
Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel: Metamorphosis

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