“A Road Leading Home” is the follow-up to our Mojo award-winning “Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham”. On this occasion we’ve cast the net a little wider to include a number of other songwriters with whom Dan collaborated when he wasn’t busy turning out classics with Spooner Oldham. Spooner is not excluded here, with two co-writes which metaphorically span the bridge between FAME and American. The format also gives us a long-awaited opportunity to showcase what many regard as two of the greatest southern soul ballads ever written: ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ and ‘The Dark End Of The Street’, both penned with Chips Moman following Dan’s career move from Muscle Shoals to Memphis.
From FAME’s formative years come several co-writes with label boss Rick Hall and Dan’s colleague in the Pallbearers, Donnie Fritts. Over time various FAME studio musicians such as Roger Hawkins and Jimmy Johnson came up with ideas which Dan expanded into classic songs. Oscar Franck and Bob Killen also appeared on credits under the FAME umbrella, while Norala/Quinvy boss and Percy Sledge mentor, Quin Ivy, had previous co-writing form with Rick Hall. FAME colleague Marlin Greene was also a significant collaborator on several Dan Penn songs, three of which are featured here, including one sung by Greene’s wife Jeanie Fortune. Marlin went on to become Quin Ivy’s right-hand man, while Donnie Fritts has continued, sporadically, to collaborate with Dan in the years since.
Dan’s burning ambition to produce records was a major reason for his move to Memphis in 1966, but he and Chips Moman wasted no time in their songwriting activities, the results of which benefited the careers of Aretha Franklin and James Carr. The pair wrote very few other songs together, but Chips’ American Studio set-up harboured its fair share of other budding tunesmiths. The names of Darryl Carter and Leroy Daniels appear on two of the credits, with Carter’s moniker alongside those of Dan Penn and his old buddy Spooner Oldham, who had moved to Memphis a year later to pick up the threads of their writing partnership. Spooner moved to L.A. at the end of the decade for a successful spell as a session man.
Dan Penn’s musical pilgrimage seldom took him far from the adjoining states of Alabama and Tennessee, and in the mid-70s he upped sticks once again and headed to Nashville, where he remains to this day. There he worked with various co-writers, and gradually formed more substantial partnerships with like-minded tunesmiths such as Carson Whitsett, Bucky Lindsey, Jonnie Barnett and Gary Nicholson. Dan also produced albums for Bobby Purify and the Hacienda Brothers.
We hope you enjoy this selection which again showcases Dan’s awesome songwriting talent, this time in conjunction with many other collaborators who contributed to his songbook.
By Bob Dunham