With a career spanning six decades, guitarist Reggie Young has contributed to scores of hit recordings. “Forever Young” marks his album debut as a recording artist in his own right.
While the name might not be instantly familiar, Reggie Young’s laidback guitar has been a staple of Southern music’s evolution, gracing countless recordings and scores of hits. Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In The Ghetto’ and ‘Kentucky Rain’, Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’, Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away’, the Box Tops’ ‘The Letter’ and ‘Cry Like A Baby’, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’, J.J. Cale’s ‘Cocaine’, Kenny Rogers’ ‘Lucille’, Willie Nelson’s ‘Always On My Mind’ and Billy Swan’s ‘I Can Help’ are but a few of the classics to have benefited from Young’s relaxed, economical and seemingly effortless touch. Not for nothing did Eric Clapton dub him “one of the best guitarists I ever heard.”
In demand from the get-go as a sideman both in the studio and on the road, Young was there at the birth of rock’n’roll in Memphis playing with Eddie Bond and Johnny Horton in the mid-50s and, nearly 10 years on, was touring with the Beatles when they unleashed their opening salvos on American audiences. In more recent years Young travelled the world with the Highwaymen and latterly had a starring role in Waylon Jennings’ touring aggregation, the Waymore Blues Band. Assured yet self-effacing, Young has been there and done that, deftly sidestepping the limelight glare. This quiet confidence made him the first-call for producer Chips Moman, for whom he recorded prolifically in the 60s as one of “The Memphis Boys”, a group of studio musicians responsible for around 120 hit singles across the pop, R&B and country charts.
As Colin Escott explains in his booklet essay, while contemporaries such as Scotty Moore and Hank Garland had made LPs under their own name, it was only with Young’s 80th birthday approaching that he had the time to make an album of his own: “Before, I just worked all the time. A lot of the tunes came from little warm-up licks. I’d play ’em in the studio. People would say, ‘What’s that?’ I’d say, ‘Awww, I dunno,’ but I’d keep them in my head and finally made tunes out of them. Most of the tracks were done with Clayton Ivey, David Hood, Chad Cromwell. All players I totally admire. Nobody tries to steal the show, but it’s hard for me to tell those guys ‘Play this … play that.’ Liked everything I heard except my parts. Then I thought they could be salvaged if I redid the guitar parts, so I did those at the house, then got Jim Horn to arrange a horn section. By then, it was knocking me out. Sounded real good.”
Comprising seven instrumental tracks, “Forever Young” captures the essence of a musician whose evident joy in playing has never wavered, a guitarist who still plays every day out of love and habit, and who continues to imbue his recordings with soul, spirit and trademark cool. Mellow and unhurried, the album is as relaxed as Sunday afternoon on a front porch swing, the breeze fanning your brow and a jug of ice tea beading in the sun. Produced by Grammy Award-winning Jason Miles and recorded at Mac McAnally’s LaLaLand Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, “Forever Young” heralds Ace’s memorabilia-laden, in-depth career overview CD to be released later this year.