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Eddie Hinton

Peter B. Olson, University of Memphis and Mississippi State University
Edward C. "Eddie" Hinton (1944-1995) was a guitarist and singer-songwriter whose career spanned the most vital part of the soul music era in Muscle Shoals. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hinton, who was white, participated in many recordings with black soul artists, from Aretha Franklin to the Staple Singers to Percy Sledge. As a singer, Hinton is regarded among blues and soul aficionados as one of the great "blue-eyed soul" singers. As a guitarist, Hinton's playing reflects an authentic Delta blues style. Hinton often wrote in collaboration with Muscle Shoals composers such as Donnie Fritts, Marlin Greene, and Dan Penn. A Muscle Shoals session musician from 1967 until his death in 1995, Hinton also was the lead guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (MSRS) in the early-to-mid 1970s.
Eddie Hinton was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 15, 1944, to Laura Deanie and Horton C. Hinton. Hinton's parents divorced in 1949, and he and his mother moved to Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, where his mother married Paul Perkins some years later. Eddie had a close bond with grandfather Pryde Edward Hinton, a Church of Christ preacher, and later incorporated religiously inspired oratory into his music, notably in his song "Dear Y'All."
Eddie showed a musical aptitude as a child and learned to play guitar and sing, being inspired by teen singing idol Ricky Nelson. Eddie played basketball in high school and became a fan of the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide football team. He attended the University of Alabama for three years, where he endured the required ROTC training by joining the Drum and Bugle Corps. Hinton left school after three years when his musical pursuits beckoned. He had a natural gift for music and played drums and guitar equally well. He played in the Tuscaloosa area in the 1960s with a number of bands, including The Spooks and The Five Minutes. Among the players in the latter group were Johnny Sandlin (drums), Paul Hornsby (keyboard), and Paul Ballenger (guitar), who would later form a publishing partnership with Hinton. Hinton replaced Ballenger and guitarist Charlie Campbell in the newly reformed Five Minutes in 1965, and the band subsequently reformed again as Hour Glass, absorbing Duane and Gregg Allman into the line-up. When Hour Glass signed with Liberty Records and spent a year in Los Angeles, Hinton decided to remain behind to work in the recording scene in Muscle Shoals. Hinton began to record and produce for several recording studios in the Shoals, particularly Quin Ivy's Quinvy Studio in Sheffield, where Hinton and Marlin Greene wrote and produced songs for soul artists Don Varner and Bill Brandon on Quinvy's Southcamp imprint. When Duane Allman returned to the Shoals from Los Angeles in 1968, he and Hinton shared an apartment. Hinton's production work at Quinvy Records drew upon a blend of soul and blues styles that became quintessentially part of the so-called Muscle Shoals "sound," exemplified in Hinton's work with the Staple Singers and MSRS.
In 1969, Hinton collaborated with Sandlin on a project that included Duane Allman, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and the Memphis Horns. The record was released under the band name The Duck and the Bear and has come to be considered a seminal recording in the southern rock genre. Hinton also was closely associated with the burgeoning southern rock scene centered around the Allman Brothers Band, formed by the brothers that same year. He was asked by guitarist Duane Allman to join the band but declined the offer and remained a session musician in Muscle Shoals. During Hinton's career, he worked on recordings by Percy Sledge at Quinvy and with Otis Redding and Arthur Conley at FAME Studios. As a solo artist, Hinton released a single on Pacemaker Records (1969), featuring an original titled "Dreamer," and after April 1969 became a mainstay at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield. There, Hinton contributed to sessions with the Staple Singers, Cher, Lulu, Bobby Womack, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, and Boz Scaggs.
Hinton recorded as part of the MSRS at Atlantic Records in New York, playing on Aretha Franklin's 1970 album This Girl's In Love With You. That same year, Hinton played with the MSRS on Laura Nyro's album Christmas and the Beads of Sweat (1970). Beyond his exemplary work with the Staple Singers, Hinton played on William Bell's Wow (1970), Elvis Presley's Elvis Country (1971), and Johnnie Taylor's Tailored in Silk (recorded between 1971 and 1973), Hinton fronted the MSRS on the Chuck Berry classic "Too Much Monkey Business" recorded in 1971 for a never-released MSRS project on Island Records.
An important songwriter and musical collaborator, Hinton co-wrote, with Marlin Greene, the southern soul classics "Cover Me" (1967) and "It's All Wrong But It's Alright" (1968) for Percy Sledge, and "Down In Texas" for Don Varner (1967). Eddie and Paul Ballenger produced Don Varner's cover of the Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham song "Power of Love," which became a hit for Hour Glass in 1968. With Donnie Fritts, Hinton composed "Breakfast in Bed" for Dusty Springfield (1969) and "Choo Choo Train" for the Box Tops (produced by Dan Penn in 1968). Hinton contributed the song "Three Hundred Pounds of Hongry" to Tony Joe White's The Train I'm On (produced at Muscle Shoals Sound in 1972) and "Can't Beat the Kid" and "Every Natural Thing" for John Hammond's Muscle Shoals album Can't Beat the Kid (1975). He also contributed "Just a Little Bit Salty" to Bobby Womack's Home is Where the Heart Is, recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1976. In 1977, Hinton recorded a solo album, Very Extremely Dangerous, at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios; it was produced by Barry Beckett for the Capricorn label and included a strong set of original songs as well as collaborations with Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts. Unfortunately, Capricorn was in a financial decline at that time, and Hinton's record was not promoted widely. Capricorn would declare bankruptcy in 1979.
By the early 1980s, Hinton was living in Macon, Georgia, and fronting a band called the Rocking Horses. The band drew its repertoire from Hinton's Very Extremely Dangerous album and also wrote and played some new material. Hinton recorded six songs under producer Jimmy Johnson's direction at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1982, but they went unreleased. Hinton went through a divorce and emotional difficulties that resulted in him becoming homeless and living on the streets of Decatur, Morgan County. In 1985, Hinton's friend from the Drum and Bugle Corps found him there and encouraged him to resume recording. Hinton recorded several songs at Birdland Recording Studio in Town Creek, Lawrence County, that were combined with the songs he recorded in 1982 and released as an album in 1986 under the title Letters from Mississippi. The album circulated under the Rounder and Mobile Fidelity imprints and garnered a great deal of insider interest and led to a resurgence in Hinton's career.. Hinton made two more albums for Bullseye: Cry and Moan (1991) and Very Blue Highway (1993).
In the early 1990s, Hinton moved to Birmingham. He toured, including a short tour of Italy arranged by an Italian promotor, and in 1995 returned to the studio to record his next album. He suffered a heart attack and died on July 28, 1995, prior to its completion. He was buried in Tuscaloosa Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa. Since Hinton's death, there has been much retrospective interest in his musical legacy. Johnny Sandlin produced an excellent compilation of never-released tracks titled Hard Luck Guy (1999) and British producer Peter Thompson has compiled three albums of Eddie's unreleased music, accompanied by the MSRS and others. Hinton remains one of the true innovators in the Muscle Shoals music legacy. In 2001, Hinton was awarded a bronze star and recognized by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Additional Resources

Freeman, Scott. Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.
Guralnick, Peter. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom. Newport Beach, Calif.: Back Bay Books, 1999.
Kemp, Mark. Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, And New Beginnings in a New South. New York: Free Press, 2004.
McNutt, Randy. Guitar Towns: A Journey to the Crossroads of Rock 'n' Roll. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2002.
Wexler, Jerry and David Ritz. Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music. New York: Knopf, 1993.
Published:  September 4, 2009   |   Last updated:  March 22, 2011