MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As part of WMC Action News 5′s special “Studio Sessions” 5 Star Stories series, we take you inside another legendary Memphis recording studio to hear from hitmaker Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell.
The Grammy-winner gave our Kontji Anthony the Royal treatment at his historic studio on Willie Mitchell Boulevard in South Memphis. Royal Studios sits behind an unmistakable door with a painting of Willie Mitchell surrounded by other critical players in the success of the studio.
“All kinds of magical things that have happened here,” Mitchell smiled.
Royal Studios hit the scene in 1957 founded by bandleader, trumpeter and producer Willie Mitchell.
Mitchell’s grandson, Lawrence, affectionately known as “Boo,” now runs the studio as its lead producer and engineer.
”He was a pioneer and innovator, from the 50s. He wanted a new sound so that’s where the Memphis soul sound came from,” Mitchell explained.
Mitchell produced one of the world’s most influential singers of all time, Al Green, including the hit songs Love and Happiness and Tired of Being Alone.
“Al Green is the only Memphis artist to have six consecutive number one albums and I don’t know how they were doing it because it was all within a five-year period,” said Mitchell.
The world’s top artists consider the iconic studio the place where hit-makers go to tap into the vibe.
“The Beatles rehearsed here on their first North American tour, in 1964. They stayed here for a week just rehearsing,” Mitchell explained.
Royal was originally a silent movie theater where Elvis watched movies and Mitchell’s grandfather expanded that connection to Hollywood through an array of Royal Studios’ soundtracks, from Goodwill Hunting to Love Jones to Pulp Fiction.
Over the years, Royal’s been a magnet for platinum-selling artists, from Rod Stewart to John Mayer. In fact, when our camera was there, Memphis super-producer Christopher “Drumma Boy” Gholson happened to be visiting from Los Angeles to reach back to his Memphis roots, which he says influences how he creates music.
”Emotions in the music transfer from what you hear and what you see in your environment. You hear how you’re a product of my environment,” Gholson explained.
Gholson said Royal was an ideal setting to produce his upcoming compilation album of local talent called “Welcome to My City, Volume 4,” as he stops through Memphis to help share music industry know-how with up-and-coming artists.
“Make sure that producers, artists, as well as the songwriters, are getting their shares of what they’re writing,” he explained.
For the first time, Mitchell shared what he saw the day producer Mark Ronson arrived at Royal to record “Uptown Funk,” the Bruno Mars hit that led to Mitchell’s Record of the Year Grammy in 2016.
“That was a magical session,” he said. “They showed up with like half the music business. Everybody, from Steve Jordan to Kevin Parker, Trombone Shorty and Mystikal, Carlos Alomar.”
The hit marked the first time in history a Memphis-made record took home Record of the Year at the Grammys and now Mitchell is passing the torch with all four of his children working in music, from singing to producing.
“I didn’t force anybody to do anything,” Mitchell laughed.
He’s currently nominated for three Grammy awards with Country Singer Brandy Clark. Two Country Album of the Year Awards and one Country Song of the Year Award.
The Grammy ceremony is Jan. 21.
Mitchell says his family is standing on the shoulders of his grandfather’s legacy.
“I’m lucky just to have a key to the joint because it’s like you know this magical kingdom,” Mitchell added.