Wolf Stephenson stands in what is left of the legendary Malaco Records.
Severe storms and a series of tornadoes has plagued the Midwest and Southern states throughout April. One of the casualties of the violent weather is the legendary blues and soul label Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi. It was crushed by a tornado on April 15.
You can read about Malaco Records, “The Last Soul Company,” and its formidable history at their website.
Malaco Records’ flamingo-pink main office was one of the few buildings in the area when it opened in 1967 on the west end of Jackson’s Northside Drive.
“We were practically out in the country,” said Wolf Stephenson, vice president and chief engineer. “I can remember all of us sitting out in the parking lot in the wee hours of the morning, eating watermelon and listening full blast to the song mixes we were working on at the time. We wanted to see how they sounded away from the speakers.”
Stephenson, 67, managed to chuckle at the memory Monday afternoon, a few seconds of escape from the grim reality brought on by Friday’s tornado that ravaged parts of Clinton and northwest Jackson, injuring seven and causing major damage to numerous homes and businesses.
The twister didn’t spare Malaco, which has produced its share of music history. It destroyed the accounting building and shipping warehouse. The main building, which housed executive offices and the legendary recording studio, was pummeled.
There were some bits of good news: Approximately 20 employees who were at work when the storm struck escaped injury. Couch and Stephenson said they plan to rebuild. And Malaco’s thousands of precious master tapes weathered the storm in a vault-type building made of concrete blocks and supported by reinforced steel.
The recording studio was dark and dank Monday. A grand piano and a Hammond B3 organ were barely visible, buried in debris. The sound of music was replaced by the flapping of a blue tarp, serving as a temporary roof. Pieces of the wood tile floor were scattered about. Amplifiers and microphones looked soulless and lonely.
Hits were born in this room. Among them: Jean Knight’s 1971 No. 1 single, Mr. Big Stuff; King Floyd’s Groove Me, which went to No. 1 on the R&B chart; and Dorothy Moore’s 1976 classic, Misty Blue. Paul Simon recorded Learn How to Fall here. It appeared on his 1973 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, which earned two Grammy nominations.”
The Malaco Records story aired on WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi in 1999.
Thanks, Mike Webber