The Commercial Appeal presents a special-edition 64-page magazine celebrating Elvis’ eternal fame on the 40th anniversary of his death. It’s filled with stories and historical photos of Elvis Presley.
Reggie Young’s name may not be instantly familiar to the masses, but his guitar work has been heard by nearly everyone with a set of ears: the sultry opening of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” the signature electric sitar of the Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby,” the dramatic swells on Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto,” and literally hundreds of other hits and classics.
The 82-year-old Young died Thursday night at his home outside Nashville, following an illustrious seven-decade career. Young served as the anchor of house bands at Memphis’ Hi Records and American Studios and as one of Nashville’s most revered session men.
His passing was confirmed by family, friends and several artists he worked with, including B.J. Thomas, who took to social media to praise Young, calling him a “brother and friend.” Country star Travis Tritt also saluted Young, crediting him as “the most recorded studio guitarist in history. Moreover, Reggie was a genuinely nice and humble human being.”
Born in 1936 in Caruthersville, Missouri, and raised in Osceola, Arkansas, Young moved with his family to Memphis in 1950 at the age of 14. A relative prodigy, Young was gigging professionally at age 15. He would go on to back local rockabilly singer Eddie Bond — putting his signature lick on Bond’s hit “Rockin’ Daddy” — before being hired away by country star Johnny Horton. In the late-’50s Young would land as the house guitarist at the fledgling South Memphis’ Royal Studios/Hi Records, making hits with Bill Black’s Combo.
After being drafted and serving a stint in the Army — where he was stationed in Africa, and recruited by and rebuffed an offer to join the CIA — Young returned stateside. He would tour with Bill Black’s Combo, getting a first-hand glimpse of Beatlemania as the Fab Four’s opening act in 1964. Young also played on some of the great soul sides Hi Records began producing under bandleader Willie Mitchell.
By the mid-’60s Young had moved on to work with producer Chips Moman at his American Studios. As part of American’s famed house band, “The Memphis Boys,” Young and company would sire an unprecedented run of chart hits, more than 120, into the early ‘70s for the likes of Elvis, Neil Diamond, and B.J. Thomas, among others.
Like most of the American crew, Young would leave Memphis in 1972, briefly for Atlanta, before settling in Nashville and becoming one of Music City’s top guns. Over the next two decades Young worked with country giants from Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson to Waylon Jennings and George Strait.
Though he was a self-effacing and humble character, fellow musicians took note of Young’s great gifts. His talents were revered by fellow guitar greats like Eric Clapton and George Harrison, and utilized by a stunning array of artists from Bob Dylan to Gladys Knight, the Staple Singers to Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers to Joe Cocker, B.B. King to Sinead O’Connor.
Young, who remained in the Nashville area, was a frequent presence in Memphis, participating in numerous Elvis-related programs with the Memphis Boys in recent years.
Despite his prolific career as a sideman, Young waited until 2017 to release his first solo album, “Forever Young,” a collection of soulful original instrumental compositions, via the U.K. label Ace Records.
Later this month — which marks the 50th anniversary of Young and the American Boys’ sessions with Elvis Presley — Ace is set to release “Reggie Young: Session Guitar Star,” a compilation highlighting Young’s work in the studio.
Plans for funeral services have not been announced.
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