The Grammy award-winning American roots musician/musicologist Dom Flemons and acclaimed country blues guitarist Reverend Peyton, both lauded for their knowledge of roots music’s past and the exciting ways they bring the music into the present day, have combined their passionate expertise into a riveting new rendition of Elmore James’ slide-guitar blues classic “Shake Your Money Maker,” which is available September 9, 2020.
Friends for decades, Flemons and Peyton had long wanted to find some way to work together. The impetus behind their “Money Maker” occurred at the grand finale of the 2019 Blues Music Awards mojo in Memphis, Tenn. The two were part of a star-studded ensemble — which also included Booker T. and the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper — performing an encore jam of “Shake Your Money Maker,” a song that had been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame the day before by Flemons himself. He recalls from the performance: “I looked back at the stage and saw magic electric sparks flying from the dueling guitars of Rev. and Colonel Cropper. At that moment I saw the potential for an amazing record that would commemorate Elmore James as well as electrify a classic into a modern masterpiece.” Soon thereafter, Flemons decided to ring up his friend Rev. Peyton, invite the legendary Steve Cropper into the mix, and bring it all to life at Sun Studios, where it would not only have historical significance, but where he had laid down tracks before, for his work with and in the CMT show Sun Records.
At the year’s end, Flemons and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, which features Peyton’s wife Breezy Peyton on washboard and drummer Max Senteney, returned to Memphis to record “Shake Your Moneymaker.” And they didn’t pick just any studio; they chose the legendary Sun Records Studio. “You can feel the weight of the history of Sun Studio as soon as you walk in,” shares Peyton. “It truly is hallowed ground and a living temple of American music."
Reuniting with them for the Sun session was Cropper, who gained his renown a few miles south at Stax Records Studio as the house guitarist where he played on records by Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding and co-wrote numerous soul classics including “In the Midnight Hour” and “Knock on Wood.” Hailed by Mojomagazine as “the greatest living guitar player,” Cropper was a member of Booker T. & the MG's, the Mar-Keys, and the Blues Brothers, and has a lengthy,unrivaled discography of session and production work over the past 60 years. Sitting in on bass was the BMA-honored Scot Sutherland, best known for his work in the Tommy Castro Band, the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue, Mike Zito & the Wheel, and the Welch Ledbetter Connection.
Despite starting with just a few arrangement charts, this expert crew quickly got up to speed and, once the tape starting rolling, “the music roared to life like a freight train,” says Flemons. He continued with, “The two electric guitars combined with a big bass sound and a polyphonic rhythmic section mixed with the bones, washboard and drum set to conjure up thespirit of Elmore James, the frenetic slap-back of Sam Phillips, and the deep river of soul that defined Stax Records — distilling it into one song that’ll blow the speakers out of the room.”
As you’d expect in an Elmore James tune, guitars played a central role in this fiery rendition. Cropper brought along one of his classic custom Peaveys while Peyton played a guitar very much like James’ — a prototype of the Supro Dualtone from 1952. “Steve Cropper is one of the most important guitar players in American music history. I tried hard not to give him much direction,” Peyton confides. “I just wanted to let Cropper be Cropper. The results were perfect. I just wish that the folks that hear this record could also hear the stories he told between takes. I’ll cherish the memories for the rest of my life."
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band was at the 2019 Blues Music Awards because their album Poor Until Payday was nominated for “Best Blues Rock Album.” Poor Until Paydayreached #1 on the iTunes Blues Charts, as had the trio’s prior three releases. Known for playing vintage guitars, Peyton and his 1949 Harmony H-50 recently graced the cover of Vintage Guitar Magazine. His old-school, gutbucket style has earned Peyton comparisons to Howlin’ Wolf and Mississippi John Hurt. Over the years, he and his band frequently have made pilgrimages to Clarksdale, Mississippi to learn from Delta Blues masters like T-Model Ford, Robert Belfour, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
Flemons was nominated for Best Acoustic Blues Album in the Blues Music Awards and Best Folk Album in the Grammy Awards for his Smithsonian Folkways release Black Cowboys. Flemons and elements of the album were chosen to be part of the American Currents exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019 alongside Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, and Kane Brown. He served as co-host of the 2019 Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, an apt role for a man who is both a musician and a music scholar. Co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Grammy Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee was honored this year with the United States Artists Fellowship Award in the Traditional Arts category. Known as “The American Songster” because his repertoire contains over a century of early American music, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist also is adept on the banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, quills, and rhythm bones. His most recent release is a 2-CD and digital reissue titled Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus out on Omnivore Recordings.