As a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Eddie Hinton played on countless recordings by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Otis Redding. But there was another side of the guitarist that led Jerry Wexler to once proclaim him “the next big thing.” Hinton was a persuasive performer and moreover, a fine songwriter. In collaboration with Donnie Fritts, he penned what’s likely his most famous song: “Breakfast in Bed,” first recorded by Baby Washington but made immortal by Dusty Springfield on Dusty in Memphis. Late in 2018, Ace Records issued a definitive anthology of Eddie Hinton’s songs, entitled Cover Me: The Eddie Hinton Songbook. Its 24 tracks from many of soul’s top artists of all time showcase the breadth of his talents.
Naturally, “Breakfast in Bed” opens this set, the song seemingly tailor-made for Springfield’s sultry, sensual delivery. Who could refuse her entreaty to “come in baby, you can dry the tears on my dress” or doubt that “no one has to know”? Like Dusty, Tony Joe White had more than food on his mind with “300 Pounds of Hongry [sic],” an ode to his large lady. White tackles such politically incorrect lyrics as “I don’t care if you weighs a ton, long as I can butter them buns” with relish. Even more outré is the solo Hinton tune “Seventeen Year Old Girl” from Mickey Buckins and The New Breed; the lyric explains that the titular gal is “too old to spank, too young to be the milkman’s wife!”
Many songs here were penned in collaboration with Marlin Greene. Their earliest joint effort here is “Down in Texas” in raspy-voiced Alabama native Oscar Toney, Jr.’s rendition. The despairing song was also covered by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Hour Glass, and its onetime member, Gregg Allman (in an unreleased solo version). The Hour Glass feature here with another Hinton/Greene composition, “Home for the Summer.” The pleading R&B ballad suited Gregg, Duane and co. well, a precursor to their more muscular southern rock sound. Another boldface name, Percy Sledge, was at ease with the uptempo groove of “Standing on the Mountain,” recorded in 1968 but shelved until four years later.
Southern soul’s greatest ladies tackled Hinton and his collaborators’ songbook. Candi Staton brought her impassioned pipes to “Sure as Sin,” and Judy White was fiery on one of the strongest cuts here, “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” Gwen McCrae is heard demanding “Lay It on Me,” and Jackie Moore is similarly imploring on “Cover Me.” Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney and Bonnie inspired many a singer; it’s easy to see why as she shouts, growls, and swaggers her way through “Where You Come From,” co-written with Jim Coleman. Scottish songbird Lulu isn’t usually associated with southern soul, but she proved herself an expert exponent of the genre with her Muscle Shoals efforts. Hinton and Fritts’ “Where’s Eddie,” from those sessions on which Hinton played, is one of the most stunning works in his catalogue. Lulu recorded Hinton and Grady Smith’s “People in Love” on her New Routes album, but the version here has instead been culled from supreme song stylist Lou Johnson’s majestic album of Sweet Southern Soul.
One of the most atypical songs here is the pensive, slow-burning “Always David,” co-authored with Wayne Jackson and Dan Penn, and sung with tenderness by The Sweet Inspirations in 1969. Equally offbeat is Hinton and Mike Lewis’ “Poor Mary Has Drowned” from the band Brick Wall, sounding a bit like The Four Seasons in their psych-pop Genuine Imitation Life period. The flipside of the Brick Wall single was Hinton and Fritts’ “If I Had Let You In,” which is heard here in The Box Tops’ version. Alex Chilton’s drawling lead vocal brings grit to the track, one of Hinton’s poppiest. (It even recalls The Left Banke’s hit “Walk Away Renee,” of all things!) Cher brought her singular, husky sound to Hinton and Penn’s earnest plea to “Save the Children” from her 3614 Jackson Highway album, one of the first recorded at the new Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at that address.
Dan Penn also was the uncredited co-writer of “Help Me Make It,” the most recent track on this collection. Mink DeVille’s 1981 rendition was produced by Jack Nitzsche, trading his thunderous Wall of Sound for a more intimate rock treatment with a dash of Bruce Springsteen style (himself influenced by Nitzsche’s work with Phil Spector).
Hinton also penned numerous songs solo. One of the earliest here is the infectious and brassy Motown-inspired stomper, “Masquerade,” recorded for the small South Camp label by Don Varner. Another mighty guitar-slinger, Bobby Womack, name-checked him on the opening rap to “A Little Bit Salty,” from 1976 (“Things got to get just a little bit salty/To let you know that you’re still around…to let you know what’s going down”). The Queen of Soul imbued Eddie’s funky “Every Natural Thing” with her own earthy power. Fittingly, the man himself is heard on one track. Eddie’s demo of the soulful ballad “It’s All Wrong But It’s Alright” (popularized by Laura Lee) is fully-produced and would have been release-ready. (Collections of his demos have been made available in recent years.)
Cover Me: The Eddie Hinton Songbook has been produced and annotated by Tony Rounce, and its 24-page booklet is loaded not only with his track-by-track notes but by photos and memorabilia images. Duncan Cowell has superbly remastered all of these tracks, most of which are in stereo. Cover Me shines a long-overdue spotlight on the late songwriter who died at the far too young age of 51 in 1995 after a lifetime of hard living and remarkable music. His soul lives on with this moving collection.
- Breakfast in Bed – Dusty Springfield (Atlantic 2606, 1969)
- Down in Texas – Oscar Toney Jr. (Bell 776, 1969)
- Cover Me – Jackie Moore (Atlantic 2830, 1971)
- A Little Bit Salty – Bobby Womack (from Columbia LP PC 34384, 1976)
- Sure As Sin – Candi Staton (Fame 91000, 1972)
- 300 Pounds of Hongry – Tony Joe White (from Warner Bros. LP BS 2580, 1972)
- Masquerade – Don Varner (South Camp 703, 1967) (*)
- Always David – The Sweet Inspirations (from Atlantic LP SD 8225, 1969)
- Poor Mary Has Drowned – Brick Wall (Capitol 2545, 1968) (*)
- It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right (rec. 1967, from Zane ZNCD 1016, 2000) (*)
- Help Me Make It (Power of a Woman’s Love) – Mink DeVille (from Atlantic LP SD 19311, 1981)
- Save the Children – Cher (from Atco LP SD 33-298, 1969)
- Every Natural Thing – Aretha Franklin (from Atlantic LP SD 8292, 1974)
- If I Had Let You In – The Box Tops (from Bell LP 6023, 1968)
- Satisfaction Guaranteed – Judy White (Buddah 79, 1969) (*)
- Standing on the Mountain – Percy Sledge (Atlantic 2848, 1972) (*)
- I Got the Feeling – The Amazing Rhythm Aces (from Warner Bros. LP BSK 3476, 1980)
- Home for the Summer – The Hour Glass (Liberty LP LST 7555, 1968)
- Lay It On Me – Gwen McCrae (Columbia 45320, 1971) (*)
- People in Love – Lou Johnson (Cotillion 44026, 1969) (*)
- Where You Come From – Bonnie Bramlett (Capricorn LP CP 0148, 1974)
- Love Waits for No Man – Al Johnson (South Camp 7002, 1967) (*)
- Where’s Eddie – Lulu (Atco 6749, 1970)
Stereo except (*) mono