REMEMBERING EDDIE HINTON & THE SPOOKS
BY JOHN CURRY
reprinted with permission from OLD TUSCALOOSA COUNTY MAGAZINE # 31 
I was asked to write about my memories of Eddie Hinton and a band I had, known as "The Spooks". These thoughts take me back in time when things were a lot simpler, when life was full of sweet youth and Rock n' Roll.
existed around 1961 or ' 62, the exact date has faded from my memory. Glen "Spook" Jones, the band's namesake, and I were college students at the University of Alabama. Spook got his nickname by being born on Halloween. We had a simple little group that played a few old John Lee Hooker tunes, the Ventures, Buddy Holly and others.
Our first gig was at an old abandoned sharecroppers house on the Aaron Christian farm. We put the word out that there would be a party there every Saturday night and "The Spooks"
would be playing. Huge crowds soon developed and we received our pay by passing the hat.
People who chose not to put money in the hat were usually refused tractor help if their cars got stuck in the mud or in a ditch, so participation was pretty good. A.D. Christian was in charge of the hat and
the tractor, so things went pretty smoothly.
Early band members were myself on drums, Spook Jones on lead guitar, Revis Guy on rhythm guitar and Ray Thomas on bass. Ray sang a few Elvis songs as our only vocalist. For a brief time, Dale Layton played rhythm guitar, but his duties on the Alabama Track Team prevented his staying with us. Dale is the brother of famous Alabama sportscaster Doug Layton.
went through several evolutionary changes as most bands do. David Reynolds joined the band early on as bass guitarist and added greatly to our talent and sound. But we really needed a vocalist, and this is where Eddie Hinton
entered the scene. Somebody had told us he was pretty good, and he lived on University Boulevard. Spook and I figured that the best way to find him was he'd take one side of the street and I'd take the other. So we did.
We started down around the University Club and knocked on doors asking if Eddie Hinton
lived there. We got a lot of "no's" until we got down to near where Hamner Realty is located today. At a house there Spook hollered from across the street, "Got 'im!" So I went over there and we introduced ourselves to Eddie.
He was about seventeen at the time. He said,"Well, y'all are crazy. I don't sing. I just hang around bands and maybe one time or another I jumped up on stage and tried
to sing- but I don't sing. Y'all don't need me
We had just gotten a new bass guitar player, Ray Thomas, and he was learning how to play on the job, and we said, "Hey, we've got one guy learning how to play bass on the job. We might's well have someone learn how to sing
on the job."
Somehow or other we persuaded him. We invited him to come and do a couple songs with us at some gigs. He was pretty shy at first. He'd actually turn his back on the audience, kind of cupping his hand over the microphone which covered his face, and sing. He literally learned how to perform on the job. At the time he didn't play as instrument.
We got some good breaks playing for fraternity parties and started to make some big money. Somewhere in that process, Eddie
began to pick up a guitar and played rhythm. After a while Spook married and moved to Huntsville, although he continued to play with the group.
The biggest break of our career was when we got the Homecoming Dance at the University of Alabama. We were the only band hired to play and we were set up outside the Stufent Union building near the Soup Store. We were ready to play. The pep rally was over and we had probably seven thousand people standing out there in front of us. And there was no Spook!
We kept waiting for him to show up from Huntsville. The crowd started stomping and clapping with impatience. I ran in the Soup Store and called Spook's home to ask his wife when he left to come to Tuscaloosa. Spook answered the phone in Huntsville. I said, "My gawd! What're you doin' there?"
He said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "We're all set up out here and ready to go...and no lead guitar player! What happened?"
"I thought it was next
week," replied Spook.
This screwup is what brought Eddie Hinton
into the spotlight. All we could do was go out and take our best opportunity that we'd ever had and make do. Eddie
at that time was playing just enough to be dangerous on his guitar and somehow we faked our way through that concert. While the performance didn't help us, it didn't kill us, either. But it was the first time Eddie Hinton
really stepped out to the front.
Spook left the band and we picked up a fellow named Larry Chiz. He was a red-headed, freckle-faced boy, Jewish by faith, from Shaw, Mississippi, which is in the depths of the Delta. Larry always used to say that if blacks had soul, he had twice as much because he had to be a red-headed, freckle-faced Jewish boy from Shaw, Mississippi, and really knew
what the Blues were. Even though he will never be a "name", Larry may have been one of the greatest lead guitar players to come out of the era of the ' 60s. He was doing licks that were unheard of from white musicians.
Looking back, I think that was the best band we ever had. Eddie
had continually grown in his musicianship and his singing abilities. We were very much in demand and we often had more jobs than we could easily do. Down deep each of us dreamed of becoming a famous rock band. We were tight. Dave Reynolds on bass, Larry Chiz was lead guitar, and Eddie
played second guitar. I played drums.
learned how to play a harmonica and his guitar playing was good enough to beat anyone out of a lead guitar job except for Chiz. He took the lead on many of the breaks and he and Chiz would go back and forth. It was really some great work, and Eddie's
singing had evolved.
In the Spring of ' 65
an opportunity developed for the band that changed us and Eddie
forever. There was a club down on Panama City Beach called the Old Dutch Inn
. It was the
college hangout. All the hot local bands and a lot of regional and national bands wound up being featured there from time-to-time. We were rehearsing one day when Eddie showed up, all excited. He said,"Aw, man, this is it! They want us to be the house band for the summer. They're going to pay us one hundred dollars each per week and give us free food and lodging! This is our break, guys! We're fixin' to bust out of here!"
Well, Chiz had just graduated and was also married and had a son. He had to do a tour in the army and was to report to Ft. Jackson as a second Lieutenant in August, having been in the ROTC. Viet Nam was also heating up. As for me, I had graduated in ' 63, gotten married, became a father, and we had just opened Curry furniture store that spring. We couldn't take the job no matter what.
was real disappointed and he said, "Well you just can't do this to me. I'm going to go down there and figure out something. I'll be back in the Fall."
Fall was our "season". We played fraternity parties and clubs and we had booked a great number of jobs already for the coming season.
went down to Panama City Beach and put together a band and took the job at The Old Dutch Inn
. He called the group the Five Minutes
. He never came back to the Spooks
. Our band went through it biggest transition. David Reynolds moved to lead guitar, Mike Spiller was added as singer-keyboard player and Gene Haynes played bass. Later we added Jimmy Butts as vocalist and horn player Fred DeLoach.
I'm not too clear on the chronology of Eddie's
career from this point, but I know that for awhile he worked at Boutwell Studios in Birmingham as a recording engineer and studio musician. It was under his tutelage that we did our only recording session. He let us come in after midnight and we worked until the sun came up.
He moved up to Muscle Shoals
and was part of the great Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section
. He appeared on albums by Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Aretha Franklin
and many others. Elvis
even requested his blazing mastery on the guitar. He penned one of Percy Sledge's
biggest hits, "Cover Me."
In my opinion, Eddie was probably the greatest musical mind that so many people never heard of.
He had unusual soul. Eddie Hinton's
career was a constant roller coaster of good times and bad times, and bad timing. In 1977 he recorded "Very Extremely Dangerous"
, a brilliant album, for Capricorn Records. The record label folded when it lost a lawsuit filed against them by Gregg Allman. All the records in warehouses waiting for distribution were confiscated by the court. A number of albums had already been distributed overseas and it became Number One in Scandinavia. I've been told that "Very Extremely Dangerous" is going to be re-release by Polygram records in the near future.
John D. Wyker
, who penned the hit "Motorcycle Mama" (and someone ought to write a book about what he's
done for the music scene!), helped Eddie to get back on his feet. He produced Eddie's "Letters From Mississippi," which opened eyes all over the world. At one time, John had a well-known band in Tuscaloosa called The Rubber Band
(Ed. Note: John Wyker
has a limited number of the very rare, original vinyl recordings of this album and is offering our readers the opportunity to own one. See the ad for more information. John Wyker says "At one point in Tuscaloosa, during the ' 60s and ' 70s, there were no less than a hundred guys who could blow Eric Clapton away. Today, 1997, Tuscaloosa is musically, the most important city in the South." John Wyker hopes to be able to do for others what he did for Eddie when Eddie was alive, and is interested in finding new artists to work with. You can call this magazine for informaition on how to get ahold of John.)
There is so much. I could write a book about Eddie Hinton
. He died July 28, 1995, at his mother's home in Birmingham. Jerry Wexler, retired Vice-President of Atlantic Records
and who was pivotal in the creation of the Muscle Shoals sound wrote to Eddie's mother, saying, "When I first came to Muscle Shoals it didn't take very long before I became aware of Eddie's singular talents- as a composer, lyricist, and gifted guitarist- and was touched by his original, offbeat, and engaging personality. Each year I had the feeling that Eddie was about to break out and achieve his full potential, and he would become the world-class Alabama musician. When the great artists came to Muscle Shoals, they would invariably hone in on Eddie- Aretha, Cher, Lulu. Bob Dylan would end up on the back porch of the Jackson Highway studio with Eddie, pickin' guitars and communing quietly in the Alabama evening.
"To this day I still play his records with great enjoyment. He remains unique- a white boy who truly sang and played in the spirit of the great black soul artists he venerated. With Eddie, it wasn't imitation; it was totally created, with a fire and fury that was as real as Otis Redding's and Wilson Pickett's."
died, after his funeral, his widow asked Eddie
to teach Otis Junior
how to sing like his daddy.
I always felt that Eddie
wanted to come back to his old band members with success in his hands, and say, "Hey, I made it guys." Eddie Hinton
was that extension of us. He was that part of us that only a musician that's trying to make it will ever understand- that deepest part of our ego that wanted to be a successful musician in the world.
As long as he was alive doing what he was doing, we could say, "That's Eddie
. We started him off and we're still behind him."
Full success eluded Eddie Hinton
for reasons we'll never fully understand. But he was
the best, and he was Tuscaloosa's own.
I will always miss him.