The Groove of Dusty Springfield

Springfield and the back up band that created Dusty in Memphis

By Vince Meserko

UnknownI’ve been spending a lot of time lately listening to Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis and marveling not only at Dusty’s smoky vocals, but at the band that backs her up on this famous recording. It’s a real shame that so many of the musicians of Motown, Stax, and Muscle Shoals have fizzled into obscurity, routinely out shined by the performers they so adeptly backed up.

The particular group backing Springfield up on this recording are called the Memphis Cats. They were comprised of guitarist Reggie Young, bassist Tommy Cogbill, the Sweet Inspirations on backing vocals, and the masterful drumming of Gene Chrisman. In short, it is impossible to groove any harder than this band does on this recording. Reggie Young’s riff at the beginning of “Son of a Preacher Man” remains iconic, but it is Cogbill’s dancing bass and Chrisman’s propulsive syncopated ride cymbal that push this song over the edge. Cogbill’s dextrous playing is in its finest form on “I Found My Way.”

During the chorus, Cogbilll’s bass carries the melody as his thick playing bubbles and cascades all over the beat. Chrisman’s open hi-hats add another level of complexity to the beat, and his fills provide just enough tight restraint to keep the entire thing from getting too carried away. Other standouts include “I’ll Be Faithful” which features a searing lead from Young that is so melodic that Springfield actually sings along to it. Additionally, the complementing thud of Chrisman’s bass drum and Cogbill’s strutting bass provide the funky ground cover for Young’s jagged riffs. While the album’s overblown string arrangement occasionally get in the way, this recording is an object lesson in groove, that intangible quality that pushes a merely good recording towards legendary status. Go listen to it.

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