Southern Culture In Southern California: An Interview With Mark Neill, Soil Of The South Music Production By
In the 1950s, the
home of rockabilly music was clearly Memphis, Tennessee and the studio of Sam
Phillips Sun Records. Inspired by Sams vision of merging white hillbilly
music with black gospel and blues, legends were created. Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny
Cash, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Rich are just some of the famous artists birthed
So where is the home of rockabilly music today? Soil of The South Music Production
in La Mesa, California. So how could rockabilly, with its deep Southern roots,
emerge in Southern California?
Two words - Mark Neill
is that one day American Southern music will be recognized for its importance
to the development of American culture, states Neill as he passionately
explains the focus of his career since the late 1970s when he opened up his
first project studio with a pair of old tube tape machines with the intention
of making some demos.
My family moved us all around the country when I was young, but my home
is Valdosta, Georgia where I grew up as a poor farm boy, explains Neill.
My parents gave me their 45s of Gospel, R&B, early Rock n Roll,
and Rockabilly music when the LP record became popular. Those 45s were my world
as a young man and I decided then that music would be my life.
Passion - the word defines Marks commitment to Southern music and particularly
rockabilly music. In an age of materialism, Neill has foregone the glitter of
riches to create lasting, authentic music - music that is timeless.
I try to record as much of the music live as possible. There is no way
that you can create the same tension and inspiration when the musicians are
in separate rooms or recording to a track with headphones on. I overdub selectively
and only when absolutely necessary.
That approach has created some of the most popular rockabilly CDs recorded in
the past two decades. Ask any rockabilly fan which is the defining rockabilly
record of the past twenty years and they will tell you On The Go
by Big Sandy and The Fly-Rite Trio. The record has sold more copies than any
other modern rockabilly record and is the epitome of Neills approach to
After the rockabilly scene in LA fell apart in the late1980s, I packed
up my studio and moved back to Valdosta, Georgia. Neill explains, I
had recorded many of the LA rockabilly and retro artists including James Intveld,
The Paladins, The Forgiven, Johnny Meeks, Tell Tale Hearts, The Forbidden Pigs,
and Ricky Nelson. I encouraged many young rockabilly artists to record. In 1992,
Robert Williams and his band came down to Georgia and we cut On The Go
live to mono.
Soon every sincere rockabilly artist wanted to get that timeless sound produced
by Mark with his 1950s/60s equipment and perfectly designed studio.
Its not that I was into buying vintage equipment back
in the 1970s, its just that it was all I could afford. It was only after
I figured out how to get the sound on the equipment that I realized the inferiority
of 24-track studio recordings and the superior sound produced by two-track tape
machines. The sound was so much bigger than the commercial studios and had such
Neill does not use any digital effects in his studio. No Pro Tools, no Autotune,
no computer gear, and especially no digital reverb (Digital reverb is
evil, quotes Mark). So what gear does he use?
Its a typical array of 1950s/60s mics: Telefunken, Neumann U47,
RCA 77, 639b Altec, various old Electrovoice dynamic mics, older Shure dynamics,
and Neumann condensers. I use Studer tape machines, an Ampex 300 tape machine,
Studer classical music console, Studer power amp, and Tannoy speakers. Thats
The acoustics of the studio are based on those of Owen Bradleys Nashville
Studio where rockabilly classics such as Be Bop A Lula were recorded.
Rockabilly and Southern music should receive more attention like the focus
on the Blues. Its authentic music produced by talented and inspired musicians
and needs to be preserved. Thats my dream.
A recent survey of todays youth found that authenticity is
their most sought after ideal. With the resurgence of interest in roots music
and authentic performances by musicians, Mark Neill just might realize his dream
and in the process help us realize our own.
Soil of the South Music Production
La Mesa, California
of Mark Neills work:
Big Sandy and The Fly-Rite Trio On The Go
Deke Dickerson Number One Hit Record, More Million Sellers,
Rhyme, Rhythm & Truth
Josie Kreuzer Beggin Me Back
Los Straitjackets SuperSonic Guitars in 3D
The Paladins Slippin In, Palvoline #7
Rip Carson Box Set: The Singles Collection
Rockin Ryan and The Real Goners Caged Heat