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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Let's go back to the future. It may sound like we've been transported back to the 1960s and the heyday of Memphis soul, but we haven't raided Dad's vinyl collection for this one. It's brand new, by a group called the Bo-Keys, from their new album, "Got to Get Back."

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: The CD also gets some star power from the likes of William Bell, Otis Clay, Charlie Musselwhite and others. And joining us now from the studios of WKNO in - where else - Memphis is Bo-Keys bandleader and bass player Scott Bomar. Welcome, Scott Bomar.

Mr. SCOTT BOMAR (Bandleader, Bass Player, Bo-Keys): Hello. How you guys doing?

LYDEN: And with you there is guitarist Charles "Skip" Pitts, who also plays on the album. Welcome.

Mr. CHARLES "SKIP" PITTS (Guitarist, Bo-Keys): Hello. Thank you.

LYDEN: I have to say, this music takes me back and brings me to the present all at the same time. Scott Bomar, you're just 37, so you weren't really around in the heyday. What made you want to start a band like this one? You guys have been together about a decade now.

Mr. BOMAR: My favorite music of all time is Memphis soul - Booker T and the MGs, and Willie Mitchell and the Bar-Kays. Those bands, to me, are like what the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and The Who are to a lot of rock music fans. I just really looked up to those groups, and that's the type music I wanted to play. And I was actually working at the Stax Music Academy right when they opened up, and that's where I met Skip Pitts and a lot of the great musicians who were in the Bo-Keys.

LYDEN: Skip Pitts, you're a guitarist from way back, and you have played with some of the greats. In fact, there's a little bit of your handiwork here that people might recognize.

(Soundbite of music, "Theme from Shaft")

LYDEN: That, of course, is the "Theme from Shaft," which you recorded with Isaac Hayes.

Mr. PITTS: Yes, ma'am. We were up in Universal Studios in Culver City. And Isaac had a little tape recorder right on his acoustic piano. And me, Willie Hall on drums, and Michael Toles on second guitar. And we had Nuck(ph), James Alexander from the Bar-Kays, there. And my boy Lester Snell was on keyboards. And when I got to the Wa-Wa, I started doing a (makes sounds)...

(Soundbite of music, "Theme from Shaft")

Mr. PITTS: And Isaac said, whoa, is that on a record? And I said, no. I said, I'm just tuning up and checking my pedals. So he asked Willie Hall on drums, he said, give me some 16 notes. And what he was trying to do was get some rhythmatic sound for the beginning of "Shaft," when Richard Roundtree is coming up from the subway in Times Square. He was walking, you know, and he had to have something to move with that.

(Soundbite of song, "Theme from Shaft")

Mr. ISAAC HAYES (Musician): (Singing) Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man? (Shaft.) Can you dig it?

Mr. PITTS: So that is the way "Shaft" was basically created.

LYDEN: Scott Bomar, tell me how you would define Memphis soul. I mean, is it somehow, is it different from Motown?

Mr. BOMAR: I think Memphis soul is a hybrid between the feel that's in the gospel music, and the songwriting that's more maybe influenced by Nashville and even some country-western. So in a way, it's a hybrid between church music and country music. I guess Detroit is a little bit more pop, a little bit of a slicker, more produced sound; and Memphis is more raw.

LYDEN: Let's hear a little bit from the title track, "Got to Get Back."

(Soundbite of song, "Got to Get Back")

THE BO-KEYS: (Singing) I got to get back to my baby. I got to get back, I got to get back, hey. It's been 40 days and 40 nights. I'm so lonesome and blue. Been away from my baby so long, I don't know what to do.

LYDEN: Boy, listening to Otis Clay singing with you is taking me back to Chicago, when I used to go and listen to blues on Halsted Street. Did you write this?

Mr. BOMAR: We did. We wrote this song with a songwriter named Darryl Carter. He was a house writer at Willie Mitchell's Hive Studios and also, he was an in-house songwriter with Chips Moman here in Memphis, at American Studios in the '60s. And Darryl Carter, you know, he co-wrote a lot of Bobby Womack's big hits, and he also wrote a lot of Otis Clay's '70s material for Willie Mitchell.

(Soundbite of song, "Got to Get Back")

THE BO-KEYS: (Singing) I never thought it would hurt so much deep down in my soul. It's raining cats and dogs outside. It's really coming down...

LYDEN: Skip, I understand you grew up in Washington, D.C. Did you hear a lot of good music growing up?

Mr. PITTS: Oh yeah. When I was 11 years old with my first guitar, and I would sit by the radio all day long because all of the music that was on the channel wasn't, you know, black music. I would just bypass the stuff I didn't like - you know, the Perry Comos at the time. I appreciated them and stuff, but I wasn't trying to learn that. Perry Comos and Frank Sinatra - all that was on the same station with the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. So when those things came on, I worked on it. And by the next time - I heard in my ear was in a way that I can hear it - by the next time it was on rotation - it came back on, I had it, basically.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: You must have had a ball working on this record. And you got another hero, William Bell, for "Weak Spot."

Mr. PITTS: Oh yeah. I've been knowing him for years and years. I knew him when he came out with "You Don't Miss Your Water." At that time, I was living out of D.C. and working with Dean Chandler, the Duke of Earl. And me and Willie go way, way back.

(Soundbite of song, "Weak Spot")

THE BO-KEYS: (Singing) If I had a little, boy, every time we've been apart, I'd be a rich man with a broken heart. 'Cause you've got my feelings, got me dangling by a thread. And without your love, baby, I might as well be dead. Oh, I've got a weak spot...

LYDEN: We were thinking that this CD, this album, "Got to Get Back," comes out on the first day of summer, and it has a real summery feel. I can hear it blasting out of Cadillac convertibles everywhere.

Mr. PITTS: We all hear it coming out of Cadillacs and convertibles and everything.

(Soundbite of song, "Weak Spot")

THE BO-KEYS: (Singing) Everybody understand...

LYDEN: It has been a real pleasure speaking with both of you, Skip Pitts and Scott Bomar, from the Bo-Keys. Their new album is called "Got to Get Back," and it comes out on Tuesday. And they joined us from the studios of WKNO in Memphis. Thanks very much.

Mr. PITTS: Thank you.

Mr. BOMAR: Thank you. We really appreciate it.

Mr. PITTS: And we really enjoyed you.

(Soundbite of song, "Weak Spot")

THE BO-KEYS: (Singing) You've got my love, got me chained and bound. I'm like the struggling man in the water, please don't let me drown, yeah...

LYDEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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