0 What is Southern Soul? Part Two

  • Songs
  • by Kingsley H. Smith
  • 05/18/2006

Here are highlights from a much longer article written by Michael F. Patterson: "The Problem with Southern Soul," from Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is part two of Michael's comments...


"Now we get to southern soul.

Despite arguments to the contrary, that's a term I've been hearing since the 1960s. I even picked up an album from about 30 years ago recently that had the term in the liner notes.

That music sold. The "southern" label didn't keep jocks or hungry customers away. In fact, it probably guided a lot of folks to other music from the region.

After all, there was a belief that if it was from Memphis or Muscle Shoals and, later, Jackson, Mississippi., it had to be good stuff, because the people there were producing only the best.

Southern soul was something sought by discerning listeners.

In recent months, however, I've gotten calls from friends in the business who say the southern soul label is now the kiss of death. Many DJs won't play it, they say, if it's called southern soul.

Some radio syndicates say flat out "no" to programming so-called (new) southern soul. Is it the label that's holding the music back?

Be honest with yourself. How many of these records would even garner a second hearing when placed next to greats like Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Joe Simon and others who made "southern soul" a sound of which the community could be proud?

There's nothing wrong with the southern soul label. There is something wrong with a lot of the music some folks are trying to pass off today as southern soul. That's the problem."


Michael makes some interesting points. This is not a new debate.

I'll offer this - the phenomena of marketing music by region in the USA is pretty much long over, with one exception - hip hop.

It's really hard to find regional hits any more in any genre.

I don't think the discrimination against "southern soul" exists as much as the tendency of certain people not to embrace certain artists with an R&B style that is closer to the blues than to rhythm-soul.

Who are these artists we are talking about? Michael mentioned a few. Others are folks like Bobby Bland, Dorothy Moore, Shirley Brown, Little Milton, and the Z. Z. Hill's of the world.

"Southern soul" doesn't have a problem, it's a timeless style, part of the broader spectrum of classic R&B music.

Yes, it's different from today's dominant popular style, but when did we ever have an easy time celebrating cross-cultural musical differences?

What is Southern Soul Part One

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What is Southern Soul? Part Two
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