The Troup County Commission on Friday dedicated the pending South Loop as “Chips Moman Highway” in honor of the LaGrange resident acclaimed as a songwriter and record producer for Elvis Presley, The Highwaymen - Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson - and a who’s who of other musical greats.
Moman is perhaps best known as the producer of the 1969 album, “From Elvis in Memphis,” which included the hit songs, “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain,” and for writing such hits as “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” for Aretha Franklin, “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” for Jennings, and the B.J. Thomas hit, “(Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” which won Moman a Grammy Award.
He got another Grammy for best spoken word album for his “Class of ‘55” recording featuring Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
“Chips Moman has dedicated his life to song and has gifted the world with some of its most remarkable and memorable music,” Commission Chairman Ricky Wolfe said, proclaiming June 12 - Moman’s 73rd birthday - as Chips Moman Day in Troup County.
“As a producer, songwriter and musician, his artistry permeated multiple genres of music and influenced the development of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music,” Wolfe said, reading from the proclamation. “His musical contributions will be enjoyed throughout the world for years to come. We are honored to recognize him today.”
When completed in 2012, the 6.1-mile, two-lane South Loop will connect Whitesville and Roanoke roads, diverting traffic from downtown LaGrange and improving access to West Point Lake and the big industrial parks around LaGrange-Callaway Airport. The $19.1 million construction is being paid for with federal stimulus funds.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me. … I’m flabbergasted,” Moman said at Friday’s ceremony in the jury assembly room of the Troup County Government Center.
An estimated 100 fellow musicians, friends and family members watched a 3/12-minute video, produced by sheriff’s Sgt. Chad Mann, with highlights of Moman’s career.
“He’s one of the great producers of all time,” said Buddy Buie, who attended the ceremony with his songwriting partner J.R. Cobb.
They’re responsible for such hits as “Spooky,” “Stormy,” “Traces” and “Every Day with You Girl.” Moman produced Buie’s song, “I Take It Back” for Sandy Posey and it became a hit.
Cobb said he came to LaGrange because “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” “He’ll go down as a person who made a great contribution to music as a writer and producer,” Cobb said.
Others at the ceremony were some of Moman’s old studio session players from Memphis and Nashville - Reggie Young, Bobby Wood and Bobby Emmons, who was Moman’s co-writer on “Luckenbach.”
Also there was singer Eddy Arnold’s nephew, Jerry Arnold, who played drums in a band with Moman in the early Memphis days.
“Overall, he’s the most talented person I’ve ever run into,” Arnold said. “It’s unbelievable what he did. If my life depended on it and I needed someone to make a hit record for me, he’s the one I would contact.” Moman hitchhiked to Memphis at age 14 and three years later was playing with Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins. At his American Studios in Memphis, Moman produced an unprecedented 120 chart-topping singles between 1967 and 1971 by such artists as Elvis, Neil Diamond, Dionne Warwick and The Box Tops. In Nashville, he recorded stars such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard.
Moman has written more than 100 songs, starting with “This Time,” a love song for a girl at Rosemont School, which became a No. 1 hit for Troy Shondell.
“He’s up there with guys like Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash,” Kristofferson said in a phone interview. “It’s like Hank Williams or something - if you’ve got what it takes. He does.” Sheriff Donny Turner got his guitar signed by all the musicians at Friday’s ceremony, including Young, who wrote, “Please Arrest Jimmy Buffet,” referring to a song Buffet recorded that referred to Young as being drunk. Turner, who has recruited Moman for fundraising concerts on behalf of the Pineland campus of Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, got the wheels rolling toward naming the South Loop after Moman. “It’s been amazing getting to know Chips, and to recognize his talent to put words and music together for our enjoyment for all these years, and to know he’s from right here in Troup County,” Turner said. “To be able to get him back into the community and have him help us put on some concerts and raise some money for the kids, it’s been an honor.”
The sheriff had received letter in August 2008 from Stan Daniel, a retired record promoter and longtime friend of Moman’s. “We are having more than our share of problems getting this famous record producer recognized in Memphis,” Daniel wrote. Daniel first suggested a museum, but decided visitors might infringe on Moman’s privacy. Turner went to County Manager Mike Dobbs, who showed the video about Moman’s career to the commissioners. “They said, ‘Yeah, this needs to be done,’” Dobbs said. “… He’s had many, many honors and this is just one more.” Lincoln Wayne Moman (he got the nickname “Chips” because of his affinity for gambling) was born in a house on Stonewall Street and lived in several LaGrange neighborhoods growing up as his parents got jobs with different textile plants run by Callaway Mills. He lived mostly in a two-story house at the end of Houston Street with his grandmother, mother and aunts, and all their children - a crew that sometimes swelled to 28 people under one roof.
Moman started playing guitar at age 3, accompanying his mother as she sang. He moved with his parents, Mildred Magnolia Deberry and Abraham Lincoln Moman, to the country when he was about 9 years old and attended Rosemont School while living on Rosemont, Smokey and Briley roads in south Troup County. He shares a birthday with his aunt, Bertha Lee Moman Robinette of LaGrange, who turned 97 today.
Moman returned to LaGrange in 1996 and lives on his family farm near West Point Lake with his wife, Jane. They tend to horses, and he enjoys his dogs and cats, and watching old westerns on TV. Moman can’t play guitar because of a stroke he suffered about two years ago, but he’s expected to make a full recovery.
“I really believe that caring about other people is an important factor in a person’s life and if you don’t have that, you don’t have anything,” he said. “If you can’t care about the people you love, what are you?”