Don Bryant, one of the architects of the classic Memphis soul sound of Hi Records, made a spectacular comeback album, Don’t Give Up On Love, just in time to be a featured performer at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp. The record sounds astonishingly similar to a vintage Hi production thanks to a close relationship between Bryant and longtime Stomp participant Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys, who co-wrote material with Bryant and co-produced the album.
Bryant was Willie Mitchell’s right-hand man, the vocalist in his band before Hi and a key member of the studio team as a writer, producer and performer. Ann Peebles was his project and became his wife. He wrote “Part Time Love” and “99 Lbs” for her and they co-wrote her 1973 classic “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”
Bryant started out singing gospel at age five and eventually stopped making secular music and returned to the world of gospel.
“I never stopped singing,” he says. “I had still been writing all along and singing gospel. Scott Bomar asked me if I wanted to do a few shows with the Bo-Keys. I agreed and had a really good time, the shows were going real nice and the audiences liked it. Then he asked me if I wanted to do an album.”
Bryant put together new material and revisited old favorites like “I Got To Know,” written in 1960 for the “5” Royales.
“I’ve been knowing Scott for a long time,” says Bryant. “I put all the lyrics together and had an idea of how the melody would go but basically we wrote it together. He would play some lines on the bass and I would do my part.”
Bryant felt like he was back working with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records.
“There really wasn’t a whole lot of difference,” he says, “because we had a whole lot of Hi musicians on the session—Howard Grimes on drums, Charles Hodges on organ, Archie Turner on keyboards. They recorded with me and Ann back in the day so I’ve been around them a long time. We all knew each other and I thought we got a good feel on the session. I knew something good was gonna come out of it. The musicians got together and put down some tracks. Then I came in and did my overdubs.
“I was really glad to get back into the studio after such a long time. I kept getting that spiritual knowledge, so songs would come to me and I wrote ’em down. A lot of things that go through my mind I couldn’t tell you, but I could write them in a song and sing it and you’d know what I was talking about.”