Monday, February 25, 2013

Stax Records: Hold On! I'm Comin'

The Stax recording studio in Memphis was housed in a converted theater and the owners made liberal usage of the amenities found within this historic building. In the pre-digital age, studios would construct echo chambers within their facilities to be able to recreate the natural ambiance found in concert halls.

In their most primitive sense, one end of the chamber or room was equipped with a speaker and the other end had a microphone. Placing the mic at various distances from the speaker affected the amount of delay that could be achieved. It was a very much a hands on approach that required some trial and error to get the desired effect.

At Stax, the same principal was utilized; however, a specially constructed room was unnecessary. The theater’s former men’s room with its tile floor and walls was the perfect echo chamber. Equipped with a speaker and microphone, the bathroom worked great and that’s where the story of today’s Stax hit begins.

One of the songwriting/production teams at Stax included Isaac Hayes and David Porter. While working on a particular recording session, Porter excused himself to answer the call of nature. Taking longer than expected, Hayes called down to the echo chamber/facilities to find out how long Porter would be taking. David answered, “Hold on – I’m Comin’.” This phrase evolved into their next song that would become a hit for Sam Moore and Dave Prater – better known collectively as Sam & Dave.

“Hold On! I’m Comin’” or “Hold On! I’m A Comin’,” as the song’s title appears on the single, was released in March 1966. It has been suggested that the single’s label was a typesetter’s error and the album has the correct title. It is also registered with BMI as “Hold On! I’m Comin’.”

It was a #1 R&B hit and peaked on the Hot 100 at #21. The single was a complete Stax production featuring Booker T and the MG’s and the Mar-Keys Horns with the instrumentation. The song also became the title cut of Sam & Dave’s next album.

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