Sandy Carroll 2013
Sandy Carroll was born in Corinth, Mississippi and learned to sing and play around the age of 5 at her home in Stantonville, Tennessee. First her Mother, Miss Bessie, and then her sister, Pat, and finally her mentor, Mrs. Laura Jane Thompson taught Sandy to play piano. And play it, she did. Mr. John D. Wyatt from Selmer helped add tap dance and vocals to her repertoire at age 7 and so she was off on a musical journey that would lead, who knew where?
West Shiloh Baptist was fertile ground for learning and playing music and Sandy has always believed that the soul in her music comes from the lifelong love of gospel which first inspired her in the church. She says the rhythms and melodies that go “for the heart,” still mold her music today.
At the tender age of 15 Sandy formed her first professional group, the Avengers. A group of McNairy County boys: George Donaldson from Selmer; Joe Distretti, Don Seaton, Joe Nichols and Jack Fullwood of Adamsville; made up the rest of the band.
Sandy attended Union University on a piano scholarship and a partial scholarship from the Stephen Foster Music Club of Selmer. On a side note, her good looks and talent didn’t hurt her in other pursuits. Sandy was Miss McNairy and Miss Madison County. Sandy left Union to attend Memphis State University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music History—earning her way through school singing with various bands, recording jingles for radio and accompanying vocalists on piano.
Moving to Tallahassee, Sandy attended Florida State where she was accepted in the graduate School of Music in Music Therapy. From there she went on the road for several years touring and playing all over the US.
Returning to Memphis in 1983 with her own unique bluesy sound, carefully crafted and yet born of her roots and varied musical experiences, Sandy spent a year headlining at Lafayette’s Corner on historic Beale Street, where the Memphis blues were born. She would become a Beale Street regular and a highly regarded fixture on the Memphis music scene for years to come.
Writing and recording the singles, “If You Got It” and “Memphis In May” in 1984, Sandy partnered with Jim Dickinson, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Memphis Chapter) seven-time producer of the year. “Memphis in May” became a regional hit and was adop0ted as the unofficial theme song for the annual Memphis in May festivities for several years. Sandy performed at Memphis in May with the Memphis Horns (and special guest Rufus Thomas) and also at the first Beale Street Music Festival. She sang the national anthem at Memphis in May and in front of 30,000 people at the Memphis Showboats football game.
A year later, she left for San Francisco to write and record. After three years on the west coast and a short stay in the Midwest, Sandy returned to her beloved Memphis and West Tennessee roots.
1n 1989, the legendary bluesman, Albert King, recorded Sandy’s, “If You Got It” which appeared on his final studio album, “Red House.” Her reputation as a first rate writer was growing.
With these honors under her belt and a fully matured blues sound all her own, Sandy began writing for her full-length debut album, “Southern Woman,” which was released in 1993. The album got great reviews and Sandy was invited on a month long tour of the United Kingdom.
Back in the States, Sandy continued promoting “Southern Woman,” performing at various festivals in the South, including Arts in the Park, Eureka Springs Blues Festival and the Southern Heritage Festival. She maintained a heavy schedule on Beale Street playing some of the city’s best music clubs including Rum Boogie, Blues City, Black Diamond, Joyce Cobb’s, Kings Palace and Blues Hall.
One of Sandy’s more unique gigs was writing the Memphis Mad Dog football team’s official theme song, “Mad Dog Boogie” recorded by Southern-fried soul and blues musician Preston Shannon.
In 1997, the great Luther Allison recorded Sandy’s “Just As I Am” and “It’s a Blues Thing” on his final album, “Reckless,” which was nominated for a Grammy. That same year, Sandy recorded her second solo release, “Memphis Rain” which was honored by the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Music Commission. She went on to receive a nomination by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for songwriter of the year.
Sandy wrapped up the 1990s with performances and regular appearances at many venues throughout the South, most notably the Center for Southern Folklore, Elvis Presley’s on Beale Street, and headlining WEVL’s Blues on the Bluff. She also appeared on the Home Shopping Network as the pianist for Becc Lester with whom she had co-written the song “Paint the Rain,” for a her CD, “Circles of Angels.”
The new millennium began with concerts, club and festival performances at Muscle Shoals Songwriters, Beale St. Caravan National Radio Show, B.B. Kings, The W.C. Handy Festival as well as the (invitation only) International Songwriters Festival in Orange Beach, Alabama where she opened for Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.
In 2001, Sandy’s song, “Just as I Am,” was released by Inside Sounds on the compilation CD “Goin’ Down South.” She also recorded for the McCarty-Hite, “Weekend in Memphis” CD and several other Memphis area projects.
Also in 2001, Sandy was filmed by Memphis’ PBS station WKNO, along with great songwriters Keith Sykes, Teenie Hodges, Nancy Apple, Duane Jarvis and Delta Joe Sanders as a part of the “In Their Own Voices” concert production. The show premiered in 2001 and the concert footage and interviews have been syndicated on PBS affiliates nationwide.
In 2002 Inside Sounds released a CD entitled “Memphis Belles: Past, Present & Future” featuring Sandy along with Ruby Wilson, Cybill Shepard, Carla Thomas and other legendary female artists from the Memphis music scene. Two years later, Sandy performed live with her Memphis Belle pals to a sold out crowd at the Cannon Performing Arts Center in Memphis.
Following that a new rendition of Sandy popular song, “Memphis Rain” appeared on 2005 Inside Sounds CD “In the Mood for Memphis: Vol. 2.”
Revered as much for her song writing as for her vocal and instrumental abilities, Sandy has written for or with Ellis Hooks, Don McMinn, Ana Popovic, Reba Russell, Barbara Blue, Nancy Apple, William Lee Ellis, Rocky Athas, Daddy Mac Blues Band and many, many, others.
In January 2006, Sandy’s “Delta Techno” was released on Ringo Records. Sandy and her husband, Jim Gaines wrote and recorded the critically acclaimed album which featured musicians James Solberg, Rocky Athas and co-writers William Lee Ellis and Jim Dickinson. Did we mention that Jim was himself, a Grammy award winning producer?
In 2007, Sandy released an EP “Rhythm of the Rivers” with 5 previously unpublished songs and a reprise of her song “Bound for Glory.” The regional release featured “The Pickwick Song” popularized in Sandy’s home community. Something of a departure from her previous work, Rhythm of the Rivers demonstrated yet another layer of Sandy’s formidable writing skills, many of the songs reflecting her love for home—both her Bluff City musical heritage and her childhood and present day home in the rural, Tennessee River, country.
In 2008, Sandy joined the elite company of those who have been awarded their own “Brass Note” on Memphis’ historic Beale Street. Sandy’s Note, just outside the Hard Rock Café, commemorates her countless musical achievements and it is among the highest honors awarded to only the most influential industry professionals on the Memphis music scene. Not to shabby for a Stantonville girl.
In 2011 Sandy’s debut CD with Catfood Records “Just as I Am” was released. Full of new original material, it was the realization of 5 years of writing, recording and performing. It may be her most poignant and musically mature release to date, and that’s saying something. This fall her second CD with Catfood Records “Unnaturally Blonde” will be released. Make sure to pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.
Equally at ease in solo or full band settings, Sandy says “the intimacy of a solo show is a quiet, nurturing, moment and the groove of a band is a rockin’ feast. But the studio is where the ingredients all mix together.” She should know, she’s been mixing it up right for a long time now.
In a county which has turned out some of the finest musical talent West Tennessee has ever produced, Sandy Carroll is a standout artist. Here talents as a singer, songwriter, musician and performer are rarely found in one individual. She has the professional accolades, credits and awards to prove it, and yet, she has never lost that small town touch. There is no doubt that Sandy Carroll is in a class by herself and just as importantly, she is one class act.
It is my distinct privilege and a great honor to induct Sandy Carroll, in the inaugural class of 2013, to the McNairy County Music Hall of Fame.
-As read by: Independent Appeal Publisher, Janet Rail, June 8, 2013