The Black Lips’ Jared Swilley on Atlanta Soul

Atlanta garage-rock quartet Black Lips are synonymous with incendiary live shows, sweat-laden mosh pits and psychedelic guitar freak-outs. But on the latest episode of RBMA Radio’s Cruisin’ in the ATL, hosted by Atlanta mainstay and DJ Speakerfoxxx, Black Lips founding member and vocalist Jared Swilley reveals some unprecedented influences on his life in music: the city’s rich tradition of soul music from Otis Redding to the Mighty Hannibal, the latter of whom was a mentor to Swilley.

Swilley chats about the role of soul and gospel music, as well as his upbringing (he is the son of a preacher man) in this excerpt.

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The Mighty Hannibal - The Right To Love You

A big influence [The Black Lips] had from Atlanta is the Atlanta soul scene. My mentor passed away, three years now. The Mighty Hannibal. He was best friends with James Brown and he was in The Pips’ first band, this doo-wop band in the ’50s called The Overalls. He kind of got blacklisted in the late ’60s because he was a Black Panther and Nation of Islam and did some political songs. He got blacklisted from the radio because he didn’t play the game.

That’s a thing that’s so cool about Atlanta. He was 60 years older than me. We met in 2005 and we instantly just became really good friends and we hung out. Not like you would hang out like a young person and an old man – we were just like buddies. He always called me his protégé.

I like telling people, especially when we were in Europe and stuff, they asked me what musicians are from Atlanta. You can be like, “Well, James Brown, Little Richard, Otis Redding,” all the kind of stuff. I think that definitely influenced all the Dungeon Family stuff and it influenced me a ton with not just the music but the soulmanship aspect of it, too. The entertainment factor is a big part of our whole thing, putting on a show for the people.

In that era, all the early rock & rollers and early soul guys, they all grew up in the church. I did, too. I’m the only male in my family that’s not a preacher. You know all those records on my wall right now – you can’t see those, listeners – but my family had a gospel group all throughout the ’60s and ’70s, and I think a lot of the best musicians came out of gospel music and singing in the church.

If you’ve ever been to Atlanta, there’s almost a church on every block. There’s one that’s directly in my backyard, there’s one three houses that way, there’s one four houses the other direction. There’s two four houses that direction. That’s just a three-block radius.

By Jared Swilley on November 30, 2016

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