Malaco Records, one of America’s foremost labels in the fields of southern soul, blues, and gospel, was founded at this site in 1967. Malaco’s studio was the first state-of-the-art recording facility in Mississippi. The label attained national stature with the success of Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue” (1976), Z.Z. Hill’s “Down Home Blues” (1982), and other records by the Jackson Southernaires, Denise LaSalle, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Latimore, and Johnnie Taylor.
Malaco Records released its first record, a 45 rpm soul single by Cozy Corley from Hattiesburg, in 1968. By then the company had already been in business for several years as a booking agency, Malaco Attractions, founded by Tommy Couch and Mitch Malouf. Couch and fraternity brother Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson had booked bands as college students at Ole Miss in the early and mid-1960s, and after Stephenson joined the Malaco team, he became chief engineer at the studio which Malaco built at this site in 1967. Malouf left the business in 1975, but Couch continued with Stephenson and, later, Stewart Madison as partners.
During the 1960s and ‘70s, Malaco often worked with larger companies such as Capitol, ABC, Mercury, Atlantic, Stax, and T.K. to release and distribute the recordings produced here. Malaco specialized in rhythm & blues or soul music, although more traditional blues was occasionally recorded here, most notably the 1969 Mississippi Fred McDowell album I Do Not Play No Rock ‘n’ Roll. Among the ‘70s R&B hits produced at Malaco were “Groove Me” by King Floyd on Malaco’s subsidiary label, Chimneyville; “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight on Stax Records; and the first Top Ten hit on Malaco Records, “Misty Blue” by Jackson singer Dorothy Moore. But it was the album Down Home by Z. Z. Hill that established Malaco’s reputation in the blues. The LP stayed on the Billboard rhythm & blues charts for a phenomenal 93 weeks in 1982-83 while selling half a million copies -– an unprecedented mark for a blues LP. Its success proved that there was still a substantial audience for the blues, and its production style set a standard for much of the music that followed.
Utilizing top-notch songwriters (George Jackson in particular) and skilled arrangers and studio musicians, Malaco blended elements of blues and soul music on further albums by Hill and other singers who joined the Malaco stable, including Denise LaSalle, Latimore, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Shirley Brown, Tyrone Davis, Floyd Taylor, and Marvin Sease. Groups such as the Jackson Southernaires, the Williams Brothers, and the Mississippi Mass Choir earned Malaco renown as one of the country’s top gospel labels as well. Other blues and southern soul artists, including Mel Waiters, Bobby Rush, Artie “Blues Boy” White, and Poonanny, recorded for Waldoxy, a label launched by Tommy Couch, Jr., in 1992. Many Malaco hits, including “Down Home Blues,” “The Blues is Alright,” “Someone Else is Steppin’ In,” “Members Only,” and “Last Two Dollars,” have become staples in the repertoires of blues bands across the country.
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