Willie Mitchell Record Producer Worked with al Green Dies

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The trumpeter, who had hits such as 'Soul Serenade' in the 1960s, helped mold the Memphis soul sound with Green and Ann Peebles.

Willie Mitchell, an influential record producer, label head and musician who worked closely with singer Al Green and other stars to help mold the Memphis soul sound, died Tuesday. He was 81.

Mitchell died at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., more than two weeks after he suffered cardiac arrest Dec. 19, said his son, Lawrence Mitchell.

A trumpeter, Willie Mitchell signed with Hi Records of Memphis in 1959 and recorded several instrumental hits in the 1960s, including “Soul Serenade" and “20-75."

Mitchell became vice president of Hi Records in 1971 and moved into producing and shepherding the careers of Green and singer Ann Peebles.

As bandleader with the Hi Rhythm Section and as a producer, arranger and songwriter, Mitchell melded jazz chords and R&B beats. He collaborated with Green on such hits as “Tired of Being Alone," “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and “Let's Stay Together."

“With Al, I was looking for a specific sound," Mitchell told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 2007. “And he was the only one that could hear jazz changes and really sing in that style. Once we got that together, I just kept making arrangements like that and that was just hit after hit."

Family members said funeral arrangements have not been made, but there probably will be private services and a public memorial.

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