|Born||March 23, 1928
Ashland, Mississippi, U.S.
|Origin||Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.|
|Died||January 5, 2010 (aged 81)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Genres||Soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop, funk|
|Occupations||Singer, bandleader, record producer, arranger|
Willie Mitchell (March 23, 1928 – January 5, 2010) was an American soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop and funk music producer and arranger who ran Royal Recording in Memphis, Tennessee. He was best known for his Hi Records label of the 1970s, which released albums by a large stable of popular Memphis soul artists, including Mitchell himself, Al Green, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles.
At the age of eight, he began to play the trumpet. While in high school, he was a featured player in popular local big bands. He later formed his own combo, which from time to time included musicians such as trumpeter Booker Little, saxophonists Charles Lloyd, and George Coleman, and pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Known at the recording studio as "Papa Willie", Mitchell earned his nickname by taking over the reins of Hi Records in 1970 and guiding it through its most successful period. Mitchell's productions have been much noted for featuring a hard-hitting kick drum sound (usually played by pioneering Memphis drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MG's).
Through the Eighties Willie ran his own independent label out of Memphis, Waylo Records. Acts on the label included Billy Always and Lynn White.
He and Al Green revived their successful recording partnership in 2003 when Green recorded I Can't Stop, his first collaboration with Mitchell since 1985's He is the Light. Their 2005 follow-up project was Everything's OK.
Mitchell died in Memphis on January 5, 2010 from a cardiac arrest.