Historic KC Recordings: “What’d I Say” and “Respect”

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To mark the release of this year’s additions to the National Recording Registry, we’re going to feature registry recordings with ties to Kansas City.

Producer Jerry Wexler attended what is now Kansas State University and regularly drove to Kansas City to hear jazz.

Producer Jerry Wexler is the Kansas City connection to these historic recordings. Wexler is the legendary producer at Atlantic Records who worked with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin.

Wexler was born in New York but attended what is now Kansas State University in the 1930s. A jazz lover, he regularly drove to Kansas City to hear the city’s musicians, including Count Basie and Joe Turner (Wexler produced Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll about 15 years later).

Before joining Atlantic Records, Wexler worked as a reporter and editor for Billboard magazine, where he coined the term “rhythm and blues.”

Two records Wexler produced are in the National Recording Registry. Both were added in 2002, the registry’s first year.

What’d I Say
Released in 1959, What’d I Say was Charles’ first gold record and Atlantic’s best-selling single at that time. It’s often cited as the song that begins the transition from rhythm and blues to soul music.

Respect
A modest hit for its writer, Otis Redding, in 1965, Aretha Franklin’s cover became a huge hit and her signature song. Wexler suggested to song to Franklin, thinking it could be a crossover hit.

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