CHARLES “SKIP” PITTS:
APRIL 7, 1947 – MAY 1, 2012
Charles “Skip” Pitts, one of the architects of soul, R&B, and funk
guitar and a member of the Bo-Keys, passed away this morning at the age
of 65. Pitts is best known for creating two of the signature guitar
riffs of all time: The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” and the wah-wah
on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft.”
Getting tips from his neighbor Bo Diddley, Pitts learned to play guitar
at age 11 on the street corners of his childhood home of Washington,
D.C. Meanwhile, Pitts’ uncle owned a hotel next to the prestigious
Howard Theater, where he met a who’s who of soul and rhythm and blues
legends, including James Brown and Otis Redding. He was soon on stage
himself, performing with Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, and performing
and recording with the Isley Brothers and Rufus Thomas.
He first recorded at the age of 15 on Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow 65.”
Following this time with the Isley Brothers’ backing band The Midnight
Movers, Pitts experienced the longest collaboration of his career with
Isaac Hayes, staying with him from 1971 to 2008. After the success of
“Shaft,” he appeared in the concert film “Wattstax” and started recorded
with other Stax artists, holding his own with Albert King, among
others. (He is associated so deeply with the wah-wah pedal that he is
interviewed in a new documentary “Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The
World” alongside Slash, Buddy Guy, Eddie Van Halen, Kirk Hammett.)
When not on the road or in the studio with Hayes, Pitts was a session
player at Stax, and played on many hit recordings by artists such as
Albert King & Rufus Thomas. More recently, he has performed on the
score for the Academy Award-winning film “Hustle and Flow” with The
Bo-Keys and performed on the Grammy-nominated Al Green record, “I Can’t
Stop,” produced by Willie Mitchell.
Pitts’ accomplishments continue deep into the 21st century; alongside
the Bo-Keys, he performed on Cyndi Lauper’s GRAMMY-nominated 2010 album
‘Memphis Blues’ and backed her on the Late Show with David Letterman
(CBS). He has also given back to his Memphis community, teaching at-risk
youth in Memphis at the Stax Music Academy. He is heavily featured on
the Bo-Keys’ 2011 release ‘Got To Get Back!,’ which earned year-end best
status from the Associated Press and several Blues Music Award
nominations. Guitar Player Magazine did a feature on Pitts. Click here
to read it:
Pitts’ classic guitar riffs have been sampled by hip hop royalty such as
Dr. Dre with Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Massive Attack, Eazy-E, and DJ
Shadow with Cut Chemist.
In addition to music, Pitts also delved into acting in his latter years,
appearing in the award-winning “Forty Shades of Blue,” “Black Snake
Moan” and appeared with the Bo-keys along with Samuel L Jackson and
Bernie Mac in “Soul Men.”
He passed away this morning at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, TN. A
burial is planned in Washington, D.C. He is survived by his wife.
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