Big Ben Atkins Joins Rock-N-Roll Heaven Band!
This past Monday evening, God called home the latest member of the Rock-n-Roll Heaven Band when regional soul-singing icon Big Ben Atkins passed to the ‘other side’. Atkins was known in the East Mississippi and West Alabama region as one of the first white soul singers and was the very first Caucasian artist signed to STAX records in Memphis. Other STAX artist at the time included music icons Otis Redding, ‘Wicked’ Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Isaac Hayes.
Atkins was known to his many fans as ‘Big Ben’. In the early 60’s, Atkins was heavily influenced by Vernon, Alabama neighbor and friend Dan Penn. Penn, along with Spooner Oldham, wrote a song for Atkins that became a regional hit in 1966, ‘Come On Over’ (There’s A Party Going On). It was recorded at the famous Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. The record was selected record of the year in 1967 while being played on WTBC in Tuscaloosa (back when AM stations still ruled the roost in radio).
Around Columbus, the name Big Ben Atkins would instantly bring forth thoughts of the world famous Southernaire Club (later known as ‘The Club’) located on what is now known as ‘The Island’, just across the old river bridge in Columbus. Big Ben Atkins & The Nomads had a nearly 9 year run at the Southernaire (63′ to 71′).
Atkins’ son, Chris, has vowed to carry on his dad’s legacy (Chris Atkins sings and plays drums). Chandler Funeral Home in Vernon handled Ben’s arrangements.