Behind the scenes of ‘Uptown Funk’: Memphis producer Boo Mitchell talks Grammy nomination, Royal Studios, remembering his dad

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's the unmistakable groove you know as soon as you hear it and so is front man Bruno Mars when he sings it.

Mars helped put the funk in the infectious "Uptown Funk." The hit song stayed at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 for a record 14 weeks.

But the man behind the groove and the studio control board giving "Uptown Funk" its unique sound is Memphis producer and Royal Studios co-owner Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell.

"It's one of those records that captures the magic of Royal," Mitchell said.

The magic of Royal Studios is what brought hit record producers Mark Ronson and Jeff Bhasker to Memphis.

"How we got that project was like fate and destiny. They were actually in town looking for singers."

As they listened to singers at Royal, Ronson decided he wanted to record his album "Uptown Special" here and he had an idea for a funky song.

"He called back to say I think I want to bring Bruno to do that song I played for you. I was like, okay Bruno Mars," he said with a laugh. "I was trying to keep my cool."

Turns out that song would be "Uptown Funk."

A recipe for its success may be a soul food dinner prepared by Mitchell's aunt, Yvonne Mitchell, for the musicians at the studio.

"She cooked this amazing dinner for them and after that the lyrics started flowing, and they finished writing the song and Bruno sang it."

The Memphis-recorded song took center stage at this year's Super Bowl halftime performance, and it's nominated for three Grammy awards.

It already won the Grammy for Best Remixed Recording (non-classical). Results for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance will be announced Tuesday evening.

"It's the pinnacle, and Memphis hasn't had a song nominated for Record of the Year since Shaft."

But the Grammy nominations are also personal.

"Having a Record of the Year is important to me, my family, and Memphis."

Mitchell thinks back to his legendary father and producer, the late Willie Mitchell, the man he calls Pops.

"He was such a powerful figure and father figure to everybody and why everybody called him Pops. It made me growing up want to be like him."

Being like Pops meant making Memphis music and being in demand with A-list recording artists then and now.

"Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Otis Clay, John Mayer, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, the list goes on."

The Royal Studios recording floor is where the magic continues to happen today, and top talent come to Memphis to work with one man, Boo Mitchell.

Today many of those artists autograph studio wall panels after coming to Royal to get the authentic Memphis sound.

"It's awesome that this song is shedding more light on Memphis because we are still here and we've never been anywhere. It's not like it put us on the map, we are the map."

It's a map where all musical roads lead to Memphis, Royal Studios and Boo Mitchell as he carries on the legacy of his father with Uptown Funk.

"I'm still trying to make my dad proud even though he's not here. He's here in spirit."


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