Playground Recording Studio

Playground Recording Studio

 Valparaiso, Florida, USA

The Checkmates, a rhythm section from Oxford Mississippi, along with lead artists Herbert Wiley, combine forces to present an old time "Soul" package show. Other artists who appear with the Checkmates include Ralph"Soul" Jackson, Roscoe Robinson, Herman Hitson, Mary Gresham, Harvey Scales and more!


“'We Call it Soul' is not a re-creation. We Call it Soul is not an appraisal of music that came out some 40 years ago. This is Southern soul, straight and true, from the church, from the heart and straight out of the South.” -From 'We Call it Soul' liner notes by Ace Atkins

Hailing from Oxford, Mississippi, the cultural center of the South, Wiley and the Checkmates have a lot to live up to. The hill country blues of Fred McDowell, Junior Kimbrough, and R.L. Burnside… The literary landmarks of William Faulkner, Larry Brown, and John Grisham…

Herbert Wiley formed the Checkmates in 1960 and the group began performing on the chitlin’ circuit as a marquee act and playing behind soul legends like Otis Clay, Percy Sledge, and Syl Johnson. After a dozen years with the Checkmates, Wiley quit music to run the family business and raise a family. In 2002, Wiley was inspired to reform the Checkmates after watching an Oxford punk band rehearse in a local storefront. Wiley brought together local gospel, jazz, and rock musicians and fashioned a modern take on the sound of the original Checkmates.

Wiley and the Checkmates released their debut CD Introducing… in 2004. Wiley began crisscrossing the Southeast with Checkmate regulars like J.D. Mark (Precious Bryant, LCD Soundsystem touring guitarist) and Matt Patton (Paul ‘Wine’ Jones, the Dexateens), playing venues ranging from Alabama frat bars to the annual Ponderosa Stomp festival, where the Checkmates backed unheralded soul pioneers like Bobby Patterson, Harvey Scales, Hermon Hitson, Ralph “Soul” Jackson, and the Legendary Roscoe Robinson.

For We Call It Soul, the Checkmates searched the far corners of the Southeast to bring together an unlikely cast of aural eccentrics not unlike the inclusion of Duane Allman or Bobby Womack on classic albums cut in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. First the Checkmates met Jim Lancaster, a seasoned engineer that cut his teeth in Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi, who in 2005 bought an abandoned studio in Valparaiso, Florida and cleaned up the mess that Hurricane Ivan had left him. In the 1960s and 1970s Shelby Singleton and Finley Duncan recorded classics with the likes of Johnny Adams and Big John Hamilton at Valparaiso’s Playground Studios. In 2007, the Checkmates hired original Playground session keyboardist David Adkins and were one of the first projects recorded in the re-opened studio.

The Checkmates welcomed a diverse list of guest musicians: Dusty In Memphis/Elvis Presley/Leonard Cohen harmonica player Ed Kollis, former Bob Dylan backing singer Regina McCrary, and Silver Jews keyboardist Tony Crow. Add mixing by Nashville’s Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Bonnie Prince Billy, Candi Staton) and liner notes by Oxford novelist Ace Atkins and what do you call it? We Call It Soul.

2004 debut CD "Introducing..." and "Streak-A-Lean" b/w "Deep Shit" 7-inch are available at



"Introducing Wiley and The Checkmates" 2006 CD
"We Call It Soul" Wiley and the Checkmates 2008 CD
"Voice From The Shadows" Mary Gresham 2008 CD
"Take me Back/ Set Me Free" Ralph "S" Jackson 45
"Primetime/Gas Guzzler" Clarence Reid 45