Rock, Country Vocals Toured with BJ Thomas

Born: Sept. 23, 1943 Vernon, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Video: “Big” Ben Atkins Passes Away By Paulo Salazar – May 14, 2013

HUNTSVILLE , AL (WCBI) – A well known area musician has passed away.

Most recently known as the organizer and lead vocalist for Big Ben Atkins and the “Class of 65,” Ben Atkins died Monday, May 13 at a Huntsville, Alabama hospital.

Originally from Vernon Alabama, Atkins has performed all over the region over the past 40 years. Atkins was the first white solo artist to sign with Stax Records, a previously predominately black artist label, which was the label of such great artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and many others during the 60′s.

Chandler Funeral Home in Vernon is handling the arrangements.

Source with video:

big ben atkinsAlthough now residing in Huntsville AL, Ben's roots in music began in Vernon in the early 1960's while still in high school - singing for dances and assemblies at school.  He later started singing professionally at clubs and functions in Columbus Mississippi.

Ben began his recording career in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1964 at the world renowned Fame Studios.  But, his first record, "Come On Over," was not released until 1966.  It was an instant  regional success, since Big Ben already had many followers by  that time.  Come On Over has become Big Ben's "signature song."  The record was selected the number one record of the year in 1967 on WTBC, the number-one station (at the time) in Tuscaloosa (the home of the University of Alabama.)  It was soon followed by "It Would Take A Miracle," which was also very successful regionally.

Ben had five more single records released over the next four years, but the biggest break was yet to come. The break came when he became the first Caucasion vocal artist ever signed to a contract by STAX records in Memphis. This company was  the leader in rhythm &  blues music with the likes of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, and many other African-American artists.  Big Ben is one of the original groups of artists called the "Founding Members" of The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. He has also been selected in the Achievers category  for  the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.  (Most of Big Ben's recording was done at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and at Stax Studios in Memphis.) Ben's first album, "Patchouli," won national and international acclaim by Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World magazines.  It made Billboard's Top 100, and received tremendous airplay worldwide.  Many more records followed, including a Top 40 single in 1978, "We Don't Live Here, We Just Love Here".   Another album came along in 1982, entitled "Reachin' For The Feeling," as well as another album in the early nineties.  Big Ben's older 45 rpm singles are highly collectible, and are selling for as much as  $200.00  per copy on eBay  today. Most of the sales are in England and Japan.

Big Ben has performed all over the country during his career, including performances at The Las Vegas Hilton,The Thunderbird in Las Vegas, The Grande Hotel, Beau Rivage, and many other hotels - as well as having recorded on Stax (Enterprise), Atlantic, Jubilee, GRT and many other record labels.His three-octave vocal range permits his musical style to be very broad ranged, from soul (naturally),  to rock, jazz/swing, blues, ballads, and even to a bit of country.  He covers it all equally as well and, has a repertoire of over twelve hundred songs.Big Ben has in the works - a new album.  It will be a compilation of his older hits, plus many of his favorite older songs from other artists, and some brand new songs, never before released.  The album will be entitled "That Was Then, This Is Now." It will include remakes of "Come On Over", "It Would Take A Miracle", and "I'll Step Aside".  It should be released in mid to late Summer, 2004.   Also, in progress is Big Ben's autobiography. According to Ben, "This has been a lifelong dream - to put my life into words.  I just hope it's not too boring to the average reader.  What was exciting to me, may not interest the average person."  The book will contain a lot of humor, plus a serious side of Big Ben.Big Ben performs today as a single act for small functions, as well as larger functions requiring a much bigger arena and stage set up.  In 1991, Big Ben was the co-founder, along with Terrell Hattaway, of a twelve piece band called The Class of 65. The band is a complete show  and dance band with a rhythm section,  four piece horn section, light show , and female background and lead vocalists.


Photo source:

More info:

Big Ben Atkins: There’s A Party Going On (Come On Over)by Ron Williams

Video: Big Ben Atkins SOUL CITY U S A

Video: Ben Atkins & The Nomads - Come On Over

Video: Class of '65 Band

Class of '65 MySpace


iTunes: Ben Atkins & The Nomads

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