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How the Royal Studios family in Memphis continues the legacy of Willie Mitchell

Royal Studios is owned by Mitchell's grandchildren, who hope his legacy lives on through their music.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Royal Studios has been a staple of Memphis since the 1950s when it was originally owned by Willie Mitchell and produced music for artists like Al Green

Mitchell passed in 2010, but his studio is still family-owned. 

Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell and Oona Mitchell, Willie's grandchildren, now run Royal Studios. The pair spent a lot of time there as children, eventually taking responsibility for different aspects.

Boo is the producer and engineer. He remembers trying to imitate the music his grandfather made so famous.

"I always looked up to my Pop. I wanted to be like him ever since I can remember," Boo said. "(I wanted) to do the things that he did - produce, write, engineer."

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Oona runs the business administration side of Royal Studio. While her brother got the music bug, Willie Mitchell made sure Oona knew how to legally protect it.

"That’s foreign to me - all the buttons and all that. But as far as learning how to do a copyright or a publishing, you know, things like that on the business side is what I really grasped," Oona said. "Anybody can make a song, but anybody can take your song too. The business comes in where you have to protect yourself and make sure all your ducks are in a row."

Oona also runs an internet radio station, Royal Radio Memphis, which plays music exclusively recorded, produced, or mentions Memphis.

Boo has four children, all but one of which are involved in the music business. Uriah Mitchell is an artist, producer, and engineer in his own right. Living up to his dad and his great grandfather can sometimes be a tall task.

"Being the son of Boo and the great grandson of Willie Mitchell, man, it’s like I have this legacy I kind of have to live up to," Uriah said.

Uriah began picking up music at age 12 after his great grandfather passed. 

"It just hit me that I have to do something with my life. Music, it was just natural," Uriah said.

Boo emphasized that he never forced music on any of his kids, they all took to it on their own. Uriah, in particular, had a natural gift.

"His approach to music is probably more like Willie Mitchell than mine is," Boo said.

Boo and Uriah often make music together and they have musical chemistry has a familial harmony.

Making music with my dad it feels like it’s something that I’m supposed to be doing. At times it feels like he’s not really my dad, more like a friend," Uriah said.

The Mitchell's know they have lofty expectations to uphold, but they are proud that the business is still family owned years after Willie's passing and the stations original heyday around the 1970's.

"It means a whole lot because a lot of businesses from back in that day to now, there’s only a few that survived and survived on a family level," Oona said. "For us to be standing now in 2021, it means it’s special."

"It means the world to me to be able to perpetuate the legacy of Willie Mitchell and Royal Studios," Boo said. "We're fortunate to have this legacy, and then fortunate to have the people that, everyone in the family to appreciate it and to help perpetuate it."