Michael Kwayisi

Mickey Newbury: Truly an American Treasure

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“Let others reason and compare; my business is to create”“Let others reason and compare; my business is to create”

Mickey Newbury Sings His Own

About “The Mick” . . . Mickey Newbury walked into my office one day in 1966 to plug some songs he had written. I had already listened to about a hundred different songs that day and at that point I thought I'd had about all I could stand; however, Mickey brought along an old 12-string guitar and he was determined for me to listen, so I did. As soon as he opened his mouth and started singing, I just about jumped over the desk. He was great! He sang great and his songs were great! Right then I knew I wanted to record Mickey Newbury.

A lot of other people have met Mickey Newbury since then—Tom Jones, Don Gibson, Joan Baez, Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles, to mention a few who have recorded his songs. People in the music business—artists, writers, publishers and producers—all know Mickey from his writing. Now the world knows Mickey Newbury with his record of An American Trilogy.

I always knew Mickey would be a monstrous artist as well as writer—and now he is. Mickey has arrived! Mickey Newbury sings his own songs better than anybody, and in this album he has put his heart and soul into the writing and performing of every tune. When Mickey first came to Nashville he lived in the back of an old car—slept, ate and wrote his songs there. Now he lives on a fifty-foot house-boat on Old Hickory Lake. “The Mick,” as I call him, is a true friend of mine and a true friend of man's because he sings and writes from the heart.

— Felton Jarvis
Independent Producer and Friend of Mickey Newbury

THE MICKEY NEWBURY COLLECTION

At last, the Mickey Newbury Collection! At last those heart-stopping, mind-bending, conscious-altering, emotion-filled albums are now in digital high-tech CD form. We have been waiting at least fifteen years, since the beginning of CD reissues, for these albums.

No more scratching, hissing, skipping, or popping albums, through which some of the best American music rode waves of sound to our minds and hearts. Using pristine albums, the best playback equipment, computers, and the best “ears” in the business (Wayne Neuendorf, Mac Evans and Paula Wolak), we have been able to create “better than then” reproductions of the Newbury album classics. Lost, burned, destroyed, recycled, neglected, or hidden masters be damned, we were able to do it because it had to be done for all of us.

So, here are the Newbury classics in their original form -- American Trilogy, Sweet Memories, Cortelia Clark, Heaven Help The Child, San Francisco Mabel Joy, and all the rest, to reaffirm Mickey Newbury as one of our most important writer-performers. Mickey has long been a writer in several halls of fame, and these albums conclusively confirm Mickey as a hall of fame performer as well.

After more than twenty years, these songs and performances still hold the power and emotion they did on their release. Mickey’s work is timeless and always timely. So long as people long for the inexplicable, magical involvement of emotion, intellect, and spirit, his songs will be played, admired, and loved.

So here are the performances for all of us -- Mickey, Susie, their family, friends, fans, admirers, and all of us who have “listened from the inside” and experienced his great work. At last, The Mickey Newbury Collection.

Robert S. Rosemurgy
Owsley Manier


MICKEY NEWBURY TRIBUTE

For this particular writer of novels and biographies, the box set you now hold in your hands represents a dream come true. I have been collecting Mickey Newbury from as far back as his legendary Elektra albums of the 1970s and when CDs first came into being during the following decade, thus giving musicians the perfect format for ‘concept’ albums. I realised that Mickey’s work, with its unusual sound effects, interlinked tracks and exquisite productions values, had come well before its time and was sublimely suited to the new format. What a tragedy it seemed to me, therefore, that this extraordinary body of work had virtually dropped out of sight and, with the exception of his most recent works (the beautiful In A New Age; a couple of compilations; a ‘live’ performance recording; and his masterwork, Lulled by the Moonlight, none of which are included here) were not available in the CD format. That mistake has now been rectified.

Mickey Newbury is one of the three best singer-songwriters presently at work (the other two are Bob Dylan and Paul Simon) and he has the most perfect voice of all male American singers. However, while he can sing beautifully (and his version of All My Trials, which opens the In A New Age CD, is the most heartwrenching vocalising I have ever heard), he can growl with the best of them and this box set shows the full range of his extraordinary voice, as well as his remarkable diversity as a songwriter, covering ballads, blues, country & western, jazz, gospel and some foot-stomping rock & roll.

The subtlety and lack of pretension in Newbury’s lyrics has led to critical neglect in certain quarters, but no professional writer who knows his work (and I’ve given his albums to a lot of writers) has ever responded to it with less than total admiration and, just as often, envy. Indeed, as a writer myself, I often listen to Newbury’s lyrics with a sneaky sense of shame that I have rarely managed to rise to the challenge set by his high standards. Mickey spent some time in my former home in north London England, and during one of our many talks about the difference between the writing of novels and the writing of lyrics, he insisted that a novel left room for mistakes that would slip by the reader, but that each line of a song can strike straight to the heart and any mistake, if not exactly noted, will be sensed immediately by the listener. I concur with this view and can say without hesitation that the lyrics included with this box set show a thoughtfulness, and absolute artistry, that only the very greatest novelists - and very few songwriters - have managed to attain.

That Newbury’s superb lyrics are matched by exquisite orchestrations and superb production values hardly needs saying. Like any other artist, Newbury has produced work of variable quality, but even his less successful works are honourable and his finest work is literally unforgettable.

To take but a few random examples: San Francisco Mabel Joy is one of the most perfectly rounded stories ever put on a single track; Sweet Memories and Love Look at Us Now are two of the loveliest love songs ever recorded; Mobile Blue is as good as “country rock” can be; Heaven Help the Child is a stunning three-generational saga; and...

But what’s the point in going on? So many of Newbury’s songs are now bonafide classics (often turned into hit singles by better known, though less gifted singers), that to catalogue them all would take up the rest of this booklet. Instead, I recommend that you just sit back and listen, letting Mickey Newbury’s extraordinary body of work speak, or sing, for itself. You are in for the musical experience of a lifetime and it’s cheap at the price.

W. A. Harbinson
Paris, France
23rd February, 1998

W. A. Harbinson is the author of the bestselling novels, Genesis and Revelation, as well as a bestselling biography of Elvis Presley.


Mickey Newbury

Nashville Heydays & Rainy Houseboat Nights

Excerpts from an article appearing in No Depression, March-April, 1997 by Kurt Wolf

“The reason why I put rain on those albums,” he explains, “aside from the fact that I liked the mood, was because the was so much hiss on the damn tape.”

Along with the rain sounds, Newbury’s albums from the late 1960s and early ‘70s (Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy, and Heaven Help the Child are three of his best) are full of soaring vocals, echoing drum beats and complex arrangements - sometimes full and lush (with steel guitars, Newbury says, playing the string parts), other times delicate and minimalist. Surprisingly, though, these albums were not made in downtown Nashville recording palaces, but in a four track studio in a converted garage. The studio was run by a Nashville session man named Wayne Moss, who was also a member of the group Area Code 615.

“I would go back to my boat [Newbury lived at the time on a houseboat outside of Nashville] and listen to the album [Looks Like Rain], and it would never bother me. I was cutting it during the winter, and most of the time it was raining. I was laying in bed one night, and I had some wind chimes outside my boat, and they were dingling along, and I got to thinking: I come back here and listen to my tracks, and like them, and go back to the studio and the hiss drives me crazy. And the reason why is because rain sounds exactly like static. So when I put the rain in, it blended into the static, and it sounded like there was continuous rain.”

From today’s perspective, though, it’s clear Newbury was a major player in a musical revolution of sorts that swept through Nashville during that period - revitalizing country music with fresh ideas; acknowledging a broader range of influences (psychedelic rock, folk, blues, R&B); and ultimately winning the industry a much larger fan base in the process. Artists such as Newbury, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall and Waylon Jennings not only had sincere respect for country icons such as Hank Williams and Roy Acuff, but were fans of the music of such “outside” artists as Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Ray Charles.


Newbury’s Pain Songs

Terrifying Beauty

Excerpts from an article appearing in Music Row, October 19, 1994, by Travis Corder.

Joseph Brodsky, in his New Yorker essay “On Grief and Reason” recounts how in 1959 Lionel Trilling, then the foremost literary critic of his time, called Robert Frost “a terrifying poet.” To Brodsky “terror always has to do with anticipation—with man’s recognition of his own negative potential—with his sense of what he is capable of.” In the Brodskian sense then, Mickey Newbury ranks perhaps as America’s most terrifying songwriter. I would say Nashville’s most terrifying songwriter, but Newbury never was so much of Nashville as in it. Truth to tell, he plays Music city only once every several years and now resides in Oregon.

“It’s good to be back in Nashville,” Newbury declared with bittersweet irony in his smokey voice. “It’s kinda like an ex-wife, you may not be married to her anymore, but you sure made some beautiful children together when you were.” Beautiful children abound in Newbury’s catalog, including “Sweet Memories,” “Good Morning, Dear,” “You’ve Always Got the Blues,” “American Trilogy,” “Gone to Alabama,” “Hand Me Another of Those,” “Ain’t No Blues Today,” “Blue Sky Shinin’,” “Sunshine”—the list of hits and cuts for Ray Charles, B. B. King, Brenda Lee, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, Newbury the recording artist and many others goes on and on.

At his show he led off with “Easy Street,” but slid quickly from the breezy “Easy” to his terrifying “Just Dropped In,” terrifying, again, because it confronts man’s negative potential: “Pushed my soul in a deep dark hole, followed it in/Met myself crawling out as I was crawling in/Woke up so tight I said I never will unwind/Saw too much I broke my mind.”

This breaking of the mind is very much Newbury’s territory. Newbury’s songs don’t make excursions to the dark side, they live there. Newbury isn’t afraid to write them, and he isn’t afraid to sing them - he is willing to do the hard work of learning himself and the world around him, and, whether we want them or not, he is willing to bring his insights to us. His songs lament, but as Brodsky observes, “lament is acceptance,” so in the dark corridors of Newbury, listeners may find an almost Keatsian acceptance of process - the process of life, the way it occurs, with its ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. Newbury makes terrifying, warts-and-all reality beautiful, and that’s sweet medicine some folks still eargerly want to swallow.


Dancing with Your Demons - Mickey Newbury

(Re)visited - Excerpts from an article appearing in Dirty Linen #25 Summer 1989 by Don Negri

For some time now I have been tempted to write about Mick Newbury, one of a handful of artists whose works have meant a lot to me over the past two decades.

Simply put, Mickey Newbury is one of America’s finest singer-songwriters. In the years between 1969 and 1981 Mickey recorded 12 excellent albums, several of them bordering on brilliant. A poet and visionary (i.e., the ability to see and describe what escapes you and I), Mickey’s songs are a kaleidoscope of American images, couched and rooted in the rural South, yet also spreading out - similar to the railway line he so often evokes - to embrace the four corners of this land. A true romantic (int the literary sense), his songs deal with time and space, lost souls seeking reconciliation with themselves, or with others, questing after an earthly Eden, or just a peaceful haven, nostalgia for times past, people and places once known, loved and too often lost. Bittersweet memories... and a belief in the redemptive power of love, beauty, and the human spirit.

I am not going to formally categorize Mickey’s music. In some important respects it fits into the lineage of southern rural songwriters such as Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, but it also reflects a more contemporary vision of America and of ourselves.

His musical themes and lyrics a fed by a plurality of fountains, be they any case, country, folk, pop, or even gospel.

Sources, influences, and comparisons aside, what shines in Mickey’s musical oeuvre is the quality of the songwriting. His lyrics and musical arrangements speak directly to our senses: sights, sounds, and smells evoking powerful word-pictures supported by Mickey’s uncanny ability to create images both impressionistic and pulsating with a vibrant, often gritty quality. He is a equally at ease building a narrative story line as he is in creating a mood with but a few well-chosen words.

While time and space, especially the rural south, are interwoven like binding threads in a rich tapestry, what truly populates Mickey’s songs are its characters. If so many of them seem to wander in the bittersweet ambiguities of memory, or more literally wander the highways and railway lines of America, it is because they are fragmented, often tortured, souls in the here and now. And yet they speak to us with a stark, even pathetic eloquence.

Mickey Newbury’s songwriting is proof that true artistic beauty is a result of process and not of subject matter per se. A true poet. Mickey is at his best when the subject matter requires and supports the creation of artistic images which transform the banal into something magical. The authentic poet is also a linguistic alchemist.

Mickey may be “only lookin’,” but I know of few contemporary American singer/song-writers able to “see” and “tell” as well as he.


Excerpts from an article appearing in Goldmine, in the late 80’s by Allen Harbinson

Looks Like Rain, produced by Bob Beckham and guitarist/singer friend Jerry Kennedy, with a remarkable collection of contemporary Nashville musicians including Kenny Buttrey on drums, Chet Atkins and Wayne Moss on guitars, Norbert Putnam on bass, Buddy Spicher on fiddle, David Briggs on keyboards, and Charlie McCoy on harmonica, Looks Like Rain was a quiet stunner, and astonishingly mature and achingly beautiful album.

However, in 1969, Looks Like Rain, with its beautiful melodies, haunting orchestrations, and special effects consisting of thunder, rain, wind and distant trains (the sounds of sorrow and farewell), seemed to be almost perversely against the grain of the times. Luckily, if the album was to produce no personal hits for Newbury, it would, in the long run, produce another string of successes for other artists (Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Joan Baez), as well as introducing some of Newbury’s most striking work, notably “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” and “San Francisco Mabel Joy,” a masterly, five minute, 43 second portrait of the dispossessed, of rural America which, in its unpretentious verbal virtuosity, made Dylan look shameless.

So it was that by 1971, when the second of the three great Newbury albums recorded at the Cinderella Sound Studios, Frisco Mabel Joy, showed on the sleeve the reclusive singer-songwriter looking older than his years, it was likely because of disillusionment and lot of rough living.

Luckily, the resultant album, produced by fellow singer-songwriter Dennis (“Burning Love”) Linde, contained some of Newbury’s finest work including his magnificent arrangement and rendition of “An American Trilogy” (composed of three of America’s best-loved, most haunting songs: “Dixie,” “John Brown’s Body” and “All My Trials”), a superb new version of his first album’s beautiful “How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid for His Song),” one of the very finest examples of country-rock, “Mobile Blues,” some masterly country ‘n’ western songs, a couple of hear breaking ballads, and “How I Love Them Old Songs,” a minor classic that climaxes with a dixieland jazz band, thus anticipating Paul Simon’s use of the same on “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.”

The Frisco Mabel Joy album was supported superbly by the prime session men mentioned above, plus the tastefully grandiose “orchestrations” of the Nashphilharmonic and Choir (Newbury has claimed that there was “not a string or horn” on this and the subsequent album, that the lush “orchestral” sounds including the famous reprise of the album version of “An American Trilogy,” were all created by the use of pedal steel and electric guitars), and the sounds of the thunder, rain, desolate winds and distant trains that had haunted his days and nights for so long. The album wasn’t country. It wasn’t rock. No one knew what it was. It was out on its own, there.

Heaven Help the Child which was released a year later, in 1973, and was the last of the great Cinderella Sound Studio recordings. An opulently packaged album, produced by Dennis Linde, Russ Miller, Marlin Greene and Bob Beckham, again utilizing the talents of the musicians on the first two Cinderella Sound Studio albums, it opens with the soaring title track (a three-generational Americana odyssey, beautifully written, arranged and sung), follows it with definitive interpretations of three songs from his first album (his second version of “Sunshine,” his third versions of “Good Morning Dear” and “Sweet Memories”) and follows side two’s opening country rocker, “Why You Been Gone So Long?” with three lengthy, countrified ballads, including the above-named “Song for Susan” and his second version of “San Francisco Mabel Joy.” The album, like “An American Trilogy,” is a stunner, but impossible to categorize.

Newbury had already been hailed by his fellow artists as a “writer’s songwriter” whose work was a lament for the lost promise of the Republic, as well as a tribute to the abiding dreams of its subjects - and it was, incidentally, work that had produced many successes for other singers.

Yet though working out of Nashville, and with the cream of country musicians, Newbury was producing albums that transcended the narrow limitations of country music and thus offended the purists who bought the records.

Complicating this situation was the fact that his albums, while produced in Nahsville, the very heart of country music, were beyond categorization - seen by some as country, by others as rock, by still others as MOR - and therefore, with the added problem of the lengthy playing time of many of his tracks, as well as the fact that they were linked together by his sound effects into a seamless whole, were largely ignored by the DJs and filed erratically, with decreasing success, in record stores. The relative failure of Newbury’s albums has always been based on these factors.

Live at Montezuma Hall/Looks Like Rain which combined Newbury’s only complete live performance (an acoustic set, covering most of his best-known songs, with the noted addition of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love”) with Newbury’s second album, and it has since become a rare collector’s item.

I Came to Hear the Music and 1975’s Lovers were both produced by Chip Young who also played guitar on many Newbury records. Utilizing a lot of the old crew, but with the addition of Billy Puett on sax. Chip Young and Reggie Young on guitars, Bobby Emmons on keyboards and harmony singers including Don Gant, Bergen White, Laverna Moore, and even the Jordanaires, the album offered a unique diversity of styles, including straight out rock ‘n’ roll (“Dizzy Lizzy” and “1 x 1 Ain’t 2”), memorable country (“If I Could Be” and “You Only Live Once in a While”), sublime ballads (“Love Look at Us Now” and “Lovers”), some blues (“You’ve Always Got the Blues”), some authentic gospel (“Lead On”) and two more “trilogies”: the countrified “Apples Dipped in Candy,” with its startling changes in tempo and intricate scene-setting, and the “chamber music” of “I Came to Hear the Music” and “Breeze Lullaby.” In fact, only Elvis had managed to equal such diversity, but Elvis didn’t also write his songs.

By this time, his reputation as a songwriter was assured, with his songs having crossed every genre, with hits on the country, easy listening, rock and R&B charts - all performed, alas, by other singers. Not one of those singers sang Newbury’s songs as well as he did, but the only one who couldn’t get a hit with a Newbury song was the singer-songwriter himself.

Rusty Tracks produced by Bobby Bare and Ronnie Gant, and utilizing an ever-growing roster of top country musicians, plus the sweeping string arrangements of Alan Moore, the album was a decided change of direction in that it was one of mostly superb, immaculately produced country songs of conventional length whose commercial viability was undoubtedly hampered by side two’s ambitious stringing together of four pieces of deified Americana: “Shenandoah,” “That Lucky Old Sun,” “Danny Boy” and “In the Pines.”

His Eye Is on the Sparrow again produced by Bobby Bare and Ronnie Gant at the Acuff-Rose Sound Studio in Nashville, once more utilizing, with less success, the Nashphilharmonic and Choir, and notable for its largely dirge-like quality. Then in 1979, his first, sparkling collection of brief, mainstream country tracks, The Sailor, produced by Ronnie Gant at the Acuff-Rose Sound Studio and Jack Clement Studio, both in Nashville.

After All These Years seemed to be a lament for the life that was behind him, even closing with “I Still Love You (After All These Years),” his hauntingly beautiful tribute to his parents - and, possibly his art. Produced by old friend Norbert Putnam at the Bennett House, in Franklin, Tennessee, and notable for the addition of Dave Loggins on guitar and vocal harmonies, the album also contained “That Was the Way It Was Then,” a sublime tribute to the 50’s that would subsequently be recorded by other performers and “Truly Blue,” an unusually dramatic rock ballad that could have been a chart success if released as a single.

Newbury’s still passionate grieving for the faded promise and enduring optimism of America, for dreams lost and found and the poor who most often cherish them, is evident in every note and word. He makes the words stand out like beacons in the land’s fading light. Newbury boldly ignores the demands of the current rock and country scenes.

It isn’t rock, pop, country, MOR, or ever classical music. So what the hell is it?

It’s just Mickey Newbury.


Omaha Rainbow: Issue 13

The Mickey Newbury Interview - By Peter O’Brian
(London, England: April 10, 1997)
Excerpts:

Mickey Newbury - Heaven Help the Child

Poeta Nascitur Non Fit

“I did go to Shreveport when I was 18 and stayed for about 6 months, but the first time I left was when I was about 16. I dropped out of school and, let’s see, first I went to East Texas with a friend of mine, and then to Shreveport. I couldn’t get a job because I hadn’t graduated from high school, so I came back to Houston and finished school in the summer. Had a summer school session. I don’t know whether they have that over here or not? Then, I went back to Shreveport later when I was about 18. Wound up joining the air force when I as about, I guess, 19.

“I didn’t want to go to college. Didn’t have the money even if I wanted to. We talked about that. A friend and I went down to Nachadotes, Texas. The opportunity to travel and see the world probably had a lot to do with it, because I had never been anywhere except down around Texas, Louisiana, once to Oklahoma and once to Arkansas.

“I was in a vocal group in the early 50’s called The Embers, pretty big group. Kenny Rogers was in another vocal group called The Scholars. We were all good friends. We all used to play in different places. Some of the black clubs we played as opening acts to some of the big black acts like The Coasters, Bobby Blue Bland. Kenny kind of branched off into jazz music, went with a group called The Kirby Stone Four. We stayed with the blues music. We had one record out on the Herald label in New York, and then we had one record out on Mercury... or two. Two on Mercury. Singles. Our vocal sound was like The Penguins, The Drifters, those things. Blues music and country music are very closely aligned in my ears. They’re really the same music. Both kinds of music from underprivileged people.”

How much formal musical education did you have?

“None, apart from the violin lessons when I was a kid. I got as far as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ which I haven’t played since age seven! I don’t read music, can’t read a lick. I don’t even know the names of the guitar strings.

“I was in England about seven months after I signed up. RAF Croughton, near Banbury, for three years. I was a Buck Sergeant Air Traffic Controller, did my job, partied, learned to play a little bit of piano while I was there, but not much else musically. I listened to a lot of music. That was when I first listened to Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary and Peggy Lee. I was working shifts, three days on and three days off, and on my three days off I’d come to London. I rented a place in Swiss Cottage where there used to be a constant party. I’d leave, and it would still be going when I came back. It was a party that lasted for three years. The doors were always open, always plenty to drink and eat.”

On Mickey’s return to the States

“I never could decide what I wanted to do. I was not used to not having things again, being broke and having to scratch around for cigarette money. But I did get demobbed and I made my way down to South East Texas to work on the shrimp boats. I liked the Ocean and I liked the free style of living the shrimpers and fishermen had. They were doing what they enjoyed, which I liked. Good people to be around. A lot of fun. It gave me time to write. That was a real good time for me. I started writing poetry and stuff, some songs, back in the 50’s. I guess when I went down in the Gulf was when I really started writing. When I was working on the boats. I’d write songs about the shrimpers. They got a kick out of that. About tearing their nets up, the sort of problems they had.

“I had written about forty songs and guy in Houston named Ray Bush took about fifteen of them to Wesley Rose. Wesley cut one of the songs, called me and asked if I’d come sign as a staff writer. At that time I didn’t know there were such things as songwriters who made money writing songs. I just didn’t understand anything about that area of the business. To me there was just performing. Then they started to explain to me there were songwriters who wrote songs all the time. So about six months later I went to Nashville and signed with Wesley in 1964. I would write whatever I felt and mail it to Acuff-Rose. I never took on a retainer because I didn’t want to be obligated. I never took and advance or a retainer at all the whole time I was there.

“Well, my songs are very American. In fact, that’s been a problem in foreign countries. It’s been a problem in England, because of people not understanding some of the colloquialisms. Of course, I never intended to write songs for people in England. It just happens to happen that way. I was really writing songs for people that lived the same way I did, and knew all the things I know. I wasn’t even writing for people in New York City. Country music’s just expanded now. I wonder how much people understand about what they hear. Some of the things are universal, but sometimes you get into things that I’m sure have got to be difficult to understand. In the same way there are songs over here that are difficult for me to understand.”

“Heaven Help the Child” which you wrote in ‘72, and won 10,000 dollars for you when you sang it and won the Grand Prize at the Tokyo Music Festival.

“I didn’t write it specifically for the Festival. It was one of three or four songs they submitted and that was accepted, so I went out to Japan. It was a nice trip. Surprised me, too. There were a lot of major artists in the preliminaries, Mac Davis, Vikki Carr, a lot of people, but the two that made it to the finals were Olivia Newton-John and Paul Williams. There were artists from all over the world. Russia, Belgium, Philippines and everywhere. There was about forty in the finals. It was really quite something to win that. Surprised me.

“All the string sounds on the ‘Heaven Help the Child’ and ‘Frisco Mabel Joy’ albums are all pedal steel. That big instrumental sound after the ‘Trilogy.’ It’s all steel guitars, there’s not a string or a horn there. Actually, it’s not just steel, there’s electric guitar as well. Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick, Wayne Moss. I record by doing the vocal with just acoustic guitar first, then everything else is overdubbed. That way, at least you know what you’re getting when you’re laying it down. Every instrument has a reason for being there.”

Cortelia Clark

“When I started writing the song, you see, I didn’t know it was about Cortelia. I didn’t know it was about Cortelia until it got right to his name down in the last verse about his dying. It’s just real strange how that came about. I just have no idea. A man called from Kentucky later, and I found out there was a Guthrie, Kentucky, where there was a big switching yard, and there was a Bluebird Special train that came through there. I then got in my car and drove down there to see the old train station. Had no conscious memory of it. Can’t remember ever hearing anything about it. I knew nothing about it.

“That’s happened to me a few times. Happened to me with ‘Heaven Help the Child.’ I didn’t know there was a Biscay Bay. In fact, I originally thought it was Biscane. Susan said, “Well, that’s in Florida.” I got a map out and looked all over France looking for it. Just when I started to put it up I looked out there in the ocean and there it was. The biggest words there... Biscay Bay.”

Live at Montezuma Hall

“Originally it was just a radio broadcast. The guy taped the concert to be played on the FM radio station. Then there was a buzz about it being bootlegged, so the company decided to buy the rights from the guy and put it out. It had been recorded at a college campus concert hall.”

Guitar Tuning

“The tuning I use which is a dropped D, ’till recently nobody else used it, but now Larry Gatlin, Red Lane and a few people are using it. I made up the chords for that tuning that never have been used before. I hope it’s a trademark. What I was hoping was that the minute I hit my guitar, people would know it was me before I ever started singing. It might not be like that too much longer now a lot of people are using it.”

Apples Dipped in Candy

“Yeah, ‘Jake laid down his fiddle...’ and so on. They forgot it. Jake was an uncle of mine. The whole song was a reminiscent kind of thing, going into those kind of songs you hear on the riverboats. Kind of a blues, New Orleans feel.”

Nashville and Country Music

“Nashville, country music, has actually been the moving force behind all the contemporary changes in music for twenty years. Rock ‘n’ roll rockabilly was country music. Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Bill Haley and the Comets, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, they were all country singers. Because of the fact that country music was a minority music and not widely accepted, in order to gain acceptance it was called rock ‘n’ roll. Then it was accepted by the top 40 stations. That was the movement of the 50’s, and it was country music. The movement of the 60’s was Bob Dylan and The Beatles. The major force behind Bob Dylan was Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rogers and Hank Williams, plus Rambling Jack Eliott who he got his singing style from. They were all country, and he said so in many different ways. OK, The Beatles came along and their major influences included Chuck Berry, whose major influence was Hank Williams. That’s something he’s said, and The Beatles have said that some of their major influences were country, and they said they were influenced by Bob Dylan whose major influence was country.

“So if you go right down the road, everything that’s happened can be traced back to country music. Then again, why not, because it is the basic music. It is the root music, and country music can be traced back to the early English and Irish folk songs, so it’s all just made a big circle anyway.

“I don’t know where my music would have gone if I hadn’t gone to Nashville. Say, if I had would up in Memphis writing blues songs. I would have probably still would up down in Tennessee doing country songs, because a lot of the Memphis guys did. All of us start reaching back to our roots. Even the early rhythm & bluesers from Memphis are now doing a lot of country stuff, so I don’t know, it’s hard to say.”

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