personal amusement,a few things should be kept in mind.
The most important thing, I guess, would be that you have
to write several bad songs before you write your first decent
song. You feel really good about the idea that you've just put
some words and a melody together. It's truly a form of magic.
That may not be what everyone gets from your songs. Everybody
I've met so far, that writes, has to write songs. We all have
varying degrees of talent,but the imperitave remains.
We may love it, hate it, put it off or just try to stop for a
while, but we always resumethe task. Sounds kind of grim,
doesn't it? It isn't. But, I'd be lying if I said that I'm just as
happy not writng.Why am I saying all of this? I'm hoping that
if I tell you a little about my process,you might be interested
enough to look at this art that remains an endless source of joy to me.
Winston-Salem,NC-1965 The journey began for me after hearing live music,for the first time .I was in the 5th grade at St.Leo's Catholic School and the NC symphony sent over a portion of their brass section to play for the students. Trumpets.French Horns.Trombones. Perhaps,a Tuba.This was amazing! The radio or records did not capture this. It was so rich, so real.How had I lived so long and not discovered something this important? I remember that the kids in the gymatorium just seemed bored. They acted like this was something one was forced to endure. Not me. My life had just changed forever.
The next step on my path took the form of a local teen band called The Comets. Part of the Saturday matinee included local groups performing before the movie started. This was pretty cool. Seemed like all of their amps and guitars were Fender.My brother Jim told me that Fender was about the best stuff going. I liked the red power lights that gleamed from the amplifiers. Red sparkle drums. The band came out in matching outfits. The line hum from the amps came up as the amps were switched off standy.This added to the feeling of exciement. Take off time. The dummer clicks a four count.Brang! Live Rock! The drummer's ride cymbal cut through the music in a way that never seemed to have been captured on records. The Fender Bassman amp thumped in person, in a way that was primal and three-dimensional. You could feel it! The twangy electric guitars sounded cool but, kind of skewed.I thought this sound needed fixing. Something not quite right here. But, it was very exciting. Better than records.
My brother Jim got the combo bug. He worked summer jobs and bought an old ivory colored Supro electric guitar. We would go over to Allen Gamble's house since he was the only person we knew that had a guitar AND an amp. His amp had Reverb andVibrato! That was just like being on The Jettsons....His Boy,Elroy! Jim let me fumble around on his guitar. I couldn't understand how he placed his fingers on the guitar to make a sound. All it would do for me was something in between a thud and a plink.A kid I went to school with,Gordon Dilldy, (I swear that's really his name!)let me spend an afternoon in his mother's laundry room playing with a Harmony guitar. He explained to me that I was doing it all wrong. I wasn't getting any sound because I wasn't pressing on the strings lightly enough.When I did it just right, it would start sounding good. Didn't have a clue.(More pressure, son-not,less!)
My family moved to Durham, NC in 1966. My dad got a job at WTVD-TV doing on-air new and voice-overs. WTVD had two country music shows: The Homer Briarhopper Show,( That was the guys' "stage" name) and, Saturday Night Country Style. I went to see Homer's show once in a while. (It was on early in the morning, in between segments of The Farm Show.)They had a great guitar player named Jim Forsythe. When he wasn't picking for Homer, he painted signs and drank quite a bit. He told me about the classical guitar and some guy named Segovia.(I knew about him already.The Segovia Master class used to be on shown WUNC back then.)I was more intrested in Jim's plying. Watching JF play gave me a lot to think about. Everybody in Homer's band was sort of surreal. They were each living country cliches'. One of the strange but,true facts about Homer Briarhopper concerns a fellow that played drums in his band. This guy has gone on to become a fine alt/country singer:Phil Lee. He's the chap pointing at us.
a young Hommer Briarhopper
Saturday Night Country Style was my first exposure to a first class country band. Everyone in the band was super on their respective instruments.The lead guitarist, Jimmy Saunders, played a very cool west coast country style. I dreamed for years of owning a cherry red Gibson 335 like his. The steel guitar player, Marvin Hudson,showed me what an amazing instrument the pedal steel could be. North Carolina has never had many great steel players, but; Marvin was among the best.Clyde Mattocks
The number one spot,however, belongs to Clyde Mattocks,who may still play with The Super Grit Cowboy Band.I've heard him do many gigs with The Malpass Family,too. If you get the chance, go see Clyde.His guitar,banjo and dobro playing is pretty dang fine,too)
Clyde introduced me to the Texas Troubadours. This band played behind Ernest Tubb.Mr. Tubb always had a great band. Some of the hottest players of the 1960's worked in this band.
check out The Troubadours on this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP9mDEri85o
But, I sort of wandered off topic. I was about to talk about Saturday Night Country Style.
Saturday Night Country Style taped their shows on Wednesday night. I tried to never miss a single show. I will never get over how cool it was to watch Jimmy Saunders and Marvin Hudson blow through 6 or 8 songs that they had never played before. They would talk their way through the the keys of the songs, decide who was going to play fill or lead, and do intros and tags for the songs in less time than you could imagine. Each song got something like a minute a piece and they wouldn't even run stuff down with the singers. They would just do it right the first time while tape was rolling. The singers didn't have a clue how lucky they were. One of the singersI remember was "Little Philly Buck",(now Phyllis Dean, a busy session singer in the Raleigh/Durham area.) She was not yet in her teens, as I recall. I have a vivid memory of her finishing up a song and, Jim Thornton joins her and puts his arm around her and smiles. Then, he reaches down into his bib overalls and pulls out a big wad of bills bound by a rubber band. Right there on TV, he peels off a couple green spots and hands them to her and says-"You done a good job, honey." Man.Talk about tacky. But, Jim Thornton, aka, "The Barefoot Boy from Broad Slab" was not known for being subtle. He did, however, manage to keep his club, "The Jim Thornton Club",running at a profit for many years. The fact that you might get your ass kicked or get a pool cue "upside your head", did little to keep people away. An interesting side note about Jim Thornton,before he decided to be "The bare foot boy", he cut a minor rock-a-billy hit back in the late '50's. You can find it for sale on the web. If you're curious,click here to hear a this "classic". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGpt24j-E4I I note that my home town of Durham,NC is the place this song was recorded.
The only person in Jim Thorton's band I can recall, besides Jimmy and Marvin was the bass player,Don Girllie. He was great, playing and singing. The drummer and the rythmn guitar player both played well. I can't recall either of those guys' names. The first time I ever heard a Merle Haggard song was on The Jim Thornton Show . The band's rythmn guitarist sang once in a while on the show. (He played a Gibson J-200 guitar that I lusted for.) He was super on cover songs. He did a great job of Haggard's"I'm A Lonsome Fugitive". That song just flattened me! I became a fan from that moment on.The covers they did of Buck Owens helped me become a fan of ol' Buck, too. It seemed like any spare money I could scrape together went to Capitol Records. (Haggard, Owens and The Beatles were all on the Capitol Records label back then.) I was hooked. Contry music was all I wanted to do. I began trying to write country songs. Lots of really bad coutry songs. Example:
"I think it's time we had a talk
lets go somewhere and take a walk.
I've got a lot on my mind-you need to hear
the kind of words I need to say-when you're near."
The world can go on without this song.
Meanwhile, other forces were at work...... Nick Manoloff, Soul Music & English Rock