Matt Stell was awarded with a plaque at the Grand Old Opry Nov 28. The RIAA gifted the plaque to commemorate his newest gold certification, Matt’s single “Everywhere But On.”
“It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written” Matt Stell posted on his Twitter account. “I can’t wait to be playing this on stage with my rad ass band soon.”
“Everywhere but on,” is the title track of Stell’s first EP, and is also a single from Matt’s newest EP BetterThan That. The new EP was released on October 16th by Arista Nashville/Records . Better Than That includes 8 songs and 5 of them were written by Matt Stell.
Matt’s award winning song “I Prayed For You” is also featured on the new EP. The song was previously released on Stell’s EP Everywhere But On and Last of the Best.
Both songs, “I Prayed For You” and “Everywhere But On” have spent time at #1 on The US CountryAirplay charts.
Matt Stell is a native of Arkansas. He attended Drury University on a four year basketball scholarship. Matt went on to graduate school and received a Masters in Communication. In 2014 Matt Stell was accepted into pre med school through a Harvard University Extension Program. When he received his music contract from Wide Open Music, he chose his music over medical school.
The first time I saw Matt Stell was at a concert with my wife. The concert was at the Wagner Noel in Midland, Texas. We were invited to see Clay Walker by friends. Matt Stell was the opening act for Clay Walker.
At the concert, Matt performed his songs,“I Prayed For You” and “Better I Drink.” We became instant fans. That night I downloaded Matt Stell Last of the Best from Apple Itunes.
“I Prayed For You” became one of My wife and I’s most treasured songs. We included the song on our Wedding Playlist.
I can not hear the song without being reminded that she was God given and I know she was worth the wait.
Yesterday, @WhiskeyRiff asked on Twitter, IF? you could only listen to one country artist who would thatbe? Many of Whiskey’s followers chose Willie Nelson. In my opinion he is the clear choice. Willie has miles and miles of music. So many hit songs, multiple albums, and cross genre successes. At least one wouldn’t get board of listening to his pure voice and his magical chords from the famous guitar Trigger.
My question today is okay- so it is a no brainer to listen to Willie for the rest of my God given life. But? What if I could only listen to one Willie Nelson Album?
My pick: The Red Headed Stranger.
Red Headed Stranger is a concept album by Willie Nelson. It was the eighteenth studio album for Nelson. He recorded the album in January 1975 at Autumn Sound Studios in Garland, Texas. The Columbia label released the album in May of 1975.
It was the time of the preacher When the story began
Willie’s contract with Columbia Records gave the artist complete creative control over his works. Columbia executives were unsure of this new album, they felt like it was a demo album. As per Willie Nelson’s contract which cited his total creative control, the Red Headed Stranger was released in it’s original form. No further production needed.
With the choice of a lady And the love of a man
The album’s poetic lyrics along with its arrangement were well received by country music and mainstream audiences. The album has been certified multi- platinum. It has made Willie Nelson who he is today. The Texas Outlaw musician, Willie Nelson is still one of the most recognized artists in country music.
Today, Rolling Stone’s ranks the album at #183 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album ranks #1 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music.
Chet Flippo once wrote in Texas Monthly about the album, an article titled MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, AND WILLIE.
“Willie Nelson’s latest album is more than good country music, it’s almost gospel.”
Flippo goes on to say, “Of all contemporary songwriters, he has most effectively observed and interpreted life around him.”
Chet Flippo describes the Man- Willie Nelson:
“the master of despair, the poet of honky tonks, the chronicler of personal apocalypse”
How he loved her so dearly He went out of his mind
The first hit single from the album was “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.” It is among the many songs from the Red Headed Stranger album that were not penned by Willie himself. In October 1975 The song would become Willie Nelson’s first #1 Hit.
“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was written by songwriter Fred Rose. The original recording of the song was by Roy Acuff. The song has also been recorded by Hank Sr. and Charley Pride. It is Willie’s version that is most recognized. “Blue Eyes” revived Willie Nelson’s career in country music. The 2 minute and 18 second song made Willie Hugh Nelson an icon and a legend among his peers.
Rolling Stone’s ranking of the song is #48 on it’s list of 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.
If my Grummy were alive today, she would fight tooth and nail to say the song should have been named #1
When she left him for someone That she’d left behind
The Decision made by Willie to leave Music Row for the outskirts of Austin, Texas and his managers negotiation of the contract with Columbia most definitely defined the album. Willie’s new found self control of his own music was his saving grace.
Willie no longer focused on image, he was able to focus on his sound. His sound reflects his raising in Abbott Texas. It is influenced by Mexican and Czechoslovakian music. His childhood neighbors of Mexican and Czech descent introduced him to such scores of music from their homelands. His raising in the church stuck a gospel soul into his head.
In 1986 Willie Nelson took the Red Headed Stranger onto the big screen. His Movie The Red Headed Stranger took five years for Willie to fund. He mortgaged property In order to raise money for the wardrobe and props. Towns were built on land that adjoined Willie’s private golf course in Austin.
The movie’s director, Bill Wittliff explained to Life Magazine in 1987:
“In a funny kind of way, I just simply stepped into Willie’s dream…. It’s (the movie) has become an obsession for me.”
If I only could listen to only one Album for the rest of my life,Red Headed Stranger is the album for me. This Grammy Award Winning Album featured some of the best musicians in country at the time of it’s release. The powerful storytelling songs and instrumentals are among my own list of The Greatest Songs of All Time. Willie Nelson is a showman and an all star musician. No one is ever going to replace his style of outlaw music.
“Time of the Preacher”
It was the time of the preacher When the story began
With the choice of a lady And the love of a man
How he loved her so dearly He went out of his mind
When she left him for someone That she’d left behind
Songwriter- Willie Nelson Release Date -May 1, 1975
The Red Headed Stranger is a perfect example of Willie’s style. In his Willie Way, the pitch perfect self-produced sound can never be duplicated.
Kent Lavoie, who is better known as his stage name “Lobo,” wrote the song, “You and Me and a Dog named Boo.” The songs debut was on the album, Introducing Lobo, released in March of 1971.
This song is easy to listen to. Just to chill and relax. I hear the song again and think to myself, “They just don’t make music that sounds like this anymore.”
You and me and a dog named Blue
Until recently I thought the Lyrics were, You and Me and a Dog named Blue. I suppose I have sung along that way my whole life. Boo? Go figure.
I suppose that I have been a dog lover my entire life. When I was growing up, we always had a few good dogs around. My first memories of pets were an overweight Beagle we called Harvey and an Irish Setter named Clancy. Harvey and Clancy were my parent’s dogs even before I was born. I was raised with them. They were loyal pets through my early childhood.
At the age of 10 years old I was going through a pretty rough patch in my adolescent years. I had recently lost both Harvey and Clancy. Both of these dogs had died of old age after a long and happy life. Then my Paw-Paw, my father’s father passed away. I felt lost and heart broken. My dad surprised me with a trip to the local dog pound.
There are good dogs and then there are some really good dogs.
I picked out “Buckwheat,” he was a red and white German Shorthaired Pointer. Buckwheat instantly became my best friend. The two of us were inseparable. Buck is probably to this day one of the best dogs I have ever owned. Buck was the sort of dog that I didn’t even have to train. He just knew. I’ve had some good dogs since then. Until recently I have never had one as good as ol’ Buckwheat.
I’ve had some dogs with papers, dogs that came with all the bells and whistles. Peanut was a AKC registered Yellow Labrador Retriever. Peanut was a damn good dog, but those papers didn’t make any difference, she was no Buckwheat.
My favorite kind of dog is a Rescue Dog.
Several years ago, I worked at a vet clinic. I often helped with the in- house kennel. One of our best clients was an owner of a Dog Rescue. Trace Dog Rescue. I found it a hard job. I was always wanting to take the next one home. I knew I couldn’t save them all. I recall how much they cared about these dogs who had been abandoned and mistreated. This group and many others work long and tedious to ensure that the dogs health, safety and happiness are the number one priority.
These dogs deserve a chance.
If you are considering a pet, consider it for life. It saddens me each day when I see animals who have been dumped off. I see people who think it’s a good idea to gift a dog such as for Christmas. When the new wears off, It’s the poor dog who pays the price. I beg you, Don’t get a dog if you aren’t planning on giving it a good life for it’s whole life. Dogs are a responsibility. People who aren’t responsible don’t deserve the love and loyalty that a dog will provide. I think people who mistreat their animals should be ground up and put into dog food.
Cherish the good dogs that cross your path. A man only gets one or two good dogs in his whole life.
About Four years ago, I moved in with the woman who is now my wife. I met a stray dog in my new neighborhood. Every time that I would go outside of our fence, taking out trash, doing yardwork and what not, this baby would come to visit me. She would look up at me with the biggest brown eyes and only asked for a few kind words and a pet. Sometimes she would roll over on her back as if asking me to scratch her belly. She loved her belly rubs. Pets are called pets for a reason. Give them some love and attention and they will give you the utmost loyalty and respect.
One day I was working in my garden. I was planting Bell Peppers. I heard a scratching noise on my garage door. I opened the door and there she was. My newfound friend, the neighborhood stray had come to visit me.
My wife has never had anything but cats. It was her idea that we give this fur baby a home. I don’t think we had much choice. We named her Bell, (later Bella) as I was planting Bell Pepper the day she showed up. I like to think we didn’t find this dog. This dog found us. She has been my loyal friend ever since.
My Dog named Blue.
Our Bonus dog came along a few months later. My Blue Dog, Bizzy.
Bella began showing signs of being pregnant soon after we got her. She soon had a large litter of nine pups. Most of the pups looked like her, but a few stood out. Besides the mama dogs mini me picks, we had our choices between a big hairy Husky mix, a Border Collie mix or a Blue Heeler mix.
I have been a Heeler fan my entire life.
I had a red heeler several years ago. I have always been fascinated with the working dog. The cattle dog. The heeling dog. I couldn’t pass this one up. I convinced my fiancé that the heeler was the one for us. It has taken a bit for Bizzy to get out of the puppy stage, but today she is also one of the better dogs that I have ever owned. She isn’t no Buckwheat or Bella but she’s our Blue dog. The wife is happy that we chose the Biz. She is my wife’s best friend today. Dogs can be a womans best friend too.
Please consider a rescue dog for your next pet. Please remember to be a responsible pet owner. The love of a dog can change your life. If you don’t have room or time for a dog then would you at least consider donating to a dog rescue?
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.” -Roger A. Caras
Me and You and a dog named boo How I love being a free man.
Thanksgiving has ended and the Christmas season has officially begun. Is the world to expect more restrictions as the next holiday approaches? According to Fox News and President Donald Trump, “Vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”
Are the Vaccines the answer to our dilemma? If vaccinated are the stay at home and social distancing orders going to be dissolved? I doubt it.
I look forward to a vaccine almost as much as I am looking forward to Christmas Songs on every major radio station for the next 28 days. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Christmas and the spirit of the season, but I don’t want to hear it all day every day. The radio stations aren’t playing the music I want lately. I guess my tastes are different than the rest of the world and most likely outdated. In December I generally prefer to stream my music anyway to avoid the Christmas carol.
I recently started using Spotify to stream my music. Prior to Spotify, I preferred Pandora. Spotify makes me feel that I am in control of what I listen to without all the ads. It will give me one add for every thirty minutes or so of listening verses Pandora which only gives two or three songs before sending an add. I realize we must have a balance of these ads to keep the service contracts free or at least cheap or no one would be using the site. I do feel like the ads are getting a little extreme on some streaming sites. YouTube is probably the worst in my opinion. They offer a paid upgrade to skip ads, but can I really justify using that. I do however, prefer the YouTube platform on something such as this blog, if I am going to highlight one or two particular songs it is the way to run.
I recently found another option. Internet radio stations. This option allows me to select my genre and even a DJ whose personality I can relate to.
Another method of listening and probably my favorite is Vinyl. IF I could just find a way to successfully mount my record player in my pickup. Life would be good.
In this year, the year of the pandemic my Thanksgiving plans are going to be different than many Thanksgivings before. As I spend this time at home with my lovely bride and our fur babies. I am still thinking about those things for which I am thankful. This year has been hard on us all. I am thankful to be alive and for the most part healthy. I am happy that as of today, the covid has passed over my immediate family. My wife, parents, in-laws, and children. My younger brother, his wife, and sons are healthy as well. Only one nephew tested positive early on in this mess, and thankfully, he never showed any sign or symptom. I have my employment, my sobriety, a warm and comfortable home. I am truly blessed on this Thanksgiving Day.
As I sit and watch the Macy’s parade on TV my mind has wandered back to those days of my youth. I recall many trips with my parents and little brother to Christoval, Texas. The 3 goat ranch was a little piece of heaven nestled along the South Concho River. It belonged to my Great Uncle Zackie and my Aunt Marie. Zack and Marie Monroe. Zack was the brother of my mother’s father, J.D. Monroe whom I never met. So for me and my little brother, Uncle Zackie was like our maternal Grandfather.
3 Goat Ranch was my home away from home. It was just on the outskirts of Christoval, near San Angelo, Texas. The place originally started as a small river cabin and 80 acres. Later my uncle would sell the original structure and most of the land. He kept 5 acres and built a new big two- story house that he and my great aunt would retire to.
As a young boy, the house seemed more like a castle than a home. My brother and two of our cousins would run and play up and down the stairs. The center of the house was the living room. The room was comfortably decorated with ranch style furniture. Hanging on the walls were most amazing paintings of wildlife along with Native American artwork.
It used to be tradition for the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to play football on Thanksgiving Day. The game was always on the TV in the large room.
There was a big fireplace. The center piece of the entire home. It’s rock chimney rose twenty some feet into the high vaulted ceiling. The rocks were native to the area. Opposite the fireplace were windows of the same height. The windows faced towards the river. Often wild game such as Whitetail Deer or Wild Turkey could be seen in their natural habitat outside.
Many times, my dad would stop by the Pinkie’s liquor store on the way into town and pick up another type of Wild Turkey. The kind that came in a bottle. He and Aunt Marie code named that their “Back Medicine.”
I recall many Thanksgivings when the grown ups would be playing Trivial Pursuit at the table in the large kitchen. While my cousins and brother and I laughed and played as children do. The house even had a pin ball machine. Lots of bells and lights kept us entertained for hours on end.
For a time, Uncle Zack raised Bob White quail. Coveys of hundreds of them could be seen on the property. Sometimes Zack would have chickens. He had big red roosters whose crows would echo throughout the canyon. The only animal that Zackie despised was the racoon. Coons were enemies his beloved fowl.
We would explore the beautiful property up and down Finks River Road. The rocky terrain was full of Mesquite and Cedar trees and there were some Live Oak Trees. Skipping rocks across the South Concho was a favorite escape.
We later learned to drive in my Uncle’s old Subaru brat he called his “trash truck” Uncle Zackie was the type who would haul his trash to the dump ground and when he did he would round up everybody else’s trash too. He helped anyone who asked and some who didn’t. He was well liked in the small river town.
In the tape deck of the “trash truck” there was a Simon and Garfunkel cassette tape. I believe the tape was stuck because it just played the same ol’ songs over and over. I cannot hear Simon and Garfunkel today without thinking of that Great man. My Great Uncle Zack.
Uncle Zackie is most likely the greatest man I have ever known or ever will. I never heard him say an Ill word against anyone. Everyone was welcomed with a smile and a few kind words.
“Sit down, take a rest. Would you like a snap bean sandwich or a glass of clabber?”
To which everyone would decline his offer. My Dad once asked what if someone ever said yes. Uncle Zack paused and thought for a moment and answered, “Well I guess I would just have to say, I am fresh out.”
Those days were much simpler times. If I could travel back in time today I would go back to those Thanksgiving Days on the South Concho River. I am thankful for the loving family that I have had. I am thankful for those wonderful memories.
I was again looking at how many great artists that we have lost this year. I compiled a list of those I could recall and through other’s writings on social media.
Bill Mack, Kenny Rogers, John Prine, Bill Withers, Paul English, Joe Diffie, Mac Davis,James Slim Hand, Johnny Bush, Eddie Van Halen, Justin Townes Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker, Billy Joe Shaver, Doug Supernaw, and Hal Ketchum.
Forgive me if I left someone out. This list alone covers so many great singers, musicians, and song writing geniuses.
Working up this list reminded me of Paul English. I recall how much his death affected me earlier this year. I am a fan of music. I have been a huge fan of Willie Nelson for all of my life I suppose. I couldn’t tell you who in the world plays in most singer’s bands, I only recall the name of the headliner or of their top songs. But it is different for me when it comes to Willie. It saddened me that December day back in 2011 when Bee Spears, Willie’s long time bassist left this earth. It really hit me hard in February of this year when I read the news that Paul English had perished.
Paul English first played drums for Willie Nelson in Fort Worth in 1955. In 2008 English told the Abilene Reporter News that the first time he played the drums he played with Willie. He had simply been asked to “keep the beat.”
By 1966 Paul was the full time drummer for Willie Nelson.
Paul was more than just Willie’s drummer. He was his closest friend. He was Willie’s enforcer and body guard. Paul served on the board of directors and as treasurer for farm aid. Paul sometimes would serve as a collection agent for the Willie Nelson Family Band. Paul protected not only Willie Nelson, but his family as well.
Paul English was sometimes known to carry a .22 caliber pistol in his boot.
Once Paul shot at Willie Nelson’s son-in-law’s car when he layed his hand on , Lana, Nelson’s daughter.
Paul was known to have a short fuse. One time he shot at steel pedal player Jimmy Day. Jimmy had insulted Paul English’s dead wife.
he “commandeered a forklift” and used it on a club owner’s Ford Thunderbird, attempting to force the guy into coughing up the band’s performance fee,
Oxford American Magazine
“Willie feels safe with me behind him,”
In 2014 Paul told Rolling Stone that without Willie, he would have either been in prison or dead.
In Tribute to his long time friend, Willie and his third wife Connie named their daughter Paula after Paul.
“With Paul. Willie’s always safe on the road. We named Paula after him.”
Connie Nelson told the Oxford American.
In 1971, Willie released the song “Me and Paul”. The song is about the friendship the two shared and what was going on in Willie’s life and going on in country music in general around the time the song was written.
Another song Willie Nelson penned about his friend was ”Devil in a Sleeping Bag.”
The “Devil” was a nickname Paul English received because Willie thought he resembled what Satan should look like.
“Pick Up the Tempo,” a song written by Willie Nelson and Made famous by Waylon Jennings also makes reference to Paul English.
The singer ain’t singin’ and the drummer’s been draggin’ too long
In this Year of 2020 over a dozen singer-songwriters have died. This morning I was unhappy to learn that among this list included Grand Old Opry member Hal Ketchum.
Hal Ketchum was diagnosed in 1998 with a neurological disorder called acute transverse myelitis. Ketchum had to re-learn simple tasks like walking and playing his guitar. The disorder had left him without the use of the entire left side of his body. In 2019 Ketchum had an early onset of the Alzheimer’s disease causing him to have to retire from performing. Hal’s family and his fans lost him from this earth yesterday due to complications from the disease.
Ketchum was Born in Greenwich, New York. He began performing in clubs as a drummer at the age of 15. After moving to Austin, Texas in 1981, Ketchum soon gave his best at singing and songwriting after being inspired during a visit to Gruene Hall.
In 1986 Threadbare Alibis was released by Watermelon Records. Threadbare Alibis was the first album for the singer. It featured 11 songs that were penned by Hal Michael Ketchum.
Past the Point of Rescue, Hal Ketchum’s first studio album, was released by Curb in 1991. The Album features “Small Town Saturday Night.” This song was written by Pat Alger and Hank Devito. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country chart.
“Small Town Saturday Night,” describes Saturday night in a small town. The song was based on New Braunfels, Texas. Gruene Hall, the landmark dance hall that first inspired Hal Ketchum to write his own music is only about a five minute car ride away from the town of New Braunfels.
“Ketchum writes simple, sometimes moving songs about relationships and/or life’s dilemmas, and communicates them in an attractive, unadorned vocal package”
Ron Wynn (AllMusic)
Ketchum’s album Sure Love in 1993 would see 3 top 10 charting songs.
“Stay Forever” was Ketchum’s last top 10 hit. “Stay Forever” was co-written by Hal Ketchum and Benmont Tench. The song was released in January 1995. It was on Hal’s album Every Little Word. On the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, the song reached number 8.
Hal’s most recent releases were Father Time in 2008 and I’m the Troubadour in 2014.
Ketchum’s life was cut short by Alzheimer’s, a terrible heart wrenching disease. I am thankful that his legacy and his music will live forever.
Howl at the Moon and Shoot Out the Lights It’s a small Town Saturday Night.
The only good that I see from this whole Pandemic is the music that has came out because of it. Artists seem to have settled in for a time and are just writing and recording. I have watched more online performance and streamed more new songs via Pandora or Spotify than I ever have in my entire life. I have absolutely enjoyed following all of my favorite singer songwriters on the many social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Joe Ely is one of these artists. He released a new album this past July.
Love In the Midst of Mayhem, the title seems to fit in these uncertain times. The album features 10 tracks. All were written or co-written by Ely. The songs on the album seem to fit with the times we are living in. In truth, most of the songs on the album are not new songs. Joe Ely started writing them years and in one case even decades ago. The songs were just never recorded or released until now.
Ely wrote Soon All Your Sorrows Be Gone in 1974. He originally started work for His song Garden ofManhattan after 9/11.
Joe Ely told the Dallas Morning News:
I tried to make an album that would soften the blow of what everybody’s going through, and remind people that we’ve got to get back to zero so we can start fresh. My wife calls them healing songs
Healing Songs They are. I have always appreciated Joe Ely and his music. This album is no different. It has a flow to it of calm and relaxed. Ely makes Music that soothes the soul.
Joe Ely was born in Amarillo and moved to Lubbock when he was 12. He has been active in the Texas music scene since 1970. Ely was named Texas State Musician for the year 2016.
Throughout his career, Ely has recorded a consistent line of albums, most on the MCA label. He has pushed out a live album roughly each decade.
In 1970 Ely formed the band the Flatlanders with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. All three artists soon went on to follow solo careers but have reconnected throughout the years to tour and make music together.
Joe Ely is known for his genre crossing success. He has crossed the Country, Americana, Rock and Tex- Mex boundaries. Ely has performed with artists like Bruce Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo, Los Super Seven, and James McMurtry. As well as Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, and Guy Clark. Joe Ely even once toured Mexico with the punk rock band Clash.
46 years ago today, my Parents were married. Dad often jokes that they chose this day only because he could always remember his anniversary date by the days headlines.
John F. Kennedy Presidential motorcade in Dallas, Tx
President John F Kennedy was assassinated on this day, November 22, 1963.
Several studies and Google searches I have performed on the subject of music have revealed that this event in history, the assassination of JFK, dramatically changed Top 40 radio.
In the weeks following the assassination, many radio stations flipped to classical or soft instrumental as the nation mourned their loss.
“Dominique” by the Singing Nun was #1 on the charts on the day that Kennedy was shot. “Dominique” is a French language popular song. It was the first song by a Belgian artist to be a number one hit single in the United States. The song is performed by Jeannine Deckers, better known as the Singing Nun.
By the end of 1963 Billboard’s number one song for 1963 was “Sugar Shack.” The song was written by Keith McCormack. The song was recorded by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs at Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico. In November of 1963 the Recording Industry Association of America certified the single for selling over a million copies.
The Fireballs were the last American band to chart before America was struck by Beatle Mania.
In March of 1963 the Beatles had released “Please Please Me.” The song didn’t perform well on the American charts. Today the Rolling Stone’s lists the song at 39th on it’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In two months following the Assassination of President Kennedy, the Beatles, “I Want to Hold YourHand” spiked to the top spot on the musical charts. “She Loves You,” and “Please Please Me” almost instantly became 2nd and 3rd on the Billboard.
It has been questioned; Would the Music scene have changed this dramatically without the Presidential slaying?
I prefer to think it was just something that happened. Coincidence. The timing was right for a change in the way that the music was being done. It was time to bring some “new blood” into the world of music.
The biggest change to Rock music prior to this Era of Beatle Mania had ended February 15 1959 , now referred to as “The Day the Music Died” as Don Mclean sings about in his one hit wonder, “American Pie.”
It is estimated that more than 73 million Americans witnessed music history in the making on February 9, 1964 when Ed Sullivan gave his simple introduction to the Fab Four on his stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles.”
The British Invasion of the Beatles was soon followed with other British rock bands like the Kinks, the Animals, and the Rolling Stones. Their driving beats and heavy bass reconstructed what we know as rock-n-roll today.
These young musicians in 1960’s Rock-N-Roll began to see their music as a vehicle for social change. Rock music became a soundtrack to the sexual revolution and later fueled anti-war marches. Album structure and production would become the new norm. Rock -N-Roll as the world knew it had been overtaken by pop, psychedelic, and the blues.
The mid sixties would see the rise of the “California Sound.” The Beach Boys and the Beatles would directly inspire each other’s musical rifts. Motown was in full swing and Outlaw country had begun to take shape.
We just sit around and dream of those old memories. Ah but one of these days I’m gonna lay down tracks.
Pioneering musicologist and folklorist, John A. Lomax, did much for the preservation of American folk music. Thanks to Lomax, there are more than 10,000 original sound recordings to archive American Folk Song housed at the Library of Congress.
Lomax was a Texan at heart if not by birth. He was born in Goodman, Mississippi, in 1867, but grew up in rural central Texas. As a child, Lomax was exposed to cowboy song. At the age of nine, John Lomax befriended a former slave by the name of Nat Blythe. Lomax taught Blythe how to read and write. Blythe taught Lomax traditional song and dance steps.
John would later write, the friendship between he and Blythe is what gave his life it’s “bent.”
Saving his money, Lomax left the farm to attend college. He first began at Granbury working on a teaching degree but later moved to the University of Texas at Austin to major in English. Upon arrival in Austin he carried with him the book of cowboy songs that he had written as a child. The English professors of the time didn’t care for the songs. English professor Morgan Callaway discounted them as “Cheap and Unworthy.”
In Adventures of a Ballad Hunter , John Lomax memoir, he recounted how he took the whole bundle of songs behind the men’s dormitory and burned them.
Upon his graduation, John gained employment at the University of Texas, and then later took a position as an English professor at Texas A&M University in College Station.
John Lomax married Bess Brown June 9, 1904 and the two made plans to settle in College Station near the A&M campus. However, by 1906, aware of the deficiencies of his early education, John began to seek ways to improve himself.
John Lomax took advantage of a chance to attend Harvard University as a graduate student. Harvard was the center of American folklore studies of the time.
At Harvard, Lomax studied under Barrett Wendell and George Lyman Kittredge. Unlike his previous professors in Texas, these Scholars in Massachusetts actively encouraged his interest in cowboy songs.
It was Kittredge who pioneered modern methods of ballad study and encouraged collectors to get out into the country- side to collect ballads first- hand.
“Go ahead and get this material while it can be found… Preserve the words and music. That’s your job.”
George Lyman Kittredge
Lomax later returned to Texas to resume teaching at Texas A&M. This time with a Master of Arts degree. His work was interrupted February 7, 1908 when “The Great A&M Strike” broke out. Unable to teach because of the strike, John Lomax resumed his work in gathering his collections of the cowboy song.
In November 1910, this collection would be published as an anthology. Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. Lomaxpast professor and first major supporter, George Kittredge, considered it as “one of the greatest western ballads.”
The collection of songs in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads gained Lomax national recognition. It emerged as a major collection of Western song and sparked a huge surge for interest in folk songs. Because of this collection, many other students gained the inspiration to search for folk music in all regions of the nation.
In 1909 John A. Lomax and University of Texas Professor Leonidas Payne founded the Texas Folklore society. The society focused on gaining interest and preserving folk music. Lomax used his prestige as a nationally known author to raise money for folklore studies and to establish other state folklore societies. These societies would become branches to the American Folklore Society. In 1912 John A. Lomax was elected as President of the American Folklore Society.
Thanks to a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies Lomax set out in June 1933 on his first recording expedition for the Library of Congress. With recording equipment supplied by the Library of Congress mounted in the back of his Ford sedan, John Lomax and his son Alan set out to tour the south.
The pairs travels took them to Texas Farms, prisons and rural communities. Lomax sought to record traditional music in its original form. They recorded work songs, ballads, and the blues.
Lomax was especially proud of his prison recordings. These recordings provided an isolated musical culture untouched by the modern world.
“Thrown on their own resources for entertainment they still sing, especially the long term prisoners, who have been confined for years and who have not yet been influenced by jazz and the radio, the old melodies.”
Among the recordings housed at the Library of Congress are John Lomax original recordings of blues music by Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly), and McKinley Morgan, known professionally as “Muddy Waters.” Lomax and his son also made some of the first recordings of Folk Singer Woody Guthrie.
Folk music and Americana are songs about people. They are collections of song from the regions of where someone came from. In my opinion the greatest and most pure music comes from this original form.
I am thankful for men like John Lomax, who preserved the earliest music for a guy like me to kick back and continue to enjoy today.