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.
Guy Clark was born on this day, November 6, 1941 in Monahans, Texas.
Finding Guy Clark was to me like taking that first drink. I heard Guy’s music and I couldn’t stop after just one. I eventually did sober up, but I have never quit Guy Clark.
If it weren’t for Guy, I don’t think that I would have the passion for music that I carry with me today. He influenced many other great singers and songwriters in his lifetime.
Today, I love the discovery of the root of the song. I find pleasure in hearing the original versions, and through reading the songwriters lyrics. I want to know what the writer was thinking, feeling, and what place he must’ve been in that inspired him or her to compose a certain piece of music or song.
So many other artists have covered songs penned by Guy Clark over the years. In my earliest childhood memories, I recall that music was an important part of my life. Back then, I didn’t even know who Guy Clark was. Even back then, I was hearing his music.
In 1972 Townes Van Zandt released ,“Don’t let the Sunshine Fool Ya.”
This song was written by Guy Clark. It tells a story about two friends. Guy often said that Townes was one of the biggest influences in his songwriting. More importantly, the two were best friends for a big part of Guy Clark’s life. They were friends up until Townes died of a heart attack on New Years Day in 1997. Even when death took Townes, I think that Guy carried his spirit along until his own last breath. Almost every single album that Guy ever recorded included songs by Townes Van Zandt, and Guy has released more than twenty albums.
Guy’s childhood was in Monahans, Texas. In the early 1950’s he moved with his family to Rockport, Texas. After graduating high school in 1960, Guy moved to Houston, where he spent almost a decade in the music revival that was going on there.
Guy and Susanna moved to the East side of Nashville from L.A. in November of 71. He and Susanna were married in 1972.
While living in Las Angeles, Guy signed a songwriting contract with Sunbury Dunbar. Sunbury Dunbar was the music publishing side of RCA. They gave him the option of continuing his residence in L.A. or moving to Nashville. He chose Nashville partly because his friend Mickey Newbury was there.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Guy, Susanna, and Townes Van Zandt lived together in a white stucco house at 1307 Chapel Ave. It was in that house, that Guy would complete the song “L.A. Freeway.” He had originally written “If I could just get off of this L.A. Freeway without getting killed or caught” on a burger sack while still in L.A.
Guy first played the song for Jerry Jeff Walker who released it as his first single for MCA that year.
In 1973 Guy Clark wrote a song about his Grandma’s boyfriend. Jack Prigg was like a grandfather to Guy and influenced him with his worldly views. “Desperados Waiting For A Train.”
Jerry Jeff Walker released it on Viva Terlingua in 1973.
Guy’s songs, “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for A Train” may have launched his career, but he had already began making his way in music. He was already influencing other singer-songwriters in their careers as well. Guy was a mentor to artists like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell. He and Susanna had an open house to anybody who wanted to come in.
Rodney once said that a song wasn’t complete until it had the approval of Susanna Clark.
The Hearworn Highways videos that were filmed at Guy and Susanna’s home give a good indication to what it must have been like. I cannot fathom how it must have felt to be surrounded by such great talent. If only I could’ve been a fly on the wall I would have been more than satisfied.
In 1977 Johnny Cash charted with Guy Clark’s tune “Last Gunfighter Ballad.”
By 1982, Ricky Skaggs was topping the charts with “Heartbroke” which reached the #1 spot. Steve Wariner took Guy’s Song “Baby I’m Yours” to the #1 position in 1988. Rodney Crowell did it in 1989 with “She’s Crazy For Leaving.”
Rodney Crowell co-wrote “She’s Crazy for Leaving” with Guy Clark. It was the 3rd of 5 straight #1 hits in a row for Rodney.
Bobby Bare, Vince Gill, and John Conlee all saw top 10 on the charts with Guy Clark’s songs.
1985 saw the Highwaymen, Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Johnny re-release “Desperados Waiting For ATrain.” This brought the old song to a whole new generation. I had been raised listening to these outlaws who banded together to form the Highwaymen.
I had first heard “Desperados Waiting For A Train” being performed by Jerry Jeff on an album that I had found discarded in the trash. It must have been about that time, that I discovered the real Guy Clark and when I began to admire him for the works he had written. (Read the entire story of my dumpster diving days here on my blog from 10/24/20 “Viva Terlingua.”)http://www.pinkieandpancho.com/viva-terlingua/
Jimmy Buffett had two Guy Clark songs in 1997. “Boat’s to Build,” and “Cinco De Mayo in Memphis.”
John Denver recorded Guy’s tune “Homegrown Tomatoes” in 1988. It was then that I fell in love with John Denver’s music.
Guy also turned me onto John Prine and Emmylou Harris. They recorded a version of “Magnolia Wind” in 2011. Somewhere around that time, I also found and began to follow Tom Russell.
Tom Russell’s style in his own songwriting shows many characteristics of Guy’s work.
Steve Earle, who I had first heard on the Heartworn Highways album, recorded Guy’s song El Coyote in 2013.
Guy Clark continued to influence songwriters and write songs himself all the way up to his death May 17,2016.
Even after his death, the final song that Guy Clark wrote was released by Angaleena Presley. It was on the 2017 album Wrangled. Her song, “Cheer up Little Darling,” was co -written by Guy.
Guy Clark’s own recordings are catalogued on his multiple albums. His first album, Old No #1 recorded by RCA was done in 1975. The year I was born.
His final album was Guy Clark:The Best of Dualtone Years released in 2017.
I suppose that I have always been a fan of Guy Clark. Even before I didn’t consciously realize who that was. I appreciate all that Guy has done for music. He helped to create the Americana genre. A genre that will outlive us all. His 2005 AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting doesn’t even give enough credit for all of the lives that his music has impacted. Guy loved to write music and he loved to share his musical talent with others.
“I have no reason to sit home and write songs all day without going out and playing for the folks and I have no reason to play for the folks unless I’m writing new songs…”
Happy Birthday Guy Clark. Thank You for the memories and for the music.
Earlier today, I learned that the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame was inducting Bobbie Gentry to the Hall of Fame.
Bobbie Gentry gained international fame in 1967 after composing and recording “Ode to Billy Joe.” The song spent four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It earned Gentry two Grammy Awards in 1968. Awards were, Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. At the Grammy’s that year, the song was also nominated for Best Contemporary Single and for Song of The Year.
When Bobbie recorded the demo of “Ode To Billie Joe” for Capitol, she had an ambition to write songs to sell to other artists. She only sang the song herself on her demo, because, she said it was cheaper than hiring someone else to sing it.
Capitol Recording Studio (Hollywood) chose to release Bobbie Gentry’s version of the song. Gentry signed to Capitol on June 23,1967. The single was released July 10, 1967.
Rolling Stone lists “Ode to BillyJoe” among it’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Following the single’s success, an album was quickly put together. On August 21 Ode to Billie Joe overcame the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, topping the Billboard 200.
We still don’t know what she threw off of the bridge that day. Bobbie Gentry states, “That doesn’t matter.”
In 1969 Bobbie Gentry would write and record “Fancy.”
“Fancy” is my strongest statement for women’s lib, if you really listen to it. I agree wholeheartedly with that movement and all of the serious issues that they stand for- equality, equal pay, day care centers, and abortion rights.”
“Fancy” released November 3, 1969. (As I am writing this, the song released 51 years ago as of tomorrow.)
In April of 1970, Capitol would release the album Fancy. Most of the album was recorded at Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The Album consisted of cover songs other than the title track. Fancy, was produced by Rick Hall.
The album peaked at number 37 in the US Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The song “Fancy” reached number 8 on the Billboard Top 40.
In 1991 MCA would release Reba McEntire’s version of “Fancy.” Her recording would also reach #8 on the Billboard Country chart.
Reba, who had wanted to record the song since 1984 refers to it as her “possible signature hit.”
If I didn’t know better, I would swear that Reba wrote the song “Fancy.” It fits her persona so well. She performs the song to perfection and has definitely made it her own.
Because of the current health climate, the honors ceremony for this years Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame has been postponed until November 2021.
Other 2020 inductees are Steve Earle, Kent Blazy, and Brett James. All of these artists including Bobbie Gentry experienced their first Top 20 song at least 20 years ago. Hall of Fame Songwriters were selected by their professional songwriting peers.