There always has been a turmoil going on inside of my own mind as to who was the greatest song writer ever. Some days I am stuck on Kris Kristofferson. Sometimes, I think Townes Van Zandt might just be the best. Steve Earle is responsible for the infamous quote:
“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”
What if Townes hadn’t died so early? Imagine the masterpieces he would have written if he only had a little more time? Or Gram Parsons same as Townes, gone too soon.
Ray Wylie Hubbard is most likely in my top 20 and of course Willie is in there somewhere. There is Steve Earle and there was Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff. Dylan was great. I could switch genre and throw in so many more, Paul Simon, Graham Nash, McCartney, Stephen Stills, even Lennon. Oh, and don’t forget Keith Richards.
Guy Clark once sang,
“There’s no rhyme or reason
Ain’t a damn thing you can do
Some days you write the song
Some days the song writes you.”
I consider Guy Clark one of the best ever. He wrote so simple and natural. He had a knack to tell a story and to draw on one’s emotions. His song lyrics might make one laugh and cry in one single song.
Today I guess the Wolf in my brain that is winning would pick the Guy, as the greatest songwriter ever. You never know though. Because my mind is like the weather in West Texas and it will change in the blink of an eye.
I love music from all generations and genres and I have enjoyed talking about it here in Under The Sound. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have enjoyed writing. Drop a comment and let me know!
With the events of the last few days in politics, I have seen many posts from both sides of the “fence.” Social media, and all of the news channels have been flooded with he said, she saids. I really can’t see the fairness in the way that the situation has been handled by our government officials. The media seems to be only reporting personal opinion and not the whole truths.
During this entire election year, there has been plenty of controversy and conspiracies that have surfaced from both sides of the political spectrum. I have not agreed with much of anything either side has said lately. I do not know what to think about the protests, riots, looting, and chaos that have destroyed our American cities and has changed the way of life as we all know it.
Not to mention the corona virus and the up and down economy.
Something has got to change or we will lose what we have left as a nation.
And we’re bound for the border
We’re soldiers of fortune
And we’ll fight for no country but we’ll die for good pay
Under the flag of of the greenback dollar
Or the peso down Mexico way
Steve Earle’s “Mercenary Song” was one of his first songs. It is also one of his best songs. In the recent events, I was reminded of this great story song.
I see politics becoming more and more a fight for money, power, and overall control. Many politicians are doing what is best for them personally rather than what is best for the country as a whole.
In the days of Pancho Villa he had this to say on politicians:
“They spend their time discussing nonsense and stealing money that belongs to the people”
The song also reminds me that If we don’t like something for the way it is, we CAN change it. Sure I have daydreams of leading a revolution. I seriously doubt I will act on it. Revolutions are however how nations are born. The United States was birthed many years ago when a group of people, tired of being oppressed, stood up against the British rule. Many nations before and even after began this way.
“We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.”
– CHE GUEVARA
We are given the right to protest. BUT we also must pay a price when it doesn’t go our way. There is consequence for when laws are broken. BUT if you are willing to stand up for what you believe in, you must be willing to accept the consequence.
Under the flag of the greenback dollar Or the peso down Mexico way
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.
About this time last year, I recall going on a trip with my oldest daughter. I had made a playlist of all my favorite songs. I titled the playlist “songs I like to sing.” I pressed the shuffle key on my iPhone and off we went. It seems we heard Guitar Town more times than any of the other songs on the list.
“Hey pretty baby are you ready for me It’s your good rockin’ daddy down from Tennessee,” blasted from the speakers in my Chevrolet truck.
“Are you going to play that song again dad?” My daughter questioned.. rolling her eyes.
I simply turned the volume up a little louder and kept moving on down the highway.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Steve Earle had written and recorded “Guitar Town“, the first single from his first full length album. “Guitar Town” was the song that defined Earle as a solo artist in Nashville. Although, his influence had already been in Guitar Town for over 10 years.
Steve Earle once ran away from his home in San Antonio Texas with expectations of meeting his idol singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
A few years later he did get to meet Townes. Steve Earle was only 16 but had already dropped out of school and moved to Houston with his uncle who was also pursuing a career in music.
One of Steve Earle’s most noted quotes is:
Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.
In 1974 at the age of 19, Steve Earle moved to Nashville Tennessee and began working by day and playing his music by night. He became a staff songwriter for the publishing company Sunbury Dunbar, and became the bass player in Guy Clark’s band.
While in Clark’s Band, he sang on Clark’s 1975 album “Old No. 1.”
Guy Clark became one of Steve Earle’s greatest mentors and greatest friends.
Steve Earle then made an appearance on the 1975 film Heartworn Highways, a documentary about the Nashville Music Scene.
The Heartworn Highway soundtrack includes Steve Earle’s, “Mercenary Song” and “Elijah’s Church”.
Mission Mary near Balmoreah Texas. This is what I think about when I hear Steve Earle sing “Elijah’s Church“
Heartworn Highways included David Allan Coe, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt and Rodney Crowell.
I have been a fan of this group of musicians all of my life. So many people have heard the songs they wrote but have no idea who the original artists were. Everyone of these guys became great song writers and in my opinion, no-one else can do their songs like they do them.
I have a low tolerance for mediocrity in music and life. I’m into pain and joy and the in-between doesn’t interest me.
Since those early days in Guitar Town, Earle has released 15 studio albums. He has received 3 Grammy awards. His songs have been recorded by artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, The Highwaymen, Travis Tritt, Bob Seger and Emmylou Harris.
I may recieve a small commission from your purchase
and Everybody told me you can’t get far on 37 dollars and a jap guitar.