November 6 2020

Remembering the Guy

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 A Train.” 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…”

Guy Clark

Happy Birthday Guy Clark. Thank You for the memories and for the music.

Pancho.

November 1 2020

It Ain’t Over Yet

Last August, On behalf of Rodney Crowell, his daughter Hannah accepted the Poet’s Award for him at the Academy of Country Music award show. The Poet’s Award is a special songwriter award that goes to those who have contributed musically and lyrically throughout their careers.  

“This is a very fitting award for my father, because he is truly a poet to his core. He is a poet in the songs that he writes. He is a poet in the way he plays with his grandbabies. He is a poet in the way he used to peel into the parking lot at our conservative Christian school with a top hat on, blaring Bob Dylan. (I knew he did that just to instill in my little brain the importance of being on the outskirts and being who you are.) He is a poet in his friendships. He is a poet in what a beautiful mentor he is to young artists. He is a poet in his deep commitment to being truly authentically himself. As an artist, and as a human being.”

Hannah Crowell

Hannah Crowell is the daughter of Rodney Crowell and Roseanne Cash. Granddaughter of Johnny Cash. She is an interior designer.

The “Poets Award” places Rodney Crowell at the top end of a long line of singer-songwriters including Guy Clark. Guy and Susanna Clark were mentors to Rodney since his earliest days in Nashville.

This morning, I listened to Rodney’s newest Poetic Work. “The Damage.”

The Song was released earlier this year for the soundtrack of the film, Once Upon A River. It is Rodney’s first single, since releasing the album Texas in 2019.

The lyrics are certainly poetic. I found them rather chilling.  

Rodney was originally selected for a role as one of the film’s main characters. Due to health issues he had to opt out of that role. I believe that his contribution of “The Damage.” to the soundtrack was enough.

Rodney Crowell was born August 7, 1950 in Houston, Texas.

He was born into music. One grandfather lead a church choir, while the other was a blue grass banjo picker. Rodney’s father James Walter Crowell sang in bars and honky tonks. By the time Rodney was 11 he was a drummer in his father’s band.

In 1972 Rodney Crowell moved to Nashville. He was discovered by Jerry Reed, and soon had his first job as a songwriter.

Emmylou Harris recorded Rodney’s song “Bluebird Wine.”  Rodney accepted a position in Emmylou’s, The Hot Band. Rodney played guitar and sang backup vocals for Emmylou.

“Early on, Emmylou recorded three or four of my songs and had hits.”

Rodney Crowell

Crowell told Vanity Fair in a 2015 interview, about him spending an entire day writing a song that he wanted Emmylou Harris to record.

When the song was done, he went to her house, pulled out his guitar, and played her the song he made especially for her.

Emmylou rejected the song, saying to him, “That’s really nice, but man, I heard a demo for your song- ‘You’re Supposed to be Feeling Good,’ I want to record that.”

“That’s the only time I tried to write a song for somebody.”

Rodney Crowell

Rodney and Emmylou have been friends since the earliest days of their careers. Together, they received Album of the Year for, Old Yellow Moon and were named Group/Duo of the year in 2013.

In 2015, the duo again made music together, releasing The Traveling Kind.

Diamonds & Dirt, Rodney’s critically acclaimed album from 1988 produced five consecutive number one singles in 1988 and 89. His album in 1989, Keys to the Highway produced two top 5 hits.

Other songwriting success for Rodney Crowell in the last decade include top ten hits “Song For Life,” for Alan Jackson, “Making Memories of Us,” performed by Keith Urban, and “Please Remember Me,” recorded by Tim McGraw.

In 2003 Rodney Crowell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In 2006 Rodney won the “Lifetime Achievement award in Songwriting.”

In 2009 Rodney wrote “Sing.” It was released by Wynonna Judd on her album Sing:Chapter 1. It peaked at number four on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

It Ain’t Over Yet” written by Rodney, and featuring his ex, Rosanne Cash would become 2017’s song of the year. It is probably my favorite Rodney Crowell song of all time.

The sheer brilliance of Rodney’s lyrics in this song remind me of Rodney’s early beginnings with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.

I first fell in love with Rodney after hearing him perform on Guy Clark’s Heartworn Highways.

This song is a gift, so simple, so sweet so deep.

Rodney is truly a poet and a songwriting genius.

I hope and pray that we get more out of him before he leaves this old world.

I may be getting old, but it ain’t over yet. – It ain’t over yet Rodney, your music is going to live forever.

Pancho.

October 19 2020

Guitar Town

One of my favorite road songs is “Guitar Town.”

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.

Steve Earle

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”.

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.

Steve Earle

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.

Pancho.

September 18 2020

Waiting Around to Die

 “Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me” Echos loud in my mind. This electric Townes Van Zandt verse of a track that he originally recorded in an apartment closet sort of sums up his whole life. The songs title “Waiting around to die”

 Townes did die eventually and in my humble opinion way too soon.

 Townes was truly Texas Born and Texas Bred. His roots go back to a time before Texas was a state of the Union.  Van Zandts great grandfather Isaac Van Zandt served the Republic of Texas as ‘charge d’affaires’ to the United States, his appointment was by then President Sam Houston. When Isaac died in 1847 , he was seeking election for Governor in the newly created State of Texas. Van Zandt County near Dallas is named for him.

  Other Van Zandts were civic leaders. The Townes family built a dusty dangerous cow town into what is now the city of Ft. Worth. Townes own son , John Townes Van Zandt II said that his dad was being groomed into becoming a Texas lawyer, maybe even a senator. He attended the University of Colorado and later law school in Houston. His 1st wife called him a genius . In fact he was , with an IQ score higher than 140. However, Townes had other ideas, filling his college days with picking his guitar for fun and playing records of musicians like Lightnin Hopkins and Hank Williams. 

 Townes Van Zandt got his first guitar when he was only nine. A Christmas gift from his parents after they had seen Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. Later Townes would play that same guitar in the honky tonks of Houston, opening for the acts he once listened to on record. Lightning Hopkins, Guy Clark, and Jerry Jeff Walker. In an interview by Austin radio deejay Larry Monroe Townes told that after hearing Bob Dylan’s “The Times they are a Changing “ he knew that songwriting was what he wanted to do. 

  So write he did. Texas Monthly calls him the best Texas songwriter of all time. If you don’t believe that , ask Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, or Nanci Griffith. 

 Townes Van Zandt fought a long battle with his addictions and inner demons, he spent quite a few trips into treatment centers and sanitariums. His own mothers greatest guilt was to permit doctors to give Townes electro shock and the Belladonna treatment. After 3 failed marriages, and an unstable musical career Townes would die . In Smyrna Tennessee New Years Day 1997. The same way his hero Hank Williams Sr. had gained some angels wings on the New Year’s Day in 1953.