Browsing articles tagged with " Willie Nelson"
Mar
25

Jerrod Niemann Is No Willie or Waylon (A History Lesson)

March 25, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  29 Comments

jerrod_niemannTuesday was the release of Jerrod Niemann’s dumb new album High Noon, and before we’ve even had a chance to really delve into just how much of a mockery it makes of country music, Niemann’s already out there on the defensive, preaching to us how country “purists” really don’t know what the hell country music is all about, and how he’s just carrying on the traditions of Willie and Waylon by pushing the boundaries of the genre.

High Noon‘s first single “Drink To That All Night” drove country more in the direction of EDM than ever before, to the point where I’m not sure what’s country about it aside from the stupid, formulaic, country stereotyping lyrics. The second single from the album called “Donkey” promises to take this trend to a place many shades worse, and very well might go down as the worst song in the history of country music in this bear’s opinion—but that’s another story. A further perusing of High Noon‘s wares shows a lackluster effort of EDM and hip hop pandering veering towards a pop wasteland with little redeeming value afforded to distressed ears searching for any single reason why it shouldn’t be considered any more than some EDM/country mashup side project instead of a premier solo effort from an established country artist.

But that hasn’t stooped Jerrod Niemann from naming himself amidst country music’s Outlaw pioneers.

“When people think about country music, and they use the term ‘Traditional Country,’ they’re talking about something that has happened in the past,” Niemann tells Billboard. “But, when those songs were out currently, they were the freshest thing on the radio. Nobody was saying ‘Let’s go record traditional country.’ They just wanted to record music that meant something to them. Willie and Waylon were getting flack for being progressive at the time because they were mixing it with rock and the outlaw thing.”

Sorry Niemann, but that’s bullshit. Were there some voices saying that Willie and Waylon were pushing the boundaries of country music too far back in the day? Sure there were, and Saving Country Music has pointed this out before as well. But…

1) This had just as much to do with the fear people had of Willie and Waylon because they were shaking up the established Music Row system as it had anything to do with their music.

2) Willie & Waylon’s new take on country music was nowhere near outside the boundaries of country compared to what some artists are doing today. The musical equivalent to High Noon if Willie and Waylon would have done it would have been to cut straight up Disco records with country lyricism and called it country—and then thrown it back into the faces of critics before they even had a chance to raise a peep because Hank Williams was criticized too.

3) Oh an sorry Jerrod, but yes, Waylon and Willie did say, “Let’s go record traditional country.”

For example: What was Willie Nelson’s breakout album during the mid 70′s Outlaw era? Red Headed Stranger—the consensus pick by critics as the greatest country album of all time. What was the biggest single off of Red Headed Stranger, and really the only single of note from the album? It was a song called “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was a traditional country standard when Willie cut it. The song was written by Fred Rose, originally recorded by Roy Acuff in 1945—30 years before the release of Red Headed Stranger. It was also cut by Hank Williams in 1951, Ferlin Husky and Slim Whitman in 1959, and Bill Anderson in 1962 among others. Red Headed Stranger also had other classic country songs such as Eddy Arnold’s “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True” and a hymn called “Just As I Am” that get this Jerrod Niemann, was written in 1835, making it over 140 years old when Willie cut it. So saying that Willie didn’t say, “‘Let’s go record traditional country,” is completely bogus. One can make the argument that’s exactly what Willie said, and it resulted in arguably country music’s greatest contemporary work.

Meanwhile Waylon may have had a touch more rock in his sound compared to Willie or his other country artists of the time, but the backbone of his music was the steel guitar of country veteran Ralph Mooney, and Waylon was cutting songs like “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” and “Bob Wills Is Still The King” that paid homage to traditional country greats. Then take a look at the lineup of The Dripping Springs Reunion—the gathering that arguably put the power of Willie and Waylon on the map. It included Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, and other aging country greats that at the time were being forgotten by Music Row. Even as Willie and Waylon were rising in prominence, they were paying homage to the ones that came before them.

“I’ve always tried to respectfully add a few elements here and there,” Niemann tells Billboard. Are you kidding me? “Drink To That All Night,” Donkey,” and other offerings from Niemann’s High Noon aren’t respectful to anything but his label’s bottom line. Take a look at this video and tell me the non-country elements are just “here and there”:

The problem with Jerrod Niemann, the reason he’s even worse than many of his current pop country cohorts is because he knows better. I have no doubt Florida Georgia Line grew up listening to mixtapes with Hank Williams Jr. on one side, and Drake on the other. To Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain are classic country. But Jerrod Niemann is 34-years-old. He’s not trying to push limits, this is last ditch effort to get attention from the industry in a no hold’s barred, sellout move to secure his share of the fortune being made off the destruction of country music. And no matter how much he wants to be in front of this issue, how much he preaches falsehoods about how country music once was, he’s simply a sellout in a woman’s Ross Dress For Less discount bin hat—and certainly no progeny of Willie or Waylon.

Mar
25

Album Review – Johnny Cash’s “Out Among The Stars”

March 25, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  9 Comments

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I’m not certain that the impact of Johnny Cash getting dropped from the CBS/Columbia record label that had been his home for nearly 30 years has ever been fully appreciated. It truly was the end of an era, or the beginning of one depending on how you want to look at it. It stimulated a young Marty Stuart (an understudy of Cash) to get int the face of  Columbia executive, resulting in him eventually being ejected from the label. It made Merle Haggard tell Rick Blackburn, the man responsible for Cash’s firing, “You’re the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that you’re the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.” And it also meant that an entire, cohesive album from one of the most well-respected artists in the history of American music went unheard for 30 years after its original recording. This is the type of peril American music is put through at the hands of suits, that such a ridiculous, unintuitive aberration could transpire in the custody of one person’s art, especially the art of Johnny Cash.

Out Among The Stars is a difficult album to critique. Since it was originally crafted to be heard by the public some 30 years ago, with stylings and sensibilities more steeped in the country modes of that time, it’s hard to know how to calibrate your ear to this music. Compounding this problem is the information that some, or all of the tracks have been “fortified” by a team that included Marty Stuart, Buddy Miller and others to be more akin to what a modern ear might expect. Then you pile on top of all of that the fact that some of these songs like “She Used To Love Me A Lot” and “Out Among The Stars” have already wormed themselves into our brains with versions from other artists. It would not be fair to call Cash’s versions “cover” songs because of the way the timeline sits. They are simply Cash’s takes of contemporary tunes that were never heard because of the nature of this project. Nonetheless you can’t help but compare these “new” versions to the ones you’re more familiar with.

While you’re listening to Out Among The Stars, you almost feel like Marty McFly contemplating the strange space-time continuum this project puts you in, asking yourself, “Would the 1984 me like this? And do I like it now?” The mid 80′s was its own strange time in country music as well. Just listen to the introduction to Willie Nelson’s version of “Pancho & Lefty”. Johnny Cash amidst his recovery from drug addiction wasn’t the only one trying to find his compass; the entire genre of country was. The original Out Among The Stars sessions were produced by Billy Sherrill of all people—a producer known as one of the masterminds of the countrypolitan or Nashville Sound. As strange as it was for him to be working with Johnny Cash, at the same time he was working with wildman David Allan Coe, trying to revitalize Coe’s career as well. Billy Sherrill—one of the principles the Outlaws had risen up against—was now one of their brothers in arms. A strange time in country indeed.

johnny-cash-out-among-the-starsThen you take the emotional quotient of simply being able to hear the legendary voice of Johnny Cash again in completely unheard, studio-quality content, and it’s hard to hold onto any and all objectivity. Even if Out Among The Stars was a verbatim recitation of the Nashville Metropolitan phone book circa 1984, this album is a gift from beyond that any sane country music fan would dare not stare too long in the mouth.

The reason that Out Among The Stars became “lost,” and Johnny Cash got dropped from Columbia is because nobody knew what to do with him, including Johnny himself. In some respects, the song material on this album is somewhat indicative of this searching for direction. It is sort of the take of two Johnnys—one introspective, dark, and even disturbed at times, and the other the more “aw-shucks” Arkansas boy. Musically, whether the fault of Sherill or the super-team assembled to deal with the recordings in the present day, is where Out Among The Stars shows cohesion and confidence. Though some of the songs might be more fit for the 80′s country listener, the music throughout is timeless.

The somewhat cornpone and timecasted song “If I Told You Who It Was” is where the album most shows off it’s 80′s stripes, but Cash’s versions of “Out Among The Stars” and “She Used To Love Me A Lot”, the melancholic “Call Your Mother,” to the downright sadistic “I Drove Her Out Of My Mind” are right in the mode of classic Johnny Cash whose willing to delve deep into the darker side of life. These are balanced by the sweet and simple approach of songs like “Tennessee” that expires in an uplifting chorus signature to Billy Sherrill’s touch, and the sweet duets with June Carter “Don’t You Think It’s Come” and “Baby Ride Easy”. The organ/piano combination, combined with the fairly sappy lyrics of “After All” might make it the album’s most forgettable track, while “Rock & Roll Shoes” and the cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” with Waylon Jennings check in as the album’s most fun tunes.

Johnny Cash left music, and left the world behind at the top of his game, having been revitalized and resurrected in the public consciousness as the result of his American Recordings era, leaving the crowd wanting more as all great entertainers do. Though Out Among The Stars may not reach the high critical acclaim Cash set for himself in the last era of his career, it is a more than worthy offering allowing the Man in Black to once again live among us in our hearts and imaginations, leaving the listener ruminating on the historic accomplishments of a man whose musical accomplishments will never be equaled.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Out Among The Stars

Mar
19

Don Williams’ “Reflections” Reminds Us of What’s Important

March 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  21 Comments

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We hear it all the time. It pursues us throughout our daily lives. It seems to be one of the eternal lessons of life. Yet no matter how much we all believe in the message and take it into our hearts, it is amazing how easily we stray from taking time, slowing down, and appreciating the important things in life and living in the moment. Because no matter how much you tell yourself how paramount this is, there’s an endless world of priorities and distractions awaiting you on your phone, on your computer, and on your television. You can preach the virtues of slowing down all you want, but the best way to drive the message home is by example, and this is what the wise-minded, and golden-throated guru of classic country music Don Williams does on his new album Reflections.

The message wouldn’t have so much meaning behind it if it wasn’t so obvious Don Williams practices what he preaches. He had his day of moving and shaking in the music business (5 CMA Male Vocalist Trophies & seventeen #1′s to be exact), and when it was obvious that the industry had put him out to pasture, he didn’t shake his fists in anger or reconfigure his image to appeal to the younger generation. He was appreciative of the time he spent in the spotlight, and stepped back to rest on his laurels and re-evaluate his priorities. Even now that he’s re-ignited his career of sorts by releasing two albums in the last three years, it seems like he’s doing it only as a dabbler; to get the devil out of him so to speak, so that music doesn’t pursue him in his mind as he tries to relax and revel in his golden years.

don-williams-reflectionsThis is the attitude and approach that Reflections is recorded with—slow and easy—like Don told his wife, “I’ll be back for supper,” and then went out for an afternoon to cut an album of songs that he believes in and lives by every day. Then as producers, engineers, and label people labored to get this record ready for release, it was the farthest thing from Don’s mind as he takes a late breakfast and heads out fishing.

Where Reflections outdoes his 2012 album And So It Goes is in the song selection. Don Williams can sing anything and make it gold, and one of his greatest assets is being able to sing a song that performed by any other artist would come across as sappy, and make it somewhat cool and more universally appealing. But there’s a little bit of swagger, a little bit of grit in some the songs of Reflections, not necessarily in the words, but just in the attitude. Selecting a song from Townes Van Zandt in “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”, and from Merle Haggard in “Sing Me Back Home” which refers to Merle’s stint in prison, gives this album some gravel, despite the otherwise smooth and subdued approach of the music. Yet these two famous covers still sit well within the theme of the album of appreciating the small things in life.

Reflections is much more than just the easy listening country it may appear to be on the surface. It’s an album with a message, and leads by example. Instead of whining about the state of country music, it does something about it.

The laid back, gentle-of-mind ease drips from this album like the sweetness of sun-drenched dew. Sometimes it’s simply implied, and other times it’s directly spoken, like in the appreciative and well-written “Working Man’s Son” or the song that ties the entire theme of Reflections together, “Back To The Simple Things.” Enough can’t be said either about the Townes cover “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”. Like when Willie and Merle took “Pancho & Lefty” to another level, Don Williams’ touch on this song immortalized it, and in a different time it would have been a super hit.

Reflections is the album we needed right here, right now. Not just from the perspective of saving country music, but the perspective of saving ourselves from the overwhelming onslaught of ensnaring technologies that rob the preciousness from life.

Two guns up.

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Purchase Reflections from Sugar Hill Records

Preview & Purchase Tracks on Amazon

Mar
18

Up-And-Comer Eric Church Excited to Play Austin City Limits

March 18, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  39 Comments

eric-churchFor going on 40 years, Austin City Limits has been the one safe haven for substantive music performances on television, using the prestige of their program to lift up many artists worthy of a wider audience, but artists that are unfortunately not graced by the attention of mainstream radio. Originally established to be a visual companion to Jan Reed’s groundbreaking book Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock that set out to chronicle the formation and continued legacy of Austin’s music scene, and as a program that resides on public television, commercial concerns are an afterthought to Austin City Limits behind doing their duty to the local music community and shining a spotlight on undiscovered and deserving talent.

It is in this spirit that Austin City Limits has slated a scrappy young country music artist to appear during their latest season. Though you may have never heard of him, all that might change after he makes his Austin City Limits debut. His name is Eric Church, and despite only winning the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards for Album of the Year once, and having only sold roughly 3.5 million albums, the native North Carolinian has a promising future ahead of him, especially with ACL’s help.

“Since ‘Austin City Limits’ is a PBS program and their funding partially comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and from donations from viewers like you, they don’t have to worry as much about ratings and sponsors, and can reach down to give exposure to a deserving artist like Church,” says Eric Church representative Elizabeth Frankenfurter. “Though they have brought on big corporate sponsors over the last few years like Budweiser and Lexus, it’s clear with their selection of Church for the new season that corporate sponsorship concerns do not go into the selection of performing artists. If ‘Austin City Limits’ started selecting bigger names to showcase on their program, artists like Eric Church would be locked out of the opportunity to be presented to thousands of appreciative and attentive music fans that otherwise may not know about him.”

Eric Church joins other acts like Dave Matthews Band, Cheap Trick, Pearl Jam, Tim McGraw, and Radiohead that were thrusted into the public spotlight because of their Austin City Limits opportunity. “It’s such an honor for me to play on the same stage that Texas legends such as Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Wayne “The Train” Hancock have played,” a press release quoted Eric Church as saying, but a check of the Austin City Limits archive shows that despite their important status to Austin music, neither Ray Wylie Hubbard nor Wayne Hancock have been awarded their own Austin City Limits show like Eric Church.

Eric’s latest album release is called The Outsiders—a testament to his underdog status in the industry. Hopefully his Austin City Limits appearance puts this “outsider” on the inside track to success in country music.

Mar
17

South By Southwest 2014 In Pictures

March 17, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments

Saving Country Music was out and about Austin, TX and its outskirts over the past week or so as part of the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) gathering, pounding the pavement and looking for the next country music artist worthy of your ears that you may never otherwise hear about. In the coming months I look forward to taking some of these discoveries and sharing them with you. But in the meantime to tide you over, here are some pictures from last week’s festivities taken mostly by Charlie Ekstrom of Almost Out of Gas.

You can also read an in-depth account of our SXSW doings and see more pictures on Rhythms Magazine.


Willie Watson 

Founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show & amazing traditional country & folk artist. In Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX chapel.

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Mickey Raphael

Willie Nelson’s long-time harmonica player. At Luck, TX.

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Hurray For The Riff Raff

Alynda Lee Segarra from New Orleans. Fast-rising star on ATO Records with a primitive, Appalachian sound. In the chapel in Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX

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Lukas Nelson

Son of Willie. He did this three times in a row at one point, after playing the guitar with his teeth. At Luck, TX.

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The Defibulators

Brooklyn-based 7-piece rebellious country band that hosted the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase for the 6th year. Singers Bug Jennings from Ft. Worth and Erin Bru share a rambunctious moment. On East 6th Street.

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Tim Easton

Nashville-based sincere, storytelling songwriter. Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.

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The Cactus Blossoms

A genuine throwback to the days of close harmonies and a classic sound, indicative of the Louvin and Everly Brothers. At the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase, East 6th Street.

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Sam Doores of The Deslondes

Definitely a band to watch. Stripped-down, traditional country sound in a busking style from New Orleans. From the Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.

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Nikki Lane

Unique, offbeat country whose Dan Auerbach-produced album All or Nothin’ is coming out on New West Records May 6th. At Luck, TX.

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JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers

The former Legendary Shack Shakers frontman has taken what used to be a very primitive, acoustic jug band, and made into an original Dirt Daubers/Shack Shakers hybrid which has become the best of both worlds. At Brooklyn Country Cantina, East 6th Street.

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Shovels & Rope

Now one of the hottest bands in roots music, they give hope to all the other dirty, stripped-down bands of the roots world. One of the headliners on the main stage in Willie’s Luck, TX.

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American Aquarium

Southern rock revivalists featuring excellent songwriting. Their last album was produced by Jason Isbell. In the Luck, TX chapel.

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Sturgill Simpson

With the best shot I or anyone else could get with a contraband camera at this official showcase in the St. David’s Cathedral on 7th St. in downtown Austin. His last song landed him a standing ovation.

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Mar
12

Florida Georgia Line w/ Luke Bryan “This Is How We Roll” (A Rant)

March 12, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  124 Comments

**Warning: Heavy Language**

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Why are Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line standing in front of a big explosion? Because they’re fucking awesome, that’s why. And you probably don’t get that because you’re all old and shit and your pubes are probably gray and you think that country music should be Hank Williams played over and over again which is boring. Get over it. Country music has changed man, and there’s now redundant wallet chains, deep V-neck shirts with weird crap written on them, popped collars modeled with douchebag poses, and super awesome explosions for no reason. And we love it ’cause this is how we roll, yo!

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Like one of those stationary rides in the front of Wal-Mart for toddlers, “This Is How We Roll” makes a lot of noise, has a bunch of flashing lights, bumps up and down a little bit, but in the end, goes absolutely fucking nowhere. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers soundtrack has more sincerity, depth, and nutritional value than this explosion of diarrhea in country music’s bikini cut man briefs.

My first question about this song is why exactly is Luke Bryan on it aside from marketing? Exactly what value does he bring to this collaboration? The very first thing out of his sewer hole is, “We’re proud to be young,” which is ironic because the 37-year-old is wearing testosterone patches to help boost his “performance” so he can keep up with the kids two decades his junior on his most recent and increasingly age-inappropriate Spring Break album. Luke Bryan has descended into that creepy late 30′s uncle character sent with a group of 16-year-old girls to “chaperone” and spends the whole time working up the courage to ask his niece’s best friend to roleplay Miley Cyrus while the rest of the group heads down to the beach.

An environment of sexual perversion and sheer stupidity permeates “This Is How We Roll” and its respective video from stem to stern, including a scene near the start of the video with a dollop of hussies having consensual sex with a Kenworth. I sure hope these chicks have their Tetanus records in order. And then of course we have Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Florida Georgia Line riding on top of the semi like Teen Wolf, with the same display of doltishness and disconnect with self-awareness many mid 80′s movies like Teen Wolf were horrifically beset with.

And are the “words” to this “song” for serious? It sounds like the babbling of a toddler with its tongue cut out, or Buckwheat trying to order Thai food while fighting through the lingering paralysis of a massive stroke.

Yeah holla at yo boy if you need a ride
If you roll with me yeah you know we rollin’ high
Up on them 37 Nittos, windows tinted hard to see though
How fresh my baby is in the shotgun seat oh
Them kisses are for me though, automatic like a free throw
This life I live it might not be for you but it’s for me though

And is anybody else bothered by watching people hanging out in the back of a moving semi? Does it seem like fun to anyone to be locked in a cargo hold with no window to the outside world, especially with a bunch of douchebags running motorcycles inside and other dumb shit? How many smuggled immigrants have been sweated to their death or suffocated in similar scenarios? I’d hate to see them take their rolling party through the same border checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, TX that busted Willie and Snoop while singing about “you know we rollin’ high” and watch the jack boots down there sodomize the whole lot of them with government issued toilet plungers in a tireless search for contraband.

And poor Brian Kelley, the Doogie Houser looking dude from Florida Georgia Line. Once again he’s more buried in the mix than Hoffa, offering no real contribution to the band aside from helping with the head count to qualify them for the CMA and ACM’s “Duo of the Year” awards. But that doesn’t stop him from showcasing how bad he is at lip syncing while sporting a doltish grin and no-soul-having wannabee hip-hop gesticulations. Let’s face it, Florida Georgia Line is Tyler Hubbard. Brian Kelley is just in charge of holding Hubbard’s penis pump.

Then finally to make up for the lack of any true machismo or talent emanating from Florida Georgia Bryan whatsoever, they send the troika out to a motorcycle track to stand there and look awesome while explosions go off and people who actually have skill do tricks for the camera that the pairing can try and take credit for by proxy.

The worst “country” song ever? I don’t think so, partly because this is just par for the course from Florida Georgia Line, while other sellouts like Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw hypothetically know better. Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are such tenderfoots, they think classic country is Shania Twain. Still I think this song is positively shitty enough to be a colossal super hit. I predict huge things for this song, and anyone with half a brain or a full compliment of testicles to be pursued by its permeation of American culture for months to come.

Two guns way down!

Mar
10

Johnny Depp Joins Willie Nelson on Guitar in Austin

March 10, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  8 Comments

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This week in Austin, TX is one of the greatest confluences of talent that occurs annually, as stars of music and film converge on the Texas state capitol for festivities surrounding SXSW, or South by Southwest. Some people forget though that early March is also the time for Austin’s famous rodeo that features many big names in country music stopping in for performances, including Willie Nelson that graced the Austin rodeo stage Sunday night, and had a surprise band member with him incognito.

Actor, music lover, and armchair musician Johnny Depp, sporting a vest, round shades, a ripped canvas wide-brimmed hat, and his Danelectro guitar, sat in with Willie’s family band for the set Sunday night. He was simply introduced as “John,” and traded licks with Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson who was also sitting in with the band. Johnny played songs like “Good Hearted Woman” and “On The Road Again,” with most of the crowd unbeknownst who that was on the right of the stage.

As a guitar player, Johnny Depp is no slouch. He’s buddies with The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and appears on the singer’s first solo record. Depp also appears on numerous songs from Oasis, and was a member of the band ‘P’ that featured members of The Butthole Surfers, The Sex Pistols, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also appeared many times in movies and video playing guitar, contributed to many other songs and albums, and used to own The Viper Room music venue in L.A where Johnny Cash kicked off his American Recordings era.

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Mar
5

10 Badass Billy Joe Shaver Moments

March 5, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  35 Comments

billy-joe-shaverYou can’t go long talking about badasses in country music without bringing up the one, the only Billy Joe Shaver. Though he may have never received the recognition of Willie, Waylon, or even Coe or Paycheck, his influence is arguably just important. When you have Elvis cutting one of your songs, Willie Nelson calling you his favorite songwriter, have Bob Dylan name dropping you, and had none other than Waylon Jennings record an entire album of your work, there’s no doubt you’re a badass.

Here’s 10 Badass moments from Billy Joe Shaver.

 


1. Growing Up In Honky Tonks …. Literally

If Billy Joe Shaver is anything, he’s the real deal, and as cliché as it may sound, his life was like a country song if there ever was one. Shaver was born in Corsicana, TX, and his dad left his mom before he was even born. Left to fend for herself, Shaver’s mother would leave him with his grandmother in Corsicana so she could work in honky tonks in Waco, but sometimes the young, impressionable Shaver would accompany his mother to the big town.

For a while Shaver’s mom ran a Waco honky tonk called Green Gables. According to Waylon Jennings, “She was a good-looking woman, red-headed and tough, and it was a classic dive, a dance hall with sawdust on the floor, spittoons, and a piano in the corner.” Billy Joe would run around the place bumming nickels from soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, and by the time he got a little older was known as quite a dancer and ladies man. His whole Green Gables childhood experience was later recapped in the song “Honky Tonk Heroes” that became the title track of Waylon Jennings’ famous 1973 album featuring all Billy Joe Shaver songs except for one.


2. Getting Four Fingers Lopped Off At A Lumber Mill

billy-joe-shaver-fingersTalk about tough and gritty, Billy Joe Shaver has the scars to prove it. He didn’t get involved in music seriously until he was nearly 30, and it’s partly due to a lumber mill accident he suffered back in the 60′s when he severed off a good portion of two fingers and parts of two others when his right hand got hung up in a piece of machinery. A post-accident infection eventually made it even worse. Since Shaver was a right paw, it made him virtually worthless as a general laborer, and so he turned to music as a living.

According to Waylon Jennings, Shaver has a sense of humor about his missing digits.

“He was sitting on a bed one time playing guitar,” Waylon recalls. “And a guy who worked for me came in and said, ‘Billy Joe, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your fingers?’ Billy started glancing around and digging in his pocket. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘They were here just a while ago.’”


3. Hitchhiking to Los Angeles … and ending up in Nashville.

When Billy Joe Shaver decided to give country music a serious go, he got advice from old friend Willie Nelson to head out to Nashville. But Billy Joe Shaver didn’t listen, and instead decided to point his nose towards Los Angeles. Not having a car, and without any money for a bus, Billy Joe stood on the side of Interstate 10 in Texas, waiting for someone westward bound to pick him up. And he waited, and waited, and nobody stopped. Eventually Shaver got so frustrated, he switched over to the other side of the highway heading east. The first car that passed him stopped, picked him up, and took Shaver all the way to Memphis, TN. He then made his way to Nashville, where he soon had a job writing songs for $50 a week. The rest is history.

The experience was later recalled in part in the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Ride Me Down Easy”.


4. Threatening to Kick Waylon’s Ass If He Didn’t Record His Songs

Waylon Jennings decided to record an entire album of Billy Joe Shaver songs in 1973 called Honky Tonk Heroes, and that was the turning point in both men’s career. Waylon was finally flexing his creative freedom, and Billy Joe would forever be on the country music map. But it didn’t happen pretty. Bobby Bare introduced Shaver to Waylon and after Waylon heard “Ride Me Down Easy,” he fell in love with Shaver’s music and first floated the idea of recording an entire album of his songs. Later at the Dripping Springs Reunion in Texas, Waylon heard “Willie & The Wandering Gypsy,” and loved that one too. But for one reason or another, Billy Joe was always one step behind Waylon, even though Waylon insisted he loved Billy Joe’s songs and wanted to record them, it was beginning to look like it was never going to happen. At one point Billy Joe Shaver began to bug Waylon so bad, he reportedly offered Billy Joe $100 just to leave him alone.

“…I was always in a meeting or on another call or ‘not in.’” Waylon recalls. “This went on for months….He caught me one night at RCA recording. ‘I got these songs,’ he said, ‘and if you don’t listen to them, I’m going to kick your ass right here in front of everybody.”

“He could have been killed there and then by some of my friends lining the walls,” Waylon continues. “But I took Billy Joe in a back room and said, ‘Hoss, you don’t do things like that. I’m going to listen to one song, and if it ain’t no good, I’m telling you goodbye. We ain’t never going to talk again.’ Billy played me ‘Old Five and Dimers,’ and then kept on going. He had a whole sackful of songs, and by the time he ran out of breath, I wanted to record all of them.”


5. Being The Father of Eddie Shaver

The name may not ring a bell to you right off the bat, but for those familiar know that Billy Joe Shaver’s son was one of the best country music shredders to ever fill the spot. Aside from being his father’s right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakam’s guitar player for the first two years.

It’s only because of Eddie’s untimely death that he’s not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.


6. Surviving the Death of His Mother, Wife, and Son In a Very Short Period

Shaver has been tested many times in his life and suffered through some rough patches, but few have suffered through what shaver did near the turn of the Century. In 1999, Billy Joe Shaver lost both his mother, Victory, and his wife, Brenda, to Cancer. The next year is when his son, guitar player, and right hand man Eddie Shaver died of a heroin overdose. It was a very dark period for Shaver, and it became even darker when he was performing at Gruene Hall in Texas on Independence Day in 2001 and suffered a massive heart attack on stage. Shaver nearly died, and had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.

But he soldiered on, releasing a new album called Freedom’s Child in 2002.


7. Shooting A Man in Self Defense at Papa Joe’s (“Where Do You Want It?”)

Shooting a man in the face could be either very badass, or not badass at all depending on how you look at it. But when you take into account Billy reportedly did it in self-defense and was so found by a jury of his peers and acquitted of all charges, it’s hard not to include the story here, especially seeing how the whole incident inspired its own famous song.

On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in a saloon called Papa Joe’s in Waco, TX drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaver’s drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” while brandishing a small handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, “Why do you want to do this?” to Coker, but either way, eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face.

The news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it. “We were making jokes about what kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joe’s that’s been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.

Billy Coker’s wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall as a character witnesses. Dale Watson wrote “Where Do You Want It?”, but Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Dale’s blessing. Dale later cut it on his album El Rancho Azul. Willie Nelson also wrote a song about the incident called, “I Want My Bullet Back.”


8. Singing the Opening Theme to The Squidbillies

When Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim launched a series about anthropomorphic hillbilly squids living in the Appalachian portion of Georgia, who better to contract for the theme song than Billy Joe Shaver? The song itself is actually called “Warrior Man.”


9. Being Deemed a Hero by Willie Nelson

Long-time friend Willie Nelson has never turned his back on Billy Joe, even in his darkest hour. When Billy Joe was accused of shooting a man in Waco, Willie offered himself up as a character witness. Willie has called Billy Joe Shaver his favorite songwriter. A couple of years ago Willie offered his services up to cut a duet with Billy Joe called “Wacko from Waco.” And Willie proved his love and loyalty for his long-time friend on his 2012 comeback album on Sony called Heroes. The default title track of the album “Hero” not only features Billy Joe Shaver, but is about Billy Joe Shaver and how it seems he’s been forgotten by time.

-


10. Being The Most Badass Country Music Performers in His 70′s

If you have seen Billy Joe Shaver perform recently, you know what I mean. And if you have never seen Billy Joe Shaver perform, you better get on it.

At 74, with a replaced knee, bum shoulder, and quadruple bypass, Billy Joe Shaver comes out kicking, punching, gesticulating like crazy, putting on one of the best, most-energetic country music shows from a performer of any age. It isn’t one of those shows with a solitary spotlight shone on a stool at stage center, it is full tilt country rock, rowdy and rambunctious, fueled by one of the best young bands you will find backing up a legend.

 

Mar
5

Darius Rucker Compares Luke Bryan & Eric Church to Willie & Waylon

March 5, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  92 Comments

darius-rucker-002Former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman turned country artist Darius Rucker was on sports personality Dan Patrick’s radio show Tuesday (3-4), and had some interesting things to say about who the new torch bearers are for country music’s Outlaw legacy. Outlaw artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, and Johnny Paycheck shook up the country music world in the mid 70′s by re-instituting a harder country sound and taking back control of their music, and now according to Darius Rucker and Dan Patrick, the new Willie and Waylon is Luke Bryan and Eric Church.

The Darius Rucker interview starts out with Dan Patrick giving some playful ribs to Rucker about his lack of country music bad boy credentials. “I mentioned at the end of last hour that, you know, Luke Bryan’s the new bad boy, and Eric Church is the new bad boy in country,” said Patrick. “Darius Rucker can’t be a bad boy ’cause he was the lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish. Right? No matter what …. How can you be a bad boy? You know you can’t be Tim [McGraw], you can’t be Hank Williams. You know, you were Hootie & The Blowfish.”

“That’s funny but true,” Rucker responds, laughing. “You’re absolutely right. I’m always going to be country lite, there’s nothing I can do about that … Brad [Paisley]‘s not a bad boy. Rascal Flatts, they’re not bad boys. Not everyone can be a bad boy. You know, that’s cool.”

Then Dan Patrick asks, “But there’s so much money in country now that can you be a bad boy and be crazy like Waylon and Willie used to be?”

“Yeah man, we’ve still got those guys,” Rucker says. “You know, Jamey Johnson, he’s a bad boy that’s for sure, and he’s doing well. You know, like you said Luke and Eric, Eric’s probably the closest we got to Waylon & Willie I think.”

-
This was not the first time Darius Rucker has made interesting statements on the Dan Patrick Show. In November of 2013, Darius said on the show that he thought he deserved a Grammy nomination for his cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show / Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel” or quote “country music’s screwed.” Dan Patrick and Darius Rucker are good friends, going back to the time when Darius was winning Grammy Awards with Hootie & The Blowfish.

You can see the entire interview below.

Feb
14

Willie Nelson & Alison Krauss Headline Landmark Tour

February 14, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  37 Comments

willie-nelson-2Nothing gets my motor running more than established talent giving worthy up-and-comers a hand up, and rising stars helping to introduce legendary talent to a new generation of fans. This is the way country music is supposed to be—spanning generations and cross-pollinating fans bases to create a healthy environment of support. And an upcoming, nationwide, early summer tour is scheduled to do that very thing.

Willie Nelson and his legendary Family Band, Alison Krauss with her legendary Union Station band including Jerry Douglas, are scheduled to embark on a 35-date tour running from May 1st to July 18th, supported at various whistle stops by the critically-acclaimed Jason Isbell, the recently Grammy-decorated Kacey Musgraves, and country punk pioneers Devil Makes Three. This will be a lineup not to miss….unless you’re in Texas or California.

May 1               Murray, KY                   CFSB Center/Murray State University*
May 2               Atlanta, GA                  Chastain Park Amphitheatre *
May 3               Knoxville, TN               Thompson Boling Arena*
May 4               Cary, NC                       Koka Booth Amphitheatre*
May 6               St. Augustine, FL        St. Augustine Amphitheatre*
May 8               Daniel Island, SC         Family Circle Cup Stadium*
May 9               Simpsonville, SC         Charter Amphitheatre*
May 10             Greensboro, NC           White Oak Amphitheatre*
May 11             Huntington, WV           Big Sandy Superstar Arena*
May 13             Roanoke, VA                Roanoke Civic Center*
May 14             Columbus, OH              Schottenstein Center*
May 16             Nashville, TN                The Woods at Fontanel*
May 17             Birmingham, AL            BJCC*
May 18             Augusta, GA                 James Brown Arena*
June 5              Southaven, MS             Snowden Grove Amphitheater #
June 6              Louisville, KY               Waterfront Park+
June 7              Lewiston, NY                Artpark #
June 8              Bethel, NY                     Bethel Woods Center For the Arts #
June 10            New York, NY                Radio City Music Hall #
June 13            Philadelphia, PA           Mann Center #
June 14            Columbia, MD               Merriweather Post Pavilion
June 15            Simsbury, CT                Simsbury Meadows #
June 17            Boston, MA                   Blue Hills Bank Pavilion #
June 19            Bangor, ME                   Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion #
June 20            Gilford, NH                    Bank of NH Pavillion at Meadowbrook #
June 21            Canandaigua, NY         CMAC Performing Arts Center #
July 6               Kansas City, MO           Starlight Theatre ~
July 7               Rogers, AR                   Arkansas Music Pavilion ~
July 9               Oklahoma City, OK       Zoo Amphitheatre ~
July 11             Council Bluffs, IA         Harrah’s Stir Cove~
July 12             Chicago, IL                    Ravinia Festival~
July 13             Detroit, MI                      Freedom Hill~
July 15             Rama, ON                       Casino Rama
July 17             Interlochen, MI              Kresge Auditorium~
July 18             Toledo, OH                    Toledo Zoo

*The Devil Makes Three
# Kacey Musgraves
~ Jason Isbell
+ The Wild Feathers

Feb
9

Willie Nelson Had It Right About Russia & the Olympic Rings

February 9, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  5 Comments
Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

Bruce Bennett – Getty Images

The Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia have been much maligned for being unprepared, behind schedule, and a potential security risk to athletes and patrons alike as the host country worked feverishly to finish important infrastructure before the beginning of the games. The hilarity of double-bowled toilet stalls, and the not-so-funny matter of stray dogs being killed in droves was capped during the Opening Ceremony Friday night when the five Olympic rings were relegated to four and a misappropriated snowflake showed up during an important segment of the presentation. Though the rest of the evening went off without a hitch, the missing link has come to symbolize Russia’s mishandling of their Olympic duties.

Interesting enough, an old photo of Willie Nelson on a golf course has surfaced, with the country legend wearing a T-shirt with a corresponding missing link, and the caption, “Let the Russians play with themselves,” leaving some wondering if along with all of Willie’s other esoteric powers, divination is a gift he possesses.

More than likely though, it is simply an artifact of its time. The photo was taken in 1984 during the height of the Cold War when the year’s Summer Olympics came to symbolize the global struggle between the two super powers of the United States and the USSR. In 1980, the United States led a boycott of the Summer Olympics held in Moscow, and in 1984, the USSR returned the favor by boycotting the Olympics in Los Angeles. Willie was just showing off his patriotic spirit in 1984 in a T-shirt commemorating the boycott, while enjoying one of his favorite pastimes.

Nonetheless, it’s a cool little piece of Outlaw country music history.

willie-nelson-olymic-ring

Originally the photo was taken by The Associated Press. It was published by the Willie Nelson blog Still Is Still Moving in April of 2013, and attributed to The Houston Chronicle.

Feb
7

10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments

February 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  64 Comments

merle-haggard-001Merle. The Hag. Of all the country music greats, Merle’s story might be the most symbolic of the American experience: from growing up in California as the son of Okie parents during The Depression, to spending time in prison, to becoming a rags to riches story. His legacy is sometimes overshadowed by his peers like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, whose influence has spread much farther than country’s borders. But when it comes to influencing country music itself, few this side of Hank Williams can say they’ve left a bigger footprint.

Here’s 10 moments that make Merle Haggard one of country music’s most preeminent badasses.

 


1. Being Born In A Boxcar

Merle's converted boxcar home. bakersfieldcalifornian-com

Merle’s boxcar home after his father slowly converted it into a house. bakersfieldcalifornian.com

Now if that ain’t country….

James Francis and Flossie Mae Haggard moved from Oklahoma during The Depression after their barn burned down in 1934, and settled in an apartment in Bakersfield with Merle’s two older siblings Lowell and Lillian. Merle’s father got a job working for the Santa Fe Railroad as a carpenter, and soon went to work converting a boxcar parked on a piece of land in Oildale, CA, just outside of Bakersfield that eventually became the family’s homestead. Merle Haggard was born in that boxcar on April 6, 1937. The Haggard’s eventually purchased the land around the boxcar, and expanded it to include two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a breakfast nook.


2. Telling Off A CBS Records Executive for Firing Johnny Cash

merle-haggard-kern-riverIn 1985 Merle released the song “Kern River” and it reached #10 on the country charts. But if it was up to CBS Records executive Rick Blackburn, the song would have never been recorded at all. Blackburn hated the song, and apparently went out of his way to tell Merle as much at every opportunity he had. Then at some point, Merle had enough. Blackburn mouthed off to Merle about it, and Merle lost it.

“That’s about the third time you’ve told me that.” Haggard said, “It’s more like five times. Well, I’m about five times short of telling you to go to hell.”

Then Haggard continued:

“Who do you think you are? You’re the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that you’re the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.”


3. Watching Johnny Cash Play at San Quentin Prison

Johnny Cash’s most famous prison appearances were in 1968 and 1969 at the Folsom State Prison and San Quentin Prison, but these concerts weren’t the first time Johnny Cash played at a correctional institution. His first ever was New Years Day 1958 at San Quentin in California, and a 20-year-old Merle Haggard was in the audience. After a few other run-ins with the law, being arrested for the first time at age 11,  and after having participated in multiple of jailbreaks (see below), Merle Haggard got sentenced to 15 years for burglary in 1957 to the notorious California lockup. He was just 18.

Merle ended up only serving two years of his sentence though, in part because the Johnny Cash concert changed his life. At the time, Haggard was conspiring with his cell mate “Rabbit” on an escape plan, but Merle’s fellow cell mates convinced him he had a brighter future in country music. Rabbit eventually did escape, killed a cop, and ending back at San Quentin on Death Row.

“He had the right attitude,” Merle recalls of Johnny Cash;s appearance. “He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”


4. Escaping From Jail 17 Times

That’s right. As impossible as that sounds, this is what Merle Haggard claims. His criminal record over the years has been a source of much debate about just how hardened the young Merle was. More than likely most of his crimes were quite petty hooliganism stuff, and were bred out of growing up and not having a father to keep him in line, and not having any money and resorting to stealing for his daily bread. But apparently he became pretty adept at giving the local jailers the slip, and that’s why he eventually ended up at San Quentin.

“I was scared to death,” Merle recalls. “I was just 19 at the time, and I’d already been in a lot of jails. San Quentin is the last place you go. I wasn’t really that bad a guy. They just couldn’t hold me anywhere else. I escaped 17 different times, so they sent me there because I was an escape risk. When I walked out on the grounds of San Quentin, I was scared. I was there two years and nine months.”


5. Recording Tribute Albums to Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills

merle-haggard-same-trail-different-time-jimmie-rodgersIt’s one thing to record a tribute album to one of the greats of country music’s past. It’s another to do it at the height of your professional career when your talent and attention could be more financially lucrative elsewhere.

After landing his first #1 hits “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Branded Man,” and before releasing his big 1969 hits “Workin’ Man Blues” and “Okie From Muskogee,” Merle Haggard released the 1969 LP Same Train, A Different Time: A Tribute to Jimmie Rodgers — a massive, two-record tome of 25 Jimmie Rodgers songs recorded to critical acclaim. The project took a total of 6 months to complete and is given credit for a revitalization of interest in the Singing Brakeman’s career.

Same could be said for Bob Wills, when Merle made time to record and release A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World the very next year. Even more cool, Merle rustled up the last 6 remaining members of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys—Johnny Gimble, Alex Brashear, Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, and Joe Holley—to participate in the record along with Haggard’s backing band The Strangers.


6. Kicking Cancer’s Ass

Merle Haggard was diagnosed with lung Cancer in May of 2008. Not wanting to make a big deal or publicity stunt out of the matter, he kept it hush hush. On November 3rd, 2008, Haggard had surgery to remove part of the upper lobe of his right lung that had a lemon-sized tumor growing on it. Five days later, he finally spilled the beans to the public about his diagnosis and treatment. Merle had been a smoker early in his life, and had quit cigarettes in 1991, and marijuana in 1995. But doctors said smoking had nothing to do with Merle’s condition.

How did Haggard pull through? Less than two months later he was playing shows at The Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. “I feel like I’ve extended my life,” Merle said at the time. “I’m in better shape than when I went in.”


7. The “Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn” Protest Song

Merle Haggard has written and recorded many politically-charged songs over his career spanning both sides of the isle. From his conservative-leaning anthems like “Fighting Side of Me” and “Okie From Muskogee” (though he’s said this song was written to be a somewhat humorous portrait), to the more recent anti-war song “America First.” But “Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn” might be his crowning, politically-charged moment.

Incensed by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow flag burning under the First Amendment, Merle penned this controversial tune in 1989 and tried to release it, but his label CBS Records refused. So Merle, determined to have the song see the light of day, bought himself out of the stipulations of his CBS contract simply so he could release the song. And just so nobody was confused of where Merle’s heart was in the matter, he gave all the proceeds from the song to the Disabled Veterans of America.


8. Recording Pancho & Lefty with Willie Nelson 

Merle Haggard isn’t known especially for being a legendary duet partner, but when he paired up with Willie Nelson in 1983 to record Pancho & Lefty whose title track is the famous Townes Van Zandt song, a strange magic ensued. The song “Pancho & Lefty” went straight to #1, and so did the album. It also launched another Top 10 hit, “Reasons to Quit,” written by Haggard. Willie & Merle went on to be named the Vocal Duo of the Year by the CMA in 1983.


9. Helping to Define The Bakersfield Sound

As the bean counters on Music Row out in Nashville decided that for country music to survive, strings and choirs needed to be added, and that they needed to “refine” the sound of this rural art form to appeal to older audiences, the country music rebels out in California said “screw that” and we’re slinging their telecasters around, playing way too loud, and pushing boundaries. Right beside Buck Owens at the forefront of this movement was Merle Haggard with his hard-driving, hard-edged sound, embellished by Ralph Mooney’s blaring steel guitar.

Not only did The Bakersfield Sound keep Nashville’s “Countrypolitan” in check, it also showed many of Bakersfield’s rock and roll neighbors in places like LA and San Francisco that country music could be cool, and next thing you know you have bands like The Byrds and The Grateful Dead cutting country records.


10. Recording 38 #1 Hits… 38 OF THEM!!!

  1. “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” (1966)
  2. “Branded Man” (1967)
  3. “Sing Me Back Home” (1968)
  4. “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” (1968)
  5. “Mama Tried” (1968)
  6. “Hungry Eyes” (1969)
  7. “Workin’ Man Blues” (1969)
  8. “Okie from Muskogee” (1969)
  9. “The Fightin’ Side of Me” (1970)
  10. “Daddy Frank” (1971)
  11. “Carolyn” (1971)
  12. “Grandma Harp” (1972)
  13. “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” (1972)
  14. “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me” (1972)
  15. “Everybody’s Had the Blues” (1973)
  16. “If We Make It Through December” (1973)
  17. “Things Aren’t Funny Anymore” (1974)
  18. “Old Man from the Mountain” (1974)
  19. “Kentucky Gambler” (1974)
  20. “Always Wanting You” (1975)
  21. “Movin’ On” (1975)
  22. “It’s All in the Movies” (1975)
  23. “The Roots of My Raising” (1975)
  24. “Cherokee Maiden” (1976)
  25. “Bar Room Buddies” (with Clint Eastwood) (1980)
  26. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” (1980)
  27. “My Favorite Memory” (1981)
  28. “Big City” (1981)
  29. “Yesterday’s Wine” (with George Jones) (1982)
  30. “Going Where the Lonely Go” (1982)
  31. “You Take Me for Granted” (1982)
  32. “Pancho and Lefty” (with Willie Nelson) (1983)
  33. “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1983)
  34. “Someday When Things Are Good” (1984)
  35. “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room” (1984)
  36. “A Place to Fall Apart” (with Janie Frickie) (1984)
  37. “Natural High” (1985)
  38. “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star” (1987)

Feb
6

The Time Red Sovine Pondered Killing Waylon & Willie

February 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  15 Comments

Red-SovineOkay, Red Sovine only pondered killing Waylon and Willie in hyperbole and sarcasm. In fact by all accounts this succulent little lost country classic was written and recorded as a tribute to the success of the two Outlaw country music greats. And as one of the very last recordings trucker song overlord Red Sovine ever made, and one that was released in a much more straight-laced time in country music when its genius may have been lost on most, it only seems fair to resurrect it now and shine a spotlight on it for our listening enjoyment.

The song is called “The Waylon & Willie Machine,” and its wise-ass take on the two Texan’s success speaks to just how big Waylon & Willie were back in the mid to late 70′s. The song was originally written and recorded by country and rockabilly artist Marvin Rainwater with co-writer Max D. Barnes (George Jones’ “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” and Waylon’s “Drinkin’ and Dreamin’” just to name a few). Marvin Rainwater recorded the song with Jesse Fletcher on the very small “Okie” imprint at some point in the late 70′s (listen below), but very few 7″ copies were made.

Then Red Sovine got a hold of it in 1979 and released it on a 45 himself through Gusto Records, with Colorado Cool Aid on the flip side. Sovine’s would become the definitive version … if there was one. The song never made it on an album (Sovine passed away on April 4th, 1980 of a heart attack), and it was never released properly as a single, probably because it would be misunderstood by DJ’s and listeners alike. But listening to it now some 35 years later, the entertainment value hasn’t waned, but grown better with age.

Jan
28

Willie, Kris, & Merle Working on Musketeers Album

January 28, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  14 Comments

willie-nelson-kris-kristofferson-merle-haggardAt the 56th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, country legends Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard performed a medley of songs together along with Blake Shelton, with the occasion being Kris Kristofferson receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and having his first self-titled album inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. But this grouping wasn’t accidental, or an augmented version of the supergroup The Highwaymen that Willie and Kris were once a part of with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

A long-planned, and even longer-rumored album and grouping of Willie, Merle, and Kris called “The Musketeers” has been in the works for years. Saving Country Music first reported on the potential supergroup in January of 2011 when the three men were assembled as part of Merle Haggard’s recognition by the Kennedy Center Honors. Haggard told Rolling Stone at the time:

We got to eat a little something together. We didn’t know what the hell this food was, but we thought it was funny. We (Merle and Willie) talked about doing that together, but with the presence of Kris, we talked about the three of us doing it. I’m sure if we’re healthy and live to do it, we’ll do it. We thought about the title: the Musketeers. You know, because there’s the three of us. We’ll come up with some little way of describing ourselves I guess and put it together into a show.

“The Musketeers” might just be a placeholder for the eventual name, but apparently the three Country Music Hall of Famers are still serious about the idea, and are working on music. When asked by Billboard before The Grammy Awards if a collaboration between the three men could be in the offing, Willie Nelson responded, “We’re working on one now.” When asked when fans could expect something, and if it could be this year, Willie responded, “As soon as we get it together. Could be.”

Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson have toured together in an acoustic show numerous times since 2009, and Willie Nelson worked with Merle Haggard in 2007 on the album Last of The Breed. Willie and Merle also collaborated on the Townes Van Zandt classic “Pancho & Lefty.”

Finally stimulating The Musketeers to go from talk to actual tracks might be the recent revelation from Kris Kristofferson that he’s beginning to experience memory issues.

Jan
26

Jason Isbell Got Screwed: A 56th Grammy Awards Preview

January 26, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  41 Comments

56th-grammy-awards-2014

CHECK OUT OUR GRAMMY LIVE BLOG

THE 56th ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS

When: 7 PM Central, 8 PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific on CBS.

Where: The Stapes Center, Los Angeles, CA.

Host: LL Cool J

THINGS TO WATCH FOR

More Traditional Country Than One Might Expect

• Though the Grammy Awards are all-encompassing, there will be quite a bit of country, including classic country on the night with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson scheduled to perform. Just like we saw with the CMA Awards in November, there is a renewed push to at least include something for classic country’s often-overlooked fans. There will also be a tribute to the recently-passed Phil Everly. See a complete list of the country performances below.

Kacey Musgraves To Push Boundariesagain.

• Similar to the CMA Awards, Kacey Musgraves will be performing her song “Follow Your Arrow.” At the CMA’s, the line “roll up a joint” was censored by ABC. We’ll see if CBS follows suit. She is also up for Best Country Album, Best Country Song for “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the all-genre Best New Artist. With her status as a critic’s favorite, and the propensity for the Grammy Awards to traditionally be more about artistic appeal than commercial success, Kacey should at least be considered a strong nominee, at least for the country awards. The 56th Grammy Awards could be where the Kacey Musgraves experiment sticks if she walks away with the top prizes.

THE COUNTRY PERFORMANCES

Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton will all perform a medley of songs together (which one of these things is not like the others?). The performance will begin with Willie and Kris singing the Jimmy Webb-penned song “The Highwayman.” Then all the men will sing a version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and end with Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”

Miranda Lambert & Billie Joe Armstrong will perform a Everly Brothers tribute. Phil Everly recently passed away, and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day recently released a tribute album to the brother duo with Norah Jones. No word why Miranda is the duet partner and not Norah.

Kacey Musgraves will reportedly be performing her current single “Follow Your Arrow” that had the “roll up a joint” line censored by ABC during the CMA Awards in November.

Hunter Hayes will be performing a brand new anti-bullying single called “Invisible.”

Taylor Swift is rumored to be performing “All Too Well.”

Keith Urban will be performing with John Legend in a salute to the Beatles.

Hunter Hayes, Zac Brown, and Martina McBride will be award presenters.

See the list of the non-country performances below.

SPECIAL AWARDS

These awards have already been given out as part of The Grammy Award’s per-televised events.

Kris Kristofferson was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kris Kristofferson‘s first, self-titled album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Dolly Parton‘s song “Jolene” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

 

COUNTRY AWARD NOMINEES & PREDICTIONS

The most shocking story of this Grammy Awards season was the snub of Jason Isbell from even being nominated for the Americana Album of the Year. This is a perfect example that the Grammy community is very much on the outside looking in when it comes to country music, especially the sub-genres like Americana and bluegrass.

At the same time, The Grammy Awards have a better history of picking artists based on their artistic merit as opposed to their commercial success. Remember it was the Grammy Awards that recognized Johnny Cash’s comeback during his American Recordings years when the country music industry was still ignoring him. Similarly the Grammy Awards tend to vote more down political lines, like when they recognized The Dixie Chicks after their blackballing from country music. This all sets up well for an artist like Kacey Musgraves.

The Grammy Awards are notoriously hard to predict, but I’ll do my best.

Best Country Album

I see this as a two horse race. Though the women of country are such underdogs these days, Kacey Musgraves as the critical favorite, and Taylor Swift as the commercial favorite, have to be considered the likely winners. There’s an outside chance for Blake Shelton because of his high profile from The Voice, but he would be an upset. Aldean & McGraw have no chance. In the end I think Swift will take it, but don’t rule out Kacey.

  • Jason Aldean, Night Train
  • Tim McGraw, Two Lanes of Freedom
  • Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park – Other Potential Winner
  • Blake Shelton, Based on a True Story…
  • Taylor Swift, Red – Winner

 

Best Country Solo Performance

Probably a race between ‘I Drive Your Truck” that won the CMA, or Darius Rucker’s version of ‘Wagon Wheel.’ Outside chance again for Blake Shelton because he’s so well-known, and there will be pressure to give him something. Understand this award is mainly for the performance, not the song. But if ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ wins, it would be a noteworthy win for songwriters Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark, and if ‘Wagon Wheel’ wins, for Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, and Bob Dylan. Remember when Darius Rucker said he better be nominated or “Country Music’s Screwed“?

  • Lee Brice, ‘I Drive Your Truck’ – Winner 
  • Hunter Hayes, ‘I Want Crazy’
  • Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’
  • Darius Rucker, ‘Wagon Wheel’ – Other potential Winner
  • Blake Shelton, ‘Mine Would Be You’

 

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

The Civil Wars have been Grammy darlings in the past, and may still win despite the band dissolving last year. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton would be the sentimental vote, but they should be considered a long shot. We may see Scott Borchetta assert his power here and have ‘Highway Don’t Care’ walk away with the hardware. It is cool to see a lot of good country names in this category, including Vince Gill. This is a very hard one to pick.

  • The Civil Wars, ‘From This Valley’ – Other potential Winner
  • Kelly Clarkson feat. Vince Gill, ‘Don’t Rush’
  • Little Big Town, ‘Your Side of the Bed’
  • Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban, ‘Highway Don’t Care’ – Winner
  • Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton, ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’ – Other potential Winner

 

Best Country Song

Another wide open field. Lee Brice once again has to be thought of as a front runner, but this very well may be Kacey Musgraves’ moment. This win would arguably mean more to her than any other nominee. And remember, Kacey and Brandy Clark also win if Mama’s Broken Heart’ is ultimately selected. I don’t really see Taylor Swift or Blake Shelton having a chance with this one.

  • Taylor Swift, ‘Begin Again’
  • Lee Brice, ‘I Drive Your Truck’ – Other potential Winner 
  • Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’
  • Kacey Musgraves, ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ – Winner 
  • Blake Shelton, ‘Mine Would Be You’

 

All Genre Awards

  • Taylor Swift’s Red is the sole country album up for Album of the Year, and it is my pick for the winner. The other strong contender would be Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
  • Kacey Musgraves is up for Best New Artist, but it is hard to see her outlasting Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, or Ed Sheeran.

 

AMERICANA & BLUEGRASS NOMINEES

Once again the Americana genre is saddled by its very narrow perspective in nominees. And except for Sarah Jarosz, they are all older artists this year. Compare this with last year when John Fullbright, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, and The Lumineers were all nominees. The Americana nominees really show how much the Mumford backlash took root, and how that was very much last year’s trend. Jason Isbell got completely screwed, and so did many other deserving artists.

Not going to make any predictions for these awards because they are all wide open fields. Anybody could win here. These awards will be given away before the televised portion of the awards, so check the Saving Country Music LIVE blog for winners.

***UPDATE – In the pre-televised Grammy presentation….

  • The Grammy for Best American Roots Song went to Edie Brickell and Steve Martin for “Love Has Come For You“.
  • The Grammy for Best Americana Album went to Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell for “Old Yellow Moon“.
  • The Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album went to Streets of Baltimore from the Del McCoury Band.
  • And the Grammy for Best Folk Album went to My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark.

Best Americana Album

  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell — Old Yellow Moon
  • Steve Martin & Edie Brickell — Love Has Come For You
  • Buddy Miller And Jim Lauderdale — Buddy And Jim
  • Mavis Staples — One True Vine
  • Allen Toussaint — Songbook

 

Best Bluegrass Album

  • The Boxcars — It’s Just A Road
  • Dailey & Vincent — Brothers Of The Highway
  • Della Mae — This World Oft Can Be
  • James King — Three Chords And The Truth
  • Del McCoury Band — The Streets Of Baltimore

 

Best Folk Album

  • Guy Clark — My Favorite Picture Of You
  • The Greencards — Sweetheart Of The Sun
  • Sarah Jarosz — Build Me Up From Bones
  • The Milk Carton Kids — The Ash & Clay
  • Various Artists; Chris Strachwitz, producer — They All Played For Us: Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary Celebration

 

Best American Roots Song

  • “Build Me Up From Bones”
    • Sarah Jarosz, songwriter (Sarah Jarosz)
  • “Invisible”
    • Steve Earle, songwriter (Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses))
  • “Keep Your Dirty Lights On”
    • Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott, songwriters (Tim O’Brien And Darrell Scott)
  • “Love Has Come For You”
    • Edie Brickell & Steve Martin, songwriters (Steve Martin & Edie Brickell)
  • “Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed”
    • Allen Toussaint, songwriter (Allen Toussaint)

     

OTHER GRAMMY PERFORMERS

  • Beyonce and Jay Z will open the show with “Drunk In Love.”
  • Gary Clark, Jr.
  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • Sara Bareilles featuring Carole King
  • Daft Punk featuring Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams
  • Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons
  • Lorde
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Madonna
  • Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr
  • Metallica featuring Lang Lang
  • Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham
  • Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
  • Pink featuring Nate Ruess
  • Robin Thicke featuring Chicago
Jan
24

The “Old Farts & Jackasses” Phenomenon 1 Year Later

January 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  36 Comments

old-farts-and-jackassesOne year ago, after receiving numerous tips from readers that in a previously-aired GAC special about country artist Blake Shelton, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year had some disparaging things to say about classic country music fans, Saving Country Music found the quotes, cued up an article and posted Shelton’s comments verbatim.

Blake Shelton said,

If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.

What happened next was one of the biggest awakenings of classic country fans in recent memory.

The original “Old Farts & Jackasses” article was posted fairly late in the afternoon on January 23rd, 2013, and slowly but surely it started making the rounds on social networks channels as the evening progressed. But it was the next morning when the story caught like wildfire and began to circulate far and wide. The outrage was taken to the next level when the now deceased Ray Price took to his Facebook page to post a scathing comeback to Blake Shelton’s comments:

It’s a shame that I have spend 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song , have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!!!!!! Ray Price (CHIEF “OLD FART” & JACKASS”) ” P.S. YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS US OLD-TIMERS. CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS (THE YEAR 2075) AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED. – Ray Price

But it didn’t stop there. The original “Old Farts & Jackasses” article posted on Saving Country Music was shared and liked on Facebook over 25,000 times. Country DJ’s across the country were talking about it, every major country music news outlet ran a story about it, and some ran two or three as the controversy stretched out for days, creating a massive viral event across multiple media channels. Blake Shelton was forced to make a public apology to Ray Price (though he never officially apologized to the Old Farts & Jackasses themselves). Artists both big and small, traditional and new, independent and mainstream came out to publicly defend or distance from Blake Shelton.

Blake Shelton Awakens the Rage of Traditional Country Music Fans

One of the most notable responses was when Willie Nelson re-named the tour he was currently on to the “Old Farts & Jackasses Tour“. The announcement was complete with a sarcasm-filled press release. An excerpt:

The Old Farts and Jackass tour began in Durham, NC on January 18th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. But now it’s January 20th, excitement is in the air, and Inauguration Day is finally here….After much anticipation Willie  Nelson finally emerged. Dressed in an all black ensemble by American designer Levi Strauss, the co-leader of the Old Fart Party mesmerized the crowd with the first dance, Whiskey River.

The lip synching controversy would take over the headlines later, but the official answer from Nelson’s camp remained no. No Willie Vanillie here ladies and gentlemen, no tricky audio antics. Willie sang it all live. What we have elected to see is just a man, his band, his family and his guitar.  The audience in Atlanta will testify before any congress; country is in good hands.

Many artists took up their pens to write protest songs about the incident. Brandon Fulson wrote “Old Farts & Jackasses“, and Kelly Chambers wrote “Jackasses n’ Old Farts“.

Tom T. Hall and Chuck Redden teamed up to cut “Old Farts, Jackasses, Steel Guitars & Rhyme“:

And Dale Watson wrote the song “Old Fart (A Song For Blake)“:

The effects of Blake Shelton’s Old Farts & Jackasses comments continue even today. Here are some of them:

“Old Farts & Jackasses” An Embraced Term for Classic Country Fans

Blake Shelton may have meant it as an insult, but classic country fans now wear the “Old Farts & Jackasses” moniker with pride, and embrace it as a term of endearment, proudly using it to refer to themselves and other classic and traditional country music fans.

“Old Farts & Jackasses” on Facebook

In the aftermath of Blake Shelton’s comments, a Facebook page was set up for “Old Farts & Jackasses” that has subsequently collected over 97,000 “likes” (Ironically, the Saving Country Music “like” page only has 2,400). The Old Farts & Jackasses page continues to remain active and vibrant, and continues to grow every day.

Dale Watson Launches The “Ameripolitan” Genre

Beyond Dale Watson’s “Old Fart (A Song For Blake)” tune, the Old Farts & Jackasses incident inspired Dale to start the “Ameripolitan” genre, according to the classic country singer. Though Dale had been throwing the term Ameripolitan around for a years, Old Farts & Jackasses is what motivated Dale to get organized behind it.

The National Traditional Country Music Association

The National Traditional Country Music Association also found renewed strength for the Old Farts & Jackasses phenomenon, and used it to organize an Old Farts & Jackasses March.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Though Blake Shelton’s comments we’re initially uncalled for and angering, in the end it let the world know that there are plenty of fans of traditional and classic country music that are willing to stand up, be accounted for, and fight for the music they believe in.

Jan
19

UPDATED – Texas Country Legend Steve Fromholz Passes Away

January 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  31 Comments

steve-fromholzThis story has been updated.

Singer, songwriter, Poet Laureate, and the author of the Texas Trilogy, Steven Fromholz passed away Sunday afternoon (1-19) according to the Texas Music Chart. He was 68.

Fromholz was killed at the Flying B Ranch near Eldorado, about 40 miles south of San Angelo while preparing to go on a wild hog hunt. While moving a gun from one vehicle to another, the firearm fell to the ground because the lower portion of its case was unzipped, and the gun discharged, injuring Fromholz who later died at an Eldorado hospital.

Born in Temple, Texas on June 8, 1945, Fromholz rose to become a towering figure of words and music in his home state of Texas, and amongst his famous music friends. He wrote the song “I’d Have To Be Crazy” made popular by Willie Nelson, and also had songs recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, and John Denver amongst others.

Fromholz was also an actor, a playwright, a producer, and a poet; most notably being named the Poet Laureate of the State of Texas in 2007 by the Texas State Legislature. He was the author of several books, and a respected man of letters, leaving behind an indelible legacy of both chronicling and canonizing the unique experience of being a Texan.

Steve Fromholz started out in music after serving in the Navy in the 1960′s. His first band was called Frummox with Dan McCrimmon, and Fromholz also played with Stephen Stills and Rick Roberts before pursuing a solo career. He once worked with Mike Nesmith of the Monkees and his label Countryside Records.

steve-fromholz-2Fromholz was one of the members of The Folk Music Club—an organization founded on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton, and included other notable members Ray Wylie Hubbard, Michael Martin Murphy, and co-founder of the Armadillo World Headquarters, Eddie Wilson. Fromholz once served as President of the distinguished club that is given credit for inspiring such Texas music institutions as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest.

His hard-to-find, definitive album Here to There is considered a classic of Texas country music, despite it’s out-of-print status. It includes his signature work called “The Texas Trilogy”—a three song opus that went on to define his career. It inspired a book by Craig D. Hillis and Bruce Jordan, and Fromholz penned his own Texas Trilogy book later as well.

Fromholz was heavily featured in Jan Reed’s book on the formation of the Texas music scene, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. He had the best stories, and was blessed with a knack knack for telling them like nobody else.

Steve Fromholz was an entertainer, a historian, a brilliant orator, and most importantly, a proud and noble Texan.

Jan
17

10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments

January 17, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  44 Comments

johnny-cash-bird-flipping

What made Johnny Cash the ultimate badass was his ability to bridge people together regardless of taste in music, cultural differences, or political ideology. Johnny Cash could tackle some of the most difficult issues facing a tumultuous American society as it saw the emergence of rock and roll and the counterculture because they man had such an air of respect about him. When he spoke, everyone quieted, and listened. Great music and musicians dominate genres. Legends transcend genres. It’s is quite the daunting challenge to find someone who doesn’t have something nice to say about Johnny Cash regardless of sex, race, creed, status, or cultural background.


1. Intercepting the News of the Death of Joseph Stalin

johnny-cash-air-force-1That’s right, the first American to hear about the death of the ruthless Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and report it to the United States government was none other than the Man in Black. Johnny Cash spent 4 years in the Air Force, rising to Staff Sargent, and working in Landsberg, West Germany for the Air Force Security Service. The name of Cash’s first band was “The Landsberg Barbarians,” an homage to the German town he called home.

While stationed in Landsburg, Cash was working as a Morse Code Intercept Operator, monitoring transmissions from the Soviet Army. Around March 5th, 1953, he was translating Morse signals when can came upon the important information. At the height of hostilities during the Cold War, this intelligence was considered crucial.

Cash was honorably discharged from the Air Force in July of 1954 to pursue his career in music.


2. Recording “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

It was the song that made Kris Kristofferson a household name, but it wasn’t Ray Stevens’ version of it in 1969 that stalled at #55 on the charts, or Kristofferson’s own version which didn’t chart at all that made it such an iconic part of the American songbook. It was Johnny Cash’s take on “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that took it all the way to #1 in 1970, and eventually to being named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association.

It’s because only Johnny Cash had the credibility and undying loyalty of the country music community to sing what was a controversial song at the time, and have people listen through the controversy to the heart of the story that Kristoffersoon had so eloquently captured.

Johnny Cash wasn’t a country music Outlaw in the traditional sense, but he was an honorary Outlaw in every sense, and when he sang “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” he took Kristofferson from a barely-known songwriter to a national celebrity.


3. Concerts and Albums From Folsom and San Quentin Prisons

Probably the most obvious of Johnny Cash’s badass moments, but ones that cannot be understated in their significance both musically and culturally, Johnny Cash performed at The Folsom State Prison and the San Quentin Prison—two notorious lockups in California—in 1968 and 1969 respectively, with the live recordings taken from the concerts becoming significant and commercially successful live albums that are given credit for being some of the best ever in country music.

Johnny Cash played two shows at Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968, resulting in 15 live tracks for the At Folsom Prison Album. At San Quentin was recorded on February 24, 1969 and was more of a linear recording of the event, though the original LP took out some songs because of space restrictions. The two albums are given credit for resurrecting Cash’s career, while raising awareness about the issues facing individuals in incarceration, and bridging cultural differences between music fans during a tumultuous time in America. If people were not aware before, Johnny Cash’s prison albums announced to the world inside and outside of country music that he truly was a badass.


4. Having A Smoke With A.P. Carter

Depending on who to talk to, the father of country music is either the singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, or the patriarch of the Carter Family, A.P. Cater. Seeing how Johnny Cash married into the Carter Family, he would probably say the answer is the latter.

Producer, songwriter, and cosmic music man “Cowboy” Jack Clement was famous for shooting home movies when hanging around his musical friends and cohorts, and he was fortunate enough to have captured the moment Johnny Cash decided to drive out to the grave site of A.P. Carter at the Mount Vernon Methodist Church Cemetery in Virginia to have a smoke with the man responsible for the first ever commercial country music group. The clip below comes from the movie Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan: Cowboy Jack Clement’s Home Movies.


un5. Receiving The United Nations Humanitarian Award

Johnny Cash’s efforts to help the less fortunate throughout his life have been well-documented, and on June 10th 1978 at the annual United Nations Citation Dinner in New York City, he was presented with the United Nations Humanitarian Award.


6. Hosting the Million Dollar Songwriter Circle

johnny-cash-million-dollar-songwriter-circle

You’ve all heard about the “Million Dollar Quartet”—the recording session at legendary Sun Studios in Memphis on December 4th, 1956 that compiled the talent of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Well if there was an equivalent to the Million Dollar Quartet in the songwriting world, it would be the one night in January of 1969 when Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Shel Silverstein all spent an evening at Johnny Cash’s home in Hendersonville, TN on the banks of Old Hickory Lake, swapping songs and stories from their respective spheres of the music world.

The music that was showcased for the first time ever at the intimate songwriter circle became the soundtrack for a generation, and the gathering would go down in history as one of the most potent assemblages of songs showcased for the first time in one place. “That night in my house [was] the first time these songs were heard…” Johnny Cash explains. “Joni Mitchell sang ‘Both Sides Now,’ Graham Nash sang ‘Marrakesh Express,’ Shel Silverstein sang ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ Bob Dylan sang ‘Lay Lady Lay,’ and Kristofferson sang ‘Me & Bobby McGee.’ That was the first time any of those songs were heard.” (read more on the Million Dollar Songwriter Circle)


7. Sharing an Apartment with Waylon Jennings

johnny-cash-waylon-jenningsBefore Johnny Cash married June Carter, and before Waylon Jennings married Jessi Colter, and the two men were picking up the pieces from recent divorces, they shared a pad at the Fontaine Royal Apartments in Madison, Tennessee, just north of Nashville. At that time in the mid-60′s, Johnny Cash was a star, but Waylon was still a newcomer. By all accounts, the two men would barely see each other, and would be in and out at all manner of the day and night, leave on tour, come back, be out the next morning for a studio session, usually while taking trucker pills and sleeping very little.

Stories abound about some of the happenings at Fontaine Royal, with some considering it to be the equivalent of a country music “stabbin’ cabin.” One story says as the two men would walk by the swimming pool on their way in or out, throwing money into it for the neighborhood kids to dive in and retrieve. Oh, to be a fly on that wall….


8. Releasing Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian

johnny-cash-bitter-tearsMany artists and people talk and good talk about supporting the so often wronged American Indian, but Johnny Cash stepped up to the plate and did so in a big way when he released this concept album paying tribute to the stories and struggles of the American Indian. Johnny Cash had Cherokee blood in his family, and claims this was one of the inspirations for the album.

Aside from the music, this album is significant in so many other ways. Though Willie Nelson’s conceptualized albums Phases and Stages and Red Headed Stranger are often given credit for being the first conceptualized albums in country music, Bitter Tears came out in 1964; a decade before those Willie records. Furthermore the album was released ahead of the popularization of Native American issues that happened in the late 60′s as part of the counterculture movement. Way more than a trendy work looking to exploit a pet issue of guilt-riddled baby boomers, Bitter Tears was a groundbreaking approach to the album concept in country music that carried a sincere concern and reverence for the American Indian, illustrating Cash’s dedication as a humanitarian throughout his career.


9. Inviting Bob Dylan on the Johnny Cash Show

The Johnny Cash show was badass enough in its own right in how Johnny reached out to every corner of the American music world to create magical, legendary moments on a weekly basis from the Ryman Auditorium. The Johnny Cash Show Ran from ran from June of 1969 to March of 1971 on ABC, featuring a total of 58 episodes and not a bad one in the bunch.

But if one episode stood out, it was Bob Dylan’s appearance in 1969 around his recording of his Nashville Skyline record. It symbolized the confluence of two music worlds, and two titans of them and the results were magic. From the original Rolling Stone article covering the event:

The Dylan appearance was no secret in Nashville, fortunately. It goes without saying that Cash fans are as baffled by Dylan’s emergence here as Dylan freaks were startled at the news of this new axis. But they all lined up outside the Opry: businessmen and their wives, country boys, bald heads, acid heads, bee-hive bouffant blondes, drawling teenyboppers and other assorted traveling wonderers. There is no doubt that a good part of the audience was there just to see Cash and didn’t know what all the fuss was about. But the seats and aisles of the Opry were full, and Dylan did not lack a fine representation of people familiar with his work.


10. Recording “Hurt” From NIN’s Trent Reznor

There were many songs, especially from Johnny Cash’s American Recordings era that The Man In Black took from great to legendary, but none resonated so deeply with a generation like this one. “Hurt” off of the Nine Inch Nails’ album The Downward Spiral from 1994 was nominated for a Grammy in 1996, but wasn’t an especially well-known song outside of the industrial music mindset. It certainly wasn’t on the radar of country fans when Cash cut it in 2002, but it became arguably his last big hit, and the doorway for an entire new generation of fans to find love for Johnny Cash, helped along by an iconic video.


11. (Bonus) Flipping The Warden The Bird

Johnny Cash’s famous middle finger photo was shot at the Cash concert in 1969 at California’s San Quentin prison by photographer Jim Marshall. The pose was the result of Cash’s response to the request: “John, let’s do a shot for the warden.” Marshall has since said it was “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world.”

But the picture remained relatively obscure until 1998 when Johnny was working with legendary producer Rick Rubin on his American Recordings albums. The second American album Unchained won the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Album. But could you hear Johnny Cash’s music on the country radio? Not so much. Rubin called country radio a “trendy scene,” and decided to fire a shot right at Music Row. Rubin dug deep and pulled out $20,000 to take a full page ad out in Billboard Magazine. The ad featured the famous Cash bird flipping, and the caption: “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support.” (read more on the middle finger photo)

johnny-cash-middle-finger-billboard

Jan
10

10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments

January 10, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments

Willie Nelson is in many ways a microcosm of the American experience. He grew up during The Depression, had a rough and tumble youth, battled through familial and financial problems for years, struck it rich, and reformed himself from his violent past to become one of the world’s most well-known and greatest pacifists and advocates for the poor and social justice. Lots of wisdom can be gleaned about life from simply studying the life of Willie Nelson . And ultimately, he is undoubtedly one hell of a badass.


1. Surviving a Plane Crash

As told by Willie Nelson’s friend, professional golfer Larry Trader:

“Willie was flying in to the landing strip near Happy Shahan’s Western town that they used for the Alamo movie set. Happy is watching the plane coming in, knowing Willie is on it. The plane hits a big chughole in the strip and flips over on its side and crashes. Happy likes news and publicity, you know, so first thing he does is pick up the phone and call the radio stations, the TV, the newspapers. Happy says, ‘Willie Nelson’s plane just crashed. Y’all better hurry.’

“He jumped in a Jeep and drove out to the crash to pick up the remains. And here comes Willie and his pilot, limping up the road. The media people were arriving by then. They started firing questions at Willie. How did he survive? Was he dying? Was he even hurt? Willie smiles and says, ‘Why, this was a perfect landing. I walked away from it, didn’t I?’”


2. Recording Red Headed Stranger for $4,000

willie-nelson-red-headed-strangerThat’s right. Arguably the greatest, most influential album in the history of country music was recorded on a shoestring budget at the renegade and recently-opened Autumn Sound Studios in the Dallas suburb of Garland in January 1975. Autumn Sound engineer Phil York was trying to promote the new studio, knew Willie through harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and offered Willie a free day of recording. With complete creative control over the album as part of his new contract with Columbia Records, Willie set out to record a stripped-down conceptualized record that was like nothing the overproducing bean counters on Music Row had ever heard. Willie’s version of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” became Willie’s first #1, and the album remains many critic’s pick for the best country record ever. Eat that Music Row.


3. Gun Battle at the Birmingham Coliseum

After playing a concert in Birmingham, Alabama in the late 70′s, Willie and the band found themselves in the middle of a gun battle in a six-story parking garage as they were unloading gear from the stage. Though the story involves Willie getting involved in the fracas with his own weaponry, it also illustrates Willie’s unique disposition as a peacemaker.

Willie Nelson & Poodie Locke

Willie Nelson & Poodie Locke

“All of a sudden we hear ‘Kaboom! Kaboom!’” Willie’s long-time stage manager “Poodie” Locke recalls. “It’s the sound of a .357 magnum going off in the parking garage. The echoes sound like howitzer shells exploding. It’s kind of semi-dark, and this guy comes blowing through this parking deck…now here comes this bitch with a fucking pistol. ‘Kaboom!’ She’s chasing this motherfucker. It sounds like a fucking war.”

At the time, Willie Nelson and most of his band and road crew carried pistols as a matter of habit. The scene became chaotic as the shooting happened right as the crowd from the show was filing out into the parking garage.

“People are piling out of the show and they start scattering,” Poodie continues. “Here come the cops from every direction. They’re flying out of their cars, hitting the parking deck, spread-eagling the whole crowd–’On the deck, motherfuckers!’–because the cops don’t know who is shooting at who…All these cops are squatting down in the doorjambs, turning people over, frisking them, aiming guns at everybody, just waiting for the next shot to be fired.”

“And here comes Willie. He walks off the bus wearing cutoffs and tennis shoes, and he’s got two huge Colt .45 revolvers stuck in his waist. The barrels are so long they stick out the bottom of his cutoffs. Two shining motherfucking pistols in plain sight of a bunch of cops nervous as shit. Willie just walks over and says, ‘What’s the trouble?’ Well he’s got some kind of aura to him that just cools everything out. The cops put up their guns, the people climb off the concrete, and pretty soon Willie is signing autographs.”


farmaid4. Founding Farm Aid

Along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson founded the annual benefit concert in 1985 to help raise money for struggling farmers that has since become an American institution. Before a crowd of 80,000, 52 performers at the original Farm Aid raised $9 million for American farmers. Then Willie went to Capitol Hill with a group of struggling farmers to petition the government for aid. The end result was the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 that helped many American farmers avoid foreclosure.


5. Bailing Dennis Hopper Out Of Jail in Taos, NM

Dennis was a part-time resident of the small northern New Mexico town of Taos. Back in the mid 70′s it was a hangout for country music types and Hollywood misfits like Hopper. It was also the scene of one of the most crazy country music stories involving Willie, Hopper, and of all people, golf pro Larry Trader.

dennis-hopper-taos-mug-shot“I hadn’t got a clue how Willie knew I was in jail in Taos. At the time I couldn’t imagine how Willie Nelson even knew who I was.

“In Taos I had gotten real drunk and proceeded to win a lot of acid in a poker game, so I swallowed the acid and saw weird dangerous shit going on, and I pulled my pistol out of my boot and shot up the plaza. I was ranting and raving in the jail, people were out to get me, man, and here came the sheriff saying Willie Nelson had come and paid my bill and was waiting outside. I was free to go with him.

“I freaked fucking out. Willie Nelson? Come on, man, who do you think you’re kidding? You’re gonna lure me out and yell jailbreak and blow my ass away! But I thought, hey, be cool, you are after all hallucinating all this. So I walked out of jail and got into Willie’s Mercedes with him and his wife Connie and his golf pro Larry Trader. We drove across the desert towards Las Vegas. Willie and Trader and I nearly drove Connie crazy with our laughing and shouting.”


6. Taking the Rap for Pot Bust in Texas

willie-nelson-mug-shotWhen Willie Nelson’s Honeysuckle Rose III was searched at the border patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas in November of 2010 and agents found 6 ounces of marijuana, anyone could have copped to the stash, or Willie could have pulled a “Do you know who I am ?!?” moment. But instead he offered his wrists to authorities, knowing that his arrest would prove the futility of the criminalization of marijuana that he’d been advocating against for many years.

Willie was booked into custody, a mug shot was taken, and he was later released on $2,500 bond. Eventually a plea deal was reached with prosecutors, and Willie paid a fine and spent 30 days on probation.


7. Dripping Springs Reunion and the 4th of July Picnics

Even though the events have many times been an annual financial bloodbath, Willie’s commitment to them has been steadfast, and they have become a Texas and American institution. It started with the Dripping Springs reunion in 1973, with the idea of putting on a “hillbilly Woodstock.” The Dripping Springs reunion featured Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, Charlie Rich, Dottie West, Roger Miller, Loretta Lynn, right beside Willie, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. Over the years the picnics have gone on to feature artists forgotten by Nashville and up-and-comers right beside big name talent. And because more times than not they have been losing propositions financially, it’s been Willie’s commitment that has kept them going.


8. Getting Lost in Baton Rouge

As told by Willie’s manager Mark Rothbaum

“Willie and I were at a hotel in Baton Rouge on the evening of a concert. We were on the twenty-third floor, and we could see the coliseum in a straight line from our windows. Looked like it was just right over there. So we decided we would run to the concert. Willie and I took off running through Baton Rouge after dark. We ran and kept on running through the neighborhoods, and we still weren’t arriving at the concert. After we had run ten miles, we decided we were totally lost. The gig was starting, and we had no idea where we were.

“Willie said, ‘I’ll just go up to that house and knock on the door and ask for help.’ I said, ‘You can’t knock on some stranger’s door.’

“He said, ‘I ain’t a stranger. I’m Willie Nelson.’”


9. “Shotgun Willie” & The Great Ridgetop Shootout

It was in the aftermath of an incident that would later be remembered as the “Great Ridgetop Shootout” that Willie Nelson got the nickname “Shotgun Willie.” Ridgetop was the house Willie lived in just outside of Nashville in the late 60′s. When it burned down in 1970, it stimulated Willie’s move back to Texas. In 1969, Willie and his first wife Martha separated, and his second wife Shirley moved into Ridgetop. Willie and Martha had three children, and right before Christmas in 1969, Willie’s youngest daughter Susie told Willie that his oldest daughter Lana was being physically assaulted by her husband Steve Warren.

shotgun-willie-shirt“I ran for my truck and drove to the place where Steve and Lana lived and slapped Steve around,” Willie recalls. “He really pissed me off. I told him if he ever laid a hand on Lana again, I would come back and drown his ass. No sooner did I get back to Ridgetop than here came Steve in his car, shooting at the house with a .22 rifle. I was standing in the door of the barn and a bullet tore up the wood two feet from my head. I grabbed an M-1 rifle and shot at Steve’s car. Steve made one pass and took off.”

But this wasn’t where the incident ended. Willie drove back to Steve and Lana’s to confront Steve again, but he was gone and had kidnapped their young son Nelson Ray. Lana also told Willie that Steve was looking to “get rid of him (Willie) as his top priority.” So what did Willie do? He drove back to Ridgetop and waited for him.

“Thinking Steve would come to Ridgetop to pick me off about dusk, I hid in the truck so he couldn’t tell if I was home. We laid a trap for him. I had my M-1 and a shotgun. He drove by the house, and I ran out the garage door. Steve saw me and took off. That’s when I shot his car and shot out his tire. Steve called the cops on me. Instead of explaining the whole damn mess, the beatings and the semi-kidnapping and shooting and all, I told the officers he must have run over the bullet. The police didn’t want to get involved in hillbilly family fights. They wrote down what I told them on their report and took off.”

10. Building His Own Town

luck-tx-willie-nelsonThat’s right. Willie Nelson has his own town. Well, sort of.

It’s called Luck, TX, and it was originally constructed as part of the set of the movie The Red Headed Stranger released in 1986 as a companion to Willie’s album of the same name. The town was originally called Willieville, and was constructed to be a replica of Driscoll, Montana. It sits across the street from Willie’s golf course about 30 miles outside of Austin. The remarkable thing about Luck is it’s not just a Hollywood facade, but a collection of real buildings that despite their purposefully rustic condition, are generally solid structures that could constitute a real old-time town, with a church, opera house, and various other buildings. And the town is still used upon occasion for movies, video shoots, and special events including an annual music showcase around South by Southwest.


And then of course, there was that time he smoked pot on top of The White House…but that’s another story.

Quotes taken from the autobiography Willie, by Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake.

Jan
8

Austin Lets Out a Hipster Gaffaw at Your Country Festival, iHeartRadio

January 8, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  35 Comments

iheart-country-festival-2014

Today it was announced that Austin, TX would be the site for iHeartRadio’s first ever dedicated country music festival, transpiring at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center on March 29th, with a list of top tier headliner talent including Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, Hunter Hayes, and others to be announced. iHeart is the online radio streaming arm of American radio monolith Clear Channel, and rising Clear Channel “country” personality Bobby Bones, who got his Clear Channel start on Austin’s pop station, will serve as host.

There is so much that is ill-conceived about this, I’m not sure where to start. iHeart has been throwing “festivals” for a while now, but their traditional home has been Las Vegas. Clearly iHeart wanted to find an alternative to the obvious selection of Nashville, where they would have to compete with much more well-established country events clogging the civic calendar. But throwing a corporate country event in Austin, especially at that time of the year will be about as popular in Austin as running over a bicyclist in your Hummer.

About all this festival will be good for when it comes to the Austin populous will be as a curiosity for hipsters to oogle at through their Sally Jessy Raphael glasses as they ride their fixie bikes past the spectacle, sipping on raw food smoothies on their way to brainstorming sessions devising ways to defund Monsanto by setting up micro loans to African women and targeted eco-terrorism strikes.

The general Austin, TX population has so little interest in this iHeartRadio lineup, it’s laughable that iHeart can’t even be perceptive enough to add even one or two local names to help dull the pain of such an obviously imported corporate country bill. Kudos to whoever in the local Austin government conned iHeart into thinking that Austin’s east downtown corridor is a destination spot for people who are willing to travel hundreds of miles to hear Jason Aldean sing “1994.” Instead of the garish finery of the Las Vegas strip, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line fans can look forward to legions of homeless peddlers clogging their walking path, an army of construction cranes piercing the skyline in their headlong effort to erect an empire of prefabricated McCondo monstrosities, the 3rd worst traffic snarl in the United States of America, and crumbling fair trade coffee shops oozing with unbathed, deadlocked career students preaching that 9/11 was a conspiracy.

The worst part about iHeartRadio’s country festival might be the timing. Despite whatever best efforts they implement in regards to promotion, locally the event will be dwarfed by South by Southwest the week before, boasting thousands of free concerts, showcasing both local and independent talent, and big national names. South by Southwest is arguably one of the biggest music festivals in the entire world in regards to breadth and the amount of performances that transpire all across Austin over a 5 day period.

And don’t forget that Rodeo Austin also happens the week before, and is featuring its own lineup of big names, including Loretta Lynn, Dustin Lynch, Thompson Square, Chris Young, Josh Turner, Willie Nelson, Eli Young Band, Lee Brice, Scotty McCreery, and Dwight Yoakam. There’s already legions of Austinites that provision up when March comes and never leave the homes because of the nightmare South by Southwest and Rodeo Austin bring to their fair city. The idea that they’ll peek their head out and head downtown just because Hunter Hayes is finally making his way to Austin is quite ripe.

So will the iHeartRadio Country Festival be a colossal failure? Of course not, because they have the backing of the biggest corporate country network in the world to help promote it. Pliable corporate country music fans from all across the country will be more than happy to burn vacation time to see their favorite Budweiser and designer jeans sponsors in one place, edifying them with the finest of Music Row’s formulaic pap filtered through Auto-tuners.

Stock up on cans of Axe Body Spray and rape kits Austin, you’ll need ‘em.

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