David Letterman Reaching Out To Support Roots Artists
With such a glut of great roots music material starving for bigger outlets, it was only a matter of time before new avenues began to spring up to meet the demands of both substantive artists looking for more love, and salivating fans seeking something real. Surprisingly, television has become one of those new outlets, with shows like ABC’s Nashville featuring artists that never before would be given a shot in prime time, and late night perennial David Letterman giving a leg up to artists who previously had never been afforded a national television opportunity.
And Letterman’s recent run of supporting independent country and roots artists like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dale Watson, Shovels & Rope, and many more is not the result of some crack team of publicists and booking agents working together to peddle these artists to the right people, it is coming from David Letterman himself listening to these artists and wanting them to be featured on the show. In other words, David Letterman is a fan of roots music, of artists like Dale Watson and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and is reaching out to them, wanting to give them an opportunity, just like he did last night (6-24) to Austin, TX’s Dale Watson.
“I don’t remember exactly if Dave heard Dale on Sirius XM or on “All Things Considered,” but it was one of the two, and they called us up and said, ‘We want Dale Watson on the show, and we want him to play “I Lie When I Drink.”‘ explains Beth Friend of Red House Records–the label that released Dale Watson’s latest album El Rancho Azul. “It was such a surprise because you try for years to get the attention of people, and then all of a sudden you receive a phone call from them. It’s a really happy story for us. We love Dale.”
Ray Wylie Hubbard tells a similar story, how it was Letterman reaching out to them, not vice versa, and that Letterman requested Ray play a specific song.
“About 4 months ago my booking agent receives a phone call and this girl said she was Jennifer from Worldwide Pants, and Dave would like to know if Ray would do his show.” Hubbard explains. “She didn’t know what Worldwide Pants was so she goes, “Dave who?” And Jennifer goes, “Dave Letterman, January 9th.” And the booking agent goes, “Well let me make sure he’s not playing a happy hour gig in Waco, those things are hard to re-schedule.” So Dave said he wanted us to play the song “Mother Blues” but we only had 3 minutes and 35 seconds. So we take out a couple of verses and then we get up there and after we finish and he says, “Thank you, goodnight,” he asks if we’ll do “Screw You, We’re From Texas.” And I said, “Man, you’re from Indiana.” And he said, “Yeah, but I like the attitude.” So we did the extra song for the website which was really really cool of him.”
The opportunity to get to play to a national audience is one thing, but when Letterman is not simply announcing the band slotted to play, but one he purposely sought out from a sincere love of the music, this is the type of endorsement that can not only give an artist more exposure, but can give them a sense of validation that this craft they have been working at for years is worthy of a greater audience.
“Once people hear the music, they love it.” says Beth Friend from Red House. “They just need the opportunity.”
June 25, 2013 @ 11:10 am
June 25, 2013 @ 11:16 am
June 25, 2013 @ 11:28 am
Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle have both played on Letterman as well.
June 25, 2013 @ 11:41 am
Elizabeth Cook as well, but I’m not sure if those came from Letterman reaching out to them, or from somewhere else. And I’m sure that Letterman has reached out to other artists outside of the roots world as well. There’s a cool story from a few years back where Letterman really got enamored with Michael Martin Murphy’s song “Wildfire” and kept referencing it on the show, and then eventually had Murphy on to perform it.
June 25, 2013 @ 2:20 pm
Letterman heard Elizabeth Cook through her Sirius XM show “Apron Strings” and I think she’s been a guest on the show several times since then. After her last appearance, he offered her some kind of deal with Worldwide Pants to do her own talk show I believe. This caused quite a bit of stress for her and while hanging out in her neighborhood of East Nashville, she ran into her neighbor Todd Snider. Todd was in the midst of being followed around by cameramen shooting a documentary and what resulted from this encounter was the “hypothetical documentary stoner musical” known as “East Nashville Tonight.” Looks pretty sweet. Check it out here
Funny how they’re all tied together.
June 25, 2013 @ 11:36 am
Good on Dave. He’s had Elizabeth Cook perform on his show a couple of times, as well.
I don’t understand though, at the end of the clip, why he asks DonDon “Is that a lap steel?” You’d think someone with that level of appreciation of the music would recognize a pedal steel guitar.
June 25, 2013 @ 11:45 am
I’ll give him a pass on that one. He’s a comedian from Indiana, living in Connecticut, working in NYC. Not that they don’t know about pedal steel up there, but he was close, and he showed interest in asking. Same family of guitars.
June 25, 2013 @ 12:46 pm
It’s a running gag or what have you that he asks every performer, typically “are those your drums?” but sometimes “is that [a certain instrument]?”: http://laughingsquid.com/supercut-of-david-letterman-asking-musicians-are-those-your-drums/
June 25, 2013 @ 1:36 pm
See, that’s why Dave is awesome.
June 25, 2013 @ 3:38 pm
Thanks. We were debating at work whether the question may have been tongue in cheek.
June 25, 2013 @ 11:44 am
I do believe that Steve Earle was on his show back in the day as well. good stuff.
June 25, 2013 @ 11:44 am
Letterman has had Tom Russell on several times. He’s quite a fan of Tom’s.
TX Music Jim
June 25, 2013 @ 11:55 am
Dave is a good guy. He has highlighted roots music for years. Nancy Griffith Jerry Jeff, Steve Earle, Guy Clark more recently Ray Wylie and Dale Watson. God Bless Dave for getting good music out there for many years.
June 25, 2013 @ 12:28 pm
As has been said, Letterman has always had a respect for roots music and it joys me that he is only more assertively placing largely overlooked artists in the limelight.
While I certainly want Jon Stewart to continue to see to it “The Daily Show” remains dedicated first and foremost to calling the traditional media out on its negligence and addressing some of the most pressing issues confronting us with tongue in cheek, he is known for showcasing musicians every once in a while and I’d personally love to see Stewart and Colbert take these opportunities to spotlight independent artists as well.
June 25, 2013 @ 12:36 pm
This is great and I knew he likes country when he said this about People Are Crazy:
I’m surprised Dave hasn’t called Kellie Pickler to perform yet since she made the best country album of 2012 according to Saving Country Music, Rolling Stone, CMT, Billboard and many other critics and country fans and she’s more country than many he’s had perform. Plus he’d love Kellie’s sense of humor if she also does an interview. She’s always hilarious on Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel, The Tonight Show, etc.
June 25, 2013 @ 12:46 pm
Dave always seems to keep up with the cutting edge musicians, no matter what genre. I can remember him bugging Paul to play, “Black” by Pearl Jam. It went on for a couple of weeks until finally Paul and the band broke into the song, then out walked Eddie with a microphone and sang the last few lines, then just walked off into the crowd. Good stuff!
June 25, 2013 @ 12:52 pm
I’ve never liked Letterman’s show that much, but its good to see him give these artists good exposure. And it seems like he’s going a step beyond the Gillian Welch/Civil Wars type roots stuff to some more hardcore country acts.
I wonder how much this helps in terms of album sales etc. in this day and age.
June 25, 2013 @ 2:05 pm
The top selling artists performed multiple times on all the major shows and it’s where a lot of their music and concert ticket sales came from, second to radio. The late shows are important for reaching young fans.
June 25, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
Television has not been my thing. Proud of Dave though for standing up for the under dogs!
June 25, 2013 @ 1:35 pm
On a somewhat related note: years ago I noticed Dave seems to be madly in love with Rosanne Cash. He has had Rosanne on multiple times and always gushes about how attractive she is. Kinda made me love him more.
June 25, 2013 @ 5:14 pm
This is not really new – Letterman has been a supporter of roots artists since the 90s Alt Country scene started, if not before.
June 25, 2013 @ 6:23 pm
Great article! I remember hearing that Ray Wylie Hubbard was going to be on the show — had no idea that it was because Dave requested him specifically. What a wonderful guy.
I know there’s been some talk about how you write up so many negative (re:critical) articles and that your more positive articles tend to get less views, so I’m going to try to support your reviews and feature articles more by giving those as much attention. This was a great way to start that effort. Thanks, Trig.
June 26, 2013 @ 4:13 am
I remember back when I first started delving into the underground/alternative country scene. My doorway to this world was Jamey Johnson. I heard his song “Cover Your Eyes,” and was floored! I had to share this stuff with people, so I went looking for a good video to share via Facebook. Imagine my surprise when the best video of Jamey performing this song was from a spot on the Letterman show! I was impressed that such a high-profile persona had invited such a low-profile (in the mainstream, anyway) act! Since sharing that video, and COUNTLESS links to this site, I have been able to introduce more and more of my friends to some really great music! When I say I love Country Music, and have to follow that with “not THAT kind…,” I can always refer people to savingcountrymusic.com, and open their eyes to what’s really out there beyond the countless barefoot, cocktail sipping, toes on the dash, chew tobacco spit, truck in a hay field garbage one the radio. Kudos to Dave, and thanks to you, Trigger, for supporting and pushing these great, talented artists! Keep up the great work!!
June 26, 2013 @ 5:14 am
Anyone remember this from Letterman ’82?..Hank Jr doing Country Boy ( a new song at the time) I remember watching it when it happened..
This clip is one of those ” how old are you?” tests like “remember when Eddie Murphy was funny?’……”remember when Hank Jr was awesome and put out killer albums every 8-12 months?”…
I gotta say tho…Dale is trying to unseat Marty Stuart for highest hair on a C&W star, and those wear some good ‘burns too…:)
June 26, 2013 @ 5:54 am
Ray Wylie Hubbard, really liked that one.
Talking to the steel player, Dave was clearly joking ” is that hard to play?”
June 27, 2013 @ 11:12 am
whoops, Dale Watson, and the lonestars I meant to say.
Great singer, good picker, and a great band.
June 26, 2013 @ 8:43 pm
A few months back I was watching Letterman when the Band Perry was on. It was this performance. At the end of the performance, Letterman walked out and asked Neil Perry about the mandolin he was using. Then Letterman actually said “Ohh… did you make that?”. It was just such an odd question. Neil laughed and said “no”. I’m still confused by the exchange. At the time I was wondering if Letterman was showing signs of alzheimer’s or something.
I’m pretty sure it was this performance, it cuts off before the end where letterman walks out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evkC-sRk4L4
June 27, 2013 @ 8:43 am
By no means is he a roots artist, but I remember him doing the same thing for Randy Houser when “Anything Goes” was first picking up some traction. Same process of calling him up and asking him to perform that exact song after having heard it on Sirius/XM. For artists fighting to make a name for themselves (which most are) it’s definitely a cool thing for Letterman to give them the notoriety that they seek, even if just for one night.
June 27, 2013 @ 9:58 am
“The great Dale Watson, ladies and gentlemen. How about a hand for the Lonestars?”
That was cool. Thanks, Dave.
June 28, 2013 @ 6:58 am
I’ve never been much of a Letterman fan though I have to say it’s pretty cool of him to bring all these kickass artists out to a national stage instead of the typical dance-pop, top 40, flash in the pan artists like many hosts do. Respects to Letterman on this one.
Fish Camp Barbie
June 29, 2013 @ 2:57 pm
Almost two years ago, after watching this live on TV, I wrote The Late Show about putting Dale Watson on. Glad it finally happened. Start watching at 4:00. Dave’s been paying attention to the decline of Country music.
July 1, 2013 @ 9:24 am
I love it that Dave is showcasing these artists. It’s such a great thing to get exposure on these guys.
July 3, 2013 @ 9:44 am
Coming across Dale Watson here, now I’ve listened to him quite a bit, on youtube.
He’s a guy that should be famous.
July 17, 2013 @ 12:48 pm
Christina and I were just talking about this last night when Pokey LaFarge came on. What was really cool was the time he had Elizabeth Cook on as a guest, not a musician.
Letterman or whoever books talent finds great artist no matter the genre.
(And kudos to Jimmy Fallon. EVERYBODY wants to play with The Roots.)
Americana Music Support at the Late Show with David Letterman [VIDEO] « Twang Nation - The Best In Americana Music Twang Nation – The Best In Americana Music
July 18, 2013 @ 8:29 pm
[…] as Saving Country Music tells it, the Late Show was the one that reached out to many of these artists to perform on the program. […]
February 26, 2014 @ 10:36 pm
I think alot of people will be switching over to David Letterman in the weeks to come. Giggly skits wear thin for most people at 11:30 PM. How many times do you want to watch Trousersnake flit around?
I watch Letterman’s show for the music.
July 15, 2014 @ 7:55 am
somewhere there is an interview with Jason isbell where he speaks about letterman. David requested him on the show and has hired him to play private parties, on a ranch, I don’t believe in Indian, I think in Montana or some such.