Monday, October 29, 2007

Hey, Porter

Porter Wagoner, 80, has passed away. One of the last of the sequin-spangled showmen from the Golden Age of Country music, Wagoner succumbed to cancer last night in Nashville. Wagoner was co-host of the Grand Old Opry (along with Little Jimmy Dickens) since 1996, following the death of Minnie Pearl. He celebrated his 50th year on the Opry stage in 2007.

Porter released his last record, "Wagonmaster", earlier this year. Produced by Marty Stuart, the album received great reviews and with the re-release of Wagoner 's "Rubber Room", a collection of left-of-center Country tunes, put Wagoner in the spotlight once again. He was tapped to be the opening act at the White Stripes' Madison Square Garden gig, and by all accounts, tore the place up.

Best known for the hits "A Satisfied Mind" (later covered by The Byrds on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album), "Green, Green Grass of Home", "Carroll County Accident", and "Go Down Swinging", a fabulous shuffle written by Bill Anderson, Wagoner was a master of the "story song" and is credited with the first "concept album" in country music.

In 1967 he discovered a big-haired singer from Sevierville, Tennesse and put her on his TV show, which had begun in 1960. Porter and Dolly Parton had several hit singles as a duet. Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You" about her relationship with Wagoner upon leaving his show to pursue her enormously successful solo career.

Wagoner belongs on the same pedestal as Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and the other legends in Country music. His refusal to follow trends and ability to gig until just weeks before his death - 50 years at the Opry - negates the need for bigger fame and more hit records. He lived the life, sang about the life, and he went down swinging.

Thanks, Porter.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Things To Do In Denver

I'm a mile high tonight, doing a LeeAnn Rimes gig in Denver, CO. The Rockies are in town for Game 3 of the World Series, and Green Bay comes to beat the Broncos on Monday Night Football. Hotel rooms are at a premium, sleep is at a minimum, traffic at a maximum. First time with this band and gear, so it took a while to find out where everything was and where it was supposed to go.

The band sounds great. We're just doing a one-off, so I'll be back in Nashville tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sweet Soul Music Redux

Last night was the Steve Cropper Classic at The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, Cropper's annual fund raiser for the T.J. Martell Foundation. I teched it last year, and was asked to do it again this year. Two of my favorites players could not make it this year - Robben Ford and James Burton- but the talent list was pretty amazing, even in their absence.

The house band was lead by bassist Dave Santos, with Cropper on guitar, Brent Rowan on guitar, Mark Jordan on Hammond and piano, Mark Beckett on drums , the horn section of Roy Agee, Steve Herrman, Sam Levine and Randy Leago and backing vocalists Robert Bailey, Vicki Hampton and Wendy Moten.

T.G. Sheppard was the host for the evening and he brought on famed vocalists and players Con Hunley, Ray Benson (from Asleep at the Wheel), Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Grand Funk's Mark Farner, Sam the Sham (sans Pharaohs), Tanya Tucker, Lee Roy Parnell, Delbert McClinton, Gary Morris, Kim Carnes, Eddie Floyd ("Knock On Wood", William Bell ("You Don't Miss Your Water"), Craig White, Rob Haynes and B .B. Cunningham.

Everybody was on their game, especially Hunley's version of "Georgia", a song you'd better be able to sing at a Ray Charles/Willie Nelson level...Hunley did. Sam the Sham was very humorous and had a great vibe about him. He did his two novelty hits "Wooly Bully" and "Little Red Riding Hood" and the crowd sang along to every word. Delbert was Delbert, always a wonder to hear that amazingly expressive voice. He was joined by Lee Roy for one song and Parnell ripped off a slide guitar solo - as he often does- that was so vocal-like, it could have been Delbert singing. Lee Roy's own set was excellent and it was a pleasure to see and hear him again (I was his tech and road manager years ago).

Hearing William Bell and Eddie Floyd live for the first time was a revelation. Of course, all of these singers came up in an era when there was no AutoTune to remedy bad intonation. AutoTune back then was called Talent. They sounded great, sang their hits and then took turns with the Cropper/Otis Redding anthem "Dock of the Bay" and the encore, Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign".

All in all, a highly enjoyable evening at work for a great cause. I'm glad I'm not burnt out and jaded on muisc just's THE great perk of this job.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Gilded Page

Jimmy Page, Rock Guitarist

I think he's the greatest rock guitarist of all time, for much more important reasons than his technique or accuracy. He is a master of the big canvas, he sees the details and knows the history.

The very first issue I ever bought of Guitar Player magazine was the November 1977 issue with Jimmy Page on the cover. I had no idea such a magazine existed until I walked into East Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin and saw it on the counter at Patti Music. I brought it home, read every article and ad, and begged my Mom for a subscription. She got me one, and I remained a subscriber for many years.

Steve Rosen did that interview, and has finally offered the whole interview - unedited - on audio . It's posted at Modern Guitar.

It's great to hear Page speak eloquently and at length about his influences, musical education, guitars, recording techniques and more. What a great piece of history.