STEP IN TO TOMORROW

“Funny what’ll happen to you
when all you’re trying to do
is sing the right notes
and get the chords right.”

“Phoenix” is my first album. Geoff Muldaur and Steven Bruton play guitars, John Cale plays piano, Bill Rich plays bass, and Victoria Williams and Lyle Lovett sing. Bob Neuwirth is the Producer. It’s a helluva first album for anyone. But I’ve told you that story. We move to the Texas Hill Country, reviews come, gigs appear, and I play my tunes in Europe, the US, and Texas, all over the radio. There’s a border collie named Katy on a long lead in the side yard next to the house. Tennis ball dog.

Business as usual over the next few years, driving miles and miles of dear
old Texas, then on the way to Nashville, Tenn. When we get to that Country & Western town, we pull into the shaded gravel drive of a cabin on the 100 Highway, ten miles outta town. It’s a charmer in a hollow in the deep woods that drape over the little place like a huge green, leafy umbrella. In the summer it’s cool in the shade. Where the sun shines it’s hot and humid. We rent it from a good fellow named Hooter. He says a rental house is a road manager’s retirement fund. He road managed the Everly Brothers for thirty years. Pleasure doing business with him.

The cabin has a window in the bedroom that used to be tricked out like a counter in order to sell beer to the drivers passing by. Rumor has it they were growing a little smoke up in those hills, and might have passed some across that ledge too. We’re there for a couple of years before we change the license plates from Texas to Tennessee. Don’t ask.

I put out two albums and a book while we’re in that cabin. Robin Eaton produces “Texas Plates” for Paladin/Warner Bros. It’s an ingenious CD with a compliment of Nashville’s finest: Al Perkins is on this recording. Maura O’Connell and Kami Lyle do the harmonies this time. Pat Berguson, Pat Buchanan, Chris Carmichael, Dave Jacques, Brad Jones, Ross Rice, Aly Sujo, and Eli Shaw is E-bow and Engineer. Robin Eaton with bass, the percussionist Mickey Grimm, and I take that show to SXSW…Mickey brings the plastic trash can from the hotel on stage: he likes the sound.

The book is the first edition of “One Man’s Music,” self-published, and funded by Wayne and Lisa Lawrence. The story of my accident and recovery, I begin it in Berkeley, write 30 pages, and say I’m done. It grows in Texas, and I write 212 pages in 180 days: the goal is a page a day. Sometimes I get six pages, sometimes I get none.

One day the phone rings and Vince Pawless, whom I’ve not met in person yet, says “Let’s make a guitar.” We do, but that’s another story. The day the V2 is finished, I pick it up in Texas, walk it across the street, and sit down and play a house concert: the recording, done famously by David Byboth, is “Live in Texas.”

That cowboy town soon fills the rear view mirror and we take the border collie, a little button-eyed dog, and three cats to Santa Fe, NM. That’s a lotta animals on a motel bed. We drive back out of the forest in the hollow and into the mountains of the West where you can see for days. In good time I record an album, “Recado,” with Cam King as Producer and guitar player, in my garage. He brings the board, mics, the whole kit and kerfluffle in the backseat of his car. Cam is brilliant, and better off the cuff than most with fair warning and a rehearsal. He can also build a pyramid with a yardstick.

Cam ingeniously hangs bedding sheets around the three car space to create sound barriers in the now tent-like setting, and we record the album like we are in complete silence on top of a mountain…in a large residential area. There’s a basketball court in the driveway next-door . He takes the tapes back to Texas and adds Bill Browder, Freddie Krc, Tammy Rogers, and Michael Woody. The cover for “Recado” is a Peter Hurd watercolor, painted and handed to my father-in-law in 1945.

Then my pal, publicist, and literary agent, Kevin Avery gets my now two books published by University Of North Texas Press. Karen DeVinney and the University’s President suggest “One Man’s Music” and “SixtyEight TwentyEight,” be edited together into one book. (“SixtyEight TwentyEight” is a series of essays/blogs I’ve been running on my website, “Out Here on the Edge of the Desert,” along with a podcast, a decade before there were podcasts: LiveMusic’sCool/InLiveMusicSchool, with friend Jim Alderman on toy piano and plastic swimming pool: there’s something about those percussionists…nobody more free than the drummer). The two books together make the definitive volume of “One Man’s Music.” and I record CD of the same name, of the songs mentioned in the book, with Ned Albright as Producer and piano player. Gardner Knight is our Engineer. I turn the book into a one-man play — you guessed it, with the same name. Ghost Ranch Films makes a DVD of a live show, recording songs that had gotten lost between my accident and Phoenix: “New Lamps for Old.”

After a trip to New York, I write a longish collection of prose poems called “Empire Of Storms,” and a song called “Ojo.” Bob Neuwirth, Dave Soldier, and Patrick Derivaz record me in an abandoned bank on Wall Street for three…but that’s the story that’s in the telling these days.

From Phoenix to Ojo.

“Funny what’ll happen to you
when all you’re trying to do
is sing the right notes
and get the chords right.”

[I’ll be in deep voodoo with management if I don’t at least mention that these are all for sale at the vincebell.com store]

One thought on “STEP IN TO TOMORROW”

  1. My introduction to you was a photo of yourself and Katy sitting on a front porch in a music magazine and my thinking: “I need to get to know this guy.” My wife and I cleaning out the house we’ve lived in for 34 years for a small place by the river for however many years remaining I found your letters from the 100 Highway. That’s been a while. Ojo. Watch out! (smile)

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