Meanwhile, back in Nashville the opportunity to straddle the genres came when I was invited to cut an album for Sire with Jerry Lee’s little sister, Linda Gail Lewis.
Now this formidable lady is a true Earth Mother of rock n roll. Not content to live in any kind of shadow whatsoever, she is two spouses ahead of her legendary brother having been married no less than eight times.
During the making of the record Linda Gail was approached by the respected music journalist Michael McCall, with a view to him writing her official biography. She readily agreed, and after a publisher was found Michael set about documenting her long and winding trail of husbands. These included Jerry Lee’s road manager, his lead guitarist, the one-time head of promotion at Stax Records and an Elvis Presley imitator named Bobby Memphis.
So far so good, that is until the investigative spotlight fell on hubby #2. Finding little or no background information at all, Michael had no other option than to call Linda at home and ask her directly for some detail. In response to the opening question, “what was the name of your second husband?”, Linda simply said she couldn’t remember. Apart from that, she claimed could never pronounce it anyway.
Caught somewhat off-guard, Michael then enquired as to how long the couple had been married. Linda paused and began counting on her left hand (the fourth finger of which was rightly adorned with a wedding band) before saying – “five days”. When asked why the union was so short, Linda was as honest as the day’s long. “After we spent our honeymoon together, he left to go to sea and I never saw him again” was her reasoning.
How deeply ironic therefore, that one of the songs I brought to Linda’s recording session was a Hank Wangford composition entitled, “Never Wear Mascara When You Love A Married Man”. That lady just lives her lyrics.
On the broadcasting front, in order to move to Nashville I left behind a seven year stint at London’s Capital Gold as well as a six-year hiatus with the BBC South West in Southampton. In the former instance my final show resembled a house party complete with guests, a huge cake and plenty of champagne. In total contrast, the networked BBC show viewed my departure as the act of a traitor walking out on the country of his birth.
It just goes to show that Auntie has been dumbing-down far longer than you’d think. After I settled into the Nashville groove and started working with artists such as Crystal Gayle, Jeff Bates, Jamie O’Neal and Victoria Shaw, the last thing on my mind was that I’d get a call to go on the road once more playing bass with Shakin’ Stevens.
For the next eight years I hopped backwards and forwards across the Atlantic, dividing my time between touring Europe with Shaky and cutting country records back on Music Row. As far as the UK was concerned, all of this culminated in an appearance on one of the last editions of “Top Of The Pops”.
Having been on the show back in 1966 as part of Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, the thought crossed my mind that I might be up for some sort of long service medal. Then I remembered it was the BBC.
The Shaky thing happened after he guested on “Echoes”, a Sunday morning show that I used to host on BBC Radio London. At the time he was appearing in Jack Good’s “Elvis” musical at the Astoria in London’s Charing Cross Road. He had everything going except for a successful recording career.
We went out to dinner one night and he poured his heart asking me what was wrong. The answer was simple – Everything. The guy needed new musicians, some quality material, a decent studio and a sympathetic producer. Before too long all of that was put into place, and we went on to sell more than 40 million records.
It all seems a bit fuzzy now, as so much was happening at one time. The then healthy state of the recording industry had a lot to do with it, as it was a time when people were buying records by the truckload. On the subject of trucks and loads, it is the enormity of recorded product that’s been tempered down the most as regards transporting my worldly goods to midtown Manhattan.
A scad of once-treasured albums, long-forgotten singles and countless CD’s has already gone to a better place, in advance of the covered wagon leaving town. At the end of the day and sentimentality apart, slimming down one’s record collection isn’t that tough a task.
No tears need to be shed when waving goodbye to a chunk of once precious vinyl, providing you can been bloody-minded and uncivilized over the issue. All you have to do is look the other way when the boxes disappear into someone else’s den.
Writing is now my thing, but I hasten to add I am referring to the art of authorship, journalism and blogging as opposed to the entirely different craft of songwriting. I can arrange and produce someone else’s composition along with the best of them, but a talented tunesmith I am not and never will be.
Instilling informative and entertaining prose out of a word-processor does effect a particular satisfaction, in that I once failed my GCE in English grammar at school in Harrogate. And the reason why? Well, the night before the exam when I should have been revising, I was out playing records at a local dance. If only my parents could see the writing was on the wall. So allow me to bid you welcome, in the hope that you will savour the flavour each time we liberate a legion of untold tales and scandalous stories in our Bytes From the Big Apple.