Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Sun 15 Jun 08 08:33
Capt, Alden, Thanks for the clarifications. I hear you about satsang because I was describing that yesterday, how when you're in his presence, how easy it is to just let go and want to interact with him, want to be around him. Part of it is being next to an important person, after cutting through all the layers. But in the case of most important people, you find that person doesn't meet your expectations for one reason or another. In the case of Willie, he doesn't disappoint. And he's so good at selling himself, you want to buy in immediately. The greater pleasure for me was catching him on off days when he wasn't about to go on stage or have ten people wanting a piece of his time, like in Santa Rosa or when he was recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. At times like these, he's just a plain ol' hillbilly from Hill County, and a very likable one at that. There's a passage in the book where Wally Selman, one of Willie's promoter thieves has been threatened by Geno McCoslin for infringing on his territory to promote a show. So Wally goes to Willie and tells him, "Geno's says he's going to kill me for promoting a show in Fort Worth." Willie replies, "Well tell Geno to quit that." And he did. As he's aged, that spiritual aspect has become more and more a part of his makeup, and he wears it well. But just when you think he's on some cosmic plane that you'll never reach, he tells a dirty joke, which he's pretty good at.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 15 Jun 08 08:55
Does he have any particular spiritual practice? Does he meditate? Or is it just the Willie-as-Yoda thing?
From Casey Monahan! (captward) Sun 15 Jun 08 09:23
I am really enjoying this discussion and say "Thanks a lot!" to whomever put Ed and Joe Nick together. Love the reference to Ornette and Dewey (still waiting for a King Curtis reference but haven't finished yet) and how important Fort Worth is to Texas music. Ornette, Dewey and King Curtis played together in the same high school band. Now *that* is a movie waiting to happen. Ornette and Denardo both told me when they were in Austin last year how much they wanted to play with Willie. Hope Mark Rothbaum, Willie's primary business consultant, can make that happen. It would be a lot more interesting, at least to this Texan, than Willie's collaboration with Marsalis last year. OK, I'm biased. There are people who call Texas home who are as influential as Willie if not more, but no one knows their name. I think you have to have a few categories to avoid painting with such a broad brush. People like Kilby <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kilby>, without whose work I couldn't be posting this. We got our radio pioneers, too, Like John R. Brinkley. :)
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Sun 15 Jun 08 11:05
Willie is Yoda. I don't think he practices meditation or anything like that. He is what he is. CJ, I'll allow Jack Kilby as an innovator, but as Most Important Texas, he doesn't drip Texas although his invention changed lives. Ornette and Willie is a delicious thought.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 15 Jun 08 12:54
Toby Keith tells a pretty funny intro about Willie Nelson before his song about never smoking dope with Willie again. And of course they did a very nice duet together. I see a lot of younger people doing duets with Willie and I wonder whether it's not only an homage but their attempt to help him with his tax problems.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sun 15 Jun 08 15:04
you know, that's probably a whole genre unto itself--Willie Nelson tribute songs. Of the ones i'm familiar with, Bruce Robison's "What Would Willie Do" is probably my favorite.
David Gault (dgault) Sun 15 Jun 08 20:47
<scribbled by dgault Sun 15 Jun 08 21:59>
david gault (dgault) Sun 15 Jun 08 20:52
and King Curtis has had a couple of sentences, near the part where Ornette Coleman is first mentioned.
david gault (dgault) Sun 15 Jun 08 21:07
I've heard 'Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground' is about Peter Sheridan.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Sun 15 Jun 08 22:39
slf The tax problems were settled back in early nineties. Young people like singing with Willie more because he's cool than to help him out. He doesn't need that kind of help. But he is the ultimate duet partner, so that's incentive enough. And more often than not, he's up to singing with just about anybody and has. Barbra Streisand is his only unrealized partner. pdl I actually quote the entire lyrics of "What Would Willie Do? by Bruce Robison. It is my favorite Willie tribute song. dgault, King Curtis was an influence by osmosis. I like making the point that the physical distance between where Willie worked on the radio and IM Terrell High School where Ornette, Curtis and Cornell Dupree went to school, was less than a mile. As for Angel, I've heard it was written for Connie Nelson, for Amy Irving and now Peter Sheridan, with whom I was acquainted. It could've been written for any of them, but Willie's not saying.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Mon 16 Jun 08 07:49
ha! that's great about WWWD! i haven't got to that part of the book yet, i'm still in 1965!
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Mon 16 Jun 08 08:57
The mid sixties mark Willie's great transition from country music songwriter to country music performer while internally, he expands his spiritual horizons.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Mon 16 Jun 08 23:20
I was watching some videos from Shindig the ABC live music series from 1965 tonight and again am struck how out there Willie was for his time. Regulars like Delaney Bramlett, the Blossoms, the Righteous Brothers, Billy Joe Royal were featured but the best were the Stones still in their blues phrase, a half hour dedicated to all British Invasion bands, lots of wild teen dancing including interracial dancing which was scandalous for its time, that blonde Go-Go girl with the round black framed glasses named Carol, and Jackie Wilson and Little Richard tearing it up by working the whole cast into frenzies. The show reflected all the cross currents going on in music. Willie came closer then to breaking through than I realized.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 17 Jun 08 00:09
And yet I was also thinking, wasn't the Nashville system, against which he rebelled, good for him at first? Don't you think his time at Tree and Pamper as a contract songwriter helped him get some discipline and hone his professionalism some?
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Tue 17 Jun 08 09:15
Getting signed to a $50 a week stipend at Pamper made all the difference in the world, as far as stability was concerned. Oddly though, although he teamed up with Hank Cochran, wrote songs with him in the songwriter shack out back of Pamper, and cut demos together, there aren't a whole lot of Cochran-Nelson compositions, beyond "What Can You Do To Me Now?" He was a solo songwriter, which ain't part of the Nashville system. So yeah, discipline was instilled and the idea of going to work to write songs certainly helped. But it didn't take more than a year for Willie to realize he didn't want to just write the songs, he wanted to be the singer. That pretty much defines his Nashville struggle and what he ended up rebelling against. After his first string of songwriting hits in the early 60s such as "Hello Walls," "Funny," and "Crazy," there weren't too many songwriting hits covered by others beyond Little Joe Carson covering "I Gotta Drunk." The Nashville system was actually very good to Willie all the way through, since he got to make all those recordings, but Chet Atkins, nor Felton Jarvis, Fred Foster or Joe Allison, could get a hit on him. That was the frustration.
Kurt Ribak (kurtr) Tue 17 Jun 08 09:19
<scribbled by kurtr Tue 17 Jun 08 09:20>
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Tue 17 Jun 08 09:23
What do people think of Chet Atkins' role in the music? I mean the guy has a great rep as a musician, seemed to be a decent guy from what little I've read, but I get the impression he didn't really get what Willie was doing and was applying a cookie-cutter approach to the music. On the one hand he has a rep as a musician's musician. On the other, he comes across in the book as not being very musical in his approach to the music he was producing.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 17 Jun 08 09:34
Yeah, I'm very surprised that, as a guitar player, Chet didn't Get It with Willie. Although it could also be argued that that's not what he was being paid to do. I can't remember if it was Willie talking about Chet, but I do remember someone I interviewed once referring to Nashville saying "I got tired of making records for a guy with a bottle of VO5 in one hand and a phone in the other on which he was talking to some guy about his golf game. That's not a producer!"
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Tue 17 Jun 08 11:05
Sounds like he hit Chet about when Chet had signed on the The Formula, which was to take all the country out of the record except for the accent.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 17 Jun 08 13:40
The "countrypolitan" sound, I believe it was called. That's Chet's doing, yes?
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Tue 17 Jun 08 13:51
Yup. Him, Billy Sherrill and the gang at Bradley's Barn. In the early 60s Nashville was so sweet as to give you diabetes. Where you used to have fiddles, you now had a violin section. It was great for Patsy Cline, but then they applied it to everybody. The Bakersfield boys, Buck and Merle, were the first serious in-your-face reaction to that. Then TomPall Glaser, Waylon Jennings, and Willie started doing harder edged stuff at Glaser's studio just off Music Row. Called themselves the Outlaws, and as far as Nashville was concerned, they were just that.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 17 Jun 08 14:04
Weirdly, there's a bit of a backlash against that position going on in the country-critical establishment these days. People like Roy Kasten have been urging a re-evaluation of the Nashville Sound, and there's a bit of merit in that -- after all, I mentioned above that I heard a lot of this stuff on pop radio in New York as a kid and I just put it into the pop mainstream back then -- and better than the mainstream pop coming out of, say, Philadelphia.
surly guy in a tux (kurtr) Tue 17 Jun 08 14:28
I agree with rik that the approach worked for Patsy CLine. It could work for a lot of folks. But it didn't work for everyone. And in the case of Willie, he could often record a n album for a lot less.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 17 Jun 08 14:31
Didn't the approach also become less of a straightjacket later on? A lot of mid/late 60s and early 70s country was still pretty poppy, but not as sweet, and a lot of it was pretty darn good (for example Tom T. Hall), although certainly not rough and rugged country.
Joe Nick Patoski (joenickpatoski) Tue 17 Jun 08 22:46
Chet Atkins was the musucians' musician but as label chief of RCA he stuck to the system articulated by Ken Nelson at Capitol back in the 1950s. The sound he championed had lots of strings, vocal singers, and other sweetening employed to take the twang out of country and make it more palatable to pop listeners. Willie didn't necessarily fight that at least not until the early 1970s but the formula never delivered. The approach worked for Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Ray Price, and even Faron Young and, artistically, it worked for Willie, especially his Liberty recordings in the early 1960s which I still enjoy listening to, so maybe Kaston has a point. Chet's and Felton Jarvis' sessions for RCA tried the Nashville Sound, the folk country approach and even let Johnny Bush and Jimmy Day from his road band cut tracks in the studio. Billy Sherrill didn't flex his power as a producer until after Willie left Nashville, although he did try to get involved in post production of Red Headed Stranger. Sherrill was considered the tastemaker behind the Nashville Sound in the 1970s like Chet was in the 1960s. Although Cash had some autonomy, Waylon really was the first Nashville artist to break the system and make records that he could control from start to finish. By recording in New York, Muscle Shoals, and Garland, Texas, Willie broke the system too.
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