A Conversation With David Lynn Jones

If there were any justice in the universe, David Lynn Jones would be a household name.  He would sell records like Neopolitan ice cream and be considered the natural heir to Bruce Springsteen, Arkansas-division.  Because he’s that good.  Instead, he’s among the countless Jonahs (John Brannen, Marty Brown, George Ducas, ad infinitum) that Nashville swallowed whole and spit out on the beach.  They were too country, not country enough, not pretty enough, too edgy for the average housewife, and not conducive to line dancing.  All their charts were stamped CAUTION—DOES NOT TAKE TO BRIDLE and one by one they were voted off the island.   

In Nashville’s defense, David Lynn Jones got more chances at the brass ring than some.  (Bob Woodruff, your table is ready.)  He did, after all, release four albums on two major record labels.  His songs were recorded by countless other artists, beginning with Willie Nelson’s version of the now-iconic “Living In The Promiseland”.  Nelson took it straight to number one on the Billboard Country charts, even naming his 1986 album after it (The Promiseland).  

Jones’ first record, 1987’s Hard Times On Easy Street, contained two Billboard Country Top 20 singles:  “Bonnie Jean (Little Sister)” (#10) and “High Ridin’ Heroes” with Waylon Jennings (#14).  Its dawning success led to 1990’s Wood, Wind And Stone, which featured a devastatingly soulful rendition of “When Times Were Good”, previously covered by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (Seashores Of Old Mexico, 1987).  Jones’ version makes Merle and Willie’s cover seem slight by comparison.  Let that sink in for a moment.  

Jones found himself running with the big boys—playing Farm Aid concerts, touring with Willie Nelson, singing with Johnny Cash, and playing shows with Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels.  He was headed straight for country music stardom with a bullet.  Household name, here I come.  

And then it all went sideways.  

Jones released Mixed Emotions (on Liberty Records) in 1992, containing exactly zero hits and no charting singles.  It did, however, have a couple of songs about religious wars, specifically in the Middle East (“The Land Of Ala”, “Judgement Day”).  In the boot-scootin’ boogie lights of 1992 Nashville, the expansive Mixed Emotions was a non-starter.  Criminally ignored, it was an uncut diamond swept away by a tide of John Deere Green.  

Amazingly, Jones (still on Liberty Records) released one more album, Play By Ear, in 1994.  Much to Nashville’s chagrin, it also contained zero hits and no charting singles.  Worst of all, there was no pandering.  It consisted of no dance gimmicks, eye-rolling clichés, or novelty songs.  There were, however, ten exquisitely rendered soundscapes of love, real life, and the world we live in.  In the achy breaky world of the early 1990s, Play By Ear was declared persona non grata.  D.O.A. and R.I.P.  It seemed Nashville wanted to rattle the tin cup and slop the hogs; Jones wanted to say something worth saying.  The powers-that-be wanted a pliable singing Mr. Haney.  David Lynn Jones just wanted to be himself.  Hence, D-I-V-O-R-C-E.   Corporate Nashville would continue its inexorable march to irrelevancy and a gifted artist would suffer the consequences.  Same ol’ tune, fiddle and guitar.  

Fast forward almost 20 years.  

David Lynn Jones has weathered record company troubles, identity theft, house fires, and heartache.  His life has been a classic country song, a litany of bad luck and worse circumstances.  The music, however, is still bright as lightning and loud as thunder.  It has aged not a single day.  The hard-earned wisdom of “Walkin’ Through The Fire” still holds true.  “Crossroads In”, at the appropriate ear-splitting volume, will still make the earth crumble beneath your feet.  Tonight in America, the music is alive and well.  

And so is David Lynn Jones.

Earlier this year, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak with him.  Ever the gentleman, he graciously suffered a fool much longer than he should have.  He and his wonderful wife, Illa, treated me like family.  For that simple kindness, they have my eternal gratitude and friendship.  God don’t make ‘em any better than David Lynn and Illa Jones.  

With no further ado…  

Michael:  First of all, I’ve been a fan for years, so this is a thrill for me.  Thank you so much.

David:  Well, it’s a thrill for me to talk to a fan.  Any fan.  It’s kind of a small club, you know.  (laughing)

Michael:    Well, I don’t know.  I was looking online for stuff on you and there’s not much there, to be honest with you, but when I see stuff it’s almost…obsessive fans.  They miss you so much.

David:  Yeah, you kind of fall between the tracks.  When there’s not enough fans to fill up a big venue, then it becomes an expense to go play for the people who would come see you, but there’s just not enough to make it worthwhile for anybody to see you.  We played the University of Arkansas here a couple or three weeks ago at the Independence Concert Hall.  1,500 or so.  Pretty much full.  We drew a fairly good crowd, but this is home, so everybody knows who I am around here.

Michael:  So you’re in Arkansas.

David:  Yes.

Michael:  I assume out in the country.

David:  No.  For the moment, we live in town where my wife grew up.  We have a small farm down three miles south of here.  But the house burned down in the last year.  We haven’t rebuilt the house and we’re living in town.

Michael:  I’m sorry to hear about your house.  That’s awful.

David:  Yeah, well, things happen.

Michael:  Yeah, you know, it’s just things.  You’ve got people.  That’s way more important.

David:  Yeah, that’s right.  Absolutely.

Michael:  If you don’t mind, let me just jump right in.  When you put out those four records, I bought each and every one of them–on cassette, of course–and each one was better than the one that came before it.  And then all of a sudden…nothing.

David:  Well, the thing about it is…you have to make money for the record companies.  It doesn’t matter how much they like you or how good of buddies you are with the president.  If you’re not making money for the parent company, pretty soon your budget goes down so far that it doesn’t make any sense to make records anymore.

I guess the story, in a nutshell, is with the first record, Hard Times On Easy Street, I went back a good ways.  I went back ten, twelve, fifteen years [for] some of those songs I had written.  When Steve Popovich signed me, he had told me six years before that if he ever took over a record company and I didn’t have a record deal by then, he would make a record.  And that’s the way it worked out.  Steve was my man.  He was a big fan and he was president of Polygram in Nashville and we hung out all the time.  And just whatever I wanted to do, man, he was behind me.  Steve was the guy who discovered Meat Loaf and helped to build a lot of careers [like] Springsteen.  He played roles in lots and lots and lots of major rock stars.  He was a great guy.  We laid him to rest a couple of years back.  I sang at his funeral.  But anyway, he left the company over a dispute with the big money guys over signing Johnny Cash–imagine that–and Kris Kristofferson.  They didn’t have a record deal at the time and he signed them and the parent company goes, “Well, these guys can’t sell any records”.  I wasn’t there for the conversation, but that was the scope.  Around the office, if you know what I mean.  In the interim, he chose to leave because if he couldn’t do what he felt like he needed to do, what was the right thing to do…  He couldn’t imagine Johnny Cash not having a record deal. He said that’s ludicrous.  It’s just ludicrous.

Michael:  It is.  Absolutely.

David:  And he was right, you know?  He was right as rain.  But he left the company.  And after he left, I was the guy who was signed by Popovich, who wasn’t there anymore.  And that’s poison in the record industry, to have your main guy leave the company and somebody else take over.  So after the next record, I just left.  I got a chance to go with Capitol.  Jimmy Bowen was the biggest guy in town at the time and he was a fan, too, and he gave me a deal to do two albums.  He was behind me 100% and gave me anything I wanted and told me I could do whatever I wanted to.  Just give him a couple he could get on the radio.  But by then, he was into it with them as well.  So the same thing happened with Capitol.  I just got to the point where I just didn’t want to mess with it anymore.  It’s too much work.  The last two albums—the last three, actually—were recorded in Bexar, where I lived and built my own studio.  And we worked for a long time.  I wanted to do just live performances.  I didn’t want to do a bunch of overdubs like we had done with the first record.  We did it the way we wanted to do it.  Play By Ear, I think’s the best record I ever did, but it’s probably the least appreciated by the people who like Hard Times On Easy Street, you know?

Michael:  Play By Ear is my favorite.  It’s just a beautiful record.

David:  Well, thank you.  It was as close as I had ever come to doing what I wanted to do, which is have a completely unique sound.  Trying not to sound like your influences is really tough.

Michael:  My favorite song on that is “Crossroads In”.

David:  (laughing)  Bless you.

Michael:  And it’s the last song on the last record.  The lyrics are—I don’t know if obtuse is the right word—Dylanesque.  Can you tell me what that song’s about?

David:  Yeah.  There’s a little café in Arkansas that says ‘At The Crossroads’.  It’s the only crossroads, a paved road for miles in any direction.  And that was where I went to school.  And Bexar, where my studio was and where I was born and raised–and where all of our family lives–down one of those crossroads, there’s a little cabin there and there always has been a café there.  You know, a Dairy Queen.  Not the trade Dairy Queen, but a little place to get ice cream cones and that kind of thing from when I was a kid.  And over the years, it has become the gathering place for the morning café coffee drinkers club, you know?  It was the place where everybody, all the old men whittling and spitting, was all in there all drinking coffee all the time.  All the time.  Some of them were in there three or four times a day.  And when I came back from Texas…I’d been gone for a long time, so I’m a new guy.  I’m basically a city guy at that point.  I’m as country as anybody in the world, but I’d been on the road and living in Houston, Texas and living in other places for years and years.  So when I came back, I had a publishing deal—finally–where I could just live anywhere I wanted to and write.  So I came home, you know?  I bought my grandmother’s farm and moved into a house where I’d been as a kid.  So anyway, I had this blank page in front of me, you know?  It was a great creative time in my life and I’d go to the café of the morning and sit around and listen to all these guys.  I knew most of them.  I had known ‘em from when I was in school there.  Nobody really knew what I had going on.  I had a big publishing deal happening and all kinds of stuff going on and was running with Charlie Daniels and…just had a lot of stuff going on.  I moved back home and nobody knew, so I could just sit over there in the corner and watch all this stuff happening.   It was like a little soap opera that played out there, a different version tomorrow than you hear today.  And so it’s about characters that go in there.

There was a lady who was the waitress—she’s the ‘world’s greatest food waitress’—and her name was Vernelle.  And so I changed her name to Willie in the song, because that’s what some people called her.  She was the greatest waitress.  She was like the gal that used to be at the truck stop, whatever her name was [Flo, from Alice].  She was like that.  She knew everybody, everybody loved her, she never wrote anything down, she never made a mistake.  If you ordered one over easy and one sunny side up the morning before, she remembered it the next day.  Even if she’d never seen you.  And she was beautiful, too.  She was a middle-aged movie star looking lady.  And she was just a wonderful, wonderful person.  And she spent all of her money feeding stray cats.  She fed–it says in the song–a hundred stray cats.  She actually fed more like 150 in a big lot behind her house.  And she spent all the money she made as a waitress.  I mean, you can imagine feeding that many cats cat food…she fed ‘em scraps from the café, of course.  Some of those cats ate better than people.  But she spent all of her money feeding those cats and everybody was always joking about her cats, and how many cats she had now.  And it just kind of developed out of that.

And the waitress ‘hot-headed Brenda’, she’d been through a divorce.  She was married to a friend of mine.  I was sitting in there one morning with who became my father-in-law, and he’d ordered toast with his breakfast.  This actually took place at a restaurant across the street, this particular incident.  But later, she worked in the Crossroads In I’m talking about.  Anyway, my father-in-law ordered his toast [and] she didn’t bring it to him.  She went back in the kitchen and came out with two pieces of burned toast and just slid ‘em across the table to him.  And it was wheat toast.  He hated wheat toast.  Anyway, that’s where that piece of the story came from.  It was an actual event.  Because of her divorce, she was mad at everybody.  Hot-headed Brenda, she had a really bad temper and she was mad all the time.

And Rockin’ Johnny was my cousin.  He was the consummate lazy hillbilly, asleep on the front of the store with a hat down over his eyes.  That’s the way he lived.  He never learned to drive.  He wouldn’t turn on a light switch because he was afraid of electricity.  And he fox hunted.  He carried a fox horn around, strung over his shoulder until he was past 80.  And he’d come in the café and sit on the floor and talk and talk and talk and nobody would listen to him.  But he was saying some fairly worthwhile stuff sometimes.  But nobody ever paid any attention to Johnny. His name was Johnny Dillinger.  My family on my mother’s side were Dillingers, as in…John Dillinger.  Same people.  And Johnny was more than likely named after John Dillinger.  Anyway, that’s the story of that song.

Michael:  That song basically encapsulates [everything].  It’s the perfect one to wrap up the last record with, isn’t it?  You’re just making observations.

David:  Yeah, it was purely intentional.  A funny thing, too.  A funny side story—I don’t know how much time you want to spend on this, but…

Michael:  No, go on.

David:  …my nephew, my youngest sister’s son, was born an entrepreneur.  He never had a regular job in his life.  He’s always been creating a place for himself.  My sister and her husband took care of street people.  For years and years and years, they just took ‘em in off the street without any questions or anything.  They would just take people in and feed ‘em, try to get ‘em in the church.  My sister was in the Assembly Of God church and she was the piano player, music director, secretary, all this stuff in a big church in Kansas City, Missouri.  And that became her life’s work, taking care of the downtrodden people.  Well, eventually that turned into a state halfway house, a rehab farm.  They bought a big farm up in Missouri and had about fifteen or twenty boys that they were taking care of.  And these were the meanest of the mean.  They went there when they had no place [to go].  It was either they could go to my sister’s place or go to jail.  So they would go to my sister’s and most of these were teenage boys.  You can imagine what kind of situation that would put you in all the time.

Anyway, my nephew, he was around 22 or 23 by then, he was like their big brother.  That’s what he tried to be.  So he took ‘em places and he would bring ‘em to Arkansas camping once a year.  Their first trip to Arkansas was after the Play By Ear album.  He had the Play By Ear album, I sent him a copy and he kept up with my music and stuff all the time.  So that song was like the biggest hit.  I mean, they played it all the time at the boy’s home.  They would just play that song over and over and over.  And Rockin’ Johnny had become a legend among those fifteen or twenty boys.  And when they got to Arkansas, instead of coming to meet—I mean, they were coming to meet me—but at the little corner grocery store just across from the Crossroads In, Johnny was sitting out front like he was most of the time when it wasn’t raining.  Sitting on the ground leaned back against the wall with his hands up on top of his knees, with his hat down over his eyes.  But he’d speak to people—he was sitting right by the front door of this little place called the Razorback Grocery.  And these boys got out, and my nephew recognized Johnny.  He pulled up there and he recognized cousin Johnny, you know?  (laughing)  He told the boys, “Right there’s Rockin’ Johnny, boys.”  And it was like they had seen Elvis, man.  It made Johnny’s life.  Of course, he had no idea that he was even in my song.  He was so out-of-touch with stuff like [that], it wouldn’t have meant anything to him.  He didn’t listen to music—he didn’t care anything about music.  He just liked fox hounds and Prince Albert smoking tobacco.  And he walked everywhere he went.  You could give him a ride, but he never owned a car, couldn’t drive.  Anyway, that was their theme song, man.  Rockin’ Johnny was their hero and they got to meet him.

Michael:  You made him more famous than you are.

David:  Absolutely.  They didn’t care anything about meeting me, they just wanted to meet Rockin’ Johnny, man.  (laughing)  I thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.  It was the only time in his life, probably, when Johnny felt like he was really important.  He had no idea why they were so interested in meeting him.  They all wanted to shake his hand and ask him questions and talk to him and stuff.  Of course he just played right along.  He went right along with ‘em.

Michael:  I’m going to assume Johnny’s passed away.

David:  Yeah, he did.  God loved him, because Johnny died without ever being sick or anything.  He was living with somebody, sleeping in the back bedroom, and he just died in his sleep when he was 86 years old.

Michael:  Oh, good Lord.  86.  I hope I make it to 86.  I hope to just make it to 46.

David:  He never was sick, never very much.  As far as I know, never was in the hospital or anything like that.  He walked everywhere, which is probably why he lived so long.  Smoked continually.  He rolled  his own cigarettes and could roll ‘em with one hand.  He’d talk to you, making motions with one hand and roll a cigarette with the other.

Michael:  Pure talent.

David:  Pure talent.

Michael:  This morning, I was watching a youtube video of you doing “Living In The Promiseland” as a duet with Willie and it hit me…why does this look so familiar?  And then I realized I was actually there.

David:  (laughing)  Were you?

Michael:  Yeah, Farm Aid IV at the Hoosierdome in 1990.  Tell me about duetting with Willie.

David:  Oh, we did every night for a long time.  Willie heard the tape of me, via his bass player, out on the golf course.  Bee Spears.  He invited me to come to Farm Aid.  That was right before the first Farm Aid.  So I did that song.  That song was on the tape that he heard and he asked me to come do it at Farm Aid I.  So about midnight—or maybe right after midnight—he gave me a big introduction.  I came out and I did it just me on piano and my sax player at the time, who’s no longer with us.  Anyway, we did it at Farm Aid I.  That’s Farm Aid IV that’s on [youtube], isn’t it?

Michael:  Yeah.

David:  Yeah, well I did the first four.  After the Farm Aid thing, I went on tour with Willie and toured with him for a good while.  So we did the duets all the time.  We did ‘em every night.  We also did a duet—he and Merle cut another song of mine, “When Times Were Good And You Were Mine”.  It’s on…I forget what album.

Michael:  Seashores Of Old Mexico.

David:  Yeah.  So we did those on the show when I was touring with him.  This is before I had a record deal or anything.  I was just on the road with him.  He was being nice to me.  I was a new kid and he liked my songs, so he took me on the road.  Paid me well and pampered me like a star and treated me great.

Michael:  Willie and Waylon both supported you heavily there at the beginning, didn’t they?

David:  Yeah.  My producer was Richie Albright, who was Waylon’s producer and drummer for ever and ever.  So that was a natural connection.  Richie and Bee Spears, who was Willie’s bass player until he passed away last year, they were best friends.  They were great guys and best friends.  They’d been looking for somebody to produce for a long time.  They wanted to find some new talent and it wound up being me.  And they had money support from outside sources and they just put a company together and I was their first production.  Everything was happening all at the same time.  I was already being pursued by record companies and what-have-you.  That was the natural process, I guess.

There was a time in my music schooling in the mid-‘70s, I was living in Houston and working as a bass player in the recording studios and writing songs and having some success in the local area.  We had a big hit or two in Texas that we recorded on Randy Corner who was with ABC Dot.  We had some success.  And there was a time when I was listening only to three people.  I listened to Deep Purple and Genesis’ A Trick Of The Tail and Waylon Jennings’ This Time, which was produced by Richie.  And I love that album.  One half of that album is slow stuff–love songs–and the other half is up-tempo stuff.  I thought that was a good concept.  I never did really do that.  The time I started making records, albums had almost become a thing of the past.  I think my album was the last 33 1/3 album that Polygram put out, and the first CD.  As I remember it, it was the first album that Polygram ever had out in 33 1/3, CD, cassette, and 45, all at the same time.  A transitional period in music, no doubt.

Michael:  And there you were.

David:  Anyway, I was a huge Waylon fan.  He was one of my heroes.  I was more of a fan of Willie just because Willie’s who he was, you know?  I don’t know how much musical influence Willie had on me, but I had such great respect for him.  Because he did what he did and told everybody they could like it or not.  And did it, anyway.  That was so much what I wanted to do.  Having that kind of a forefather in the business who just says, “This is what I do.  If you don’t like it, I’m sorry…but I’m not really that sorry.”  (laughing)  They inspired whole generations of people like myself.

Michael:  Yeah, absolutely.  I talked to Billy Joe Shaver about three or four months ago and he was talking about Waylon.  And he said he was good buddies with Waylon, but Waylon was brutally honest.  He would tell you the truth even if it hurt your feelings and made you mad.

David:  Oh, absolutely.  Yeah, he could, you know?  He didn’t have time for fools.  (laughing)  You know, there’s just not enough hours in the day as it is, so you just don’t have time to suffer fools.  Waylon was always onstage, even at home.  I’ve been in his house with just he and the wife and Richie.  Waylon was always joking, he was always funny.  He didn’t necessarily dominate the conversation.  It wasn’t like he was trying to overpower anything.  But he was always trying to lift everything up.  He was a totally different personality.  When I was listening to This Time, I always assumed he was a brooding rough guy tough guy kind of a thing.  It was kind of his image, but he really wasn’t.  He was a really gentle, soft-spoken, funny person.  He was a great guy.  He was totally different than I thought he would be, but even better.

Michael:  Willie’s always noted for playing “Whiskey River” to open up every show he’s done for the last…oh, 150 years.  But all of a sudden, a few years back, he started opening his show with “Living In The Promiseland”.

David:  Really.

Michael:  Yeah, he did that—I want to say three or four years ago—for an entire tour.  He opened up his shows with your song.

David:  I did not know that.

Michael:  Yep, he sure did.  And it’s a great compliment to you.

David:  Well, it is a great compliment.  It kind of gives me chills.  Kind of chokes me up.  I had no idea that he did that.

Michael:  He certainly did.

David:  Well, he sang it a few years ago at the close of the Democratic Convention and that was a total surprise, too.  We got contacted before the election, the last Presidential election.  They wanted to use “Promiseland” as the theme song of the re-election campaign, Obama’s re-election campaign.  But they wanted to use Joe Cocker’s version.

Michael:  I didn’t even know Joe did it.

David:  Oh, yeah.  He nailed it, man.

Michael:  Oh, he always does.

David:  There’s a video.  I think it’s on youtube.  Yeah, you can punch it up.  There is a black-and-white video that they shot.  It was going to be the single off of a live album that he did.  There were two studio cuts on the album.  The first one was going to be the first single–it was kind of a rock ‘n’ roll thing.  They were expecting it to be a hit, and then they were going to put out “Promiseland” as the really big push.  So they did a video on “Promiseland”.  I don’t think they even did a video on the first single, but the first single stiffed so bad in the U.S. that they never put out “Promiseland” as a single.

Michael:  Of all the luck.

David:  But the album went gold in Europe.  So his version still pays some bills.  But very few people over here ever heard it.  I don’t know that they play it over there.  I’m not sure where the money comes from, airplay or just comes from sales over there.  I’m not sure, but he’s got a great version of it.  I mean, it’s a really really really great version.  He does it just exactly the way I did it on my original publishing demo.  It’s just very sparse until the very end of the song.  The band doesn’t even come in until the very end of the song, and then he comes in screaming.  When he goes into the last chorus, he’s screaming.  The first time I heard it, I fell to my knees.  (laughing)  I really did.

Michael:  Joe really has to try to screw up.  He’s so, so good.

David:  Yeah, he couldn’t screw up if he tried.  He really couldn’t.  You know, it was such a surprise when Willie did it, because I never heard it as a country song.  I was so surprised when Willie cut that, ‘cause I always thought it was a pop song.  And to hear Willie…Willie could take anything and make anything his own.  So he totally made the song his own.  Well, that’s great news.  I did not know that Willie did that.  I’ll have to thank him for that over Facebook or something.

Michael:  Immigration is a big thing in the news right now and that song fits right in.  It’s lost not an inch of power.

David:  Yeah well, it’s an ongoing…unintentional, I guess.  What brought it on was the people floating out there in the boats.  They wouldn’t let ‘em come to shore.  And they were out there starving to death and falling off in the water off the coast of California.  That’s what brought the song on.  But since then, it’s even a bigger issue now than it was then.  I wrote that song in ‘80, ’81, somewhere back in there when that was first going on.  I suspect it’ll be a bigger issue as time drags on.

Michael:  If you don’t mind, can you tell me the influences on your songwriting?  Because when I listen… for the most part, I hear gospel.

David:  Yeah, well, I started in gospel.  That was my first introduction to music of any kind, because it was always going on in the house.  My sisters played piano—well, they both played piano and one played piano and accordion.  And we’re talking about the ‘50s era.  Mom and Dad sang.  Everybody sang in our family, I guess.  All my aunts sang and played piano.  They were the piano players in the churches around, so I grew up in gospel music.  My Dad was a deacon in the church—the Assembly Of God church—when I was 10 years old or something.   My mother recently started—via her just being a great Sunday school teacher—preaching for a while in a Nazarene church.  So I grew up in church.  And I didn’t have any influences outside of the Grand Ole Opry and gospel music until I was up in years, for the most part.

I guess I heard the Everly Brothers and things like that when my sisters would bring home albums and bring their record player with them after they got out of school.  I was a lot younger than them.  I was pretty much like an only child.  My sister left, she was 8 years older than me.  My youngest sister, Bonnie Jean, was 12 years older than me.  So they were gone by the time I reached the age of accountability.  They were out of my way.  But they were playing music all the time in the house.  The accordion and the piano was going on and there was somebody singing.  Doris, my younger sister, even wrote a song.  I remember when she wrote a song one time and it was a big thing, you know?  God, it was such a big thing.  Maybe that’s why I started writing songs, I’m not sure.  But I’ve been doing it a long time.  I don’t remember writing my first song, I’ve been doing it so long.  But I’m sure the first songs I wrote were somewhere between gospel and unrequited love I was making up.  (laughing)

Michael:  See, I can tell you’re country, mainly because you used the term ‘age of accountability’.  (laughing)  ‘Cause I was raised in the country, too, and I heard it…

David:  (laughing)  That varies from society to society, you know.

Michael:  Listen, here’s a couple of strange, off-kilter questions.  I always like to ask this.  Let’s say you’re stranded on a desert island and you can take four or five records with you.  What would you take?  Your favorite records of all time.

David:  I’d go back to ’76, probably, and give you that same list.  It’d probably be Made In Japan by Deep Purple, Trick Of The Tail by Genesis, and This Time by Waylon.  That would be the top three, because there was such a contrast between those when I think about why—I’ve had a lot of time to think about stuff in the last few years—why those 3 particular records.  Because they represent everything.  Those three records represent the entire palate of music to me.  Deep Purple–theirs is hard-driving, growling, nasty, drive on the bottom as anybody ever played anywhere.  And Trick Of The Tail is just a genius album.  I think Genesis was at a place that they never were before and they never were again.  Those songs were just magical—magical lyric, unbelievable music.  They were incredible when I went to see them.  They did the whole thing at Jones Hall in Houston.  One of the few concerts I’ve ever been to where I just went as a person, bought a ticket, went in, and got a seat.  Jones Hall was kind of a theatre in the round, kind of a small audience.  Tickets were like fifty bucks or something.  I don’t know, it was pretty high.  But anyway, it was a small crowd.  Pure fans.  That’s what they wanted, they wanted only the people there who knew what was going on.  And they did the whole album from start to finish.  And that’s all they did, in the same sequence that it was on the album.  So they just played the entire album live.  That was it.  No encore, nothing.

Michael:  Was that one of Peter Gabriel’s last records with them?

David:  I believe it was the first one they did without him.  Phil Collins was doing all the singing.

Michael:  You know, he’s really underrated, too.

David:  Well, the stuff that became hits was just ear candy he wrote because he needed to make some money.  Because the lyrics and the musical content of Trick Of the Tail, I don’t think has been surpassed by anybody, as far as I can see.  There’s just too much going on there that slips by you that you have to listen to a hundred times before you even start to understand what they’re doing musically and how that relates to the form of the lyric and how brilliantly…you know, this thing was divinely inspired.

Michael:  I’m going to take your advice and listen to that record.  I’m not familiar with it.

David:  It’s a great, great album.  About ’76, I think, is when it came out.  But anyway, the other one of the three I would take with me is the Waylon album.  It was…defenseless.  There’s so many songs on there that are just defenseless, you know?  Somebody who is so overwhelmed with somebody’s love or just being with them that they just consume their whole life.  And the songs are pouring themselves out—they’re not offering anything except “God, this is the way I felt”, you know?  And there’s a lot of songs on there that’s just so straight-forward and so unpretentious.  That’s really hard to stay away from in writing songs.  It’s been going on a long time and it’s really hard not to say something that’s already been said.  And even if you think you have, if you listen enough, you’ll find out somebody said it before you did.  I just think that’s a great album.

Anyway, my influences would go back to Beatles songs.  Lennon and McCartney, way back.  Prior to that, I was writing gospel stuff or kind of country stuff that I really don’t remember.  I was just kind of making it up, not really writing it down.  But there was a piano in the house I always played.  I was always on it.  I didn’t start playing the guitar until I was about twelve.  But that was about the time I heard the Beatles for the first time, 12 or 13.  Before that, it was all piano.  I don’t remember not knowing how to play piano and I was always making stuff up, so those influences of just having time alone in the house with a big piano were probably the biggest influence I could have.  And gospel music.

Michael:  So Play By Ear is exactly that.  Did you take lessons or did you just play by ear?

David:  I did play by ear.  That’s what the album means.  I mean, the title came from a couple of things.  One of them is a scene off of Songwriter.  You ever seen that movie?  Willie and…

Michael:  And Kris, yeah.

David:  Yeah.  Willie’s coming into the office and they hand him a tape.  The guy’s in a wheelchair and he says, “Listen to this.  This is my brother’s song.”  And Willie sticks the tape up next to his ear and says, “I’m listening, I’m listening.”  You remember that one?

Michael:  (laughing)  Yes, I do.  I haven’t thought about that in 30 years.

David:  (laughing)  I knew by then that nobody at the record company was really listening, because Jimmy Bowen was about to be gone.  I knew that he was, because they got into it over Garth Brooks.  He wouldn’t give Garth Brooks a record deal and that led to a lot of trouble.  Anyway, I won’t go into that.  But it’s a common knowledge story in the record business.  But anyway, I knew nobody was listening at the record company, because they didn’t know what to do.  I turned in Mixed Emotions, which is the first one I did for Capitol and they did absolutely nothing with it.  They didn’t know what to do.  I kind of understand that they didn’t know what to do with it.  But it was just something I wanted to do and that’s what Bowen wanted me to do.  He said, “Go do whatever you want to do.  Just try to give me something I can get on the radio.  Other than that, I don’t care what you do.  It just needs to be done.”  So that’s what we did.

Michael:  On Mixed Emotions, is that you posing in front of the Ryman?

David:  No, I don’t think we’re in front of the Ryman.  I don’t remember exactly where.  That was downtown somewhere.  That long coat is actually Marty Stuart’s.  (laughing)  But he had left it with his ex-wife Cindy, who was Johnny Cash’s daughter.  She was the makeup person on the photo shoot.  She was doing my makeup and she had that coat.  She said, “I’ve got a great coat at home that used to belong to Marty.  I’ll just go get it.”  So she went home and got that coat and brought it back and it wound up being on the album cover.  Yeah, that’s Marty’s coat.  I don’t know if he’d recognize it or if he’s ever seen the album, but anyway…I haven’t seen Marty in a long time.

Michael:  My favorite song on that record is “The Land Of Ala”.

David:  Is it?  You know, that was Jimmy Bowen’s favorite song as well.

Michael:  It’s a great song.

David:  Well, thank you.  It’s as least as relevant today as when I wrote it.  It’s about the Middle East wars and it’s even scarier now than it was then.  You are listening, man.  That’s great.

Michael:  I’m listening.  Put in a nutshell, though, these songs that you put out were not standard for country.  They weren’t hats and trucks and whatever the clichés are.  Do you think the record companies just did not know what to do because you just did not fit in?

David:  Oh, absolutely.  That’s what it was.  It’s like I said, I don’t blame ‘em for not listening, because I know how that works.  When I was with Polygram, I was at the record company a lot.  Because I was in town all the time.  And they would always want me to come over and do this and do that, you know.  We did interviews over there.  So I was around the process a lot.  And before that, being with Richie and running with them in Nashville.  Richie’s live-in at the time was Bonnie…can’t remember her name, but she was head of CBS A&R, so I was around that business all the time.  And hearing those people talk…during lunch, after work.  So it was a great school to be in to see the inner circle of the music business and how important it is to have the office girls really be behind your stuff.

Michael:  Yep.  I keep hearing that.

David:  It’s very, very  important that those people that you wouldn’t think would have anything to do with your career…  It was those girls who invented the line dance that made Billy Ray Cyrus’ record such a smash.  It was those girls in the office.  That was their idea.  They came up with that whole concept that virtually made his career.

So I knew when I made these records that they more than like were not going to be well-received by the record company.  But I had just come off Wood, Wind And Stone.  We did Wood, Wind And Stone first in Bexar at my home studio with my road band.  And my road band was a great band.  And that’s what I wanted to do.  I wanted to work with guys that I knew that I had worked with for years and years, who knew me, who knew my stuff, and there’d be no surprises, and we’re all of one mind as to what we wanted to do.  We starved to death in Texas doing whatever we had to do to stay alive.  We were the staff band in the studio and so that kept us alive and so we played virtually for nothing other places.  Just to be able to play our own music and stuff.  You know, I didn’t want to sound like everybody else.  I hated the stuff coming out of Nashville at the time.  Everything sounded so much the same.  Like it does now.  It all sounds the same.

So anyway, we did the second album, we cut it in Bexar with my road band.  And meantime, the power structure had changed from Popovich over to a couple other guys and they wanted me to re-cut the whole record in Nashville.  And I was real proud of the album.  I can go back and listen to some of the stuff that’s way better than the album we did in Nashville.  And at that point, Harold Shedd, who was responsible for Alabama’s entire career—he produced Alabama through 23 number ones—he was a big fan of mine and he really wanted me to get on the radio, so I let him pick all the songs on the Wood, Wind And Stone album.  Then we cut ‘em in Nashville with the top grade players in town, you know?  Whoever was the best–the most sought-after drummer, the most sought-after bass player, yadda yadda yadda all down through there was all playing on that record.  And you know, technically it’s a great record.  I mean, the band played really good.  But I so did not like making that record.  I so did not like some of the songs on it that I had written that I never intended to record.  Like “Lonely Town”.  I always hated that I wrote that song.  I almost didn’t even play it, but I knew if I played it for the record company, they’d want me to record it.  We shot a video and all this stuff.  But anyway, I never really liked that record that much.  I like some of those songs, but they didn’t come off the way I wanted them to.

So when I changed record companies, it was all about freedom at that point.  When Jimmy Bowen said ‘go home and make me two albums and do whatever you want to do’, that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me at that time.  But the first album I’d been able to do that with total freedom—within a given premise, you know— I’m realizing I’m basically playing songs that are more leaning toward rock ‘n’ roll than they are toward country.  But I’m still on a country record label.  I knew they weren’t rock ‘n’ roll enough to be rock ‘n’ roll, so I was always splitting hairs.  We were always splitting hairs, trying to please everybody and please myself to some degree.

There’s a few tracks on Mixed Emotions that I really do like.  I would do ‘em better if I did ‘em now.  I’d do ‘em different and everybody probably could say that if they go back and listen to their album and go, “Yeah, I could do a better job now.”  It was all my road band.  And it’s the same band that did Play By Ear, but we simplified it on Play By EarMixed Emotions was a lot of overdubs.  Too many overdubs.  Overproduced.  Trying to use everybody’s ideas that you could, because if some guy makes three suggestions in a row that you don’t use, he probably won’t make any more suggestions.  You know that kind of a situation?  Just trying to use everybody’s ideas.  If they make any sense whatsoever, you’ll try ‘em, you know?  You can always mix ‘em out when you do the mix.  But we wound up with a lot of stuff.  We cut it in Arkansas and we mixed it in Nashville.  And you know, it was okay.  Play By Ear is a better album.  It’s overall my favorite album.

Michael:  I just think each one was successively better than the previous one, in all honesty.

David:  Well, I appreciate it.  I’m glad you feel that way, because I think it’s the best album by far that I made.  But it was a natural progression.  I think each album was better in some way than the one previous.  And you know, I was 38 years old when I started doing this.  I’d been a studio musician for a long long long time, but I never really intended to make records all on my own.  I was really just trying to be a writer and that kind of came along.  It was always somebody else’s idea that I should make records.  I never thought I was a very good singer and I only learned how to sing when I started recording a whole bunch of my own voice and listening back and going, “God dang, you can’t sing a lick, man”.  (laughing)  I’d been singing all my life for a living without hearing myself back.  You know what I mean?  Nobody was recording me.  But I had my own studio later on.  I got a lot better than I was when I started, because I sat there and listened to myself all the time.  I ain’t totally stupid, so I figured out how to do a better job of what I had always been doing.

And if I were to make any record now, it would be better than Play By Ear.  If I wanted to go to that trouble and had the opportunity to do that.  I got a bunch of new songs.  I don’t write that much anymore at all.  The last ten years, I really haven’t written that much.  But I wrote a whole bunch of stuff after I stopped sending stuff to Nashville.  I’ve got a couple of albums of stuff that nobody’s heard.

Michael:  See, now you’re setting me all a-twitter.  I’m getting all excited.

David:  (laughing)  I have a ProTools studio stashed in my closet back here that’s still brand new.  I’ve never used it at all and I’ve had it for several years.  My recording studio got vandalized, got stolen out from under me.  I mean, they came in and ripped the built-in mastering lab speakers out of the wall and stole the wiring out of the wall, the copper wire.  They stole the console.  They left me my 24-track recorder.  Other than that, they stole everything they could get on a flat-bed trailer, I guess.  They wiped me out.  Put me out of the studio business.  It’s been almost ten years ago.  And hell, maybe that’s a sign.  (laughing)

Michael:  I don’t know, man.  There’s a lot of people out here who want you to make the big return, the big comeback.  But I sincerely want you to do what’s in your heart to do.  Whatever the Good Lord leads you to do, that’s what you do.

David:  Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to determine for a long time.  You know, what is the Good Lord leading me to do.  And I really don’t know.  I had never really played my own songs to the local people enough to really get a feel, ’cause I went from total obscurity to a top-10 record.  And I wasn’t playing live anymore.  I hadn’t been playing live for a long time.  All of a sudden I had a record deal and I was playing every day, but I was writing every day.  Just me and a chair in the kitchen or in front of a console or whatever.  And just played to myself.  I wasn’t playing live at all.  And all of a sudden, we were out there playing live and doing the songs that were recorded and not really knowing what to play, just trying stuff out on the audiences.  And I never really played where I could just sit up there in front of people–maybe just me and a guitar—and just find out what the people really wanted to hear.  Which of my songs do they really like?  Which songs do the most people request or say something about?  And when I first started doing that about three years ago, when we moved back to this part of the country,    some friends of mine were playing.  In fact, my bass player, Jerry Bone–who’s been with me since we were children, he’s the bass player on Mixed Emotions and Play By Ear—he was living here in town.  And [also] an old friend of his from our high school days, Dennis Horton–who now runs the local music store and is a guitar teacher for this whole area–and my old buddy Chuck Young who sang harmony with me when we were kids—he’s my favorite harmony singer in the world—and my wife plays conga.  She learned how to play conga and shakers, percussion stuff.  When it was just she and I for the past ten years, she became my favorite drummer in the world.  So they asked us to come down.  They play at a restaurant downtown here every Saturday night, just an open-air situation in the middle of town in front of a restaurant.  They lost their singer, he had to move out of town and they didn’t have anybody to sing, so they asked me to come down and sing with ‘em.  So I did that and it turned into a thing that we’ve been doing…this would be the third year, I guess.  You know, there’s probably a couple hundred people show up every Saturday night.  Sometimes three or four hundred people, sometimes it’s an ocean of people down there.  It’s outside and they just listen, sit on the car hoods or whatever.  No admission.  Throw money in the hat if they want to and we just play.  It’s grown into a pretty good little band.

Michael:  You’re dipping your toes in the water again.

David:  Well, just by virtue of somebody saying, “We need a singer down here.  Would you consider coming down and singing with us?”  I hadn’t played live around here in years and years and years.  I just hadn’t.  Except we played a concert opening for The Oak Ridge Boys, we did that.  And I played another benefit or two.  But anyway, I had not played locally very much at all.  I left here when I was pretty young.  They just remember me from high school.  But I just started pulling songs out of my hat that nobody had ever really heard.  After a while, I thought, “Well, these people will really like the songs that are more country, more western.”  I got a song called “Billy And Marie”.  It’s a hypothetical song that’s an old western story about a guy meeting a barmaid and they fall in love and they go out—it’s after the civil war– and they rob a Yankee train because Billy hates Yankees.  He’s an old southern Texas boy.  And it turns into him getting hung at the end.  It’s like a little movie.  I just kind of did it one night and people just went crazy over it.  I mean, I have to play that song every time we play.  All the time, I’ve got to play that song.  And there’s some more.  There’s two or three more that’s a total surprise that the people just really, really liked.  They just started requesting all the time and pretty soon we got such a varied request list.

I have a relatively new song.  It’s called “Eyes Of The Scarecrow” and it’s the craziest kind of Trick Of The Tail kind of song.  It’s really not a country thing at all, but it’s about seeing life through the eyes of something that doesn’t have any control over itself.  I ain’t moving, you know?  And that’s what it’s about, from that viewpoint.  And I played it a couple of times live here lately and people just request it.  We played a little theater here Friday night, like 150 people—it’s all you can get in there and we played there two or three times, it sells out when we play there—and I had played that song at the college three weeks before and I got two requests to do that song.  People would come up to me and say, “Man, would you play that scarecrow song?”  And I mean, these are country people.  (laughing)   But it’s such a varied thing.

I’m saying all this to say that I still really don’t know what to record, you know?  I still really can’t do an album where all ten songs are of the same…genre, we’ll say.   Anyway, I started an album.  I started recording–just me, a bass player, and my wife playing percussion.  Did it as simple as possible.  We cut three things.  It’s been several months since I’ve been back in the studio. I just really don’t know what to do, but we have one in the process.  I don’t know if it’ll ever be out, but anyway.  That’s where we’re at right now.

Michael:  If you’re playing those gigs, you fully expect youtube videos to pop up.  You know that, right?

David:  Yeah, there are some.  You’ve seen them?

Michael:  Yeah, I’ve seen three of them.

David:  (laughing)  Yeah, you know, that’s okay.

Michael:  One, if you don’t mind telling me about it, is ‘A Song We Can All Sing Together’.

David:   Yeah, it’s called ‘One Song’.

Michael:  That’s kind of a utopian anthem.

David:  Yeah, it’s an old song I wrote a long time ago.  I’m not sure exactly where that came from.  It was kind of an extension of “Promiseland”.  I mean, it was the first anthem kind of song I wrote after “Promiseland”.  It was probably four or five years later, though.  I don’t know really where that came from.  Songs like that are usually inspired by some kind of a cosmic energy that’s going on.  I guess there must have been some turmoil going on on the world stage that led to me writing the song.

Michael:  The other two youtube videos were gospel tunes.  “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace”, I believe.

David:  Yeah, one of those is at a benefit.  We did quite a few benefits over the course of a year.  Every time somebody has no insurance and they’re dying of cancer, which has been the case a couple of times.  We’ll go out and do benefits to raise money to help them pay doctor bills or whatever.  And one of those [videos] is from that.  “How Great Thou Art” was down here at the Saturday night gig downtown.  The guy who posted that, they have a gospel TV station up in West Plains, Missouri.  We’re just doing that kind of a thing.  We’re not trying to do anything big.  We’re just being here.

Michael:  Well, what are you listening to right now?  Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you throw something in the CD player or the iPod.  What are you listening to now?

David:  Well, the short answer to that is I just don’t do that.  (laughing)  I just really don’t.  And I never really did, you know?  There’s only been a couple of times in my life when I was inspired to do that.  I used to have to drive back and forth to Nashville.  When we were recording the first album, I lived in Bexar.  Had a wife and little kid.  And a new baby was a whole new thing in my life, so I stayed home as much as possible.  So I drove back and forth to Nashville all the time.  Luckily, I had a nice new Chevy Blazer that I really liked and it had a really great sound system in it.  And when I was making those drives—it was during the days of Graceland—I listened to Graceland with the same intent that I used to listen to Trick Of The Tail and those other albums.  Because it’s always a study, you know?  The Graceland thing was so complicated and so great.  It took me a long time to realize that the drummers were all playing exactly the same beat.  (laughing)  They are.  It’s like straight fours on the bottom.  And the whole album, you could make a drum track on a computer and play the whole album with that one drum track, practically.  You might have to slow it down a little bit or speed it up.  It’s based around straight 4/4 time and everything else is playing that wild, great great stuff.  All of that’s simple.  So it was always as a study.

I guess that’s what always inspires me–if I hear something that I’ve just never heard before, which I realize how hard that is to do.  Because if I have a quest, when I’m writing a song, I’m trying not to let my influences be so obvious.   And sometimes, there’s just no way around it.  And that’s all we’re all doing.  We’re all composite structures of our influences.  Every songwriter out there.  Nobody’s had an original idea for a long time.  Different influences come together and it sounds different.  It’s purely a mystical thing.  It’s not something anybody could accomplish by desire.  But I just really don’t listen…  There’ve been a few bands and you’d probably be shocked…  I like the band Muse.  Do you know who they are?

Michael:  Yes, I do.

David:  I like that band.  I like their sound.  They did a concert a year or so back—it was on the computer—and I just watched it for the same reason.  Because the music that they produce—the sound that they produce–has not really been done before.

Michael:  Yeah, it’s got a futuristic kind of vibe to it.

David:  Yeah, and at the same time, no disrespect to yesterday.  They’re reaching back melodically and theme-wise to their influences all the time.  Sometimes it’s Beatlesque without sounding like they’re trying to be Beatlesque.  It’s a great band.  There’s some great young bands.  I don’t hear anything that comes out of Nashville anymore.  I’ve had enough tailgate beer parties, you know?

Michael:  Preach on.  I hear you.

David:  But I understand what’s going on.  I know why the record companies are doing it.  Because they don’t know any better.

Michael:  Right. That’s exactly right.

David:  They don’t understand that it’s the death of the business.  But it’s not the death of the business as long as you can keep the 14-year-old girls going out and spending money.  It’s filling some gap somewhere.  It’s working on some level.  And as long as there’s a market for it, that’s what they’re gonna do.  Because it’s the least amount of work.  It’s the shortest distance between two points.

Michael:  Well put.

David:  Failure and success , that’s a pretty short line sometimes.  And that’s all they’re doing.  Nobody realizes how vicious this business is until you’ve been in it.  And buddy, it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately’.  ‘Lately’ being whatever it was that you did last.  See, Popovich got in trouble for giving Johnny Cash a record deal.  Are you kidding me?   Are you kidding me?  No.

Michael:  That’s all sorts of wrong.

David:  That broke virtually every moral law the Bible could come up with.  That one thing, you know?

Michael:  Call me old-school or naïve, but I could have sworn that it was talent and what came from your heart that was most important.  What happened?

David:  Well, at some point, at least that was a vague notion.  It’s not even a vague notion anymore.

Michael:  They’re not even pretending.

David:  No, they’re not even pretending to be doing anything worthwhile anymore.

You know, they’re promoting alcohol.  Blatantly promoting getting drunk and falling down and driving your truck without a driver’s license.  They’re blatantly promoting that.  The worst drug on the planet is alcohol and I refuse to have anything to do with promoting its use.  It’s a proven fact.  It’s the deadliest drug that we’ve ever had, much less the deadliest drug that we’ve ever made legal.  It kills more people every year than all the other drugs combined.

That’s why I don’t listen to radio no more.  There’s just really nothing on the radio.  The thing about it is—and I was talking about this with somebody just the other day—the music tracks, the studio players who play sessions and sessions and sessions and sessions every day, they’re booked from 10 o’clock in the morning ‘til 6 o’clock in the evening every day.  The guys in Nashville—a group of guys will become the most sought after players and they get all the sessions.  And they play every day.  They play on everybody’s records and they have got it down, man.  They have got it down.  The tracks are so good.  The musicians are so good in Nashville.  They come from other places, too, but these rock drummers have come in and started playing country music and they put all that stuff in.  Basically, the rhythm sections are all rock ‘n’ roll guys.  The musicians have become so schooled and so trained.  And the producers, too.  The producers and the musicians are what’s making music today.  It’s not the artists.

Years ago, we used to play Bullnanza, promoted by Wrangler Jeans.  And they had the top 50 bulls and the top 15 bullriders in the world and we played one in Little Rock.  And out of the whole deal, three guys rode the bull.  Only three guys.  The bulls kicked their ass all over the stadium.  I said, you know, we’ve been breeding bucking bulls for a long time.  We’re not breeding cowboys.  And that’s what’s happened in Nashville.  The players have gotten so much better than the artists that the players are making great records.  The artists aren’t saying anything.  But the tracks are so good, they’re still making hit records.  I mean, they’re selling records.  And that’s just my opinion.

Michael:  Well, there’s lots of singers but there are no artists.  Some of these records in the Nashville system, it almost sounds soulless.  I’d like to hear a mistake every now and then.

David:  (laughing)  Well, good luck with that one.

Michael:  You know what I mean?  A little bit of humanity in there somewhere would be nice.

David:  Yeah.  I’ll tell you one story.  Brent Rowan, who was the guitar player on Wood, Wind And Stone, was the premier guitarist in town at the time.  He used to do all of Reba McEntire’s records.  He was telling this himself.  One day, he said they just finished a song and gone in to listen to the playback.  They were standing there listening to it, and Reba turned to him and said, “Brent, you played that same lick on my last record.”  And he just kind of sat there.  And in a minute, she kept singing and did one of them [vocal] things that she does.  And he turns to her and says, “Reba, you did that same lick on your last record.”  (laughing)  So that’s what you’re talkin’ about.  They do that every day every day every day, and after a while…it’s like writing songs.  It’s hard to come up with something that you didn’t play on somebody else’s record last week.


Michael:  Just a comment here.  I’m looking at the first record you put out and down at the bottom it says ‘Produced by Richie Albright, David Lynn Jones, and Mick Ronson’.  That Mick Ronson?  As in Ian Hunter-Mick Ronson?

David:  Yeah.

Michael:  Well, how many Mick Ronsons can there be, you know?

David:  (laughing) If you knew him, only one.  I assure you.

Michael:  Yeah, I was just making sure that was him.

David:  The way that happened was because of Steve Popovich’s connections to the rock world.  I don’t know exactly where he met Mick, but he and Mick were friends for a long time.  Popovich really wanted me to be rock ‘n’ roll.  He really did.  He was in Nashville and had taken over, but he knew that I wasn’t custom-made for country music, so he was trying for us to make a record that would maybe—maybe—not just smother me in Grand Ole Opry, you know what I’m saying?  So anyway, he played my stuff for Mick.   He sent Mick a tape of some stuff that I had done–my demos–and Mick loved it and said, “What do you want me to do?”  “I want you to come co-produce.”  So Mick shows up and we became good friends.  He co-produced that album as well as the second album, too.  Well, the original tracks he co-produced.  He wasn’t in on the final version of Wood, Wind And Stone, but he was in Bexar with me in my home studio for co-producing the album that they wanted me to re-cut a different way.  But anyway, he went home and…he died a few years after that.  The anniversary of his death, his sister called me from England and invited me to come play at a concert they were doing to fight liver cancer, which is what killed him.  That, and cirrhosis of the liver, I guess.  Mick was a hard drinker, buddy.  He was a hard man.

Michael:  What a talented guy.

David:  Yeah, he was a great guitar player.  And he really brought something to those records.  That thing on the guitar on “Bonnie Jean”—that dun-dun-dun-dun thing, the big lick that hit when the guitar comes in—that was all his idea.  He had a lot of great ideas.  He’s playing guitar on “See How Far We’ve Come”, that guitar solo.  He’s playing guitar on quite a few of those, actually, doing some real important stuff.  He was great.

Michael:  Let me apologize to you and your wife for taking so much of your time.

David:  Ah, you don’t need to apologize for that.  I’ve taken up your time.  I appreciate your interest.

Michael:  No, no, no.  This has been one of the best conversations I’ve had and I really do appreciate it.

David:  Well, likewise.

Michael:  All right, brother.  You take care.

David:  Thank you.

~Michael Franklin



Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.

Contact Michael:

Blog: http://pointlessendeavor.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wkumike
CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/franklinstapleton

Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.