From The Archives…Argyle Bell, Roger Colette, Pat McInerney and Kimera?

Elgyra Music Marketing Piece from the 80's
Elgyra Music Marketing Piece from the 80’s Click for a little history on Kimera 😉
A closer image of the gang
A closer image of the gang. Click for more info about Argyle Bell and his contributions to the Nashville music scene

From the Archives… Ceolta Nua at The Sherlock Holmes Pub Nashville, TN.

Ceolta Nua at Sherlock Holmes Pub Nashville, TN
Ceolta Nua at Sherlock Holmes Pub
L-R: Buddy Connolley, Hunter Leigh, Leanne Etheridge, Elizabeth Reed, Pat McInerney, Michael Snow, Michael Rosa, and Laurie Rosa (hidden behind Michael Rosa)

From the Desk…Hello, Goodbye Part 2

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HELLO….GOODBYE Part 2

There’s nothing like on the job training, they say, and I gradually got conversant with the gear and the different skill set required to run the recording side of things. At the time, analog home studios were a rarity, so my publishing and  writing cachet was not hurt at all as I signed an administration deal with Bug Music, and began writing and recording with some notable talents, particularly Dennis Locorriere, who had just exited Dr. Hook for a solo career, the legendary studio ace Larry Knechtel, newly arrived from the Wrecking Crew in L.A. and British guitar star Ray Flacke. The new room proved to be a friendly and conducive place for creating, and as I upgraded fairly frequently, I soon moved on from a home demo situation to full blown albums. The studio was both a plaything and a luxury, and it gradually became the center of my creative universe.

Over the years the room hosted wonderful collaborators, including British hit-makers such as Alvin Lee, Peter Skellern, Joe Brown and Brian Willoughby, and American studio legends like Bob Babbitt, Steve Turner, Pat McInerney, Dave Pomeroy, and Craig Duncan, who all made magic for me.

I’ll also be bidding a fond farewell to Pub Snow, which doubled as the live recording space, and our very own Irish Pub, the site of memorable Boxing Day parties for 20 years and creative adventures too numerous to mention, particularly on winter days with a fire blazing in the hearth.

The new space in East Nashville awaits….a conversion of a carriage house, in Historic Edgefield on the East Bank across from downtown. It is by no means as humble a place as here, as it’s been custom designed to accommodate a replica of this dear old control room, with the vintage recording gear and modern amenities co-existing in a less cobbled-together manner than the original. I hope it will provide as many warm memories as did it’s predecessor…..

On The Fly…Father’s Day

Father's Day

A piece about Father’s Day, they said….a piece about fathers and sons making music together, they said….

“They” are the team at Celebelle, who keep my various balls in the air at all times, if you’ll pardon the expression, and they usually ring my creative bell with their suggestions and gentle prodding. In this instance, a proximity of dates ( June 13th., my son’s thirty-sixth birthday, and June 16th., Father’s Day) sparked their idea for a piece ( or two?). As often happens, a day or so of mulling, both figuratively and literally, can result in – well, something like this:

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To put it mildly, I did not have the best of relationships with my own father. Like many of his generation, in the aftermath of WW II, he found a rapidly changing playing field when it came to fatherhood. The authoritarian model, particularly in the working class, was about to be challenged as never before, and many a dad found himself in a situation where his word was no longer necessarily law, which inevitably led to confrontational relationships between fathers and sons. In the patriarchal, immigrant Irish parishes of North Liverpool, the young generation of males were restive and not prepared to settle for what their parents had been willing to accept.

Should you be interested, I go into detail about this social dynamic, particularly as it applied to me, in my book “ Mersey Me! A Liverpool Lad On The Loose In The Swingin’ 60’s”, but in the interest of brevity, my dad and I parted ways irrevocably when I gave up a Scholarship to Leeds University to follow the siren song of rock ‘n’ roll at the beginning of The Beat Boom, which hit Liverpool like a ton of bricks ( as some of you might remember).

Although my dad came from a family that numbered several musicians, professional and otherwise, over a couple of generations, he didn’t take kindly to the thought of me following in their footsteps, and did everything he could to prevent it, which doomed our interaction rather early on. I was an only child, , so he invested his own thwarted academic ambitions , heavy-handedly, in me. As far as I was concerned, I kept my end up with consistently good schoolwork, navigating the various levels of the British school system of the time with comparative ease, all the way through to University acceptance, and kept my nose clean in the hurley-burley action of the Liverpool streets into the bargain. But by 1960 I’d made up my mind as to my future direction….rather than support me, or even discuss the situation in a rational manner, the old man chose to go Cold War on my ass, which made me even more determined. Although the lure of being “a guitar player in a rock ‘n’roll band” had among it’s components the cliche elements of sex, drugs and that devil rhythm, I was in it for the love of music and playing- if it hadn’t been rock, I would probably have played jazz, as a part-timer, I suppose, but the Beat Boom and then The British Invasion, gave some of us a lifelong career in music as professionals, and as such we worked at our craft, and expanded our capabilities as we matured from beat kids to adult musicians. To me, being a working musician never precluded the thought that I would one day marry and raise a family, and while I fully enjoyed the early rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as a carefree bachelor, by the time I’d somewhat established myself in my chosen profession I found myself ready for marriage at twenty-eight. Our first child, a daughter, was born three years later, and our son seven years after that. By the nature of the job I was an absentee daddy quite a bit when the kids were small, but the traveling aspect of the gig gradually diminished as I became more involved in song writing, studio work and then production, so I didn’t miss their growing up any more than most fathers.

To my delight they were both smart, talented and well-behaved, the latter thanks to my wife’s mothering skills, I’m sure, and neither was ever a problem child. Both showed early promise in the graphic arts, and while they were each musically inclined, my son exhibited a particular affinity for that old devil rhythm.

As a result of my bruised and bruising experience with my dad, I had promised myself two things; one, that I would always listen to my children’s opinion on matters directly concerning their education options and, two, that I would never force them into life choices that ran counter to their own aspirations. That didn’t mean that I intended to be a “hands-off” dad, rather I intended that respect and consideration would play a larger role in my interactions with them than the possible bully pulpit which parenthood can become.

The seven year age difference between them meant that I was at different stages of my own career development when each reached their various milestones. When my daughter began high school we were living in an urban environment and although I was off the road I conducted my business in the studios and publishing offices of Music Row. By contrast, as my son’s high school years got under way, we had relocated about ten miles out of town, where I built a home studio, and subsequently did the bulk of my work there. As a result he got used to seeing some of the inner workings of the music business which my daughter had not.

She possessed a good musical ear and a fine singing voice, which she ably employed in school theatricals, but was also athletic, especially at volleyball, which she played at both high school and college level. She chose to study Economics at University.

My son’s visual and graphic skills were becoming increasingly impressive, but he also had an innate sense of rhythm, so I was not surprised when he first brought up the subject of acquiring a drum kit. He had already had the chance to observe some of the best drummers and percussionists in the city when they were working in my studio, and the chance to see players like Steve Turner, Pat McInerney and Mellow Mel Owens up close was very influential on him, I’m sure. One thing I knew for certain  was that an aspiring musician will do better when possessing good equipment, and as a good drum kit doesn’t come cheap, I put two conditions on him before agreeing to getting him a kit. I wanted him to give me a written reason as to why he wanted drums, and also required that he repay what he could via odd jobs etc. towards the cost of the gear.I gave him the two months leading up to his fifteenth birthday to meet the requirements, and he did, establishing a ‘drum fund’, which showed willing, and writing his reasons for wanting the drums, the details of which I’ll keep to myself, but which were most convincing to me.

One plus about living in Music City is that the quality of instruments in the pawn shops is generally quite high, so in the weekends leading up to his birthday we trolled the hock shops together, finally finding a kit that was identical to Pat McInerney’s Premier kit in every particular, at a reasonable price. A corner of the studio was set aside for them, and Pat himself came over to set them up and do an initial tuning. After that, I left the boy pretty much to his own devices, except for letting him know when one of his “drum uncles” would be working in the studio. If it was after school he was welcome to come in and observe. Musicians are usually generous with tips and advice for aspiring players, and his “drum uncles” were just that, but it was up to him to interact and ask the questions he wanted answering. The only time I actively stuck my oar in was when his skill set was becoming quite impressive, but he was experiencing some hand problems…chapping and callousing due to a lack of formal training…so I arranged for him to take a few private lessons from my friend, the late Ian Wallace (of King Crimson fame). These involved warm-up and technique exercises, which helped sort out the incipient problems before they became detrimental. Other than that, he was on his own.

Because of my own listening proclivities, the kids had been exposed to a wide range of music, both stylistically and ethnically over the years, so they picked up on what they liked, and vice versa….I never jammed anything down their throats. My son did the usual rite of passage stuff, got a little high school band together with some pals, played some little gigs around and about, learned how to move a drum kit from place to place efficiently, all that beginner stuff, but invaluable nonetheless. When he went off to art college in Savannah his only percussion tool for the first year was a dumbek, but he had the kit thereafter, and I gather he was prone to setting up on the sands of Tybee Island for a good thrash. He met his future wife at SCAD, and after graduation they moved to Austin, where my daughter had set up shop…thence to the Bay Area, where he played in jazz-rock bands. By the time he returned to Nashville, it had been a good ten years since I’d had any musical interaction with him, although I saw him perform once while on tour with the band First Circle, and it was obvious that by then he knew what he was doing.

Both he and my daughter found their way back to Nashville in recent years and it’s been my pleasure to employ both in the studio since their return. I’ve also teamed with him occasionally in live situations as a rhythm section, and it’s a good feeling to get a righteous groove going, then turn around to see him kicking it behind the tubs.

I’m of the opinion that being a parent is the most important job you can ever have. Some of us make a hash of it, some of us get lucky and can be pleased with the results. Some of us read all the books, some of us trust our instincts. Some rule with an iron hand and view parenthood as a right, rather than as a privilege and a precious gift, and some don’t employ loving correction when it’s needed….it’s a balancing act, just like most things in life. As long as you’re up on the tightrope, keep it steady, and a happy day to ya!

THE AMERICANA MUSIC TRIANGLE

Americana
Americana by Janin Otwell (click to buy)

  THE AMERICANA MUSIC TRIANGLE

Today’s feature in The Tennessean on the efforts of Aubrey Preston and Jed Hilley of the Americana Music Association to solidify The Triangle as a bona fide tourist destination took me back forty years to when I arrived in the States as a true rock ‘n’roll and r’n’b disciple, determined to put down roots in the birthplace of the music which had irrevocably changed my life … the very triangle of which we now speak.

The music had already offered me some success in my native England, where I’d been part of the rock ‘n’ roll boom, then the Soul boom, but with the bloom going off the swingin’ sixties, and waning interest in the gritty, great music to which I was forever committed, I determined that I had to go where that music had emerged and continued to thrive. So, with my young American wife and three-year-old daughter in tow, I set my sights on my personal Land Of Dreams.

With my in-laws’ home in Sarasota, Florida, serving as our staging area, we arrived at Christmas-time 1972 to begin our great adventure. We bought a used Toyota station wagon with the idea of working our way by road to who knew where.  But I already had my pilgrimage planned:  from New Orleans, Congo Square and the Quarter, to the Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia, where Little Richard had been a dish washer (that town also being the birthplace of James Brown and my beloved Otis Redding);  to Beale Street in Memphis and Highway 61, with all that those legendary roads implied; then on to West Memphis Arkansas, following the footsteps of Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins up Highway 70 via Jackson, to Nashville- just starting to stake it’s international claim as Music City, U.S.A.

Once we arrived in Davidson County, I realized that Nashville was the geographic hub of it all, in easy reach of all the key areas that embodied the roots and branches of the music that had transformed me. In 1973, Jefferson Street was still one of the great thoroughfares of Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Soul, and Rock ‘n’Roll, and they welcomed this white boy (with the funny Beatles accent ) with open arms. I felt like I was home where I belonged, and even though the racial situation was still tense, especially to the sensibilities of a liberal Northern European and his Yankee wife, it just felt likethe place we were meant to be.

I had the advantage of an already-established friendship and working relationship with Buzz Cason, the pioneering producer, writer and studio owner, already a great success in the pop, soul and r’n’b genres, so I wasn’t limited to trying to make it in “straight country,” with which I couldn’t claim as much affinity as other genres thatsprang from the fertile lands of the Deep South. But Brenda Lee, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name just a few, were classic rock ‘n’rollers in my book anyway, and if Charlie Rich was classified as a country singer, then I was O.K. with country, too.

It was a time of a growing influx of out-of-towners … the Muscle Shoals and Memphis boys, the early transplants from L.A. and N.Y.C., and very soon fellow Brits such as Roger Cook, Ray Flacke, Ralph Murphy, Pat McInerney and Tony Newman, who took care of any pangs of home-sickness I might have felt, although those pangs were always few and far between!

It was inevitable that what is now being labeled as Americana should crystallize as a movement in and around the Nashville area, because all the strains that weave into Americana are from around these parts, as they’ve always been.

The resurgence of the “Americana Triangle” bodes well for the future of music in general, as our region opens its arms once more to those that play it and sing it from the heart. I feel blessed to still be around to see it happen in my beloved adopted home.

Working With Heroes

Working-with-Heroes

I count myself fortunate to have worked with some of the cats I looked up to in my early career, those I considered to be role models who paved the way during the rock ‘n’ roll revolution as touring musicians and pioneers in the studio world, which was so intrinsic to the development of the music. I loved the world of the recording studio from the first time I ever set foot in one, so I followed the career paths of the guys who were already working in that milieu.

Back in the day, you had to be a bit obsessive, as there was scant information (if any) on record sleeves and studio players tended to labor in well-paid obscurity.  Of course I knew who most of the London guys were, but it was the Americans I really looked up to.  Let’s face it, before the British Invasion very few records made in the UK could compare to the real thing being created in New York, L.A., Memphis, Detroit, and New Orleans.  Yet we knew next to nothing about the backroom world of the American music industry and they probably knew even less about the British studio scene.  I remember when the word started going around London about a girl bass player in L.A. who was playing on many of the hits of the day, but it was no more than a rumor for a couple of years. Of course we later found out that this was the great Carol Kaye, part of the loose assemblage that became known in later years as the fabled Wrecking Crew.

Like most of the aspiring musical youth in Liverpool in the late fifties, I would go to see the American acts that came to town.  Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Duane Eddy & The Rebels, and Little Richard made the biggest impressions on me, even though Richard was using a British backing band (albeit a great one: Sounds Incorporated). However, he had teenaged Billy Preston in tow, and Billy was already a mind blower. These shows would usually have a souvenir program you could buy that would list the band personnel, so I knew that Joe B. Mauldin and Jerry Allison were the rhythm section of The Crickets.  I kept the Duane Eddy program for years, and had The Rebels line-up memorized: Jim Horn on tenor sax and flute, Larry Knechtel on piano, Corkey Casey on rhythm guitar, Ike Clanton on bass, and Jimmy Troxel on drums.  This was a band that nailed me to the wall, especially Larry Knechtel, and with his distinctive surname his career became easier to follow by the mid-sixties, when album credits became more informative.  It seemed like every cool record that came out of L.A. had Larry in the line-up and often Jim Horn, too. These were the cats, as far as I was concerned, along with the still anonymous sessioneers of Motown, New York, and New Orleans.  The Stax crew was far from anonymous, as both Booker T. & The M.G.s and The Markeys had scored big hits under their own names and the ensemble had toured Europe as part of the memorable Stax/Volt Revue.

By the late sixties I’d got my foot in the door on the London studio scene, but was still touring with the likes of Doris Troy, Chuck Berry, and Colin Blunstone in much the same way as Mr. Knechtel always kept his “live” options open.  If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me!  I’d also had the chance to hobnob with Billy Preston once he signed with Apple and I got a chance to work up close with him on Doris Troy’s Apple album. He was as good as it gets, and like most of the great ones, he was a very pleasant and musically generous fellow.

After I moved to Nashville in 1973, the instrumental talent pool was so deep that I gravitated more to the production and arranging side of things. I’d been leaning that way the last few years in London anyway, so when the Nashville recording boom of the early 80s got under way, and many of  the top session guys started relocating here, I was more often to be found behind the console rather than on the studio floor.  It was a thrill to be rubbing shoulders with musicians I’d long admired from afar.  Wayne Jackson (of The Markeys and Memphis Horns fame) arrived, although Andrew Love chose to stay in Memphis, and Jim Horn came in from L.A.  I was no longer the only Brit in town with the arrival of Tony Newman, former drummer with Sounds Incorporated, Ray Flacke, the Tele-bending lead guitarist who quickly made a name for himself with a wildly innovative style, drummer/percussionist Pat McInerney, who anchored the Don Williams band for years before fulfilling the same role with Nanci Griffith while building an extensive studio resume, and bassist Dee Murray of Elton John fame.

Occasionally I’d experience a surreal moment, such as the time I was producing an instrumental album on Ray Flacke, and the horn section on the title track was … wait for it … Jim Horn and Wayne Jackson.  The horn parts I’d written had a big-band calypso feel and while the guys had nailed the notes in no time, at first they weren’t getting the appropriate feel.  I mentioned this to Ray and he said, “Well, get in there and sort ‘em out.”  For a long moment I thought, “you can’t do that! It’s Jim Horn and Wayne Jackson, for chrissake.” But I got a grip and sauntered out, trying to look more comfortable than I felt.  I needn’t have worried.  They responded to my suggestions without problem, as I should have known they would, and five minutes later the part was in the bag. Lesson learned.

I developed a close relationship with Joe B. Mauldin when he moved to Nashville from L.A. to operate the studio for Pix-Russ Music, owned by songwriting legend Bobby Russell, a Nashville native who’d also been living in L.A. for years.  When Bobby returned to town, I was hired to run the publishing division and be in-house producer.

Michael and Bobby Russell
Michael and Bobby Russell

Joe B. had retired from playing after Buddy Holly’s untimely death and after a stint in the military became a sound engineer at the prestigious Gold Star Studios in L.A., where Phil Spector masterminded the Wall of Sound.  Now he was in Nashville, soon to be followed by Jerry ( J.I.) Allison and Sonny Curtis, so in no time it became Crickets Central down there on Music Row.  In the set-up phase of the operation, Joe B. and I spent a lot of time together, and what a cool unit he was (and still is!).  I must have talked his ear off, getting all the inside scoop on the legendary times he’d experienced at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.  Of course, for a Liverpool lad like me, it was seventh heaven – we even got some work done!

Michael and Joe B Mauldin
Michael and Joe B Mauldin

When Paul McCartney bought The Crickets song catalog, there was a renewal of interest in their body of work.  Spurred by Paul’s urging, they re-formed The Crickets and although Joe B. hadn’t played for some years, he soon got back into the swing of things.  A spate of recording activity followed and to my delight I was drafted in as auxiliary keyboard man for most of it, which I enjoyed tremendously.  J.I. was probably the key white drummer in the history of the music’s early days, and to be part of those righteous grooves the guys laid down in the new incarnation . . . well, that’s another one ticked off on the bucket list!

Joe B. may be the most laid-back dude ever when it comes to studio cool.  In one instance, Dale Hawkins (the Suzie Q man) came in to do vocals on a song, the title of which eludes me, but he was uncomfortable with the chosen key of F Major.  He wondered aloud if F Sharp would work better.  In his molasses West Texas drawl Joe B. spoke up, “I don’t think so, hoss.  Rock ‘n’ Roll don’t do F Sharp and neither do I.”  The room broke up, Dale included, and so of course we cut it in F!

All through that period, they just kept coming, and it wasn’t just the country guys.  Oh no!  It was rock ‘n’ roll guys, r’n’b guys, soul guys . . . my kinda folk.  Willie Weeks and Bob Babbitt, two of the best bass players in any genre, rolled in.  Rod Smarr, a cool guitar man, steeped in r’n’b but with a fine ear for commercial licks, came up the road from Atlanta and the whole Dr. Hook outfit arrived from San Francisco.  Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and Jerry Carrigan left Muscle Shoals for Music City, Michael Rhodes, now the doyen of Nashville bass players, arrived from Monroe, Louisiana, and on and on.  I was soon crossing paths with all of these guys.  It was a very stimulating period, both musically and socially.  The main hang was Close Quarters a.k.a. the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel . . . kinda the Nashville equivalent of the Riot House in L.A.  The bar was the focus, but it really was a hotel, where Lou Rawls, Dennis Locorriere of Dr. Hook, The Crusaders and Joe Cocker, to mention just a few, laid down their weary tune, so to speak.

Likely Lads
Michael, Tony Newman, and Joe Brown

As fate would have it, I was working on an album project with Tony Newman on the dreadful night of John Lennon’s murder.  When I got the call and then made it known to the assembled talent, the air went out of the room.  I called a halt at once.  Tony and I, being the only Brits on hand, found ourselves a quiet corner and drank to John’s memory long into the night.

Rod Smarr became a first-call guitarist at Pix-Russ, among his many other clients, including Dr. Hook.  Rod eventually joined that band, providing the signature licks on the string of pop hits Dr. Hook put together after their move to town.  I admired Dennis Locorriere’s voice tremendously.  One evening, I was hoisting one at Close Quarters with Nineyear Wooldritch, Dr. Hook’s tour manager, and Nine, knowing I did my share of jingle work, said that Dennis was interested in doing some commercials.  I responded with enthusiasm. As it happened, I had a McDonald’s job coming up on the horizon and had not yet written the spot.  I immediately started to craft a “Hook” style jingle, and when Dennis came in to do it he was predictably spot-on.

He had also signed with Bug Music, where I had some administration interests.  One thing led to another and we began writing together and continued to do so for many years until, ironically, he fulfilled a life-long ambition to settle in the UK. We all find our true home in the end.  In addition, we did a lot of recording together after the demise of Dr. Hook, frequently with Rod on board, which paved the way for Dennis’s solo career.  In that period of time, with their  touring commitments complete, Dennis and Rod cooked up a delicious side project with the Motown bass player Bob Babbitt and Chuckie Burke, a fonkay drummer I’d worked with when I first arrived in town.  They called it Lost in Detroit, and if it was a cover band (and that tag would do them a great disservice), it was the best cover band I ever saw.  Between them they had an encyclopedic knowledge of the r’n’b genre.  The imaginative song selection and the superb performances, made Lost in Detroit a big favorite with musos round town, myself included.

When Chuckie departed for Scandinavia, where he was in great studio demand, he was replaced by another monster drummer, Steve Turner.  I took my son Stirling, an aspiring drummer at the time, to see the new line-up.  Years later, after Stirling had become an accomplished pro himself, he told me that seeing Lost In Detroit was what made him want to devote himself to playing.

Bob Babbitt, who was six years my senior, had a huge resume, not only because of his Motown work and his later stint with Gamble and Huff, but through earlier Del Shannon hits and three of my all-time favorite singles: “S.O.S.” and “Headline News” (both by Edwin Starr in his pre-Motown days on Gold World), and the sublime “Cool Jerk” by The Capitols.  I had learned and played those songs in my early touring days back in England, but it wasn’t until I got to know Edwin Starr through Doris Troy that I found out who was responsible for those great bass lines.

Bob was a bear of a man, yet played with a delightful lightness and dexterity.  When I was working on a project with a fine Hawaiian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist named Shane August, one of the songs just cried out for the Babbitt touch.  Normally, I would have put the bass part on myself, but I knew Bob was the man for this one.  When he came to my studio, the rest of the track was complete, so I played him what we had.  He listened intently, then asked if I had any manuscript paper and asked me to leave him alone with what was a pretty complex piece.  I gave him about half an hour with the tape.  When I returned he had written a beautiful part in formal notation – he was actually conservatory trained – and he just read that sucker down in one take.  It had all the hallmarks of the Babbitt style . . . in other words, it was gorgeous.

After the Ray Flacke solo album was released, some bright spark at his publishers, Songs Of Polygram, suggested it would be a good idea to have the original instrumentals available in piano-only versions to facilitate soundtrack pitches. As I had co-written most of the material with Ray, I huddled with him to see who might be the pianist for this formidable task.  I knew it wasn’t me, and so we started throwing names around.  There’s never been a shortage of A-1 ivory ticklers in Nashville, so there were several potential candidates.  At one point Ray said, “I did a session the other day with a new guy in town . . . I liked the way he played.”  I inquired as to his name . . . “Larry Knechtel.”  “What? Knechtel’s in town?”  Ray wasn’t aware of Larry’s illustrious history, which oversight I soon corrected.  Through his years as a mainstay of The Wrecking Crew, Larry had reached the apex of the profession.  He had shared the arranging Grammy with Jimmy Haskell for “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and also played the signature piano accompaniment on the Simon and Garfunkel classic.  Following that, he took a studio break to become a member of the mega-successful soft-rock group Bread.  I knew he’d recently signed with MCA Nashville for their Master Series, which spotlighted great instrumentalists, but had no idea that he’d moved to Nashville.

Ray got his phone number from the Union and called him to explain what we were looking for and then arranged to drop off a copy of the album so Larry could craft piano arrangements at his leisure.  A couple of weeks later he said he was ready, and a day was booked at Champagne Studios, which had a beautiful grand piano.

I arrived, excited but a bit antsy, as I’d be supervising the day’s work behind the console.  I hadn’t laid eyes on Larry since 1958, and that was at a distance, so the grizzled, silver-haired, chain-smoking individual who showed up right on time wasn’t what I expected, until he sat at the piano.  Sublime, from the first note, soulful, yet supremely efficient, as he ran ‘em down.  We achieved the necessary in about four exhilarating hours, and then the three of us adjourned to a Music Row hostelry for a drink or five.  A large time was had by all, especially me, and when we called it a night, I asked Larry if he wanted to do some co-writing, which had been one of his reasons for moving to town.  He replied in the affirmative and for the subsequent five years we did just that, and also played together on many a project.  I couldn’t have been happier. I learned so much just being around him, and watching him play, for he was not only a supreme keyboard artist, but a world-class bass player (most famously on The Byrds’ “Mister Tambourine Man” and “Eight Miles High”, but also on “Light My Fire” by The Doors).  Our once-weekly writing sessions were most productive, but more importantly he was a wonderful guy to be around.

Pic-of-Sound-Council-flat-small

Eventually, he and his wife Vicki became homesick for their beloved Pacific Northwest, where he owned a logging company, but Ray and I participated in a farewell concert for him at the Exit/In, sharing the stage with Duane Eddy, Jim Horn, and a host of other luminaries, with Larry presiding at the keyboard as only he could.

In later years he recorded and toured with Elvis Costello and The Dixie Chicks, and we’d always link up when he came through town.  Stirling joined me at the Schemerhorn Symphony Center for The Wrecking Crew’s induction into the Musicians Hall Of Fame, where we not only watched Larry strap on the bass to join Roger McGuinn for “Tambourine Man,” but also saw and heard his final live performance of “Bridge” with a clearly emotionally overwhelmed Vince Gill singing lead.

In the last few years we’ve lost Rod, Bob and Larry, but their enormous contributions should never be forgotten . . . and I will always be a fan!