Curtis Armstrong: Actor, Harry Nilsson Expert

CURTIS ARMSTRONG is known for his many roles in motion pictures.  In additon to being an actor, Armstrong has a strong affinity for the musical stylings of the late great Harry Nilsson.  In this interview, Curtis Armstrong talks in great detail about why he likes Harry Nilsson’s music so much as well as his fondness for books.  The listener will gain a great appreciation for Armstrong’s candor and passion.

It’s our great pleasure to welcome our special guest. His name is Curtis Armstrong and he’s an actor who has appeared in many movies. He’s also the foremost expert on the late, great Harry Nilsson. It’s with great pleasure that we introduce Curtis Armstrong. Thanks so much for joining us.
Oh, well thank you. My pleasure.

My first question. Who is Curtis Armstrong?

Oh, boy. Um, well, that’s um, that’s, uh, not very hard. Um, he’s, uh, an actor of some 36 years standing and, um, a father and a husband and, um, boy – that’s about it.

Well tell us a little bit about where you were born. What was life like growing up?

I was born in Detroit, Michigan in the, uh, in 1953 and, um, at the time it was, um – I mean, you know, you look back on these things with, you know, I do anyway I suppose, with a bit of, uh, of affection and nostalgia. It was, I had a very good, very good childhood growing up and was, uh – my family was based in Detroit but then my father, who worked for Chrysler Corporation, was transferred to Europe in ’63, uh, and, and so we all went. And I wound up living, until 1967, I lived in Geneva Switzerland. And, uh, then came back in ’67 to Detroit and was there until, really until, uh, I left the academy where I studied acting in the early ‘70s. And, uh, and I had co-founded a theater company there, in Ann Arbor actually, um, towards the end of that time and then moved in ’76 to New York.

And one of your earliest loves was, uh, your, you had a very strong interest in books – Washington Irving and, uh …

Yes.
Uh, the Sherlock Holmes books.
Right.

Tell us a little bit about how you, uh, discovered the books and how you took it to the level of wanting to collect them.

Well, it was a – there were always books in the house, um, in my parents’ house and in, uh, my father’s parents’, my paternal grandparents’ house. There were always books and I think when you’re drawn to them, um – you are drawn to them when you’re surrounded by them all the time. And when we went to Switzerland – I mean, I always loved books and, um, my parents always bought me books. In fact, uh, I was reminded about the fact that when I was about five, uh, still living in suburban Detroit, I, uh – something happened and I decided I was running away from home. And, um, I packed a suitcase and there was nothing in the suitcase but books. No clothes. Nothing. Just books. And uh, because it was – you know, running away from home was fine but I couldn’t imagine myself without my books. And, you know, hauled this enormous suitcase filled with books, you know, all the way down the street, trying to run away from home. So that was sort of rooted in me at a very early age, a love of books. I didn’t, ultimately, run away from home obviously, but (laughs) – somebody driving by recognized me and picked me up and brought me home again. Um, but then being in Switzerland in the ‘60s, in the early ‘60s, there was very little, uh, as far as culture to do – pop culture certainly. Um, there was a lot of music and I got a very early dose of, uh, loving – particularly English – uh,rock and roll from that period because it was everywhere. Um, but again, you know, you couldn’t go to see movies. We were too young to see most movies except for Disney movies and things. They were very strict about that there. And so books became, along with music, became a refuge. And, um, as far as the collecting of them, I guess that was something that just is, was a part of my DNA. I, I don’t know where it came from exactly. Um, maybe it, maybe it had to do with moving around a lot, uh, which seems like counterintuitive because if you’re moving around you don’t acquire things. But I guess it was maybe a, uh, a desire – I see it in my own daughter, actually. She has a similar thing of when you become involved and interested in something, you tend to dive into it deeply. The, uh, collecting then, you know, once I became able to actually buy books and collect them, that became, uh, an interest.

You said a second ago about you had a DNA kind of to dive into something and you’re known as a, uh, somewhat of an expert on Harry Nilsson.

Yeah.
And I wanted to ask you, how did you first come to listen to, uh, Harry
Oh, gosh, uh, I knew, I knew his music from the early – I mean late ‘60s, actually – but, like a lot of people, had no idea he was the same person doing all of these different types of music. Uh, he was very much a chameleon. Uh, with Nilsson, you know, he was coming out with songs then, hit records then and I, I liked all of them but they all – it didn’t sound like it was the same person. It was amazing to me. And then, you know, gradually I figured out by about 1972 or so, um, who he was and it just started – you know, it’s just one of those connections that you have that are, that are really kind of impossible to explain logically. It’s just a connection. You feel like – not that you know the person but that you have sort of an intuitive grasp of who that is. And, uh, I became really interested in him and listened to all of his music. And he played on a lot of other albums. And a lot of other people like the Beatles, for example, who adored him, um, were fans of his and, you know, that was interesting to me. And you know, I just, uh, I became interested in him. And so, by the ‘70s I was sort of casually collecting a lot of material about his life and – you know, articles when I could find them, and that kind of thing – and, uh, and then by the time he died in the, uh, early ‘90s, uh, he was, uh, you know, I had this massive archive of information on Harry Nilsson. And then when – I was trying to get a documentary together and I was in touch with RCA in New York – and when they found out who I was, they asked me to co-produce the re-releases of Harry’s albums, which I did eventually, um, doing liner notes and picking out bonus tracks and that kind of thing. I never met him. Uh, apart from a letter that I – I wrote him a fan letter in ‘76 which he, which he, uh, answered – very generously. Uh, aside from that, there was no actual personal connection between me and Harry Nilsson. It was just a, it was just, uh, a real affinity for his music.

So tell us, how did Harry Nilsson begin in music?

Well, he started, uh, he started as a songwriter, you know, sort of a hack songwriter, in Hollywood. He was, he was doing demos for people. He worked with Phil Spector for a while. Um, he worked, you know, basically doing any sort of job but he was writing – he was actually working in a bank at the time – and, uh, he was writing songs which were getting put out there, and doing some recording, um, and, but totally under the radar. No one was really aware of him at the time. And then, um, he went to, uh, he was ultimately brought into RCA and given a recording deal. This is the very short version of it. Um, his album, Pandemonium Shadow Show, which was released in 1967, uh, post-Pepper, and, uh, and it – the Beatles were, um, instantly attracted to it and talked about it a lot in interviews. And then by 1968 the Beatles did their big, uh, press conference in New York about the formation of Apple, and they were asked about who their favorite American artist was and they said Nilsson. And then, what their favorite American group was and they said Nilsson because he was sort of famous for doing multiple – he had a fantastic multi-octave voice – and doing a lot of, um, of, uh, overdubbing so he sounded like a group. To a lot of people, he sounded like the Beatles. And, um, that was the beginning of it and he had, he had an active recording career up until 1978. And after that, he did some movie and TV work. And, and then, um, you know, was in retirement – a kind of retirement, until his death.

Do you have a favorite record of Harry’s or an album that you think is more important than the others?

I don’t think I have one that’s more important than the others. I’ve got, I’ve got several that I like a lot that are favorites of mine. Uh, Aerial Ballet for the early albums is marvelous. Um, I have a real affinity for Son of Schmilsson which was his second sort of rock and roll album. Uh, and uh, I also like Sandman which is one of the later ones. And I like, uh, Knnillssonn – it’s actually pronounced ‘Nilsson’ – but, uh, it was the last American album that he did in 1977. I love all of those.

And do you have a favorite song, or could you pick a favorite one out of all of the ones he’s recorded?

Oh, I, I can’t do a favorite song. I mean, there, there are so many that I really like. I, I couldn’t even – I can’t even pick a favorite album, you know. I had to pick four albums.

(Laughs) I tell you, the cover that he did of Over the Rainbow – that, I think that …
Oh, yeah.
… and that song’s been covered so many times but I believe that his was the finest.
Well, it’s a great one. It really is. And that whole session was a kind of amazing one-off, which he did periodically. You know, he did an album only of Randy Newman songs, which is also brilliant. And, of course, The Point! which a lot of people know, uh, was a one-off. And then Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, which is the one you’re thinking of, uh, which he did with, um, with, uh, Gordon Jenkins, the great arranger-conductor. And yeah, I love, I love those recordings. I really do. But I mean I’m, I’m, I’m an unabashed, um, un-apologetic, uh, fan of his music and, and always have been.

According to a past interview you did, you said that you’ve approached your love of Harry Nilsson from a faux scholarly perspective. What did you mean by that?

I think it’s because I, I – my interests are primarily literary so I tend to look at things from that kind of perspective and Harry’s lyrics sort of – not lyrics so much, exclusively, but Harry’s body of work plus his life really lends themselves to that kind of a study. Um, it’s almost as if – well, when I wrote in that letter in ’76 it was because I wanted to propose writing a biography of him. Um, the idea at that point of a documentary had never crossed my mind but I was interested in writing a biography because that’s how I tended to see things that interested me. You know, I might love the Sherlock Holmes stories or the Woodhouse books or, uh, Irving but, in addition to loving those books, I’m interested in what – how people analyze those people and their work. And that was sort of the way that I wanted to approach Harry because that was the way I felt and it’s the way I have always approached subjects that interest me. Um, so that was, that was why I was probably saying that. I don’t remember saying that but that’s probably what I meant – was, uh, a subject that interests me I wind up delving into very deeply. And that’s why I said earlier that I see the same thing in my daughter now because – and of course she has the internet which I did not have (laughs). Um, so now, there’s a ton of stuff about Nilsson on the internet which was, you know, wasn’t there ten years ago. Um, and so my daughter, when she gets interested in a band, you know she’s got hours worth of, you know, stuff that she can find and that’s what she ends up doing. She’s exactly the same as me in that regard. You know, she goes from one band to another because of connections. And I guess that’s the thing with Nilsson for me is I always found interesting connections between Nilsson, other types of music, other musicians, session players – that whole thing – and that interested me.

Yeah, that’s, that’s very similar to the way I approach subjects and it is very fascinating to see all the connections in music.

Oh, yeah. It goes on and on.

Absolutely. So, so tell me, how many concerts of Harry Nilsson did you attend?

None, because there were none.
No?
He never performed live.
Really? I did not know that.
Yup.
Interesting.
That was, you know, another thing about him that was sort of interesting for some people was the idea that he was somebody who produced all theses albums. But that’s why I say post- Pepper, when it comes to the first album, the idea that the Beatles had which was, you know, we don’t have to necessarily perform live anymore. We’ll use the studio as a instrument and explore the studio indefinitely, that kind of thing which is – it’s ideal and not really practical at all in the long run. That was sort of the way Harry was. His was more out of a, of a, I think, a pretty deep, unexpressed stage fright, um, that kept him from performing live, except for one time. The only time that I’m aware of that he performed live in front of an audience was in Las Vegas. In 1992 he made a guest appearance with Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band at Caesar’s Palace. They were on tour – the All-Starrs were – and he came on unannounced and, uh, sang, uh, Without You, the big Badfinger hit that he had, his biggest selling, I guess, hit. They had worked it up as a surprise. And, to my knowledge, except for, you know, just, you know, parties and things like that. Those – that is the only time he performed live in front of an audience. He did a lot of TV performances but only in situations where he could control what was going on, which meant that it had to be taped ahead of time.

Very interesting. So tell us, is there anything on the horizons with, uh, with you, Curtis?

Well, yeah, I mean I’m, I’m working on various things all the time, yeah. I just finished a movie in, uh, Louisiana, uh, called Fly Paper, uh, with Patrick Dempsey and Tim Blake Nelson, Ashley Judd and Jeffrey Tambor. That’s, um, only just finished. Um, there are a couple of movies, uh, that are coming out. One is, uh, called High School which comes out next month, I think, and, um, that’s, uh, Michael Chiklis and Adrien Brody are in that. And, um, I’m, of course, I’m doing a regular gig on American Dad as a voice, as well as two other animated series which are not on yet. They won’t be on until next year but we’ve been recording them all summer. Uh, so you know, there are odds and ends, different things. Um, just, uh, the usual stuff.

This may be hard question to answer but of all the movies and all of the television shows that you’ve appeared in, is there one that is more meaningful to you?
No (pause), I can say, honestly, no. I mean, I – there is, I, uh, you know, ‘meaningful’? It’s a job, you know? I mean, I, there are jobs, there are movies that I like more than others. There are terrible movies that I don’t even want to think about (laughs). Um, you know, but it’s – as someone who has been doing it for decades it’s impossible to say there is one thing stands out more than any other. Uh, I did a movie that came out this year, actually. It went straight to DVD. Everyone missed it, um, but it was a movie that I really loved, called Route 30.

Route 30.

Yeah. And it’s written and directed by John Putch, and it’s got Dana Delany in it and Robert Romanus and, uh, David DeLuise and, uh, Kevin Rahm. It’s a wonderful, wonderful movie. I absolutely love the movie. And, um, uh, it’s a very small sort of rural, uh, comedy in three parts. And we’re actually starting in December, um – I mean the movie itself is done in three parts but, in addition to that, John Putch is doing three movies over a period, over the period of, of the next few years. So, this was actually made two years ago, came out in January, I think, of this year. Now, in December we go back to Pennsylvania – that’s where it takes place, in south-central Pennsylvania – we’ll go back in December and shoot the second movie. And then after that movie comes out, then we’ll do the third. And they’re probably all going to wind up just going to, to uh, straight to DVD. But, um, but Route 30 for me was the most pure enjoyment I’ve had in a long time. And it’s, it isn’t even that I’m that crazy about my performance in it but I love the movie deeply.


Wow. Well, I look forward to seeing that.

Yeah.
So, you know a second ago you were, when you were talking about Harry Nilsson, you were mentioning that you had written that letter to him about a biography. Would you ever still consider that?
No, no. I, I mean, I had a –I don’t even know what I was thinking, really. I mean, I had no business even suggesting such a thing. I, I mean I write but I’m not a, I’m not a, a biographer. And, you know, a biographer is – I mean, for, for someone to do it properly, um, it’s, you know, it’s something that really needs to be approached by people who know what they’re doing. I had this, this, um, this definite desire – really a passion – over the years, to expose as much of Harry’s music as possible, uh, to people. And, at the time, I guess it seemed like that would be a way of doing it. And even by that time, in ’76, he was beginning to – his star, such as it was, was beginning to fade. And so I thought that, you know, this would be a way of, you know, giving back and at the same time, uh, you know, exposing his music and, and who he is to people. So that was the way I approached it but, in retrospect, I think about it and I, you know, I’ve got this, I still have this massive – and I did all of these interviews with session people that he worked with for, you know, for years. You know, I’ve got all of these taped interviews that I did with Klaus Voormann and Van Dyke Parks and, uh, Gary Wright and Chris Spedding and Jane Goetz and all these people that – producers that did his albums and all this stuff. I’ve got this massive archive here and I don’t really have anything to do with it, you know, so I’m – I, I don’t know. Eventually I’m going to unload onto somebody but I don’t know who.

Well, that, that actually sounds amazing. Uh, yeah, that sounds, that sounds incredible. I don’t know what to say about that but I – yeah, that’s probably quite a gold mine there with Klaus – wow.

Well, you know it’s there for somebody who wants to use it but at this – and in fact I heard, somebody told me the other day that there’s somebody in, in England who’s been blogging about the fact that he’s writing a book about Harry Nilsson but I don’t know any of the details about that and I’ve never, I’ve never – no one that I know around here has ever heard from him. So I don’t know what his thing is, uh, there, but (sighs), you know, eventually I’ll have to get rid of this stuff.

Well, it’s been a great pleasure speaking with you but I have one final question before we go. Mr. Armstrong, what would you like to say to all the people listening in?

Well, uh, thank you for listening. Um, uh, I hope it wasn’t boring as hell (laughs). Uh, um, I, uh, you know it’s been a pleasure, as always, talking about things that interest me that, that, you know, don’t have that much to do with ‘me’. I, I love talking about books. I love talking about music and, uh, and so it was nice to be able to talk about something that interests me.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

John Sebastian: Singer-Songwriter

“The Paul Leslie Hour” proudly presents an exclusive interview with the legendary John B. Sebastian of Lovin’ Spoonful fame. His songs are loved all over the world – (“Do You Believe In Magic?” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” “Daydream.”)

This exclusive interview recorded backstage at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center in Roswell, Georgia.

Pelvis Breastlies: Female Elvis Presley Tribute Band

Elvis Presley is known to all as the King of Rock ‘n Roll. From his humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi; Elvis Presley was one of the most popular singers and icons of the 20th Century. His influence continue to grow and Elvis Presley music is still loved by all ages around the world.

In Atlanta, Georgia there was a girl with a Rock ‘n Roll Dream…Meet Shawn Williams, a girl who loves Elvis and knows that although the King is Gone, he still lives on…in the heart of the people. She decides to start an all female tribute band to perpetuate the King’s music and in 2010, the Pelvis Breastlies are born.

Recorded at Real 2 Reel Studios in Atlanta, Georgia we invite you to meet Shawn, Erin, Davi, Katy and Elizabeth and enjoy live musical performances from their band: The Pelvis Breastlies.

Chubby Checker: Singer & Recording Artist

 CHUBBY CHECKER is one of the greatest singers in all of music.  In 1960, he recorded and released the Hank Ballard R&B song “The Twist” which resulted in a dance craze also known as “The Twist.”

The Twist has not gone away.  Nor has Chubby Checker.  He’s still Twisting!  What a thrill to talk with one of the absolute greatest in rock ‘n roll.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we welcome our special guest, the legendary rock-n-roller, Chubby Checker.  Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much.  Good to be talking with you.

It’s a great pleasure.  So tell everyone out there…people know your songs…but whose the real Chubby Checker?

You don’t want to know him.  He’s a very quiet guy.

Really?

He’s more like Clark Kent.  Nobody cares about him.  He’s very quiet, you know.  Someone whose the other guy…he’s always promoting Chubby Checker…the other guy, he’s always promoting Chubby and everything Chubby does.  It’s like I’m a person within a person.  I promote…I promote Chubby Checker and the quiet guy doesn’t really do very much.  He’s very laid back.  He’s a whole different kind of person and very quiet and…and…you know, just very normal.  In fact, I try to keep out of the way…keep out of the lights and, um, go to quiet places to be entertained.  Nothing exciting because the life of Chubby Checker is always in the spotlight so the other person tries not to be in the spotlight. 

Interesting.  Where do you come from originally?  What was life like growing up?

Spring  Gully, South Carolina and it’s Williamsburg County and Georgetown County.  Williamsburg from Spring Gully, South Carolina and Andrews, South Carolina, this is my home and when you come through Andrews, South Carolina on Highway 521, in every section of town they will say “Welcome to Andrews, birthplace of or the home of Chubby Checker.”

Wow!  Very cool.

I have to behave myself because I, I always tell the people in Andrews and Spring Gully that please forgive me because every time you come through town my name is always there so it’s a burden for them so please forgive me.  I’m going to behave myself and be a good by so that you won’t be ashamed of me (laughs). 

I was reading a really interesting story about you…and there’s lots of interesting stuff also I want to direct all the listeners to ChubbyChecker.com….there’s a real interesting story about you and how you got your name.

When I was a kid, I worked in a produce market for Tony Anastasi and Tony Anastasi gave me the name Chubby.  I later discovered that he gave me his son’s name, which I considered a great honor and a few years later I was working in the poultry market for Henry Colt and he took me to the record company.  I was doing a project for Dick Clark.  The lady there…this lady said…she said, “That’s Chubby.  Chubby like Fatts,” and then she added, “Checker, like Domino,” and Chubby became Chubby Checker and the lady’s name was Mrs. Dick Clark.

So tell me, how did you get interested in music?

My mom took me to concert when we were living in Georgetown County in Georgetown, South Carolina and I was looking at Ernest Tubb, the country singer, and then she later took me to a show in Andrews, South Carolina where I saw a singer named Sugar Charles Robinson  and after I saw those two people, I decided I’d have to be in show business.  I was about four or five years old. 

Wow.  Can you remember favorite artists and favorite records growing up?

I remember people from the 40’s like, um, Hank Williams and Grandpa Jones…those people were around when I was a kid because all I ever heard was country music because I was born before rock-n-roll and people like Hank Williams…people like that….and then when I gained consciousness, about 1951…I must have been about ten years old, then I started exploring rock-n-roll because people like Billy Ward and the Dominos and people like that and…Perry Como and Milton Berle and then came along people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte and, um, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin…people like that…but my favorite of all times was Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  These are the people that really mean something in the rock-n-roll business.  We…we are part of all these people.

I had to agree with you there on the Fatman there.  He was one of my favorite people to interview.  Just an amazing artist.

But these five people, to me, are…a statue should be carved of them in some mountain somewhere and call it the ‘Rock-n-Roll Mountain of Rushmore.’  Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis… these are the guys who really made it…that made rock-n-roll come alive with great fire. 

Before ‘The Twist,’ you had a song called ‘The Class.’  Tell us about that song.

I did impressions of Fats Domino and Elvis Presley and Cozy Cole and the Chipmunks and things like that and I still do a good Elvis impression and Ricky Nelson and Fabian and people like that and it was a novelty record.  It wasn’t my favorite but it was my first hit but it wasn’t my favorite record because I thought that, at the time, I was much cooler than ‘The Class.’  (Laughs)

Well tell us about the first time you heard your own music on the radio.  What did that feel like?

I really never listened to my music and I very rarely look at any films of me on TV or videos.  I never really watch that and the reason why I don’t listen to myself is because I might hear something that I don’t like and I might change it…I might change it…and that might be the reason why people are listening to me and when I watch myself on TV and I see something and I change it, that might be the reason why they like me so I never really watch myself and I don’t listen to my records but I do know that when they’re not played…I have a thing called ‘Media Base.’  I find out where all my music is being played and how many times it’s being played and the great heartbreak about my career is that they don’t really play my music like they play the other great people in the music industry.  I would like to hear Chubby’s music even more.  My music is responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor because after we did ‘The Class,’ and I did ‘The Twist,’ the world changed forever.  It’s almost as if we’re talking on the telephone right now…when the telephone came to the public, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When…when Edison gave us the light bulb, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ the ‘Pony,’ the “Fly,’ the ‘Shake,’ the ‘Hucklebuck,’ dancing on the floor the way we dance became a permanent fixture on the dance floor for everybody’s music and all I want out of it all is for everyone to play my music like they play Elton John;  like they play Elvis;  like they play all the rest of the guys out there….Bob Seger…I want to hear my music the way they play their music and I deserve to have it because in September 11th, 2008, ‘The Twist’ was named the number one song on the planet.  I want to hear the number one song on the planet on the radio.  I want to hear every radio station play the number one song on the planet. 

Well tell us a little bit about that song.  It is amazing, you know.  I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be more wide-spread.  Everybody knows ‘The Twist’ and it’s…

Everybody knows ‘The Twist,’ but I want the radio stations to play what’s responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor  24/7 since Chubby Checker went on ‘American Bandstand’ around 1959 and the world changed forever.  I mean, the way we do the boogie… the way we dance to Lady Gaga… the way kids dance that are nine or ten years old…that’s Chubby Checker.  You turn on the light in your house, it’s Thomas Edison.  When you get on the phone, it’s Alexander Graham Bell.  When you get on the dance floor, that’s Chubby Checker.  The music has a beat and you can dance to it, like they use to say, that’s Chubby Checker. 

Well, tell us about that song, ‘The Twist.’

We’re celebrating fifty years of dancing by ourselves on the dance floor.  Billy Idol said it last…said it best.  He says, that song “dancing by myself… and I’ll be dancing by myself.”  That’s what we’ve been doing.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ we been dancing by ourself on the dance floor, in front of someone, exploiting their sexuality, which is the most exciting thing on the planet!  That’s why we’re still doing it. 

Yeah, I heard you say that on the, on the television.  Uh, you mentioned that…you said that we’re exploiting one another’s sexuality.  What exactly do you mean by that?

It means that I’m actually standing in front of that woman and she’s standing in front of me and we’re fully dressed and we’re doing it.  What are we doing?  We’re doing it.  I’m looking at that girl and I’m saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and she’s saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and I’m looking at her and she’s looking at me.  My goodness!  You can’t get any closer to a strip tease than that.


(Laughs)  Yeah…

And that’s why…that’s why the way we dance on the dance floor before Chubby Checker wasn’t here…in fact, aerobic exercise did not emerge until someone says, “Hey, ‘The Twist’ is great exercise.  Let’s get some music and exercise to music,” and before Chubby Checker, that wasn’t even here.

That’s amazing.  When you look back at all the songs you recorded, is there one to you personally…you mentioned that you didn’t listen to your own records…but is there one to you that is a favorite?

‘The Twist’ is a great song.  ‘The Twist’ is my favorite song and reason for that is is because, you know, it changed the world.  When Walt Disney brought Mickey Mouse to our attention animated cartoons was established and invented right there and everyone that does animated cartoons…now when you go to Disney World or Disneyland you see Mickey Mouse but what about Snow White and the rest of the characters that he has?  Well my Mickey Mouse is ‘The Twist,’ and then my Snow White is ‘The Colonnade,’ and my Goofy is ‘The Fly, and another one is ‘The Shake’ and another one’s ‘The Hucklebuck.’  Those are my characters but they all represent, like Walt Disney’s characters all represent animated cartoons because before he came along it wasn’t here, and all my dances represent the way we dance on the dance floor.  We call it the ‘Dancing Keyboards’ to the way we do the boogie and it’s been going on 24/7 since Chubby Checker, that in two minutes and forty-two seconds the world, the world changed…the dip, dip beat(?)…the length of ‘The Twist’ is two minutes, forty-two seconds and two minutes and forty-two seconds changed the dance floor forever and it’s still going on as we speak.  ‘The Twist’ and the way we dance to the beat is the biggest event in the music industry…the day that it happened…and it still is the biggest event in the music industry.  I just want to catch up with myself and I’m hoping that all the radio stations in the world will play Chubby Checker’s music.  When I’m dead, I’m not going to be able to hear it.  I want to hear it while I’m alive and well.

It was not too I was doing an interview with Clarence “Frogman” Henry in New Orleans and he was, he was talking about you and he said that you were one of the people that he opened for that he was the most proud and the most excited to sing along with.  So I wanted to ask you: Who have you sang along with or opened for or had open for you that you were especially excited about?

It was way back in the day.  There was show in Philadelphia.  I was still in high school and I was the MC.  I…the first tour I went on, I was the MC and I was…I opened for The Quest.  I opened for Paul Williams and the Big Band.  I opened for Clyde McPhatter  and I opened for Bo Diddley.  The show was called ‘Hot Five,’ and I was on that show.  After that, basically most of the time, I’m on the road by myself all the time.  I loved playing with Chuck Barry.  I loved Fatts Domingo, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.  I mean, I’ve played with all these people.  I was in the company of Elvis once in my career.  I’ve met Paul McCartney twice and that’s…that’s about it.  I mean, other than that, it’s the music and Chubby and the audience.  That’s what we’ve been doing, you know, since 1959.  I graduated in 1960.  I was touring before I even graduated high school.  Go to I-Tunes and Amazon.com and look for ‘Knock Down the Walls.’  Look for ‘All the Best.’  Look for that.  Look for ‘Limbo Remix.’  Look for ‘The Texas Twist.’  These are things that I’ve done over the last ten years and you need to listen to those cause it’s…the music is very exciting.  Uh, ‘Knock Down the Walls,’ very exciting song and ‘Texas Twist’ is a country album and it’s all country music on it and it’s something that you need to get in to.  It’s very exciting…

Yeah..

..and, and, and….and go to…go to The Last Twist.com and, you know…we have candy bars and hot dogs and steak and all kinds of junk on there and I’m sure it’d be very interesting.

I’ve got two final questions.

Uh-huh…

When somebody goes to hear you play, cause I wanted all the listeners out there again…check out ChubbyChecker.com…he’s got shows everywhere…uh, what do you hope that they get out of the experience of coming to a Chubby Checker show or listening to one of the records?

They are the centerpiece of the performance.  I am just a good excuse for the party.  It’s all about them.  It’s not about me.  I’m glad they’re coming to see me but I’m also coming to see them and I’m going to give them something.  I’m going to personally get involved with them.  That’s what I do.  You know, the show is about them and you have to see it in order to know it but the thing is, most shows you go to you sit, you clap and you’re an observer and you go home.  You sit down, you clap, you’re an observer and you go home.

Right.

And that’s all you get.  With Chubby Checker, you get more.  You get other things.  Come to town.  Come to see me so that you can see what the other thing is all about.  What’s the next question?

The last question for the legendary Chubby Checker:  This broadcast goes out all over the world.  What would you like to say to all the people out there that are listening?

Whenever you go on the dance floor, I’m there.  In fact, out of all the dances that you do, when you go on the dance floor more than anyone else, you might be dancing to the Beatles but the dance that you do to the Beatles is Chubby Checker.  You might be dancing to Lady Gaga, but Chubby’s there.  You might be at your office on the telephone but Graham Bell’s there.  You might be in your house with the lights on but Edison is there.  Everybody out there, have a good time and most of all is my last message to you:  “Behave!”

(Laughs)  Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Chubby Checker.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Clarence “Frogman” Henry: Legendary Singer & Recording Artist

At 45 rpm’s Clarence Frogman Henry drove straight into the musical center of the listeners heart. That authentic New Orleans R&B sound revved its musical dynamo for the first time in the fifties and never ran out of fuel. Listen in as this legend talks about his youth, home, and of course music. The who’s who of music history you’re about to hear is only part of the journey. Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is quite a ride.

PART ONE:
 

PART TWO:

 

Harry Connick, Sr. : Singer

The verdict is in. Harry Connick Sr. makes crooning look easy. Big Easy.

The storyboard of his life could have been the workings of James Michener. But you’ll find a real and accomplished man, here. His passions for music, New Orleans, and his beloved family are center stage in this one on one with Paul.

Sit back and enjoy the words of The Singing District Attorney; The great Harry Connick Sr.

Part One

Part Two

Now we’re going to take you down to New Orleans, Louisiana, the home of our special guest, Harry Connick, Sr.  We hope you enjoy the interview.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to welcome our very special guest, the one and only Mr. Harry Connick, Sr.  Thank you so much for inviting me into your home and letting me do this interview with you.

You’re very welcome.

Who is Harry Connick, Sr?

Well, I was a professional lawyer.  I was the District Attorney in the city of New Orleans for twenty-nine years and I had been a legal aid attorney before that and before that, an assistant United State Attorney but somewhere along the line that ever-present desire to sing cropped out from time to time but nothing professionally.  While I’m a lawyer and I practiced law and I was a federal, I mean a federal and a state prosecutor I still, uh, loved to listen to music and to sing.  So, I guess I’m like many, many other people.  I have various interests and different interests, but two of them are law and politics and…and…and music….popular music. 

Where were you born?

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, March the 27th of 1926.  My mother and dad were from Mobile.  My grandparents were from Mobile except before that we had some people from Ireland who were our ancestors.  But when I was two years old, my dad, who was working at that time for the United States Corp of Engineers, was transferred from Mobile to New Orleans.  He brought my mother and my older brother and my younger brother and myself over so we’ve lived in New Orleans since 1928. 

Can you remember some of the early records that you listened to that you especially liked?

Glenn Miller, I guess.  But, you know, before that even we…I used to hear things on the radio and…Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee…and some people….I don’t even remember who they were specifically…but Russ Morgan and his band and, uh, Guy Lombardo use to play on,uh, New Year’s Eve from the Astoria Hotel, the ballroom in the Astoria Hotel in New York City.  What I really remember vividly, I guess, was Glenn Miller….some of his music and uh, a moonlight cocktail and in mood and things like that and, of course, Benny Goodman.  I guess, the Dorsey Brothers and things that they did; ‘Pinetop Boogie Woogie’ and things like that.  And then The Warriors came and I remember that Harry James became very prominent and he had some good singers with him.  Dick Haymes was one of the singers and Frank Sinatra for a short while even, and Helen Forrest was his vocalist and you had Ray Eberle with the Jimmy Dorsey Band and Helen O’Connell sang with him and did a lot of duets.  And then Glen Miller…they had the different bands.  He had the singing groups, The Pied Pipers and the Modernaires .  I didn’t know it at the time but the songs that appeal to me uh, I guess, were also written for the war effort that was going on at that time, were written by Sammy Cahn.  The lyrics were written by Sammy Cahn.  I mean, they still play them and people still record them but in war years too, you have to remember that they were writing music for the war…for the people at home and actually in combat and overseas.  Songs like ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ and ‘Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me,’ ‘Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again…”it’s been a long, long time’ and things like that.  I remember those and I remember particularly a song, I was living in Atlanta at the time because my father had been transferred during World War II.  He was stationed in Atlanta before they sent him overseas.  Louis Jordan and his Tympany 5 had a song called ‘Ration Blues’ and rationing in World War II was what affected everybody.  I’m not kidding you.  Gasoline and automobile tires and meat steak and beefsteak and butter and all of the automobiles, you couldn’t get them anymore.  And anything made with rubber or metal was rationed and out of that came a song by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five called ‘Ration Blues.’  I use to sing it when I would do some of my shows but it goes “Baby, baby, baby what’s wrong with Uncle Sam?  He’s cut down on my sugar now he’s messing with my ham.  I’ve got the ration blues.  I’m blue as I can be,” and things like that and you had ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”  The Andrews Sisters did that so that was very much ingrained in me when I was a kid but because the only thing…we never saw those people and we only heard them and big medium, of course, was radio.  I would glue my ear to my…I had a radio in my room when I was in high school and when I was youngers, I used to get home in time to listen to ‘Little Orphan Annie’ and some of these serials that use to run on a daily basis but after a while I got a little bit older and I started to get home to listen to the Chesterfield Show.  I think Harry James was on that, and Benny Goodman had a show and the different big bands were very much in demand for radio time.  Records were still 78rpms.  In fact, I use to buy them.  I had no phonograph, but I would buy them and I would buy the books that they useto sell.  They use to sell a songbook, they called them, and they would have all the songs…all the popular songs of the day in it and I’d buy those and I’d listen…look up the song when I would hear it on the radio.  So I had a great, great love and fascination for big bands and for singers and such is that.  I liked other music too but coming from New Orleans, I think I heard Blues all of my life.  We lived in an integrated neighborhood.  I lived on Plum Street.  The street behind us was Oak Street and part of that was…not part of it, a lot of it….was occupied by black folks.  We would hear their music, especially on Saturday night.  There was no air conditioning in those days…this was the 30’s.  Whatever they played, they played loud (laughs) and it would drift through the neighborhood.  You could hear it, you know.  So I was exposed to some varying, various kinds of music.

You have two recordings available and you sing a lot of the Tin Pan Alley kind of songs, and as far as I’m concerned, of all the songs that have been written those are my personal favorite.

I like ‘em too.

I love those kinds of songs and so I wanted to ask you, do you have a favorite songwriter?


Not really.  Again, growing up in New Orleans you’re exposed to this music.  There’s a certain sound to most of that music.  They call it a street beat.  When I started to work, about 1990, I think I was 65 then.  It’s a hell of a time to get started in a singing career, but it came about quite by accident, and if you’re interested I’ll tell you, but I was working in clubs in New Orleans at a place called ‘Maxwell’s Toulouse Cabaret.’  I worked there for five years.  I also worked at, uh, Roland von Kurnatowski, who is a big fan of Tipitina’s…he owns Tipitina’s now, as a matter of fact.  He had a club on Decatur Street.  I sang there for five years, a couple of nights a week, three shows a night.  So a lot of people caught… tourists come to town….most of the songs people play…are use to anyway, were New Orleans songs or New Orleans style.  I was attracted to that and it was something that I think had great appeal but I still liked the, uh, the stand and so I don’t know of any particular artist, composer, let’s say.   I know that I like, uh, I like that music.

This is very hard for a lot of people to answer, but could you name a favorite song?

Uh, I tell ya…I think it’s impossible (laughs).  I’ve tried to do that and if I’m listening to Frank Sinatra sing something, whatever it may have been, you know, that would be my favorite song at that time and if I played a Dick Haymes record, ‘Mam’sell,’ or something like that, then that would be my favorite song.  And, but, you know…it’s so hard to distinguish degree of, I guess acceptance to music.  It’s, it’s so individual, but I’m fickle as hell when it comes to, comes to saying which is my most favorite songs.  A song, maybe a song would be my favorite song for some while but time will pass and it will be another one.  I don’t even remember which…I do like ‘Moonlight Serenade’ if it’s the vocal version of that.  Sinatra sang that.  Sinatra did so many incredible songs.  So did Haynes and so did Crosby and so did, uh, Andy Russell from those days and those fellows so it’s hard to say.

I wanted to ask you about this record store that you owned.

Uh huh…

Or, actually, there were two.

At one time, that’s right.  We, when, uh, I had worked in, uh, Casablanca in Morocco.  I’d gone over there as a civilian after I did my tour of duty in the service during World War II when I was over there and I came home.  I got married in Tangier…married to the mother of my two dear children…and we came home and I was in bed.  I was, I was laid up and in poor…I had tuberculosis and it was a prolonged period of bed rest…very strict bed rest in addition to the medication and my wife, Anita, wasn’t from here and so we came back…we were uprooted very summarily in Casablanca, or Neuaseur actually where I was working.  We were brought back home after long circuitous route finally ended up back in New Orleans.  She wanted to work and she went out to find a job and it was very difficult for her to, uh, get work because at that time, also to today, in a certain extent, New Orleans is extremely provincial and if you don’t know somebody…it’s less of that today so don’t anyone who hears me not come to New Orleans for a job but, uh, she couldn’t get a job and so she came to the hospital one day and said “You know, I think I’m gonna open up a record shop, with greeting cards and little electronic equipment like recorders and things such as that.”  So I said, “Okay,” so she did.  She did it on her own, God bless her.  I came home shortly after she opened and after I was able to recover, I went down and worked with her but that’s how that came about and then after a couple of years…I mean…it was a small business but it was a very successful business and it helped me get through law school and helped Anita get through undergraduate law school too.  We, uh, after a couple of years, we opened up a second business…a branch of it…and all we did was lease space in another building.  We had two businesses and one day we were sitting down at supper and I think we both came to the realization that this is really not what we wanted to do with our lives and we wanted to be able to give something and do more, accomplish more so I told her that I’d like to go to law school.  I’d go to undergraduate school and get my degree.  I wasn’t thinking too much of law school at that time cause law school came about while I was finishing up my undergraduate work at Loyola and, anyway, she had gone to Monmouth College in New Jersey and we both decided to go back to school so we split shifts.  I would work in the afternoons and she would work in the morning.  I…my classes were scheduled eight o’clock in the morning till noontime and her classes, she arranged to have them in the afternoon till five or six o’clock or whatever.  So I’d go to school early in the morning and she’d go to work and I’d walk in at twelve-thirty.  I’d pick up special orders, incidentally, on the way home for kids who would come in and want a record today and we didn’t have it.  They would have it tomorrow and…so…we had a great special order department and, uh, so I’d walk in and take over and she would walk out, you know, and we would meet that night at home and we went through that for about four years but it was worth it so it was a good business, and a successful business but one that was very limiting from a challenging point of view, you know?

Yeah.  You wanted to do something that would be more meaningful to you.


Yeah.  I think we felt we had something to give.  She…my wife, Anita, was a very bright lady, smart, as I said, and she was very good with people.  She was very helpful to people.  She helped people.  She…they…people would come into Studio A, our record shop, and they were outright mean sometimes, some of them, and I use to tell her, I said, “Here comes your grouch. (Laughs) You take care of this one,” you know.  So she would…she’d laugh and she’d gotten…after a while that guy became a regular customer and he’d say, “I’d like for your wife to wait on me.”  (Laughs)  I said, “Okay,” and, uh, we made some good friends that way…friends that…that…that…people that after we closed the record shop were still friends.  We lived in a great neighborhood and there was a lot of young kids and a lot of family people so this was in one of the shops in Lakeview but anyway, she was good about that, you know.  Did I answer your question?

Did you ask me a question?

Did I answer your question? (laughs)


Oh…yes…you sure did…you sure did.  You mentioned a second ago, you said “your two lovely children.”  One of the recordings that you made was a duet and it’s the song ‘Rocky Mountain Moon’ and it’s a duet with Mr. Harry Connick, Jr. Was there ever a time when you thought “You know what?  Harry Connick, Jr.’s going to be a musician.”

Oh, immediately…immediately.  Not when he came out of the womb, but shortly thereafter (laughs).  What demonstrated that to us was his incredible time.  My wife, his mother, noticed it when he was in a high chair.  He couldn’t have been two years old.  We brought records home from the Studio A record shop and we’d play them so we had a lot of music going and he would sit there sometimes and start…if he had spoon or something in his hand and he’d start hitting on the tray that was on his high chair and Anita, one time, said, “Oh, listen to that.”  I said, “He is very noisy,” you know (Laughs), and she said, “No, no…listen to it.”  We looked at each other.  She said, “His timing is impeccable.”  His mother…she came from a family of musicians.  Her brother was a very good, a very accomplished musician.  So he would come in and stand at the foot of our bed sometimes and, when he was maybe four, and I had a mandolin that Anita had given to me when I was in the hospital, in Dartmoth(???)Memorial Hospital down here in New Orleans.  It was called a Nick Manoloff method of playing the mandolin and I tried and tried and tried and I could play a few things but anyway, I brought it home with me and he would get that though.  He wanted…he wanted that, you know.  So I let him have it and we would be in bed and he would come in…I remember him vividly sometimes and what he was wearing.  He would come in and stand at the foot of the bed and start singing whatever…’Raindrops’ or whatever and he would strum and he…it was the same thing…no playing…he just strummed…and he said, “Listen Mom. Listen Papa,”  and so we would listen and he would be finished and we would try to go back to sleep.  We said, “That was good.”  He says, “You want to hear another one?”  (Laughs)  So we did that…we knew very early on when he…we would go to different places where they had pianos and he’d sit down.  So finally a fellow…a good friend of mine…my campaign manager named Dan Kelly…my wife had done a lot of legal work for him…he wanted to show his gratitude by giving us a piano, a piano for Harry really and he sat down there and he would play and play and he would pick out the songs.  I think ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ was the first song he really played and he was…then he developed like that…but that was when he was six and seven old. 

This is an interesting question I think because everyone that answers it seems to give a different answer.  What is it you like about music?


Oh…I like…the music that I like…I like the structure of it.  I like the lyrics to it.  The lyrics to me…Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer…you were mentioning ‘Rocky Mountain Moon.’  That’s a Johnny Mercer song.  Not one of his best songs but, uh, nevertheless a good one and typical of Mercer I think.  But, uh, those songwriters had an incredible ability to compose songs that had true, wonderful meaning and they conveyed a particular thought so that’s what I was attracted to.  And then the arrangements I guess is what, you know, what impressed the hell out of me.  With Fletcher Henderson and some of those people who arranged for these big bands were just incredible and that and then someone like Nelson Riddle comes along and some of the things that he did…absolutely incredible.  It’s so…it’s so…it draws you.  It’s so listenable and I like that and that’s what…that’s what does it.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like other kinds of music or that the lyrics are not good.  It just means that they’re not very deep a lot of times.  There’s not a lot of meaning to some of these things.  They’re too repetitious, you know, and, uh, but if you listen closely to the lyrics of the songwriters, Harry Warren and Hammerstein and whatever those people wrote…and believe it or not, I think Sammy Cahn, who wrote popular…pop music also wrote some wonderful songs, you know, that…they’re very serious.  So, that’s what…I think the combination of lyrics and music, the arrangement…plus the melodic aspect of the song is just…

My final question for Mr. Harry Connick, Sr.:  Thanks to the technology, this broadcast is going out all over the world.  What would you like to say to all of the folks who are listening in?

Well, listen to the old folks sometimes (Laughs).  Listen…get…they’re still available.  They’re on the internet now but…you know…the Harry James and the good jazz music we had too.  And..but above all, and more than anything else…and I’m being very serious, listen to Harry Connick, Jr. (Laughs)

And Sr. (Laughs)

Thank you very much. 

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Troy Allan: Singer-Songwriter

TROY ALLAN was a singer-songwriter from Texas who lived from June 27, 1967- November 11, 2010.  In addition to being a bass player in the band Hannah’s Reef, Troy Allan released several albums including One Man, One Guitar; Just South of Corpus, and Party at the Bottom of the Pool, which was released after he passed away.

This interview and acoustic performances was recorded in the home of Monte Tolar, another Texan who is no longer with us.  As you will hear in the interview, Troy Allan had a rare type of stomach cancer called Linitis Plastica.  He became the longest living person to have the disease and in spite of this embarked on a 100 house concert tour called the “Troy Allan Cancer Free 100 House Concert Tour.”

We invite you to listen to the interview and hear the musical performances.

 PART 1

PART 2

 

 PART 3

 

Now we’re going to take you to our mini concert and interview with our special guest, Troy Allan. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is being recorded in the home of Monte Tolar.  I’m sitting down with the singer, songwriter from Texas, Mr. Troy Allan.
Hello!

Troy, thanks for doing this
No problem.  This is great.

 You’re going to give the listeners out there a little bit of who you are and we’re going to hear first-hand, your songs.  My first question: who is Troy Allan?
Uh…I think even I would like to know (laughs).  I’m pretty, uh, chameleon, if that’s a word.  I change a lot.  I’m one show in a cowboy hat and the next time I’m in no hat and I’m in a baseball cap and no shows and flip flops or, you know, whatever.  It just depends on where I’m at and what the venue calls for or whatever.  It jumps around a lot.  Uh, bottom line is I love music.  I always have and there’s…if there’s anything that defines me, it’s just playing music period.  Uh, wherever that takes me, great!  Let’s go! (Laughs)  Whether I’m in the Keys or the middle of Wyoming somewhere, I don’t care.

So you’re from Texas
Yes.  I live there now.  I moved actually down there…a lot of people don’t know this…I moved down in ’81.  Uh, my parents got a divorce and that’s where we landed, uh, back in ’81.  I was a little kid so, you know, wherever the parents go…or my mom went, actually, uh, that’s where we ended up is Beaumont, Texas.  Actually, Vidor, Texas, right around the area, but nobody ever knows that so I’ll just throw that out there…been there a long time.

 Do you think that growing up in Texas affected you as a musician?
Oh, absolutely.  No doubt.  Where I was from, there’s not a lot of bars to play.  Music is not really a big scene.  Uh, you know…eighty miles south of Chicago was kind of out in the corn fields.  In fact, I was the only person that I knew that even played music out outside of orchestra, you know, the school band type thing.  So I was always a, back then, freak (laughs).  “He plays guitar.  Stay away from him!”  So it was my best friend ‘cause, you know, it was like eight to twelve miles to somebody else’s house, you know…didn’t do a lot of driving around, uh, place to place to go hang out at other friend’s so my guitar became my best friend and has been all the way through my life so if something goes wrong…oops!  Go find the guitar!  It’ll listen.

 I was…I saw this on the internet.  I think this was on Facebook…I saw some blurb about two things to do when it rains and I don’t remember if that was in Monte’s status update or where that was but then it got mentioned to me again today.  It’s amazing what kind of a global world we live in with the internet and everything.
Absolutely.

We’re filming this…it is the first time I’ve ever done it like this but, uh, Monte has a lot to say about communication so tell us about that two things to do when it rains.
Uh, way back when I was married and one stormy night, my wife looked at me and, uh…she kind of looked at me and said, “Ya know honey…I’ve never heard this before.  There’s only two things to do when it rains…and I don’t read,” and I was laying there going, ‘That is the best song title in the world!”  And I’m sitting here like, trying to formulate a song around that and she’s like punching me in the side going, “Hey you…I’m over here.”  (Laughs)  I was like, “Oh yeah…I see what you mean.” So, kind of forgot about the song title but, you know, things that are supposed to happen, happen for a reason and if they don’t happen when they’re supposed to, they come back around.  So, we fast forward a couple years and the divorce happens and fast forward another year and finally end up with a girlfriend and, uh, ended up in an RV park…made a whole bunch of new friends and we were sitting over there and, uh, my girlfriend kind of snuggles up to me when we get back to the RV ‘cause it had been raining and we were out sitting around a camp fire and it’s like all of a sudden ‘Wham!”  No thunder, no warning, no nothing…it just started pouring like crazy.  We ended up in the RV.  Well, now the RV’s got the metal roof, so I’m laying there and she snuggles up to me and she says the exact same thing that my ex wife had said, that “There’s only two things to do when it rains and I don’t read.”  Well, the way I write, I have to have the idea and the beat, you know, all at the same time.  If those two things come together I got a song like really fast.  Uh, well the first time, it didn’t happen with my ex.  Uh, this time it did so I jumped and goes “There it is!  I got it!”  I’m like running to the other end of the RV and we had a little breakfast table that pulls down into a little twin bed or whatever and I ran over that to the breakfast nook and I was sitting there and I was scribbling as fast as I could so I could get this idea down and, uh, next thing I know I look up and she’s in the little doorway there into the bedroom at the other end of the RV and she goes, “That’s not what I was meaning!”  She’s standing there in her nightgown…her little nightie, and I was like, “Oh…okay…uh, yeah.”  (Laughs) “Hold on two seconds,” and I’m like trying to finish up writing the song

 Yeah
And I went back to the other end of the table but, or the RV, but I did get the song out and stuff and that was a cool thing.  Actually that was the last song that was written to go on to ‘Just South of Perfect’ CD.  It just squeaked by.  In fact, I dropped another song to be able to put that one on there.  

Well, we’ve heard about this song.  Let’s hear it.
Alright

 ‘Two Things to Do When it’s Rains.’  I can think of one but I’m curious  (Laughs)
(Laughs)

About the second one.

(Performs ‘Two Things to Do When it Rains’)  Hey baby, where you goin’ with my four wheeler?  It’s pouring down the rain…don’t take it out and get it muddy!

(Applause)

It’s one of those little tongue-in-cheek songs.

 Troy Allan, ladies and gentlemen, on the Paul Leslie Hour.  Thanks Troy.  So, you mentioned that you were from Texas.  There’s a lot of music that comes from Texas, a lot of great music that comes from Texas.  So, who were you listening to?  Who influenced you the most?
Well, Beaumont, back in the early ‘80’s and all the way through, I’d say, the early to mid 90’s, was a huge, huge music area.  There was clubs everywhere, bands everywhere, and of course, you know, we’d go out on nights that we were off, the whole band would go to listen to other bands just to see:  what are we doing wrong?  What are we doing right?  What do we do better?  What do we do worse?  Not so much as a challenge thing, but I’m so fortunate to be having that stuff go on in that area ‘cause what happened is it made us want to be better.  So it was like, “Oh man!  They’re doing this and they’re doing all these breaks and these neat little musical chops,” and stuff like that.  Uh, so it really gave me a high bar to climb to, you know…Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, I went to school with them and they had their bands and of course, we all know the story with them about them getting signed and, of course, going on to be superstars and everything and they played at a club, Cutters, where Mark Chesnutt was so we were all, you know, in kind of that same group.  I use to play there on the weekends too, uh, with my band but we were always looking around to, you know…”What could we do better?  What do we need to learn next?  Or, that kind of stuff but so, I was real fortunate to have a lot of music going on in that area.  Unfortunately it’s dropped off in that area a lot.  I mean, it’s real hard to find a place now.  That’s why I go out and tour the country now ‘cause there’s not a lot of stuff going on at home.  So…I have a blast anywhere I’m going out here.  It’s very different from that ‘cause that was like, say, with a band and everywhere you go you carry a five, six piece band, all the gear, all the lights.  You gotta carry all this stuff with you but out here, it’s just me and the guitar, just show up or go anywhere I want to so it’s a lot of fun.  I just love what I’m doing now.

If you could say that one artist was your biggest influence, could you point to one?
Uh…

Or maybe a couple that are above the pack?
Yeah, for me, and it’s kind of funny ‘cause growing up in the corn fields of Illinois, I didn’t get a lot of music.  I mean, if it wasn’t on the radio right then, you know, I got into all the Ozzie Osborne and all that kind of stuff going on throughout the early 80’s and all that (???) band stuff going on.  Uh, finally somebody kept saying, “You have this voice that kind of sounds like this guy,” and they kept saying his name and everything and it never sank in and I never went and found his music or anything like that but when I finally did get introduced to his stuff, it totally changed the way that I was, uh, writing and the style that I would use playing and it changed my guitar style.  I started picking up finger picking and I went and got a couple lessons to figure out how to do that, although I’m not very good for lessons…I didn’t stay very long but pretty much everything else that I learned was on my own so…but yeah, that would have to be James Taylor.

 James Taylor
Ask Willie.

Tell all the listeners out there about a band called Hanna’s Reef.
Absolutely.  I’d love to.  Uh, you know I had my band for a long time and I actually hurt my throat, uh, it would be the New Year’s Eve coming into ’97 and, uh, I took some time off, uh, kind of played at some solo stuff, but the band, the drummer for the band, Chuck Willingham, uh, that’s all he did for a living so he went ahead and moved into another band called Hanna’s Reef.  It was based out of the same area, Beaumont, Texas and, uh, what happened with him is somehow or another, the bass player ended up quitting and I had started playing bass in our band ‘cause the bass player of us kept not showing up.  He’d call me from like all parts of America saying, “Hey, I can’t play tomorrow night ‘cause I’m doing a shutdown.”  He’d take off all over America and so I finally just bought my own bass and learned all my songs one night and showed up and surprised the band the next day, that I was the new bass player and it worked out pretty good but in one night I learned to play bass and sing and, which is kind of tough but that was my goal so I ended up being able to hit it.  And when the bass player quit from Hams Reef, uh, Chuck called me up and said, “Hey, this is what you were always wanting to do.  You were always wanting to travel and go cool places and, you know, do all these neat things and do the hotel thing,” and so the next thing I know, Jerry Diaz is calling me up, the leader of the band and everything, and said, “Here’s what we do and we travel a bunch and , you know, I’m looking for somebody to be able to do some backup vocals and maybe sing a few songs, but really be the bass player.”  And, uh, I decided that I could put my gig on hold for while and be able to go try this and at least see what it was all about.  Stark was pretty excited about it and thank goodness I did ‘cause I didn’t know about the (???) or any of this stuff, you know…the Parrot Heads and all…just a huge music movement that’s happening right now with all the different singer/song writers and, uh, I stayed with Jerry and the guys for a long time…just loved playing with them, loved traveling everywhere, showing up in all these crazy places and carrying our gear onto planes and all that kind of stuff.  That’s a lot of fun.  Sometimes it’s a little hassle, believe it or not, but, uh, you know when you love what you do, the hassle seems to be just part of it.  And, I just  kind of got my feet wet working throughout the band and started learning about tropical music and decided, okay, this is really cool.  This is even better than what I was playing, you know, by myself, you know, solo stuff.  So, just loved the guys…some great music, a lot of time…some fun times just going everywhere.  Uh, kind of felt some growing pains a little bit ‘cause I kept writing all these songs and , of course, it wasn’t my band and I never wanted to take anything away from Jerry or the guys or anything but still wanted to be able to do my stuff.  So the next thing I know, I’m doing solo stuff again, outside of the band schedule, still with a fifty to sixty hour a week day job, and it just kind of got to where it was so busy doing the solo stuff that it was hard to keep doing stuff with the band too.  I felt like I was getting in the way of their progress ‘cause I was turning around and calling Jerry all the time and going, “Hey are we booked for April 22nd?  Okay, how about the 24th?  I got a possibility on such-and-such.”  It just turned into, I felt like I was being more of a pest than helping the band.  So we kind of did a little parting of the ways for a lot of reasons and we’llgo into those if you want (laughs).  It was never because I didn’t want to be there.  They were always awesome to me.

 Well, from your solo career, you have a song called ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Tell us about that song.
Uh, that one’s actually coming up on the next CD which is, the CD is entitled (laughs)…kind of a crazy title…’Party at the Bottom of the Pool’ is a song title, uh, I mean the album title.  But this song, I think, is one of the strongest songs on the whole CD.  After Hurricane Ike came through, my parents lost everything, uh…the business that they had, a lot of the buildings, the house was torn up…they had to tear the house down and really start from scratch.  I mean, there was nothing and I was staying at…with them…at their house…or, their land, I guess I should call it…and I was actually living in a horse trailer and the horse trailer that they had had one of those bunks that go over the bed of the truck…

Right
And there’s not a lot of room up there between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the ceiling, you know, cause it’s already up above the truck (Laughter in background) so you got maybe two and half to three feet and I was staying there one night, and on the Tuesday after Hurricane Ike came through, a big old storm brewed and some lightening hit really close to the house and sounded like it was at the other end of the trailer and I sat up real quick, ‘cause we were all still kind of in shock from Hurricane Ike and the storms and all that stuff that went with that and when I sat up, I sat up so fast that I literally knocked the light that was screwed into the ceiling, I knocked it off of the ceiling with my forehead.  So I’m laying there, screaming and saying all kinds of nice choice was words and I was like, “Man, I hope I don’t have to stay here more than two nights in a row.”  And, as I’m laying there, I kind of let my goose egg do its thing, I got to thinking about “two nights in a row,” and I’d never heard that as a song title or subject for a song and it kind of started me thinking about my life…all the places that I go and was playing, I was never in any place more than two nights in a row.  So, I’d play here and stay one or two nights and then, you know, I’d drive a little ways and I’d stay there for a couple nights and I was like, “Man, that’s almost like an autobiographical song,” so I thought about turning it into a song and the next thing I know, at four o’clock in the morning, I’m sitting down at the little breakfast nook that this horse trailer had and I put together ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Took me about a month to finish.  I had to put the words on it later on.  And, that’s the trauma (laughs).

 Alright.  We’re going to hear it.  This is Troy Allan on the Paul Leslie Hour performing ‘Two Nights in a Row.’

 Troy performs ‘Two Nights in a Row.’  (Applause)

 Alright!  Thanks Troy.  You mentioned in the beginning of that song that you were a wanderer.  What have been some of your favorite places that you’ve played or just visited?
Wow!  Uh…my favorite place for a long time was South Padre Island.  (???)  And, uh, going down there was like a high school type place so it was always like, “Oh!  This is my favorite place.”  And, uh, then I went up to North Padre Island and Port  Arantis and just fell in love with that whole area.  It was just such a neat, quaint little place and everybody kept telling me, “Oh, you need to go check out one more place.”  So my favorite place kind of keeps changing a little bit.  Uh, now it’s Key West.  I have just a wonderful love affair with, not only Key West, but the drive down there.  My favorite place in the world is the Seven Mile Bridge.

 Wow
It’s just gorgeous going down there.  I don’t know if you guys remember…that’s the bridge they used for ‘True Lies’…remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger is hanging from the helicopter, trying to get the…I can’t think of her name…but trying to get her out of the car before it crashes…but that bridge has turned into a very, very kind of sacred and special place for me and every time I go over that bridge, I either end up writing a song or getting told what to do by the Man upstairs…uh, that kind of stuff…and that’s actually where this tour came about was, a, my second trip down there, I was riding there with a buddy of mine and I kept getting this real nagging feeling of, you know, “Did you turn the coffee pot off or did you really lock the front door of the house,” or something like that and, uh, so I finally said, “Okay, I guess I need a couple minutes of silence so I can figure out what this little naggy feeling is and as I was going across the bridge I got a tap on my shoulder and a warm whisper in my ear that I needed to quit the band and go out and do a solo tour to promote cancer awareness and the cancer that I’d been informed that I had a couple months earlier ‘cause it’s really a rare cancer, very unknown.  The treatments, you know, are general, like all the other cancer treatments but the test is not.  There’s no test for this whatsoever…uh, no blood work, uh, nothing…so you have to get an upper GI to be able to find out if you have this and that’s how I found it…totally by luck, and, uh, so I fought with it for a couple months ‘cause I didn’t want to quit the band but, uh, next thing I know, I’m like, “Okay, I can’t fight this anymore,” cause I had mentioned that I wanted to do this tour and started just telling a few people about it and the next thing I know, I’m getting call after call after call after call about it and I almost had the whole year booked up but I’m still trying to play with the band so I finally had to tell them, “Okay, I guess I gotta back out of the band ‘cause I’ve been told to do something,” and I need to obey..so that’s what I’m doing….living on the edge (laughs).

 Well tell us a little bit about this tour.  It’s called the Troy Allan Cancer-Free One Hundred House Concert tour
A little bit of a long name, uh…

 It was something you felt led to do…
Oh, no…I actually got told this is what I was supposed to do.  Uh, when I got the tap on the shoulder, this…I didn’t come up with the title, I didn’t come up with anything other than that I was supposed to do this and go all the way across the country, wherever I could go, and retell my story…kind of be the poster boy, if you will, for…about self-awareness and being able to go get yourself checked out and how to be checked out for this particular kind of cancer.  You know, the Hundred House Concert Cancer-free tour was the name that got told to me right there in the car.  Maybe it was a little bit of optimism or maybe it was a little of He already knew where I was going to be going cause since that moment, I literally took myself out of the driver’s seat for my lifeand put myself in the passenger seat and He’s been leading me all over the place since.  Uh, and so, the cancer-free part of it, uh, some people look at it as I’m trying to promote being cancer-free.  In my mind, it was the determination that I was going to be cancer-free and now I am.  Uh, so, it’s just a lot of blessings all in a row.  It just all came together so I’m living proof that attitude it everything and doing what you’re told (laughs) helps.

 So, when somebody goes to one of these performances, and they hear you sing and they hear you tell your story, what is it you hope they get out of this experience?
Um…number one, I want them to take charge of their own health.  Don’t keep letting the doctors say, “Oh, we’ll see you back in two years,” or whatever, you know…”We’ll do this test…that test.”  If you feel something going on, get checked.  But more importantly, I didn’t have any symptoms at all for this.  I mean, absolutely nothing.  My stomach didn’t hurt.  I didn’t have that…abnormalities eating…there’s the word…wasn’t losing weight, you know, nothing.  And I just happened to lose my job, I had two weeks on insurance, and decided, “Oh, I got some free time ‘cause I’d been working fifty, sixty hours a week, plus traveling full time with the band, plus anytime the band wasn’t playing I was doing solo gigs at little restaurants and stuff anywhere up to a hundred miles away and still driving home and going to work, you know, at 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock the next morning.  That was like twenty hours a day…most of the time, still am.  But what I hope they get out of it is to take charge of their lives, take charge of their health and go get an upper GI, most importantly, no matter how they think their health is, because again, I had no symptoms whatsoever and come to find out, I got the fastest growing and fastest killing cancer there is.  Had I not taken any initiative to do that, literally, December 22nd would have been the end of my six weeks to six months so every day past that is a bonus day for me.

 And this is…it’s called…I’m sure I’m going to butcher this but, Linitis Plastica?
Pretty close….Linitis Plastica.  It’s French for plastic lining and what the literally equate this to…it’s a hardening of the stomach lining.  Because of the way this cancer grows, most cancer is kind of like you throw mud or spackle, you know, for dry wall?  It’s kind of like they throw it at the wall and they go in and kind of clean it off, you know…get in there and make sure it’s not in the corners.  Well, Linitis Plastica is very, very different in the fact that it grows kind of like a…it’s kind of like a vine and it grows…you know, there’s five layers to the stomach…I’ve learned all this anatomy and things…I never knew this before but…there’s five layers to the stomach and what happens is it literally grows in between all those layers, kind of like splitting all the layers of plywood, like growing in between those and then once it does that, there’s nothing else in the body that has that many layers so once it grows outside of the stomach wall, then it just rifles through everything and that’s why it’s the fastest growing ‘cause it takes a little while to get through the stomach and then it just kills everything else.  But, Linitis Plastica, the word, is the hardening of the stomach walls and it turns basically your stomach lining into like a plastic water bottle so, Linitis Plastica, that’s where that comes from so…

You are the longest living person with Linitis Plastica.  Is that true?
Yeah, well, that’s what my doctors are telling me.  Uh, I don’t know…it’s kind of hard to believe that here I find this thing by accident and, uh, end up finding it earlier than anybody else, and that’s the key is finding it early.  Early detection is absolutely the key and that’s why I say I don’t care if you have issues or not, or symptoms for anything, go get yourself checked out just because you never know what you’re going to find.

Right
Uh, but yeah…because of finding it early they were able to get it before it went outside of the stomach and that was the key.  I mean, that was the greatest day of my life when they went in and did the laparoscopic look-around and then they did, uh, what they call a washing, and, uh, and they take all that liquid that they put in…they take it out and then they look for cancer cells.  If they would have found cancer cells outside, they weren’t going to operate and I would definitely be gone by now, uh, but because they didn’t find any, they were able to go ahead and do the surgery…take the stomach out…take the oblenum (??) out…twenty nine lymph nodes, uh, and a whole bunch of little bitty nothing parts I can’t remember the name to.  But, uh, none of those had cancer cells in them except for just at the very end of the stomach where they finally did the incisions to cut all that out so they put me through chemotherapy one more time just kind of as a precaution…changed the medicine and put me through it again.  (Someone in the background:  it’s been a long road)  (Laughs)

It’s an amazing, inspiring story…great that you’re doing all this to create the awareness
Yeah…well…like I say, I just got told to do it and it was my pleasure to do it ‘cause I wanted to do it anyway…just be out there, playing music.  Now it’s happened, though, with what the theme is why I’m out there playing music, so…

 Yeah, it’s great ‘cause you took a negative and you found some ray of hope in it and presenting a good message to everyone out there.
Thanks.

 Well, there’s a song you mentioned earlier and when you mentioned it, right away, ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool,’ I already had all these ideas in my mind about what an album cover would look like for that…
Yeah

Uh, but tell us about that song and play it for us.
Alright.  Uh, I went to…uh, you know, as Parrot Heads go, they have all these different fund raisers ‘cause they’re always raising money for, you know, either cancer or cancer awareness or children’s hospital or a burn unit, you know, whatever’s in their area.  Sometimes it’s not even in their area.  They just pick someplace that they want to help…Shriners…you know, and that kind of stuff…and they have a party and raise money to be able to donate to whatever their cause is.  Well the one in Austin is named ‘The Pirates Ball’ and it’s a full-blown pirates costume party and they have music and entertainment, all that kind of stuff, for a weekend and, uh, we party pretty good and for some reason, the hotel decided that they wanted to try to keep us out of the pool.  Uh, we’d been there last year, and as I understand it, some lawn chairs and some other things ended up at the bottom of the pool.  We’re supposed to be there, so thisyear they decided that, “We’re going to drain it to keep all the stuff out of the pool.”  And, uh, I was playing outside and it was kind of cold and so when we got to the part of the conga line, they were actually going around this empty pool at this hotel and whoever was leading decided that they were going to down in the pool ‘cause the wind had kicked up and it was pretty cool…uh, like I’m saying, cold.  The wind was pretty chilly so what they found out is when we got down to the bottom of the pool, the wind was going across the top of pool and not coming down inside so they told me to grab my guitar and all my stuff and I ended up down in the bottom of the pool too, playing to them in the pool with no water in it and everybody kept telling me, “You gotta write about this.  You have to write a song.”  And, uh, it was a great idea.  I definitely wanted to write one but I just couldn’t find a beat like right then so it took quite a while to get a song together for it, but it finally happened, thank goodness, and it was just such a fun song…man, when I put the music to it in the studio, oh my god!  That song was just so much fun.  It makes you want to jump out of your seat and conga like any Gilly…uh, so I was able to put that together and it’s truly about the people that were there and everything that happened…just kind of a chroniclization of what was going on.  It was a lot of fun…so, uh, I’ll try to do it.  It’s kind of a fast-moving song.

Okay
So let’s see if we can this thing on…it’s going to be recording everything…alright…here it is:  ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool.’

 (Performs ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool’)  (Applause)

Alright!  Thank you so much Troy.
Anytime

I have one more question before we part.  This broadcast goes out all over the world.  What do you want to say to the people who are listening in?
Buy the new CD.  No, I’m just kidding (laughs).  Uh, no, truly, early detection for any kind of cancer is absolutely the key and after you find out if, heaven forbid, you have something, attitude is absolutely the thing that will pull you through, no matter what.  It’s not anybody else’s support, although that helps.  Family is wonderful.  Great friends are wonderful.  But, it all starts with you.  It has to start with you.  People ask me all the time…I mean, all the way through my chemotherapy treatment I was doing radiology at the same time.  I was wearing the pump anytime I wasn’t in the doctor’s office, I was literally wearing the pump which makes you feel, you know, pretty crappy…just being honest.  Uh, but I never missed a band gig with Hams Reef…not one.  I never missed a solo gig.  I mean, I hadn’t been doing it very good but it was the will to keep going and be there.  I had some friends come bail me out, you know, to where I didn’t have to sing absolutely every single song but I still did my part.  It was still my PA every single show and people ask me all the time how I did it and I tell every single one of them, “Attitude is everything.”  You gotta have…it has to start with you.  Bar none…that’s my advice (Laughs).

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Marshall Chapman: Songwriter

MARSHALL CHAPMAN is one of the absolute greatest songwriters.  I had pursued an interview with her for years, and finally an interview took place in Decatur, Georgia.  Her album Big Lonesome was one of the greatest albums released in 2011.  The album was a memorial to the great songwriter Tim Krekel

PART ONE

PART TWO

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to welcome singer, song-writer, recording artist, spoken-word artist and author, Marshall Chapman.

And now ‘actor’.

And now ‘actress’ – right (laughs). And she’s just released her newest album, Big Lonesome, as well as her second book entitled They Came to Nashville.

Right.

It’s a great pleasure.

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Paul.

Who is Marshall Chapman?

What a question. Marshall Chapman is a six-foot tall, skinny white girl from South Carolina who went to Nashville, who loves music, who at age 62 is still out there having, like, the year of her life. Um, I’m having a lot of fun right now. If I had known you could have this much fun at my age I would have relaxed a lot more when I was in my 20s and 30s. But who is Marshall Chapman? You know, I’m probably the last person to ask that. Tim Krekel said it best. Uh, the song we wrote, Sick of Myself, it started as an email from me to Krekel. I just was thinking I really was sick of myself that day. I was thinking if I could be somebody else for a day, maybe two, who would it be? Tim Krekel. I’d like to know what it’s like to be laid back and cool / To play that guitar the way that you do / Like your soul is connected to every string / And the whole room starts swaying when you’re playing that thing. And then two hours later, he emails me back. Well I’m sick of myself. I’d like to be you. Would you trade places with me for a day, maybe two? And you asked the question ‘who is Marshall Chapman?’ and I think Tim Krekel answered it in that song. He said I’d like to know how it feels to be regal and tall / To charm a whole room with that Carolina drawl / To rock with a purpose like ole Jerry Lee / While wearing your soul on your rock and roll sleeves. And if there’s ever a tombstone to mark my passing, those are the words I want to have on it.

Sometimes music says things so well. So from the Marshall Chapman album, Big Lonesome, Sick of Myself, here on the Paul Leslie Hour – the beautiful thing about this album is that the songs, to me, they seem to be very cohesive.

Thank you.

I can relate to all of them. I didn’t know Tim Krekel as well as you do but as someone who knew him, they all seem to go together. So what do you think about the album, Big Lonesome?

Well, I just think it’s, by far, the best album I’ve ever made. And I tell people, you know – first of all, I wasn’t going to make another album. I was really burnt out. I was writing a book. Um, I’m a contributing editor to Garden & Gun magazine – weird name, I know. Um, I have a column with National Arts magazine. So I’ve been writing a lot of prose and that seemed to be a very quiet, contemplative kind of life and I was enjoying it. I was even joking, telling friends of mine that I’ve tried not to write songs because if I write them and they’re good, I’m going to record them. If I record it and it’s good, then my ass is back out on the road. I know how to nip that off in the bud. That was my thinking. And then Tim Krekel was diagnosed with cancer – died within three months of his diagnosis. He was my best friend in music – probably best friend period – and we were very close. And it rocked my world, Paul. And the only thing that seemed to comfort me, going through that experience of Tim’s death, was picking up my guitar. And every time I did, a song poured out. And when I wrote Tim Revisited I just thought I’m doing to do an album and I’m going to make the best album I can possibly make to honor my friend, and that’s what I did.

So let’s play it – Tim Revisited, from Big Lonesome. [song plays] We’re talking to Marshall Chapman. The album starts off with the title song and in the liner notes it says that it was recorded in a Pullman car parked in Union Station?

(Laughs) Correct. I mean, I had a friend named Tommy Spurlock. He’s now down in Austin, Texas but he actually was living in one Pullman car, then right behind it was another Pullman car and they were parked right on a track behind Union Station in Nashville. And he had converted one into living space and the other one into a recording studio. But even though he had the walls padded, when the trains would move in the train yard, you’d have to stop recording because you – it, the noise would bleed through the walls. So it was a real challenge to record there but I think Dave Olney recorded in there with him and also the guy that wrote, um, Wild Thing and Angel in the Morning – Chip, Chip Taylor – I think recorded an album there with Spurlock. He had it briefly and then he kind of just took off for Austin and disappeared. And so, when I decided to do this record, I didn’t have a copy of the, you know, multi-track of that song and I knew I wanted to include it. I had gotten in contact with him and he couldn’t find it. He looked, he couldn’t find it. So I – finally I sent him a check just for his troubles and sometimes money talks (laughs) but, uh, within a week he had sent the ADAT tape of that. We converted it to Pro-tools and the amazing thing was when we were listening to it in the studio, I was – I co-produced this album with Michael Utley, who I love working with. And the reason I chose Michael was because Michael and I co-produced Love Slave, which is probably my favorite studio album until Big Lonesome and now Big Lonesome is my favorite. But anyway, we went in the studio and when we were listening to, uh, converting it to Pro-tools, I didn’t realize Tim’s voice – you know, we were just in the train just goofing off. We had written a song, we were demo-ing a lot of songs, but I liked the way Big Lonesome sounded. And it’s one of my three favorite songs. We’ve written a ton of songs together but there are three that are my favorite that I’ve written with Tim. One is Big Lonesome, one is I Love Everybody, I Love Everything and the other one is Sick of Myself which actually I finished after he died. I mean, he – it was just an email, sort of a love email from me to him and him back to me, and I kind of thought it should be in the shuffle. And then when I decided to make the record, you know, I sat down and put it to music.

Just a moment ago you mentioned Michael Utley who co-produced the album. What’s it like working with him?

Oh, he’s just – well for me it’s just heaven. We work really well together. Mike’s a very positive person and um, and he digs what I do, you know? I mean, I’ve always said happiness is hanging around people who dig you. I don’t purport to be everyone’s cup of tea so, uh, happiness is hanging around people that like you and I like Mike. We were neighbors at the time. He’s since moved to California much, much to my chagrin but he lived right around the block. So I said, you know, I want to do this album to honor Tim. And, of course, we had all been in Buffett’s band together. That’s really when I got to know Tim Krekel. I may be answering one of your subsequent questions but, um, we were in Buffett’s band in 1987 and that’s when I really got close to Tim. He was my favorite person to hang out with, ‘cause with Jimmy, by then, there was a lot of days off.

Yeah.

So you’re hubbing out of some city like Chicago or New Orleans, you know. Jimmy had it down by then. You’d be in, you’d be in some great hotel in New Orleans and you’d hub out and go play Biloxi and you’d go play Houston and you’d play New Orleans and you’d come back to the hotel, with lots of days off in between gigs. So you got time to go to museums and go see movies so we starting hanging. He was just an easy-going guy.

My favorite song on the album is Falling through the Trees.

Ahh, you have good taste.

Yeah, I do (laughs). I pride myself on that.

You do. No, you have depth, man. Thank you. Falling through the Trees – actually, I wrote that when my last album came out, Mellowicious!, which was sort of an experiment and, um, I was working with a guy that was sort of the synthesizer king of Nashville and I learned a lot doing that record. And after doing that record, I was just convinced that this record would be completely organic. Falling through the Trees, when I realized that last record wasn’t going to make it, um, I was just heart-broken because I had invested so much into it. and, uh, I just woke up one night in the middle of the night and wrote that song. And it’s, you know, it’s about the death of a dream. And the same thing, really, is the Cindy Walker song – Going Away Party – so I just thought they were great bookends. They just seemed to flow so well, one into the other. But Falling through the Trees, if there’s one line – you know, I’m sitting there talking about the heartbreak of when dreams die but the line that saves it is I wouldn’t have it any other way. That keeps it from sliding into victimhood …

Right.

and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it’s cool that you mentioned that because William Gay, the novelist, who’s my favorite writer in America, he listened to the album early on and that was his favorite – Falling through the Trees – and he’s the deepest cat I know.

Oh, yeah?

Yeah.

Well, I think nobody said it better than Todd Snider when he said, uh, ‘The album is sad but not hopeless.’

Yeah, ‘like blood on the tracks.’

Oh, I thought that was a perfect description of this album.

Yeah. Todd is like my brother. I love him.

One of the other songs on the album is a cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

Right. Well, you know I was down in Mexico. Um, Tim and I were supposed to go to Mexico and play a bunch – we had a bunch of gigs booked for that summer and he died June, you know, it was June 24th or June 26th of 2009 – and we were supposed to go to Mexico and play some gigs. I have a benefactor in Mexico that flies me and my husband down there and puts us up in a house with, like, a cook, maid service, pool – all that. And it’s on a mountain overlooking of San Miguel, which – San Miguel is on a high mountain plain at 10,000 feet. And people think ‘You’re going to Mexico in July?’ You wear a sweater at night. It is so fabulous. It’s so magical and it’s always been a magnet, that town, for poets and dreamers. It’s where – Jack Kerouac used to hang out down there. In fact, Neal Cassady, that’s where he died, in San Miguel. He got hit by a train down there. It still is a real magnet but – help me keep on track, OK?

(Laughs) Oh, yeah.

But anyway, so I got down there. Tim, the promoter, my benefactor/promoter – when Tim died, we had a plane ticket for him and Debbie to fly down there with us – he said ‘I can understand if you wouldn’t want to come down tonight.’ I said ‘I need to come to Mexico. I’m coming.’ So I wrote that song, Down to Mexico, on the plane flying down there. And when I got down there I played a benefit and then I played a private party at this guy’s house and a benefit called ‘Feed the Hungry’ or ‘Feed the Children’ – yeah – and Tim was supposed to play it with me and I played it by myself. But, um, after the second gig, this expatriate from Mississippi – and there’s a song in there called Mississippi Man in Mexico that was also written, I wrote that on the plane flying home – but we went out to this rancho outside of San Miguel, Rancho Jaguar. And we get there and it’s in this field but this guy grows, he cultivates cacti, cactuses, that he, you know, ships all over the world. And he, uh, he’s from Mississippi. He’s also a great cook and he had dug all these pits that he had mesquite logs burning in them, and when we got there they were hot coals. And he had all these doves he had shot that he had wrapped with bacon and he was roasting them over those mesquite logs, and he just prepared this feast for us. And it was just one of those nights – you know, there’s no night pollution down there. We’re out in the country. You can see all the stars and the moon was full. And I leaned back after that meal and this one little single cloud in the sky moved across the moon and it turned purple. And I thought about Hank Williams. And in that moment I wanted a guitar to materialize in my hands because I wanted to sing that verse in I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, ‘the moon just went behind the cloud to hide its face and cry’. And I was thinking about that song because I used to sing it. I used to sing all these songs. I used to know about 350 songs by heart before I started writing my own songs. You know, I would play in lounges and sing these songs and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry was one of them. But ever since I started writing songs, I quit singing them. And so, that night I’m at my benefactor’s house with his teenage son, Mark, and I started – there was a guitar there and I just started singing all these songs I used to sing, just to see if I could still remember them, before I started writing songs. Songs like Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer, Bob Wills. Songs like Bye Bye Love, the Everly Brothers. Songs like, uh, Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis Presley. Songs like Every Day by Buddy Holly. From Four Until Late by Robert Johnson. To Be Alone with You by Bob Dylan. Uh, all these songs that I just love. And I couldn’t remember the words to I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry so his son downloaded them off the internet. And for the next few nights – we were staying in this house that had this big courtyard and it had great echo in it, you know, like natural echo? Like Sun Records – and I’d get up, because I had my guitar with me, and I’d sing I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry in there and it just sounded so great and it was exactly how I felt because my friend had just died. So I just knew, you know, when I wrote Mississippi Man in Mexico, I knew that song was going to come right after it and it just seemed so – they just, they sounded so good together.

You nailed it.

Yeah. You know, I’ve had a lot of people tell me, you know, and I put that augmented chord in there and I don’t think anybody – I know Hank didn’t have it in there but there’s been probably 300 people record that song but I don’t think – and I think BJ Thomas’s version was pretty good but I’ve had a lot of people tell me that this version is their favorite. Somebody said it’s their favorite along with BJ Thomas’s. But, uh, I think, uh, when we recorded this, man, it felt so good. I felt that Hank was probably smiling.

Wow.

Yeah. I felt like we did it justice. And I do feel like that song has the most beautiful quatrain ever written in a song which is The silence of a fallen star / Lights up a purple sky / And as I wonder where you are / I’m so lonesome I could cry. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. I probably answered three or four of your questions.

No – great answer. Great story.

Alright. What’cha got?

There is a book that you have and it’s called They Came to Nashville.

Right.

It’s a collection of interviews. One of the chapters I thought was very entertaining. It’s the Willie Nelson chapter (Marshall laughs) and you’ve got a track on the album called –

Don’t give it away! Well, it’s interesting you bring that up. The new CD and the new book were released on the same day but, unlike my first book when we released a companion CD, this new CD was about Tim Krekel. But there is one connection to the book and it’s what you mentioned. It’s riding with Willie. I spent three days on Willie Nelson’s bus trying to interview him for the book and we won’t give away what happens but, you know, I write an intro for each chapter. Each chapter is a songwriter I’ve known. Each chapter I write an intro. Some of the intros are a paragraph long, a half page long. Well, the Willie Nelson chapter, my intro is 46 pages long. And you know, some of the critics have described it as up there with Hunter Thompson as far as rock and roll journalism because, man, I was out there. I did not sleep one minute while I was on the bus. I was literally hallucinating when we pulled up to the Beaumont Holiday Inn. And when we did, as often happens when I’m in a state like that, these words starting coming and they were pretty cosmic, more cosmic than I usually write. You know, When everything is swirling around out of control / And everybody’s down to their very soul / Dancing to the rhythm of the universal whole – I don’t think I would normally write a lyric like that unless I’d been on Willie Nelson’s bus for three days, because let me tell you something. You don’t have to partake, you just breathe, OK? It’s there. So I was probably out there in my mind a little bit when I wrote that. But I just wrote it as two verses and kind of a chorus. I thought it was a poem. I wasn’t even sure it was a song. And then exactly a year later almost to the date, when I decided I was going to make a record to honor Tim Krekel, I was sitting at my desk and ‘I thought I need to look at those lyrics.’ And I finished the song, writing two more verses about what happened on Willie’s bus after the Beaumont show, which is – I don’t know about you but if I was 75 years old and been touring for three weeks playing one-nighters, and just played a 2½ hour show, and signed autographs and done everything, I would go crash in the back of my bus. I would not do what Willie did which was he went back, took a shower, changed into a size XXX Snoop Dog black T-shirt and came out in black socks with his guitar and walked to the front of the bus and sat down with him and his sister Bobbie, who plays piano in his band. And he said ‘Somebody get a Casio.’ And they got a little Casio and put it across my lap and hers. And by then, we were going along a bumpy stretch of Interstate 10 near Houston and I’m trying to hold it still. And she and Willie proceeded to play for about 2 ½ hours, like from 2:00 to 4:30 in the morning.

Wow.

They were playing instrumental songs that they used to play, trying to see if they still knew them. Um, a lot of Django Reinhardt, he played Nuage, uh – it was just magical. And so, when I came to finish riding with Willie, sitting at my desk a year later, that scene of him – of him and Bobbie playing those songs – played a big part in that last verse.

The album closes out with I Love Everybody. This is a live cut and it was recorded at a music club and bowling alley.

Yeah. Music club/bowling alley. The Vernon, the great Vernon in Louisville, KY. Yeah, Tim had first told me about that place. He said ‘God, you gotta come here and play. It’s this great new club. It’s in the basement of a bowling alley.’ Of course, when I was playing it that night, that recording was – they hadn’t quite finished renovating the club so the ball returns for the bowling alley which was upstairs were going right over your head. And you could not only see the bowling balls you could hear them, so it was pretty rock and roll. You know, when it finished the record, the last song I had was – I thought it was a studio album, all new stuff recorded in the studio. And then I remembered Waylon Jennings had that album, Dream of My Dreams, which was a great studio album – which I think probably was his finest record – and he put that live cut, Bob Wills Is Still the King, that he had written on the bus and played in Austin that night. And I thought ‘You know, that’s kind of cool, having a live cut at the end of a record.’ And for some reason, you know, it’s kind of cosmic, too, with Tim – the fact that this was to honor him and that he had died – to end it with a live cut. It’s almost like the whole album is sort of cathartic and just goes through the whole process of coming to terms with his death and then ending it with something live. That just seems so appropriate. I don’t think I was even thinking about it as logically as I’m expressing it to you now. So that’s what I decided to do. But when we first finished it – we had played the Belgian Rhythm and Blues Festival. Tim came and it was like – I had a band called the Love Slaves. It had two lead guitar players. One of them couldn’t go so I took Tim Belgium and we played the Belgian Rhythm and Blues Festival. And there’s a great track that the Belgian radio has recorded but it wasn’t 24-track. They were kind of mixing it in their mobile unit as we went along. And so I had that on the album. And then I called Debbie because I wanted her to hear the album. And Tim was playing harmonic on that track. And she and her sister were driving from Florida back to Louisville and they were just 10 miles out of Nashville when I called her and I said ‘Hey, let’s meet for lunch.’ And we did she said ‘You know, there’s a live track of the last time you and Tim really did play together. You know, when the band came up and joined you, like write about in Tim Revisited. I said ‘You are kidding.’ And she said ‘No. they got a 24-track.’ So that night they overnighted and I called Utley and we went back in the studio. That was an expensive piece of information, I might add ‘cause I opened up the whole – I thought I was through with the album. We went back in and there was one little train-wreck place that we cleaned up and, uh, because it was 24-track, but that’s pretty much – I thought it was so cool to have the actual last time I played with Tim Krekel close out this album.

Amazing. Real quick last question.

OK.

I’m going to ask you the same thing I asked Tim before we ended our interview. This interview will be heard by people from all over the place …

OK.

and now read. What do you want to say to all the people?

Well, if you don’t know about Tim Krekel, he’s a great singer-songwriter, band leader, that worked out of Louisville, KY. A little bit more R&B than country but he could play it all. And if you don’t know his music, I recommend you start with the two last CDs. It’s almost like part of him knew he wasn’t going to be with us much longer because, you know, at an age when most people are phoning it in, Tim was upping the ante. I couldn’t believe the albums he was making, like Angel Share. I mean, come on. So go out right now. Go to Amazon and order World Keep Turning and Soul Season. It’s a very ‘stacks- kind of 60s-they buried Wilson Picket in my backyard’. You’ll be glad you did. That’s what I got to say.

Thank you so much Marshall Chapman.

Oh, thank you, Paul.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA