1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I never lived in Tulsa, but that was the nearest hospital. At the time we were living in Pryor, Oklahoma, where my parents were working at a gunpowder plant. It was during WW II. We also live in Commerce, Oklahoma for a while, which was the home town of the baseball slugger, Mickey Mantle. When I was three years old, my parents moved to the state of Washington, where my father worked in the Hanford plutonium factory in Richland. This is where the plutonium was made for the atomic bomb. He was a chemical operator there, working around the radiation. When I was eight years old, we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is where I grew up and attended high school and college.
2. WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY?
I guess that would have to be driving through the apple orchards around the tri-cities area of Washington - Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland - in my parents car listening to Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and Bob Will and the Texas Playboys on the radio. My parents never had a record player, so all the music I heard came from public sources as a child.
3. WHAT WAS THE FIRST RECORD YOU OWNED?
The first record player I owned was a little player that would play 78 rpm records. I think I was in about the fifth or sixth grade. I remember the first record I bought was "Hearts of Stone," a do-wap number. When I was in high school, I bought a stereo player through my uncle Clyde, who owned a furniture store in California. There was one set of speakers in the cabinet with the record player, and a separate set of speakers that you could set across the room. Stereo was brand new then, and I thought I was state of the art!
4. WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST PERFORMANCE?
I guess that would have been in high school. Two friends of mine and I had a little folk music trio. The Kingston Trio was very big then with young people, and we had a little trio and we sang a lot of their songs at student assemblies and such.
5. WHO IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
There have been many; but I guess that would probably have to be Woody Guthrie. Coming from a family of Dust Bowl, Depression era Okies, I found a touchstone in his work. I first heard the covers of his songs done by the Kingston Trio, and of all the songs they did, it was his songs that struck me the most - probably because of my heritage.
6. WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CONCERT YOU'VE ATTENDED?
Well, I've never really been a big concert goer, as I don't much care for being in crowds; but when I was an artist on Capitol back in the mid 70s, I was out in Los Angeles and some of the Capitol folks took me to see The Band at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. They were at the top of their form at the time, and it was a wonderful concert. I recently saw the tribute to Patsy Cline here in Nashville, with Mandy Barnett singing the songs. It was a wonderful show.
7. WHAT IS THE WORST JOB YOU'VE EVER HAD?
I've had a lot of them! One of the worst was probably when I was working
as a carpenter as they were building Interstate 40 across western New Mexico.
I was forming "head-walls" on the concrete culverts that ran under the roadbed.
We were on the Laguna Indian reservation. It was about 116 degrees in the
shade (and there was no shade). There was also no power on the job, and all
the plywood for the concrete forms had to be cut with a handsaw. The foreman
would show up in the morning, then go sit in a bar all afternoon drinking
beer, and show up again just before quitting time to chew everyone out. It
was a tough gig.
8. WHAT IS THE BEST JOB YOU'VE EVER HAD?
Being a recording artist on Capitol in the 70s. There were lots of problems, but I was doing what I wanted to do with my life, and I was performing and sharing my music with people. Isn't that what art is for, to share? That was a very fulfilling period in my life.
9. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST (ALL MEDIA)?
I don't know that I have one favorite artist, in recording, movies, or whatever. There are so many talented people. I love music, novels, history, photography, movies ... all of it.
10. WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOK
There again, that is hard to say. I've read so many wonderful books. I guess, because of my own family history, John Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath, would have to rank way up there.
11. WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE INSTRUMENT?
Well, since guitar is my instrument, I guess that would be it.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG YOU'VE WRITTEN?
Well, I've written a great deal, and I don't know that I have a favorite song, but I guess one of my favorites would be "Up From Georgia."
13. WHAT IS THE FAVORITE SONG SOMEONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN?
Here again, I don't think I have a particular favorite. I enjoy all sorts of music, and each artist that has something to say, has something to say! Listen to B. B. King singing "That's Why I Sing The Blues;" or Dusty Springfield singing, "Son of a Preacherman;" or Dave Loggins, "Please Come To Boston;" or Hank Williams, Mickey Newbury, Muddy Waters, or Woody Guthrie singing anything! There's so many great songs out there.
14. HAVE YOU EVER COLLABORATED IN SONGWRITING?
No, I never have. I tried it a couple of times, but it wasn't very satisfying. I am not saying I wouldn't at some point, if the right chemistry was there; but songwriting to me is a very solitary thing. Unless I can put a piece of my heart in it, I don't want to do it. Can you imagine Carl Sandburg or Robert Frost co-writing? John Steinbeck didn't co-write did he? There have been many good songs that have been co-written - the Lennon/McCartney compositions come to mine - but I have not done that.
15. CAN SONGWRITING BE TAUGHT OR IS IT A GOD-GIVEN TALENT?
Oh, I think the craft, the structure, the commercial formulas and "hooks" can be taught, the same as a painting instructor can show a student the proper way to put paint on a canvass. But what you put on that canvass must come from your own inspiration, your own soul. Or to put it another way, what you have to say. Having something to say can only come from deep within. Of course, we all know there is a lot of music being marketed that has damn little to say.
16. WHAT SINGLE THING HAS HELPED YOU MOST IN YOUR CAREER?
Relentless determination, which was taught to me by example by my mother. She was born into an extremely poor farm family in north-central Oklahoma; and by her own initiative, with no assistance from anyone, rose above that station and earned a teaching degree from Oklahoma State University during the Depression. You've got to believe in what you are doing, and as Peter Guralnick is always reminding me, you've got to keep the faith!
17. WHAT SINGLE THING HAS HINDERED YOUR CAREER?
Undercapitalization, and the Scorpio's tendency to be self destructive. It is hard to keep in mind, that everyone does not share your dreams with the same intensity you have. Sometimes I expect too much from people.
18. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE DRINK?
Water (occasionally mixed with a little Jack Daniels whiskey).
19. WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE POLITICIAN?
I don't favor politicians; they're all horrible (and they're all human);but philosophically, as Will Rogers said, "I am not a member of any organized party; I'm a Democrat."
20. DESCRIBE YOUR LATEST DISC.
Nashville City Blues is an album about dreams - the price of dreams and keeping the faith. It is a personal journey through thirty years of the Nashville music business set on a canvass of country blues. Many of the songs are first person; but since I am no different from you, they are about you and your dreams also. Dreams are what make reality bearable. I hope you will find something in my fragile dreams.
lives in nashville and has just released his latest
'Nashville City Blues'. The latest in a series of superb works dating back to the 70's.....
"Got No Bread
... marketed as country, it has little to do with what came out of the Nashville
machine ... there’s not a cliche on it. Every note sounds as if it was played
- and what is more, felt - by a living human being. ... In the vein of the
Band’s second album, it is an affirmation".
– Greil Marcus.