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Nashville Perspectives



“The sound of ‘Jolene’ was pretty unique for [1973], and part of it is what Larry Londin played. Everybody thinks of him as the great Nashville drummer — well, this was one of the first things he did in Nashville. What happened on that session is I told Larry that I’d rather get a different sound than the usual snare drum and toms and all that. So we started fooling around with the drums and playing the snare with his hands instead of using brushes or sticks…and that’s how the sound came about. I think back then people took more time to try to create fresh, new sounds. Now it seems like a lot of people are on automatic pilot. But Dolly and I always did a lot of planning ahead, trying to make our records a little different so they’d stand out.”
(Porter Wagoner, July 1998)


“Making that drastic change from contemporary music to the more traditional country, well, it could have been a big, bad major boo-boo. Everybody thought they were doin’ the right thing with me, cuttin’ the contemporary stuff, because I do have a big range with my vocals. [But] I’m an honest person and when I’m doin’ country music, I feel like I’m bein’ honest with those people out there. When I say I don’t want a lot of backup singers, or anything but a fiddle — instead of violins — on my records, that’s exactly how I want it. That’s what I like so much about [producer] Jimmy Bowen. He wants your records to be almost like your stage show. He sets it up so when you’re facing the speakers at home, the steel guitar’s on the left, the piano’s on the right. So when people leave my show and go home and put on my records, it’s not such a big difference, like, ‘That was the girl I just got through hearin’?’”
(Reba McEntire, October 1985)

Photo: Frank Okcenfels III


“I wrote ‘Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?’ in a car on an envelope as I was driving from my house — which is about three miles, red lights and all — to the studio and recorded it right then. A week or two later, I looked at the piece of paper that I wrote it on, and you couldn’t even read one word, but I knew what it said when I looked at it in the studio.

“Or sometimes I have songs, my little jewels, that I’ve had around for years. One song I’ve always liked and I’ve had around for 20 years is called ‘It Rains Just the Same in Missouri.’ I’ve never recorded it, but I do know some day I’m going to.”
(Waylon Jennings, November 1998)


“I had previously played bass on a lot of Joan Baez’s albums. She would come down to Nashville every year to make a new album. Joan’s sessions were a little different from the common fare, because Baez had marched with Martin Luther King and the KKK was after her. She would have death threats waiting for her at CBS when she came to town. They had armed guards posted at all of the doors.

“I remember during the Baez sessions going out into the hall and there were guys like Dave Loggins, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Mickey Newbury all sitting out swigging beer and swapping songs. They were also hoping for a chance to hand Baez a cassette of a new song. When we got to ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,’ I said to Baez, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a sing-a-long unison kind of chorus, like you would have in a concert?’ She said, ‘Let’s try it!’ So we went out into the hall, and I called in all of the hangers-on. We had about 20 people, and when all of those drunks started singing ‘The night they drove old Dixie down’ — which I think was the most emotional part of that record — it became magical.”
(Norbert Putnam, November 2000)


“Her ribs had been broken, and she couldn’t hold the notes out. When we were doing this, there were no overdubs. She had to do it all live, and we all had to do it all live. By that time, we had progressed to 3-track, but they wouldn’t put anything in the middle. They put the band and the voice and spread everything left and right. But on this particular session, Patsy couldn’t sing with the band. The 3-track allowed them to record her [later] and not lose any quality on the tape. [Selby Coffeen] was able to put her voice in the middle. We would have lost a generation if he had played it back and transferred to another tape [to add her vocal].”
(Harold Bradley, August 2003)


“We’ve always had a bluegrass feel because of Martie [Maguire] and Emily [Robison]’s instruments, but we never made an album by listening to what’s on the radio. To be honest, we don’t really listen much to radio, and if we did, we would want to do what other people weren’t doing. We don’t sound like anyone else, and that makes longevity. You don’t want to be compared to others or have them compared to you because it’s bad for everyone. We planned on making strictly a bluegrass album, and when we started arranging and choosing songs, that’s not where we went. We love where we went even more, and the bonus is that it turned out to be radio-friendly.”
(Natalie Maynes, November 2002)


“I honestly wish we hadn’t waited so long [to record together] because it was a lot of fun being in the studio doing both albums…I think Merle feels the same way I do — we don’t like the fact that mainstream radio doesn’t play us but a lot of ‘Americana’ stations do, and we still have our crowds on the road. Traditional country fans know what real country is supposed to be, and regardless of whether or not radio wants to play us, we have people wanting to see us that much more because they don’t hear us on the radio.” (George Jones, February 2007)


“One day, Roy called Fred Foster and me into [RCA Studio B], and said, ‘I want you to hear this song.’ Here was Orbison playing acoustic guitar, singing his new song — ‘Only the Lonely’ — and two guys over to his left were sort of mouthing the words, but you couldn’t hear them. Roy finished the song, and he said, ‘That’s the sound I want,’ and he tilted his head toward the two guys. Fred said, ‘What sound?’ Roy said, ‘What they’re singing!’ I said ‘I don’t hear any singing,’ and Fred said, ‘I don’t either.’ So I walked over there, and they started the tune again and these guys are literally whispering the words. I said, ‘My God, how am I going to get that on tape?’ So I thought about it and thought about it, and when it came time to do the session, I talked to all the players — which consisted of strings, piano, bass, drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, background vocals — and I said, ‘Guys, play as softly as you possibly can,’ and I asked the singers to sing as loud as they possibly could while still getting across the feeling they were after. That sound on the vocals really became the Orbison trademark.” (Bill Porter, January 1996)