Recently, I got to thinking of how I've discovered some of my favorite musicians/singers/songwriters, and I cam to the conclusion that it all started with Emmylou Harris. I say Emmy in the '70s in Montreal where she was on a bill with James Taylor - and Emmylou blew the audience away (I don't even remember Taylor's performance).
From that day forward, Emmy was my greatest musical influence/idol. And from Emmylou, I found Gram Parsons. Oh! My! God! Never had I heard such raw talent. And Gram brought me to the Burritos, the Eagles, the Byrds... and the list goes on.
Back to Emmylou; and then Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell. From Rodney, Roseanne Cash and Carlene Carter.
In later years, Emmy brought me to Kieran Kane. And the list goes on. I could go influence by influence, but it all comes back to Emmylou Harris.
Anyone else care to share their musical journey from artist to artist? Maybe I can discover some new favorites (oh, yes, Alison Krauss!).
My starting point was Gram , kinda.
In the 80's i was a young pup and into all the then current stuff like The Smiths , Cure, U2 , Bunnymen etc.
I liked REM and got into that "Paisley Underground" thing ,( remember those bands , Green On Red , Dream Syndicate etc.?).One of the bands i really enjoyed was The Long Ryders and one day i came across an album by a band i'd never heard of International Submarine Band in a local record shop. I would have passed it over but the cover was interesting so i had a read and on the back were sleevenotes by Long Ryders singer Sid Griffin. Once i'd read them i had no choice but to take a chance , i bought the album and totally loved it. From there it was Burritos , Gram solo etc Then i started checking out budget releases by Cash , Willie Nelson , Merle Haggard etc , i kinda liked this Country sound and i never really looked back.
There weren't too many current bands (that i knew off) doing it until Uncle Tupelo came along and saved us...................
I also started to check out older acts that i'd previously dismissed as "old boring farts" arpond this time and it was the stated country influence on Old Ways that made me try my very first Neil Young album , i loved that as well . can never understand how it was slated at the time , it's my favourite of his albums , well , Top 3 anyway , simply because i still have a soft spot for it.
well my musical journey started with am radio through the 60's, then fm radio through the seventies. by 1980 fm radio and am radio were the same with lots of advertising and very little music. so i moved on to reading reviews in magazines for music. this worked very well until the best magazine of all time,no depression, stopped production. since then the internet has filled the gap. there is no shortage of good review sites. artist wise the beatles started it in 1964 for me and from that all the u.k. invasion bands and u.s. bands on the radio. in the 70's it was the new wave bands like the clash and elvis costello leading the way along with the soft california sounds of the eagles,jackson browne, and fleetwood mac. on the more rock side it was c.c.r. and neil young. next up were bands like r.e.m., the del-lords, the long ryders, and jason and the scorchers. skipping ahead now americana is my favorite style now. standouts would be people like-todd snider, chris knight, kevin gordon, girlyman, and the list goes on. the only thing i miss now is with an mp3 album most times you don't get liner notes. i used to be able to discover new artists by reading those and checking out the musicians listed. if you have the time now you can discover a new artist every day by scan listening on itunes or amazon and others. happy searching!
My first influence was Neil Young... I was probably 14 in high school and once I heard Heart of Gold...something clicked and here I am... 12 years later.. utterly obsessed with music... my interests have changed as the years went by and I've jumped all over the place... my location usually influences my musical tastes... when I lived in Wyoming I listened to nothing but country genres... when I moved to the mountains I started listening to a lot of mountain bluegrass... now I just gravitate towards songs with really poignent stories- especially covers of traditional songs. Maybe it comes from a love of storytelling... I gravitate towards people who are equally as obsessed with music and who have made a life out of that in some way. Now my methods for finding new music are a little intense... I scour the itunes online store.. I pick an artist I like and then search related playlists or other artists that customers have bought... I seek out tribute compilations and usually find new artists that way. I used to have friends who would send me new music... but I've been on my own lately.
Right now I'm absolutely obsessed with classic country - the Jamey Johnson tribute to Hank Cochran - Living For A Song (which you ABSOLUTELY MUST listen to) got me looking for Hank's own stuff (not much out there). Then, I decided to check out Ray Price's early years. Not sure where that will take me, but I'm looking forward to the journey.
wrote this back in August 2010 but it fits the thread perfectly...
I suppose the recent passing of Richie Hayward of Little Feat got me thinking about my past and particularly the 1970s and how I got into this style of music in the first place. Naturally I got to thinking about the records that introduced me and got me hooked. Not necessarily the best records made in the genre (though some of them probably are) but those that provided me with an introduction into that wide musical territory we sometimes call Americana(whatever that is!). I was going to do this as just a list-you know the 5 albums that got you into Americana sort of thing but I decided to jot down some thoughts instead...
Well here goes then…first a little background…I remember arriving at university in the mid 70s and installing my new music centre (remember them?) in my room. For the first time I was away from home and my new found independence began to show in what I started to listen to. Go back a few months and my induction into this type of music had begun in the latter stages of school life. Most 16-18 year old guys at that time were into Led Zep, Yes, ELP, Focus, Bowie etc. We had a record player in the 6th form common room and I remember one day a friend of mine, Andy brought in an album called “Good Old Boys” by the one and only Randy Newman. Of course I’d never heard of Newman, though I had heard some of his songs not knowing he had written them e.g. “Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear”, which had been a hit in the UK for Alan Price (ex-Animals). I was fascinated by his voice and certainly more so by his songs. This was something entirely different to what I’d ever heard before. The previous summer I had been over to the USA to visit relatives in North Carolina and somehow these songs of the South just seemed to stir my imagination. I hasten to add none of my relatives were like any of the dysfunctional characters in Newman’s songs on the album but it did provide some form of geographical context. At around the same time I was listening to Radio Caroline, the pirate radio station (mostly very late at night and under the bed clothes so as not to disturb my parents sleeping in the adjacent room. No I pods of course in those days-I didn’t even have earphones). Radio Caroline had been in its heyday in the 60s really but was in its last death throws in the mid 70s. They kept playing the new Dylan album particularly two tracks, “Tangled Up in Blue” and the epic “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”. At the same time I remember hearing the American top 40 on the BBC and taking interest in new names that I’d never heard of before. Linda Ronstadt’s versions of “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved” were favourites. I really loved her voice. A song by another female artist called Jessi Colter which I found intriguing also caught my attention. This was the quirky “I’m Not Lisa” which was a hit single in The US but of course over here(UK) it never got any airplay to chart. Before this I remember liking certain other singles. In school you were either a rock fan or Motown lover and never the twain shall meet. This seems ridiculous now of course but that’s what kids are like, I suppose, looking for an identity. I fell into the former camp (though secretly did like some of the stuff my older cousins used to play when I visited their house-The Four Tops , Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson etc). However I digress. Obviously I liked The Beatles, The Stones and other British bands of the time but the singles that really caught my attention as a 12/13 year old were Creedence’s “Bad Moon Rising” and later “Green River”. I also was attracted by the name…Creedence Clearwater Revival…they sounded good before you had even heard their songs. I’m still to this day a massive John Fogerty fan.
Ah yes back to University, well chronologically , in fact, that should be forward to student days. At Uni I arrived with my newly found interest in “countryish music” and the first albums I remember purchasing were the likes of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils first 2 albums, Emmylou Harris “Elite Hotel” which led to my purchasing “GP” and getting into the whole Gram thing. From Emmylou I got into Townes van Zandt and remember buying “Live at the Old Quarter” from the market stall run by the guy who was later in the 80s to develop Andy’s Records retail chain , sadly to go out of business (or was it bought out ?) like many an independent record retailer. I could tell Townes car key joke to all my college friends without fear that they would have heard it. From there it was but a short musical step to Guy Clark’s “Old No.1” and then Jerry Jeff Walker(“It’s A Good Night for Singing” and “Viva Terlingua”). I avidly read the record covers for influences and checked out who had written which songs leading me on to new artists. I started buying fanzines like ZigZag and Omaha Rainbow and bought albums by John Stewart(“California Bloodlines”) and Jackson Browne(“Late For The Sky”). The latter album helped me wallow through many a romantic rejection. At this time I also started to get into Little Feat. I think” Sailin’Shoes” was the first of their albums I bought. Their appearances on OGWT also stood out for me and then I did get to see them live with Lowell but unfortunately only the once. I also remember buying The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s classic triple album, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” using some of the money I had been given for my 21st birthday. Meanwhile my friends in college had more regular tastes of the time and couldn’t understand, what to them, was my oddball obsession with this hick form of music. That is apart from one guy called John, my neighbour who used to play Sonny Rollins albums* and assorted jazz. Even though, at the time, I didn’t care for his taste i.e. jazz, I did feel a certain musical affinity with him for kicking against the conventional wisdom. And he did like Joni and the Dan too. Seem to remember the guy failing his finals because he wrote Beatles lyrics as answers to exam questions. I remember distinctly emptying my room of coffee drinking friends on the playing of Waylon, Willie, Jessi and Tompall’s 1976 “Wanted!Outlaws” album. For them that was the last straw and they needed more than caffeine! Unfortunately their heroes hadn’t always been cowboys and they retreated to their rooms to listen to “Tales from Topographic Oceans”.
Footnote:*I do now own a copy of “Saxophone Colossus” -some things do change after all.
Our Eastern Kentucky born and raised mom, a HUGE Louvin Brothers fan, actually sang us to sleep with tunes like "Knoxville Girl," the grizzliest of murder ballads imaginable. Consequently, I scoff at those that suggest the original tales of The Brothers Grimm are a bit much for small kids.
Seeing Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys perform a set on the Perry Co. courthouse steps when we were just little pickers was another formative experience. As was the "classic country" radio my folks listened to in the car, when Buck and Merle and Faron and George "Possum" Jones were simply "country."
And last but not least, when I was an angry teen that couldn't abide my parents music because it was my parents music, Jerry Garcia once again made said music palatable. Cool, even.
Thank you Jerry.
Without a doubt, Emmylou Harris. Saw her in Montreal in the '70s as the opener for.... cannot remember who. Then, retro to Gram, the Byrds; then forwards to Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell... Emmy sent me backward to early country and then forwards to New Country. But, it's always been Emmy to point the way.
Golly. A whole bunch. The Dead with American Beauty & Workingman's Dead restarted my turn from radio rock. Then the usual suspects until I found The Skillet Lickers alive & well in Dacula, GA. The gap in between was filled with too many to count and too many to miss.
Awakening probably in this order:
1.Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead and American Beauty
2. Poco (terrible that they are not in the R&R Hall of Fame)
3. Neil Young, all early solo stuff
4. Willie Nelson, Shotgun Willie
5. Jerry Jeff Walker, Viva Terlingua
6. John Prine, first album
7. Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel (and then a backwards dive into Flying Burrito Brothers)
8. And then being in Texas in the 1970s, a deep dive into all the artists I often saw live at that time: Willis Alan Ramsey, Willie, Waylon, Rusty Weir, Commander Cody, Greezy Wheels, Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm, Alvin Crow. etc.
All in all, I'd say Willie Nelson had the largest influence on me, particularly attending the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Annual 4th of July Picnics in 74, 75, 76. The lineups were a veritable who's who of the "alternative country" genre (before it had that name!).
Emmylou played near here recently and I was so tempted to go though what I know of her is only what's she's guested on for others. Primarily with Gram Parsons and on Ryan Adams' "Oh My Sweet Carolina". Should've went probably and had my horizons expanded.
Liked the cover art for Ryan Adams' "Gold" when I was about 14 or so. Was too cheap to buy it. :) Those were the end of my pop band days. I was just getting into U2, etc. It stuck in the back of my head and at some point I appropriated a song or two off the internet (I've admitted to this past behavior - I'm reformed, I swear!). Didn't like it. :O Kept coming back to it every year or so. I do that with certain bands - i.e./ Neil Young, Cold Play, Maroon 5 - it's like I'm determined to like them some day (more than the song or two I like now). Came across a Whiskeytown reference (according to my twitter feed somewhere in mid to late summer of 2009) and found "A Song For You". Replayed it over and over again. Noticed it wasn't their song but belonged to some fella by the name of Gram Parsons. Fell for him. Went back and found Ryan's more acoustic stuff. Ordered his CDs (there were quite a few up to that point!) Didn't particularly like all of them so put them to the side. Came back to them again a month or so later and fell hard! Gram Parsons, Jayhawks, Justin Townes Earle, etc all to follow. Haven't looked back yet!
It's funny how one leads to another almost like a ball of yarn unravelling.
Fond memories of listening to Gordon Lightfoot on 8-track tapes. Learned to play his songs on guitar. Next were Neil Young, Emmy Lou, Dylan, John Prine, Steve Forbert. But also have to admit a love for John Denver in the Gordon Lightfoot years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
My one regret is that I never bothered to remember the names of my first influences. That sounds a bit odd unless I mention that although I spent much of my life in rural America I spent my early years poorer than a church mouse in Paterson NJ, In those years the poor were seperated by not only race but by nationality and I lived on a street that seperated the Black from the Irish neighborhoods.
My mom was a good jazz pianist and after working all day she'd go to work in both the Irish and Black bars playing piano, so she was known to all the bar owners. During the days there always seemed to be some musician coming through town that would play in the bars for tips and a meal. It was those guitar players in the Black clubs that got me moving from playing piano to playing guitar. Because everyone knew mom I pretty much could wander in and out of any club and it's because of those forgotten guitar players that I have had my life long love affair with the guitar.
So to the Blues/Jazz guitarists in the Black clubs and the Irish folk music guitarists in the Irish clubs I am eternally grateful .
I would have musical infatuations with other music but when all is said and done the music I first learned is the core of most music in America and it all somehow comes back to the beginning..