Garry Tallent on Duane Eddy, Doug Kershaw & ‘Break Time’: The Buddy and Jim Show Recap
Garry Tallent doesn’t want anybody to take his new record too seriously. It’s just a fun record, he says, of his debut album Break Time.
“Everything on this sounds pre-1959,” he was telling Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale on a recent episode of The Buddy & Jim Show on SiriusXM Outlaw Country. “I wear my influences on my sleeve.”
If the songs were written or co-written by Tallent, he is forthright in saying they’re all borrowed from Buddy Holly and Fats Domino. Tallent lists himself on the credits for vocals, guitars, percussion and “various silly noises.” He took inspiration from seeing Les Paul when he held court at the Iridium in New York. Tallent was drawn to the legendary guitarist’s bass player who he remembered played the instrument like crazy and reminded him of the character Betty Boop. Her signature song was “I Only Have Eyes For You” and she would end with the line “….and you and you.”
“I stole that,” Tallent confesses.
Tallent admits being a slow starter to making his first album but has somewhat of a good excuse why he’s been keeping to himself. For the last forty-five years, he has held a day job as the bassist for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. He is currently on The River Tour which recently headed to Europe.
Tallent was sitting inside Miller’s home studio where he once played upright bass on Solomon Burke’s rousing version of Springsteen’s “Ain’t Got You” on the Miller-produced Nashville. When Tallent lived on the Jersey Shore, one of his neighbors was the famed guitarist Tal Farlow who taught him how to play stand-up bass. Tallent admits he’s not a great stand-up player and for the new record just wanted to have fun and play guitar. For those duties, he recruited Dave Roe, a veteran of Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam’s bands. Along the way, he turned to greats like Duane Eddy and Doug Kershaw to get the sounds he heard in his youth.
“There was a song that was calling out for Duane Eddy,” Tallent shared of “Promise To Her Heart” which he characterizes for its “Ritchie Valens feel.” “I said, ‘Well I can either fake it or ask Duane Eddy’ and I asked Duane Eddy.” Tallent wrote “Stay Away” which he says was stolen from Wanda Jackson’s “I Gotta Know” when she breaks into three-four time. Tallent approached Jackson to do a duet but she declined for health reasons. Instead he enlisted Fats Kaplan’s wife Kristi Rose.
Tallent was always a fan of Doug Kershaw and his brother Rusty. “He was the Ragin’ Cajun and lived up to the hype,” Tallent says of Kershaw’s storied career and storytelling. Kershaw, who now lives north of Denver in the Colorado country, plays on the zydeco groove of “Bayou Love”and adds what Tallent describes as the authenticity it needed.
Eddie Angel, the guitarist in Los Straitjackets and one of Tallent’s Nashville neighbors, co-produced the record. Tallent first came to the city in 1989. He was living in Chelsea neighborhood Manhattan at a time when it was not quite as upscale as it would become. The bassist remembers the days of tripping over homeless people as he went into his apartment building. The music scene was also changing as traditional sounds went the way of electronica and MIDI. The idea of getting five people in a room for a session seemed like it was something of the past.
Tallent sent his equipment to a new studio called Moon Dog he ran for over ten years. Over the years Tallent has produced Steve Forbert, Marshall Crenshaw and Jim Lauderdale. Tallent had arranged one of Steve Earle’s earliest songs called “The Devil’s Right Hand” after meeting the singer through Bob Dylan’s onetime pedal steel player Bucky Baxter. Earle had written the song but didn’t know what to do with it. All these years later, Tallent can boast of a recent royalty check he received for thirteen cents. “In this day and age, that’s a big royalty check,” quipped Miller who just produced a new record in his home studio for Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin.
Moon Dog specialized in traditional analog recording and Tallent called himself an “analog snob,” saying it reached such an extreme that he once had a digital clock removed from the premises. He called Jim Lauderdale his biggest customer. The face of Americana recorded Persimmons, The Hummingbirds and Honey Songs at Moon Dog. Tallent also established his own label, the D’Ville Record Group which released Break Time.
As more and more clients began setting up digital studios in their bedrooms, business eventually slowed. The building’s lease eventually ran out and Tallent moved away, sending much of the equipment to his E Street Band compatriot Steve Van Zandt. He, Miller and Lauderdale laugh at the memory of Willie Nelson parking his bus outside Moon Dog. Tallent claims that there is still a roach left by the singer on the bulletin board in what remains of the studio. Tallent still has some equipment he keeps in a trailer on his property.
Tallent recorded with Lauderdale on Honey Songs from sessions he assembled with guitar legend James Burton, drummer Ron Tutt and pianist Glen Hardin who were part of Elvis Presley’s Taking Care of Business vand. They also backed Gram Parsons on Grievous Angel. Tallent remembers he had to pinch himself when he looked around to who he was playing alongside. Lauderdale still has fifteen tracks in the can he has yet to write lyrics for and hopes someday to release the sessions.
“Sounds like time for a box set,” Tallent suggested.
“Maybe we could get together and come out to the trailer,” Lauderdale proposed of finishing the songs.
Tallent was set to begin a small tour timed to the release of Break Time. He soon found out it would have to wait. When he called a concert agent in Washington DC to inquireabout a possible venue, the agent said it was surprising he called because they were holding space for a possible Springsteen show. Tallent called Springsteen’s management which said they were planning to get around to telling him. He jokes that between tours, people assume “they just put me on ice” until the next tour.
“The truth is I write songs and have other things to do. This is what I did on my summer vacation.”
Tallent has said he hopes to make a record of Sixties sounds for his next album.
Going back to his days in New Jersey, Tallent reverently recalled the great guitarist Tal Farlow who was his neighbor and he would see fishing on the docks in Sea Bright. Farlow, Tallent and the late Clarence Clemons used to play a fun Saturday night gig just to get out of the house.
Farlow had a reputation for practicing eight hours a day. One day Tallent asked the legend why he was practicing so much.
“I’m finally starting to get it,” Farlow replied with a straight face.