Looking Back on Fifty Years of Music….a personal journey
Sometimes I look at my footprints here on No Depression, and I feel like a mournful wraith. Complaining here and cajoling there, never so much a part of things as an interloper.
Even at 63, I’ve never been much at looking back, but something about the great discussions here draws out so many memories. A friend and I started our first Rock and Roll band in 1964, a year after we got our first guitars. We began as The Ravens and, at about the time I left for boot camp in ‘66, the band was becoming known as the Heterogenous Grouping. Ah, the Sixties.
At about the time I was leaving a young kid named David Bellamy, whose mama worked in the high school lunch room, stepped in. As I remember it, his folks had an extra room we could practice in and he had a Hammond organ and knew how to play 96 Tears. I went in the military as a small-town Southern kid with a Kay guitar, and got out in 1969 as a political rebel burning with a Liberal fire and no guitar at all.
There’s a point to this, I promise. And the point is, when Rodney and I started that first band, we were the only band in our hometown. You had to go all the way to Tampa to find another. I read a blog on ND yesterday that said Shooter Jennings wants to start a new music format called XXX radio. I applaud him for the effort. But where we were the only band in town, now there’s at least one on every block. And even the bad ones are better than we were at our best. Now, there are incredible singer/songwriters who play to nearly empty clubs, if they can find a gig at all, where we could blow people away with thin versions of Little Black Egg and Little Red Rooster.
I listen to people like Kamm and MacDonald, the New 76ers and Rebekah Pulley, and they’re all better than anything I hear on the radio. But no one outside their small groups has ever heard of them.
Good luck, Shooter. I will eagerly await news of your XXX show. But I have no clue as to how you’ll find a play list that will hold a crowd. Utah Phillips is gone, David Lynn Jones gave up music and went home, last I heard. Great folk singers and writers like Lefty Frizzell and Jimmy Driftwood went somewhere beyond the horizon while we spend so much time and energy following the same tiresome celebrities around, paying too much for a ticket and not supporting local bands.
Now, with pitch correction, with even marginal bands singing over their own tracks as the computer chooses each note, how do we know who’s good? How can we judge songwriters or bands when they all sound perfect? Nothing is more exciting to me than being swallowed by music, finding myself immersed in lyrics or a voice from another world, like the first time I heard Sally Spring sing, ‘when I was young, I thought we were made of stars.’
I no longer see my life as an infinite stretch of possibilities. I’m too old for that. I have no desire to update my website daily, or stay connected on all the social engines out there. Hell, I only use the phone once or twice a week. I count on this community to provide me with peeks into other worlds, and I expect to be slapped down if I make a comment I can’t back up. I hope that someday I’ll find a way to dig deep enough here to find what I know is still there. And that’s the wonder of it all, the pairing of music and lyrics that makes my heart race, brings tears to my eyes.
Maggie and I truly are Lucky Mud. We’ve been playing together for almost 40 years and it is just as wonderful now as it was then. Music has given us the world. We’ve played in Bandera, Texas, and at the Linenhall in Castlebar, Ireland. We’ve stood in the rain atop an Irish castle, and we’ve gazed at the shoreline of France from a little rock in the English Channel. And it was music that took us there. I wish I could spend more time listening to new groups, new songs. I’d like to hear them all before I’m done.