Q & A with Ray Wylie Hubbard
This Q & A was originally posted on www.threedimesdown.com when Ray was recently featured as the site’s “artist of the week.” Ray graciously agreed to answer questions submitted by 3DD members and his wife Judy typed up and emailed the answers.
Ray, rumor has it you’re working on a new record. What’s it called and what can you tell us about it? When will it be released?
I felt there was a need for a hymnal for grifters so its called “The Grifter’s Hymnal. It tunnels its way out and sees daylight March 27.
Did you record solo or with a band? If it was recorded with a band, who are you playing with these days?
I used my guys Rick Richards on drums, George Reiff on bass (who produced it with me), on guitar I had Billy Cassis, Audley Freed, Lucas Hubbard, Brad Rice. Ian Mclagen played piano and Ringo Starr sang, played shakers and guitar on a track.
Does the record have any kind of central theme?
It’s got spiritual references as seen from the eyes of a lowdown gambling slide guitar playing moaning hollaring wore out old songwriter.
Care to reveal any song titles or lyrics?
Some of the titles are coricidin bottle, lazarus, new years eve at the gates of hell, red badge of courage and mother blues. Well as far as lyrics, “Said my prayers to the old black gods, tied a string around some chicken bones, set ’em on fire and crossed my heart, tuned up the kay and the silvertone” from Coricidin Bottle: “Saw a black crow on a fence post, singing away like Sam Hopkins ghost, he sang ‘when you see i ain’t breathing no more, nail my feather to the old barn door’ from “Count My Blessings.”
Did you write all of the songs yourself or did you collaborate with anyone?
All by me except “hen house” I wrote with Matt King. “Train Yard” with Liz Foster, “Moss and Flowers” with Charlie Shafter.
Will there be any covers on it?
“Coochy, Coochy” by Richard Starkey.
Do you plan to tour beyond your home turf of Texas in support of the new record? (Like maybe a show in Philadelphia, PA? — hint, hint). If so, will it be solo or with a band?
I’m at the age where its get the gig, then get a band. So either me and Rick, or me Rich and Lucas or me Rick, Lucas and George is the configuration. We will come east.
It’s no secret that you were never pleased with the “Nashville slick” recording and production of your 1975 breakthrough record Cowboy Twinkies. In fact, last year when it was re-released, you took to the internet to implore your fans not to by it. Do any recordings or outtakes exist of the songs as you recorded them back in 1975? If so, is there any chance that they could be released in the future? Have you ever considered re-recording the record today, either with some of the original band members or with a new band?
Man, I don’t know. I would love to record that album again so as to hand it to people looking them in the eye without winching but just don’t have the cash to do that right now. Maybe someday…nah. I probably wont.
Can you talk about the blessing/curse of penning Jerry Jeff Walker’s 70’s hit “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother”? What has that song meant to you over the years?
It fits in the arsenal now, but when it came out, I’d play a place and walk on stage and the crowd would shout play “redneck mother.” I play it and finish and say “here’s another song i wrote…” and the crowd would yell, “play ‘redneck mother’ again.” Some places i perform now, the young’uns don’t even know that song.
Looking back on your career, which of your own songs mean the most to you and why?
I guess “the messenger.” i read rilke’s “letters to a young poet” at age 41 and starting taking guitar lessons to learn how to finger pick. i paraphrased rilke’s idea of princess and the dragon and wrote it”our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures” to make it rhyme and have had a number of people tell me how much that song has meant to them.
What are some of your favorite songs and bands of all time? bands:
buffalo springfield, the beatles, the stones, small faces, the eagles after joe walsh joined them; songs: “snowing on raton”, “hard rains gonna fall.” “elanor rigby,” “ventilator blues.”
Over the years, what artists and bands have been influential to you and your music and why?
spider, snaker and little son, michael murphy, lightnin hopkins, dylan, the stones, gurf morlix
What type of music and bands do you listen to these days?
I dig the black angels, dbt, jonathan tyler and the northern lights, the kills, the hummingbirds, scott h. birum, javi garcia.
What were some of your favorite records from 2011?
Hayes carll’s kmag yoyo of course, ray bonneville: bad man’s blood;
Who have been your favorite guitar players over the years?
lightnin, mance, son house, fred macdowell, billy cassis, bugs henderson.
I’ve heard rumors that you are working on your memoirs. How did this project come to be? Can you talk about when and in what format this project might be released? How hard is it to remember details about things that happened so long ago? (I read Life by Keith Richards and it’s hard to believe he’s got such a good memory!). If you were going to choose a title for your memoirs, what would it be and why?
well, i was telling thom jurek at all music guide about meeting muddy waters in omaha in 72 and he said i should write it down so i did and he encouraged me to email him all this stuff that happened to me and he punctuated it and capitalized words and stuff. he says its like tom sawyer mixed with the matrix and blue velvet. the title i had judy didn’t care for so i gotta come up with a new one. the old working title was ” a tired old whore still turning tricks” but that is not to be.
Do you have any hobbies, interests, sports, etc that help keep you occupied besides music?
well, i do read a lot. i mean a lot. i like designing guitars. a luthier here in wimberley named tony nobles has built some i drew up and they are just great. he and i are “the devil’s backbone guitar company” he made guitars for alejandro escavida, joe walsh, chelle rose, jeff plankenhorn, me and is so good.
A lot of the people who post on 3DD are big fans of Hayes Carll, with whom you wrote Drunken Poet’s Dream. How did the two of you meet and how did you two come to write songs together?
wrecks bell who townes wrote rex’s blues runs the old quarter club in galveston and asked if this kid hayes could open my show down there. i get there and hayes is waiting to go on and i come up to him and say, “you better be good. my crowd will eat you alive if you’re not. i have had numerous opening acts quit half way though their set and walk off stage almost in tears.” hayes looked at me, walked out on stage and said “here’s a song i wrote called “Mississippi flush” and then played “mississippe flush” which i wrote. he killed. so i had a tour with slaid coming up and called him and said lets take this kid on the road with us. he can open for us and carry our gear.
hayes called me one day and said i got a line for a song: i got a woman who’s wild as rome. i said, ” she likes being naked and gazed upon.
Has working with Hayes had any affect on your songwriting or playing? Conversely, what impact do you think you’ve had on his career?
hayes keeps me hungry. when i hear his stuff, i know i can’t slide. he keeps raising the bar. well, i did teach hayes some finger picking patterns and that might have had an impact.
Do you have plans to collaborate with Hayes again? Are there any other up-and-comers with whom you have plans to collaborate?
i would like to but he’s kept his songwriting muscle strong so we have no plans as of now. i would like to write with jonanthan tyler. i just wrote two songs with this up and comer…i think his name was joe walsh. hes got some teeth.
Given how fame and fortune in the music biz are so disconnected from talent and achievement, what words of wisdom would you give to an up-and-coming songwriter or musician?
it may not be about the number of records you sell or even being famous. it might be about earning the respect of musicians you respect.
Have you given any thought to the fact that you’re becoming, for lack of a better term, an “elder statesman” for Americana/blues/rock/alt-country music? Does that mean anything to you? Do you have any thoughts about what your music might mean to the younger generation of artists and music fans?
well, i didn’t want to peak too soon. i would kill myself before i became a nostalgia act or went to branson. i feel i still got a rock attitude with a folk singer’s social conscience wrapped around a blues man heart and would hope that the younger generation would form bands that write important songs that are a little dangerous.
The guitar freaks want to know: What guitars are you playing these days? What have been your favorite electric and acoustic guitars over the years? What type of set-up do you use when playing live?
my amps are a 63 brown tolex fender super and 65 princeton reverb and an old 1952 bell&howell speaker with a stromberg/carlson amplifier in it. i got a 1957 silver tone thin twin, 1958 martin d-18e (like kurt cobaine use on mtv uplugged), a 1965 j50 with a dearmond pickup, a 1937 gibson L37, a 1929 gibson HG22, a 1959 es335 gibson reissue and a 31 style o national resonator. the only pedals i use electric is two alan durham sex drives. acoustic i play a 12 fret devils’s backbone small body i designed and tony nobles built through a bags venue pedal through a demeter tube direct box to a california blond amp with a extension speaker.
I’ve read that Stevie Ray Vaughn was instrumental in your becoming clean and sober. How did SRV help you sober up? Were you close with him? Did you two ever record or perform together? Can you tell us anything about him on a personal level?
we never recorded or played together but we did stay awake longer than anybody else in austin for a few days. after my dad died and i realized i was an orphan at 37 i crossed the line into isms and addictions. though a mutual friend stevie and a guy named b.c. did what some refer as a 12 step call. he shared his experience me. i couldn’t see living with out dope and whiskey and asked him what it was like not to drink and do drugs. he said when he quit drinking, he was like he took off a pair of boxing gloves and could really play the guitar. i said you could really play the guitar before you got sober. he said yeah but there was this wall between me and what i was doing that i didn’t know was there till i quit.
Since we’re coming to you from a message board devoted to the Drive-By Truckers, I have to ask… are you a fan? Have you ever crossed paths with the Truckers? Do you have any favorite DBT records or songs? Do you have any anecdotes or interesting stories that relate to DBT?
i have never crossed paths with those guys but am a huge fan. traci thomas raved about them and turned me on to them and after i heard their records i knew their souls were in the right place and rock and roll had been burned into their heart and head and hands and throat and was in good hands.
Finally, here are a couple of random questions to wind this up… Do you and/or your family have any connection to Lake Ray Hubbard near Dallas or are the names just a coincidence?
nope. i believe it was named after someone in the dallas park department. i should know but i don’t.
Since we’re starting out a new year, do you have any resolutions for 2012?
i resolve to come to philly and catch a DBT show.
Read the rest of the Ray Wylie thread on threedimesdown.com… http://www.threedimesdown.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3188#p126438
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