What Prophet A Man To Mess With Waylon’s Dreams?
Been catching some not-so-subtle hints around the house that digging on good-looking women singer types all the time is getting old. The Rosanne Cash, Kelly Willis and Alison Krauss blog posts are each okay by themselves, but the implied suggestion from the lovely wife is that cumulatively it’s starting to look like I’ve got schoolboy crushes on these beautiful, talented women. The appearance of female-singer crushitis is not helped by my morning drive time with Elizabeth Cook on XM/Sirius Outlaw Country and my almost daily reports on her latest witticism. For the record, I have blogged about guys (I’m pretty sure Hayes Carll is a guy, for example) but for some reason what I blogged about a month or two ago doesn’t really matter in this calculus. I would point out my latest piece on the Deadstring Brothers but that piece included a video with Masha that undermines the “guyness” of the post (why did they let her go?!). So, I need a plan to move this blog toward some man love to prove it isn’t all about the women artists for me. Where to turn to get off the hook? Chuck Prophet and the story of one of the manliest recording ventures in all of alt-country. I’ve been meaning to get around to this anyway. There’s no time like the present.
“Former Green on Red frontman” is how most music writers identify Chuck Prophet. Producer to Kelly Willis is the way I identify him. (Sorry, darling, didn’t mean to bring up the ladies again in this post. Forget I said that, I’ll rephrase.) Correction: The way I identify Chuck Prophet is this: He is way past cool. I have two of his CD’s, Soap & Water and Feast Of Hearts, in my car right now. I can’t leave his music in the car all the time, though, because once I put one of his CD’s in, it’s hard to turn it off. Take a look at this video of the song Freckle:
Here’s Mr. Prophet doing Doubter Out Of Jesus (All Over You) on Letterman (this really rocks, by the way – check out the band):
But the story I’m here to tell you today involves neither Green On Red nor Mr. Prophet’s regular solo stuff. This piece is about a “side” project that wasn’t planned in advance. Instead, it was executed on a whim, in captivity, under the influence of beer and Costco peanut butter. In my view, this project is one of the ballsiest (guy term, but it does remind me of that Elizabeth Cook CD – oops) undertakings in musical history. If you haven’t figured it out already, read on, for the story of Mr. Prophet covering Waylon’s 1975 classic Dreaming My Dreams is a story you should know. [Note: The following borrows heavily from John Murry’s excellent liner notes from the project. Thanks John.]
The date was Jan. 5, 2006. Chuck and the band were holed up at Closer Studios in San Francisco. Then someone realized that they were trapped in the studio after one of the owners, Sean Coleman, set the alarm and left to go hang out with his girlfriend. John Murry tells us that Coleman is “like that, all slinky and stuff; like a garden snake in tall grass.” Coleman’s partner Tim is a bit OCD about writing things down, but for some reason, he didn’t write down the alarm code. Nobody knew Coleman’s girlfriend’s last name and Tim’s cell phone is in his Ranchero. So they’re stuck. “The fridge contained two chocolate bars and one of those big-ass Costco jars of peanut butter. And beer.”
Our hero, Chuck Prophet, who had been upstairs in a “closet-sized office” with Stephanie Finch was “pissed. He and Stephanie wouldn’t come downstairs and wouldn’t let us come up.” After a while, though, Prophet gets hungry and they come down. At this point, one of the most unusual recording plans in music history is hatched by a group of stranded musicians/technicians with peanut butter and beer on their breath. Chuck Prophet & Co. decide to re-record Waylon Jennings’s album, Dreaming My Dreams, in its entirety.
Everyone present agreed that the album was Waylon’s best as they listened to it on a battery-powered record player. On the third listen, J.J. Wiesler suggested in jest that they use their time of imprisonment to re-record the album in full. According to Murry: “Chuck did not laugh. He had this creepy look in his eye. It kinda grew into a ‘Hey Man, I got this really good shit to smoke’ whole face thing and then he started talking. He started talking really damn fast. Yes, this crazy alpha-dog son of a bitch was saying. We would do the fucking thing.” And they did.
Murry says, “We were half drunk, didn’t want to argue because peanut butter makes your mouth REALLY sticky and it kinda starts to hurt if you try to talk too much, and so we gave in. . . . We started recording, beginning with Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.
Sean came back late the following night, but the deed was done. “We scared him; not looking so good and all: smelling like peanut butter, cigarettes, and beer and what not.”
Murry’s liner notes to Dreaming Waylon’s Dreams have this as the title: “WAYLON, ARE YOU PISSED? Why we did what we did to Waylon Jennings. (God rest his soul.) No shit.” My guess, and it’s only a guess, as Waylon couldn’t be reached for comment, is no, he isn’t pissed, except maybe with respect to the strange re-interpretation of The Door Is Always Open. Or maybe he would like that one the best, with “added psychotic ranting by Chuck Prophet”? Who knows? Here Waylon is, doing Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way:
Dreaming Waylon’s Dreams was available at Mr. Prophet’s shows in 2008. Then, last year, it was available as an import through Decor Records, which is how I got my copy. Amazon didn’t have it last time I checked, but it was available for download. Maybe you can find a copy used – it would be worth the effort, just to have the liner notes.
My personal favorite on the album is Waymore’s Blues. Prophet and Furry Lewis added some lyrics to a song that always seemed a bit short to me. Some of those: “Well I gotta leave San Francisco. I gotta spread the news. Women up in this piece, they don’t wear no shoes.” Stephanie Finch does a good job on Let’s All Help The Cowboys (Sing The Blues), too. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way is pure Prophet covering Waylon (which it should be, I guess). All in all, quite an effort. It ain’t Waylon, but it’s outlaw, Prophet style. Which reminds me a bit of the Waylon line, “Don’t you think this outlaw bit is getting out of hand?”
Here’s hoping you can track down a copy of Dreaming Waylon’s Dreams for your collection.
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