07 March 2013

Music Notes


by Fran Rizer   

My thirteen-year-old grandson Aeden has been reading a book entitled Awesome about little things that create awesome moments, including such events as surprise doughnuts for breakfast and rain stopping right before the ball game.  One of Aeden’s awesome times was taking his guitar to school and playing a song for his girlfriend. This led to his teacher arranging for him to perform at one of the local nursing homes.
          Aside from the usual awesome moments in most everyone’s life like the births of children and grandchildren, weddings (and divorces for some of us), I discovered that a lot of my awesome times have related to music.  Trust me, I’ll relate this blog to mysteries and writing before I finish.  I’m headed there.

            These are some awesome musical moments in my life, not necessarily in order of importance nor in chronological order.

Young Johnny Cash 
1.     When?  Two AM

Where?  I’m reading in bed

What?  My then twelve-year-old younger son comes into my room holding one of those cheap, ten-minute cassette tapes we recorded song demos on before CDs.  I also sometimes recorded songs I really liked from the radio on them.  My son, who was definitely not a country music fan at the time, hands the unlabeled cassette to me and says, “You need to get rid of everyone who’s recording your demos and get this guy to sing them all.  He’s great!”  My son had “discovered” Johnny Cash.  BTW, the first time I saw Johnny Cash perform live was when my dad took me to see him before I was ten.  His opening act was the then unknown Elvis Presley.


Tina Turner, at 70 years old
2.     When?  Six PM

Where?  I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner

What?  My older son, a young teenager at the time, runs into the kitchen.  “Quick Mama, come quick.  Remember when I asked you to name your favorite female singer when you were growing up and you said Tina Turner.  A new singer is using her name.”  Into the den we go where I see Tina Turner on MTV singing her latest release, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” 

            “That’s the same woman as the one I used to go see when I was a teenager,” I tell him. He didn't believe it until I took him to see Tina in Columbia and she did "Proud Mary."  His first three concerts were Tina and Bob Seger with me and Led Zeplin with his friends. 


3.     When?  Years before, when I was twelve (but I looked sixteen)

Where?  A Big Boy restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland
Young Bobby Rydell
What?  This cute boy, about sixteen, comes over to where my  
cousin Melanie and I are eating hamburgers.  He starts talking and gives us two passes to a sock hop that night. (That shows how long ago it was. Have you even heard of sock hops?)  Cute Boy tells us he’s performing that night.  Oh, yeah, like I believe that.
Mel and I go to the sock hop. Sure enough, Cute Boy is on stage.
Introduced as Bobby Rydell, he sits with us after his set, and dances with me—first boy I ever danced with.  He was about sixteen so if you’re good in math (heck!even if you’re sorry in math) you can figure my age, but hold on.  This story gets better.
The main act comes on stage and it’s Ray Charles!  He introduces a song that, “is new.  We're cutting it next week."  I saw and heard Ray Charles do "What'd I Say?" before it was recorded.
 
The only thing better than a live performance
 by Ray Charles was to have my son
playing saxophone with him.  

4.     When?  Years and years later when my younger son is twenty years old and attending Furman University on a music scholarship. 

Where?  Concert hall in Spartanburg, SC

What?  Younger son is on stage playing first chair tenor sax with Ray Charles and a full orchestra.  He's been told by "that music director who must have come straight from Las Vegas or New York because he ticked off the first chair tenor saxophonist who walked out of rehearsal, and now I’m first chair” that he will play an improvised solo in one of the songs.  That night my son nailed that saxophone improv.  On the way home, he says, “Did it sound okay? I’d never heard that song before.”

It was “I Got a Woman.”  I felt soooooo old.


5.     When?  After my divorce, before sons were grown

Where?   A nightclub in Myrtle Beach, SC

What?  The first time I dance to a song I wrote played by a band  I'm not associated with.


6.     When?  A couple of years later, five AM

Where?  Home, in bed

            What?  Randall Hylton, a superb performer who wrote over two hundred songs recorded by major country and bluegrass entertainers, calls to say, “Thank you” for the article about him that I’d had published in Bluegrass Unlimited and asks me if I’d like to write his press releases and design his promo material.  Out of that grows a friendship and working relationship that results in Randall, who penned so many great songs, telling me that my words “stand up and walk.  You should write a book.”  I did, and then I wrote another one Hey Diddle, Diddle, THE CORPSE & THE FIDDLE which was dedicated to Randall as well as having a character who imitates him in the book.  


7.     When?  Many trips

Where?  Star Recording Studio, Miller’s Creek, North Carolina

What?  Gene Holdway records the Waiting at the Station  CD of original bluegrass gospel
Gene and I wrote together. Then, this year, Gene releases Train Whistle which has six songs I wrote or co-wrote.


8.     When? Before Gene or Randall
Where? Columbia, SC

What? First time my group, Frantastix, performs live


     9.    When? After Frantastix 
Where?  Nashville, TN
What?  Sammy B’s (I understand it’s closed now)

Hanging out with the publisher of one of my songs.  (Harlan Howard took one of


Mickey Newberry (wrote "What Condition My
Condition Was In" and put together "American Trilogy" for
Elvis.  I had dinner with him when he came to speak about
 song-writing in Columbia.), Randy Owen, Dewayne Blackwell,
 and David Frizzell 
mine, too, but by then, he was too old to hang out. We never got a cut on the song, but it sure was exciting when he called me.)  I’m drinking O’Doul’s and on this day the real music people are drinking tequila. (No, Liz, I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but my diabetes does.)  We’re joined by several songwriters including the adorable white-haired Dewayne Blackwell who wrote “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino” and “Friends in Low Places.”  A totally delightful afternoon during which I tell the story of my son performing with Ray Charles because the songwriter mentioned that he’d always wanted to see Ray Charles perform live but never had.  I also learn that the man who co-wrote the Garth Brooks hit also wrote "Mr. Blue" and the old rock song “Little Red Riding Hood, You Sure Are Lookin’ Good.”  Later, it gave me pleasure every time I heard that song used in the car commercial because I knew that fine fellow was making money.  I get that same feeling now when I see the car commercial with Johnny Cash singing “That Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog.”


10.  When?  Before any of the above
       Where?  Nashville
       What?  Many trips with my parents as a child as guests of Hank Snow ("I'm Moving On") at the Ryman Auditorium,  including the night they introduced a first time singer named Loretta Lynn.
            The list of memorable awesome moments goes on and on.  There are equal numbers of awesome writing moments, including holding that first published book in my hands like it was made of gold and some unique book signings I’ll describe another time, but I promised to wrap these music notes around to writing.  I’ve made up my mind.  I’m going to Killer Nashville in 2013…might make it to Albany also, but definitely Nashville.  Hope to see you there.

9 comments:

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this, Fran--grinning over your awesome moments. And I loved "I'm Gonna Hire A Wino," which I heard when I first started listening to country in the late 80s.

Leigh Lundin said...

Frantastix… too funny!

Notes for city kids about the dirty, egg-sucking dog: This isn't just a string of empty words. For some reason, raw eggs have an effect on dogs like cocaine– once tasted, they have to have them and can never again be trusted to guard the brooder house. They won't eat one egg, they'll eat dozens, even a hundred or so.

Fran Rizer said...

Liz and Leigh, thanks for comments. Rob used this emergency column today. Upon looking it over, I should have fine-tuned it, but it sure brings back good memories. Liz, during our afternoon of foolishness, Dewayne Blackwell sang silly take-offs of some of his songs including "The Tamale Song," which is also, "I've got pains in low places." I wish I could remember what he did for "Gonna Hire a Wino" for you.
Leigh, can you believe that just this morning, Big Boy got caught eating eggs?

David Dean said...

What a fascinating life you are having, Fran. Great posting.

The rich and varied backgrounds of the SleuthSayers continues to a source of wonder.

Fran Rizer said...

David, we are indeed a varied group, and that makes knowing the SSers even more fun. You're right, I have lived and am living a wonderful life!

Eve Fisher said...

Wow! I am so impressed. Tell us more!

John Floyd said...

I too am impressed, Fran. Great memories here, and a fascinating account!

Jeff Baker said...

Wow, Fran! Wonderful! Here's one for you: Years ago, we went to see Rich little at the county fair. His opening act was some young country singer whose band was stuck on another flight that hadn't made it to the gig, it was just the kid and his guitar. So, this kid apologised, sang two songs, apologised again, sang two more songs and got off the stage. We cheered him. It was Randy Travis. He was just starting out!

Dixon Hill said...

Fran these moments aren’t just “awesome.” They’re “TOTALLY AWESOME!!” I’ve got to tell my wife about “Friends in Low Places,” because that’s one of her favorite songs. And, I’d love to see some film, or hear a cut, of the Frantastics!

--Dixon