(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
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A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
The veggie burgers were really good at the sessions. I never did know there they were brought in from, but when they asked if I wanted on, I'd order two. It's no good to say "without pickles," because you're going to get pickles. Ever since Moses brought them out of Egypt, the world is infested with cucumbers. (Numbers 11:5 "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.") I'd open up my burger, take the pickles out and slap a lot of mustard on it. Even if you don't like veggie burgers, mustard can help a little toward making you think it's a hamburger. But, that isn't why I use a lot of mustard. I use a lot of mustard on my veggie burgers because I like mustard. It also kills the taste where the cucumbers have been. Actually, I learned a lot about food at work these last three months. (It's about time.) Oh well, as my dad used to say, "Even a blind pig will eventually get a grain of corn." I learned, or was reminded, that I work better if I eat light, or even not at all. Although if the sessions go seven or eight hours, I eat. I got re-energized after eating the light stuff. Well, light plus mustard. Back home, the standard fare brought in for musicians was steak and biscuits. I think performances suffered due to the heaviness of the food. Maybe not. When you're really hungry, nothing's wrong with heavy, food, at least while you're eating it. In a lot of way, it's like the 50's at Sun Records. There is no clock and no red light in the studio. I always though the red light was pretty silly anyway. It was like, "Okay! Red Light! Time to tense up." Walk into the studio and kind of immediately get right into a song. Sometimes a song can't wait. Barely say hello to the musicians before the song is rolling. Playing the music, all in one accord is a nice hello.
Dog food on the floor. And I've been like this before. Beck's been reading my mail. I do believe that the sum extent of the messiness, disarrangement, disorder and dirtiness of your room is equal to that of your brain. I'm not even going to ask Beck what the line means, "I'll be home with the gasoline." Is it for her truck, or to burn her house? I know. In my head I know. I've been like that before. Rowboat, things are much better on the other shore.
I met June Carter in 1956. It was my second time to see her. It was in the same building, the Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville. My graduation class, on its senior trip, stopped there to see the show which was broadcast over WSM radio. I was 18 and the only person I wanted to see that night was June. She came out with her mother, Maybelle, and her sisters. After a song or two, she did her comedy bit. I had left with my class that night, vowing to meet her someday. And there she was, sitting by all those ropes and cables. I introduced myself and stammered a compliment or two. I had been working with Elvis, as she had, but at different times. So we talked awhile, then as I walked away, I said "I'm going to marry you someday." She smiled and said, "Okay." Because of her circumstances it was six years before we started working together. As our friend, Don Gibson was singing at the time, it took seven more years and a "Sea of Heartbreak" for a lot of people, but we had to be together. We were born to be together.
After Elvis left Sun Records, the rest of us toured together; Carl, Jerry Lee, Roy and occasionally Warren Smith, Billy Riley and Charlies Feathers. I can't say why and when it was that the violence started. I won't speak for the others, but my little group and I were very destructive. When June Carter came along, we decided to initiate her. In some motel somewhere we brought in one of those machines that suck up leaves, and went to work on the room. Standing in the middle of her bed screaming, we opened her suitcase and she watched her clothes disappear, from the sheet she was standing on. Bottle breaking became a favorite steam valve. Until one night, backstage at a ballroom in Iowa. The opening banc was on, we picked up the bottles to start. She picked one up, screamed, "I've had enough, I'm joining you!" But, she threw the bottle at me. Then she turned over a clothes rack, then started throwing bottles at all of us, then against the wall. I yelled for her to stop, but she wouldn't, so I grabbed her and held her. "Okay," I said, "We won't do it anymore." "Promise me!" she said, with the meanest look a woman ever gave me, "I promise" I said. So beginning that night, she began the long, slow process of trying to tame me, and how sweet it was. But that streak was hard to get me off of.
Sometimes at night. When I hear the wind. I wish I was crazy again.
I love songs about horses, railroads, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God. "Rusty Cage" must fit in some of these categories.
You take the sum of experience, the sum of intuition, and the emotion, and let the song flow. If it's commercial must be of absolutely no concern. Whether the radio stations will play it must never enter any consideration. The small group of musicians, all falling into one accord. We, all together, go for the song. 100% go for it. They feel what I feel and I know that they do. They care. They're committed. The love it as I do. The we're at the end and they play and I sing it as if it will never end. But, it does, and we know that we have done our best. "The One Rose."
Jimmie Rodgers had a session in California, in 1932, with a group called Lannie McEntire and his Royal Hawaiians. Lannie wrote a song called "The One Rose," which Jimmie recorded. I have known the song all my life, and over the years numerous artists have recorded it. So far as I know, this the recording of the tune that is word for word as Jimmie sang it. Also, over the years, I have heard arguments over the line, "Rosie haunts me, makes me think of you." Most artists sing it, "Roses haunt me." But, the writer was at the original session, so I'll go with Jimmie.
Mother Maybelle, of the original Carter Family, was my mother-in-law. She and A.P. and Sara Carter recorded their first session in a hotel room in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1927. Waiting in the wings, and recording the very next day, was Jimmie Rodgers. The all became fairly good friends and worked a little together. The had a couple of sessions in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1932. Jimmie Rodgers visits the Carter Family and the Carter Family visits Jimmie Rodgers. With singing and a little dialogue. Maybelle wouldn't talk much about appearances with Jimmie. I often wondered how well they got along.
When I was very young, I had an uncle who was an Engineer on the Cotton Belt Railroad. He'd often take me riding with him in the cab. If he hadn't been holding me on his lap I'm sure I would have been terrified when that deafening surge of power, steam and coal smoke started moving the train. He let me pull the cord that blew the whistle and I felt a little of that power as we picked up speed. Then we heard a thousand tons of unstoppable noise coming through. I'd wave at the people along the way, and I felt like the king of engineers when they waved back. When she was running wide open, with fingers in both ears that, I could feel that rattling clickety-clack all the way home. I never forgot it. I can think of it now and hear a train. I also think of my father who was just coming out of his hobo years about that time. In the depths of the depression that lasted for a few years, following the crash of '29, my father rode the rails looking for work of any kind, anywhere to make a few dollars to feed us on. We lived by that railroad track that I rode with my uncle on at the age of 3. When my father had exhausted every effort to find work near home, he'd hop a freight going anywhere if the doors were empty on the box cars. He'd come back the same way, days, or weeks later, jumping off in front of our house, as the train slowed down to stop in Kingsland. He'd always bring me something, a turtle, a baby rabbit, a whistle he carved himself, or maybe a pretty rock from Texas. Later, despite the hard work, and the ungiving land in bad seasons of flood or drought, growing up in the country means more to me than ever before. I love to go back to the fields and woods in my mind. I can still smell the cotton blossom, the alfalfa, and hear the noise of the rocks in the gravel road under the wagon wheels.
Country Boy ain't got no shoes. Country Boy ain't go no blues. In a world that's all concrete and steel. With nothing green ever growing. Where the buildings hide the rising sun. And block the free wind from blowing.
Every time I come back to this quiet green place in the country, the mind cries "relief," and I want to write, but this is all that came today.
When I only had one or two records out, I sang whatever was popular, or whatever else I liked. If I wasn't on tour with Elvis, I'd sing a couple of his songs. Jerry Lee, Carl, Roy and I sang each other's songs when we weren't together. One of the songs I loved was Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made Of This." It seems everyone shared each other's music, even more so then than now. I can remember that Carl went on a tour with Gogi Grant and thereafter sang "The Wayward Wind" every night we worked together. Jerry Lee made every song, from country to black gospel, sound like a Jerry Lee original. It's in this spirit that I approached the songs on these sessions. "If I can't make these songs my own, they don't belong."When I only had one or two records out, I sang whatever was popular, or whatever else I liked. If I wasn't on tour with Elvis, I'd sing a couple of his songs. Jerry Lee, Carl, Roy and I sang each other's songs when we weren't together. One of the songs I loved was Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made Of This." It seems everyone shared each other's music, even more so then than now. I can remember that Carl went on a tour with Gogi Grant and thereafter sang "The Wayward Wind" every night we worked together. Jerry Lee made every song, from country to black gospel, sound like a Jerry Lee original. It's in this spirit that I approached the songs on these sessions. "If I can't make these songs my own, they don't belong."
Autumn's coming on. Dogwood leaves are turning red and gold and curling up a little before they fall. Black walnut leaves are next, then the nuts. I planted six grapevines last year, built an arbor for them to hang on. They're black and sweet, about half a bushel. My friend down the road is making a little wine with some of them.
When I was a kid in the fields, the last song of the day was usually: "Life's evening sun is sinking low. A few more days and I must go. To meet the deeds that I have done, "Where there will be no setting sun." Honestly though, I really like it here. From where I sit on this porch, everything holds a promise for tomorrow. There's a world of living, lovin,' laughing and singing to do . Leaves are falling off to make room for new ones. Sun's going down, so it can come up tomorrow. The line in "Spiritual" goes: "Jesus, oh, Jesus I don't wanna die alone." I'm never alone.When I was a kid I was a fan of Ira and Charlie, the Louvin Brothers. The broadcast from station WMPS, Memphis, and living 40 miles away, I listened to them on the radio every day. They were on The Eddie Hill Show from 12:00 to 1:00. The biggest thrill of my life was when, in 1947, I made the trip to Memphis, hitch-hiking, and saw the show live. There they were on stage; Eddie Hill, the Louvin Brothers, Lightning Chance; bass player, Paul Buskirk, Tony Cinciola, the whole gang. I was thrilled beyond words. It was my first time to see a country show. I sent a request backstage to dedicate a song to my mother, and they did it! One the show, Eddie Hill said, "Here's a song for Carrie Cash of Dyess, Arkansas," and the Louvin Brothers sang their new record, "Kneeling Drunkard's Plea," (written incidentally by June, Helen and Anita Carter).
I remember a sign on the door of a recording studio in the early day; No Children, No Pets. I never thought much about it then. Recording two-track, low-tech, if a noise was heard it had to be done over. The was no "punching in." On one of the first sessions for the CD, in comes Howie Epstein with this large dog. "Don't worry about him," says Howie, "He goes with me to all the sessions." I find out later that the biggest problem Howie has with his dog, is keeping the musicians from feeding him junk food. (I gave him a bite of veggie-burger.) But, the dog lay right at Howie's fee and never made a sound. (Howie plays a sweet 12-string bass, and instrument I'd never used on a session before.) "Southern Accents" would have been a better anthem for the South than "Dixie," where I come from.
"Mean Eyed Cat" took forty years to write. I hadn't finished it in 1955 when, at a session, I sang the first two verses from Sam Phillips. He said, "that's a keeper. I like that." I said, "But, it isn't finished." He said it was good enough. I was totally surprised when it was released not long afterward. And all these years, every time I would see the title in print, or hear the song on the radio, I'd cringe. Never once did I do the song on stage, and as the years passed, it bugged me more and more that the song was unfinished. So, about a year ago, I wrote the third verse. When I brought it to these sessions, it was like a new song. Finally, after 41 years, I'm satisfied with "Mean Eyed Cat."
Another thing that I knew reaching the age of twelve meant, was doing a full day man's job in the cotton fields, which I did until I was 18 years old and left home. Farming for me meant working with the hoe and plow, with mules in the spring and summer, and the cotton sack in the fall and winter. I never stopped in the fields. Morning to night, except for the hour off, from 12:00 to 1:00 to eat lunch and listened to the High Noon Roundup over WMPS, Memphis. I mixed them up, hillbilly, pop, blues, and my brothers and sisters sang along on the ones they knew. By mid-afternoon, when the day was beginning to really get hard, I started gospel songs. My brother, Jack, two years older than me, was killed in my 12th year. The last songs of the day were always the songs that were sung at his funeral. Don't misunderstand, it wasn't a sad thing. It brought us joy. In those songs was the hope eternal that we found in our religion. Songs like "I'll Fly Away,," "I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone," "I Am Bound for the Promised Land and others. In these sessions, we recorded a song called "Meet Me In Heaven." I wrote it for June, but it's also the words carved on my brother, Jack's tombstone.
Agricultural societies they say, tend to be more religious than most, and it's probably true. We attribute to the hand of the divine the otherwise inexplicable occurrences of the natural world that our substance and survival depended on. My religion has always been expressed in music. The first preachers I heard at a Pentecostal church in Dyess, Arkansas scared me. The talk about sin and death and eternal hell without redemption, made a mark on me. At four, I'd peep out the window of our farmhouse at night, and if, in the distance, I saw a grass fire or forest fire, I knew hell was almost here. Up through adolescence and teenage years, things changed. The music in the Pentecostal churches, in the early years was wonderful, they were more liberal with the musical instruments used. I learned to sit through the scary sermon; just to hear the music; mandolins, fiddles, bass, banjo and flat top guitars. Hell might be on the horizon, but the wonderful gospel-spiritual songs carried me above it. My father was the son of a Baptist preacher, who died at a young age, when my father was twelve. He immediately took over the support of my grandmother and the running of the family farm. So I already knew when I reached the age of twelve that, in my father's words, I had reached the age of moral and spiritual accountability. So, while the congregation sang the invitational hymn, "Just As I Am," I walked down the aisle of the church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
My mother used to say, "God has his hand on you. Never ignore "the Gift." I never knew what she meant by the gift, until I felt the gift leave me. When the gift comes back, it's so sweet. I think sometimes we make "contact" if we leave our spiritual ears open. An employee and faithful friend of mine, Armando Bisceglia, was dying of a terminal disease while I was having these sessions. We knew the end was very close for him. We recorded a song, then I sang it one more time. Just as I finished it, June came in the studio and told me, "Armando just died." The song I was singing was "Unchained." Take this weight from me. Let my spirit be. Unchained.
Things you hear on the road....My alarm didn't go off. We're lost. This isn't my bag. How much farther is it? Are we lost again? You can't go to the bathroom now. It's too hot. It's too cold. My room isn't ready. I didn't watch three movies. Things you hear on planes....We expect a smooth ride. Fasten your seatbelts. Can you see the ground yet? Sorry, sir, you're only allowed two drinks. What was that noise? Shrimp or chicken?
Don't ask me for advice. Whenever some does, I'm reminded of the worst advice I ever gave to anyone. Thank God Roy Orbison ignored it. Roy and I became from Day 1. When he came to Memphis from West Texas. I had met him Odessa, where he and "The Teen Kings" did a show on local TV. He was a little discouraged by the lack of progress he was making and asked me what I thought he should do. I said, "Change your name and lower your voice. You sing too high and no one will ever remember Orbison."
(Apologies to Emily Dickinson)
- J. C. (Johnny Cash), 1996, "Unchained"