WARNING! this is an extremely long post (6500 words). allow time to digest. drink lots of water.
ok, ok, ok…enough with the poco chants on the comments, already…
alright, first of all, some history (for those of you who may be lacking the necessary backstory)…
once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of california, there was a rock band called buffalo springfield. they were a fine, fine band, with a great deal of talent. too much talent, in fact, to fit neatly within the confines of one band. there was stephen stills, a great guitarist and vocalist, and richie furay, a former bandmate in a new york-based folk group called the au-go-go singers. after their demise, stephen moved west with the intent of forming a band…but not before meeting an intriguing singer and songwriter from canada named neil young. in fact, stephen and neil had discussed working together during their brief acquaintance, but (according to stephen), neil was lured back into folk music when a female acquaintance mistook him for bob dylan…so they had gone their separate ways before stephen left new york for california.
when he arrived, he found putting together a band a bit more daunting than he’d expected to…so he called his pal richie in new york and “invented” an already-formed band in order to lure him west. when richie arrived in california to find that there was no band, you could probably just imagine his surprise.
so, as legend has it, stephen and richie were driving down sunset strip when stephen saw a hearse with ontario plates going in the opposite direction. from his interview in vintage guitar magazine:
“I’d met Neil in Thunder Bay, Ontario; I’d been up there working with a Cambridge, Massachusetts folk group. He came through with his band; he had a bass player(the legendary rick james) and a drummer, and was playing folk music on a Gretsch guitar. I heard what he was doing, and said: “That is it,” because the other big influence on my guitar playing had been Chet Atkins. I’d gone to see Chet Atkins doing a demonstration at a guitar store in the late ’50s, and of course, I fell in love with his playing, and I began Travis-picking all over the South.
I arranged for Neil to get into the States on a working visa, but he decided to be “…the Bob Dylan of Toronto,” broke up his band, and started playing acoustic music in small clubs.
After about a year or so, I was in Los Angeles; I’d decided to try to get a band together out there. Richie Furay had been in that Cambridge folk group with me, and I’d hustled him into coming out to L.A. too, but up to that point all there was to our “band” was just him and me, and Richie was about to get disgusted and go home. We’d been searching for musicians all over town. I was on Sunset Boulevard, and I pulled up behind a hearse that had Ontario plates on it; I knew exactly who it was before I even saw who was driving. Neil had another hearse that had died in Thunder Bay, but this one was a Pontiac he’d driven all the way to California, and when I pulled behind him, he was actually looking for 77 Sunset Strip (laughs)! Bruce Palmer was with him; Bruce became the Buffalo Springfield’s bass player.”
and so the buffalo springfield was born out of a chance meeting of acquaintances on the sunset strip…
the band was cemented with the addition of dewey martin, who was coincidentally also from ontario, although he wasn’t to make their acquaintance until he had already been a resident of the US for some time, having come to america to work with country singer faron young. the band was signed on the strength of a series of live shows at the legendary whiskey-a-go-go nightclub, and began their recording career soon after. upon the deportation of bass player palmer, their recording engineer, a bright young fellow named jim messina took his place on bass long enough to finish a handful of shows and their final album, entitled last time around. one of the songs on the album, a richie furay ballad called kind woman, featured a poignant pedal steel part from a player who’d flown out from colorado specifically to play on the album named rusty young. as richie and messina began to read the writing on the wall, they began talking with rusty about an idea they had for blending the instrumentation of country music with the energy of rock and roll…and once it became official that the springfield was no more, poco was born.
half of buffalo springfield ended up in poco, with the other half going on to eventually form crosby, stills, nash, and young. obviously, everyone knows about CSNY, but poco is a lesser known commodity…which is one of the more frustrating aspects of being a fan of a band that virtually defined an entire genre of music. poco took the seeds sown by the buffalo springfield and grew the music we know now as “country-rock” from the early strains of springfield songs such as bluebird and kind woman into a full-fledged, legitimate musical form emanated by such poco devotees as glenn frey of the eagles and gregg allman, who actually auditioned for the band at one point.
furay was poco’s frontman, the focal point of the band, the acknowledged leader. the band of messina, furay and young were rounded out by george grantham on drums, with bass being handled initially by randy meisner (who played on the first record before leaving for the eagles), replaced by timothy b schmit, who would ultimately follow meisner into the eagles.
poco came out of the gates hard, but also set about their long string of bad luck right away as well…first in the form of a lawsuit by cartoonist walt kelly over the use of the name pogo (later shortened to its current form as a result of the litigation). the early departure of messina might’ve been an issue, but he was replaced by a formidable guitarist in paul cotton, who has remained with the band, for the most part, to this day.
poco, however, remains rock and roll’s foremost proponent of murphys’ law. if there was a wrong place to be at the wrong time, they were there. bad decisions regarding management, producers, you name it – they were, after all, the band who opted to play a high school auditorium instead of woodstock.
they hit their high note, musically and critically, with their 1972 album a good feelin’ to know. that same year saw the release of the eponymous debut album by the eagles, who would overshadow them commercially for the rest of their respective careers. when good feelin’ failed to achieve the success that most agree that it deserved, many of the bands’ biggest supporters were fearful that it would end after that record. in fact, around this time, richie furay was being courted by record industry snake david geffen, who felt that he’d be the perfect third man for his new crosby, stills and nash sequel, and caught furay at the height of his disillusionment with the band he’d poured so much of himself into since the demise of the springfield…so richie left, leaving the band a foursome – rusty young, paul cotton, timothy b schmit, and george grantham. they continued on, making some of their best music during this time (in my not-so-humble opinion), including their albums head over heels and indian summer, among others.
this was the version of poco that i discovered as a kid, glued to the radio and soaking in every note of music i could. i was blessed to be able to pick up one of the few remaining maverick stations of the golden age of rock and roll on my cheap clock radio…the old WKIR-FM in jackson, tennessee. they played everything from pure prairie league to king crimson, often from one into the other, and i first heard poco there, just prior to timmy’s leaving the band to follow meisner into the eagles and george’s departure to move to nashville and settle down after the birth of his daughter, grace.
that left paul and rusty…but they weren’t finished yet.
they reassembled new players for the band after beginning work on an album as the cotton/young band that eventually became legend, and would go on to become the biggest commercial success of the bands’ career, yielding two top 40 hits, crazy love and heart of the night. their follow-up, under the gun, would also do well, yielding radio play for the title cut and midnight rain, but their momentum would peak and dwindle after that record, eventually relegating them to their previous status as B-list players. they continued to record and tour, releasing several more albums for several labels, including atlantic and mca, but neither radio nor notoriety would smile on them for some time.
in 1989 (the twentieth anniversary of the bands’ formation), the original members of the band reunited and recorded an album called legacy, which welcomed furay, meisner and messina back into the band, to the exclusion of veteran paul cotton. this embittered a lot of longtime fans of the band (myself included), who felt that paul should have been part of the reunion project, “original members” mindset be damned. it cast a bittersweet shadow over the project, which yielded a hit single in rusty’s call it love and a meisner ballad called nothin’ to hide.
i knew nothing about any of this, initially…i had just gotten back to the states the year before, and was unaware that they were even working on a new record. i was folding my laundry at the kenhorst laundromat, idly watching TV when the video for call it love came on, and i just about flipped right out of my skin. but…as the song progressed, i started picking out members…there was richie, strumming a gretsch 6120, jimmy messina playing the lead breaks on a strat, rusty singing, and – cool! george behind the drums!…ok, randy meisner….but – where’s paul?
i kept looking for him….and looking for him…but he wasn’t there.
so while i was thrilled to see one of my favorite bands of all time back in the spotlight with their video on VH1, it rang hollow because paul wasn’t participating. and, somehow, i knew that this couldn’t have been his idea.
so, paul sat this one out while the rest of the guys hit the road – i saw them on TV at the farmaid show from indianapolis that year, while richie was still with them, but richie left soon after to return to his congregation (he’s a pastor at calvary chapel in boulder, CO – and has been for many years). he was followed soon after, one by one, by everyone else who’d come on board for the reunion…which put rusty in the position of either allowing the band to disintegrate or bringing paul back into the fray. thankfully, he did the latter, and brought in tim smith on drums and richard neville on bass to complete the post-reunion lineup.
this was the band as it stood when i first encountered them, at a show in pittsburgh on a floating stage just off the river there. i wasn’t sure who was in the band, but i was all too eager to jump in my van and make the five hour drive to be a part of it. i actually had called the promoters of the show, and had explained to them that i’d recently recorded an album (the amateurish cassette prelude to our mutual angels that i don’t really count as being part of my recorded output at all) and that i’d recorded one of rusty’s songs on the record, and that i’d like to be able to give him a copy if i drove all the way across the state to see the band, and he told me he’d do his best to make sure that i got to meet the band if i made the trip out. i even brought my legend album with me, in case i could get an autograph.
it was an outdoor show and there were driplets of rain forming on my windshield as i was heading into the pittsburgh area – i thought the show might be cancelled, but i lucked out. i sat down next to another poco fan very close to the front of the stage and waited for the band to come out…
…and there, strapping on his white fender stratocaster with the tortoiseshell pickguard, was paul cotton.
i was thrilled.
they opened with the title track from ghost town, complete with dry ice and drama, and went from that song into legend…when paul started playing the intro riff to that song, i felt myself tear up…i had a lump in my throat. i had resigned myself to the possibility that i’d never get to see this band live, and yet there they were, right in front of me…and with paul cotton! the guy who wrote indian summer, from the album that i used to leave on “repeat” on my stereo overnight while i slept as a teenager…the guy who played that amazing guitar solo in widowmaker, from blue and gray, the guy who played his guitar solo through a leslie speaker on good feelin’ to know, the guy who came up with that great opening guitar part for railroad days…there he was, man!
so after the show, i gave rusty a copy of the first version of made of stone that i’d done, saying that “if i had thought there was ever a chance in hell that you’d actually be getting to hear this, i’d probably have worked on it a little harder…”. rusty and paul were good enough to pose with me for pictures and the album cover they signed for me that night, during our first meeting, is hanging on the wall in my studio.
i didn’t see them again for a few years – until i got wind that a local promoter was booking them at the roxy theatre in northampton. i lobbied hard for the gig and won the opening spot – i knew there wasn’t anyone else in this area who could possibly be a better match on that bill than i would, but the promoter insisted on adding a third band to the bill between me and them (a common trick among the bottom-feeding promoters…get as many bands on the bill as people’s patience will allow to maximize ticket sales among the bands’ individual followings and bring out as many people as they can), but – and i have audiotape evidence – i definitely outshined the other band. the stage manager told me that in twenty years of doing shows, he’d never had an opening act asked to come out for an encore before…but the truth is, i didn’t really care about that. i was there to see one of my favorite bands playing practically in my backyard, and that was all i really cared about. being on the bill with them was a thrill, but so was being able to stand on the side of the stage and take pictures, and hang with the band during soundcheck…
after the show, paul was upset that he’d broken a string during one of his favorite solos, but he came around. jim, the promoter, came over and told me that everyone was going back to the bed and breakfast where the band was staying after the show, and asked us to come along. todd and i were only too happy to comply, so we packed the car and off we went. when we got there, the guys were all down at the bar, and we went in and got something to drink and joined the hang…jim was pretty drunk not long after getting there, and was his usual anebriated, animated self…rusty was pretty tired, so he signed some autographs and went up to bed…tim and rich, the rhythm section, hung out for a bit but soon did the same. so todd and i had paul pretty much all to ourselves for the rest of the night. i got to ask him about the rumor that MCA wanted to sign poco as a country band, but they wanted session musicians to play on the records and paul to do all the vocals (turned out to be true – paul even told me about his meeting label president bruce hinton where the subject came up)…they had vh1 on the tv in the bar, and the video for “fade into me” by mazzy star came on…paul looked up at the tv and said, “look…it’s don henley sittin’ on a car…”
later, though, we were talking guitars and one thing led to another and i ended up going out to the car and bringing the acoustics back into the bar and we all sat there swapping songs until almost 5 in the morning. paul played “bad weather”, and then i played and sang “good feelin’ to know” with paul and todd singing harmony, and on and on…i remember paul remarking specifically about my D-18 being almost weightless because it’s so light, and talking about working in the studio with donald fagen from steely dan on the indian summer album…
that night ranks with the birth of my children as one of the highlights of my life thus far.
imagine idolizing the work of someone whom you consider a master of a talent you share with them, and then collaborating with them on something, even if it’s in a fleeting situation like a jam session…that’s essentially where i was at that moment.
this was prior to the release of my album in 1997 by a bit, and prior to my becoming internet-aware…both had come to pass by the next time i’d cross paths with them. once i was online, i discovered that there was a whole community of poco fans out there who corresponded with each other via a listserver that had been set up, named after one of their albums. one of the folks on the list was grace grantham, daughter of george, the original poco drummer. grace was born with a neurological disorder which i won’t discuss here, because she’s a bright and intelligent girl who has come so far past the circumstances she was born into that it really is irrelevant. among the people i befriended on the list were grace and an illustrator from stamford, connecticut named jon rosenbaum. another was an industry fella named billy gerstein, who worked for a distribution firm. i found that there was a tight-knit group of folks who looked out for one another there, and who cared as much about this band as i did.
my friend jon had become good friends with grace, and as such, had formed a relationship with george grantham as a result…at first via email, and later by phone and in person. george is one of those incredibly geniune people with whom forging a friendship is pretty effortless. i had found that to be true of the other folks in the band when i met them, and i didn’t figure george to be any different, really…but i hadn’t made his acquaintance at all. he had left the band again after the legacy debacle and had moved back to nashville, where he had relatively regular work as a sideman. i didn’t know what the circumstances were surrounding his having left again, and it hadn’t occured to me to ask anyone.
jon and his wife, georgina, were wonderful to me…they invited me into their home, allowed me a place to stay on occasions when i was passing through their area on tour, and we all became great friends.
i had signed on with new management in the form of matthew asbell – matt was an eternally optimistic music junkie who had managed to create quite a bit of buzz for his first client, michelle nagy, and i had separated from my manager that had carried me through the recording of OMA some time before. matt had brought michelle to the open mike at the grape street pub that i hosted and we’d hit it off during our initial conversation, and after much discussion he decided to take me on. he was a go-getter (a quality that had been somewhat lacking in my previous manager), and he immediately put me to work – i did a lot of double-bills with michelle at various places, and a few trips on my own as well, but we definitely made a lot of music conferences – which were in between the initial era of mistrust and the eventual era of mistrust during those days…
we took one trip – the three of us – that was roughly two weeks or so in duration, and would take us through maryland, kentucky, virginia (where matt and i split bunk beds at the home of the promoter of our show…i remember staying up while matt slept to email my daughter from his laptop to let her know how the tour was going) and ultimately to tennessee, for an NEA conference in nashville and the folk alliance conference in memphis, which were within a few days of one another.
now, nowhere we went were there actual rooms involved…we hobo’ed it the whole time. in memphis at folk alliance, i split a bed with garry lee from june rich, a philly band who were showcasing at the memphis conference (garry was always the ladies’ man back in philly, so i promptly made a homemade bumper sticker for my guitar case that featured an impromptu drawing of the back of garry’s dreadlocked head on a pillow that read “i slept with garry lee”). in nashville, we slept at the home of a friend of matt and michelle’s – they slept on the sofa bed and i ended up sleeping with their friend.
(i knew you’d ask, so i just answered the question. ok?)
anyway, not long after arriving in nashville, we went to the NSAI office to check in…NSAI is a songwriter’s organization that exists solely for the benefit of songwriters there, and they opened their doors to us…provided us with telephone and internet access and gave us the run of the guest office there. my own itinerary there included an in-store at Tower Records on thursday of that week, amongst the conference and other goings-on…we had planned on going to the NEA opening night show at the Ryman auditorium featuring Jars of Clay, who i knew nothing about at that point, but that’s another story. (they were brilliant, amazing songs, and they were playing with an orchestra – and matt jerked me outta there because michelle was having a fucking meltdown over having left a ring she’d just bought on the sink in the ladies’ room after washing her hands and had forgotten it there, so i had to leave in mid-show due to her theatric antics. this is but one example of this that i could cite over the course of my professional relationship with matt, there were many more. seriously, many. but i’ve already digressed more than i’d planned.)
anyway, while we were at NSAI, i had been perusing the entertainment listings for the week and saw that rusty young from POCO was playing at the bluebird on saturday night…well after we’d be on our way out of town. i lamented to the receptionist that i was going to miss rusty’s show because we’d be on our way to kentucky by the time saturday rolled around, and that i was bummed about it, and that i’d cut one of poco’s songs on my album and that rusty and i had met a couple of times, etc., etc….
she left the room for a moment – then came back and handed me a scrap of paper that read:
she said, “i called him and told him you were here and he said to give you his number and to give him a call.”
my colon clenched up so tight that if i’d stood up from the chair at that precise moment, the cushion woulda been sucked up into my shorts…
so, of course, i did just that…i told him that i’d made a new record and had re-done made of stone and that i was playing this thursday in town, doing an in-store at the tower records there in nashville…and he said great…i’m in town, i’ll stop by to catch your set.
so if the cushion wasn’t stuck yet, at this point there was no way they were prying it loose for a minute or two.
rusty young was coming to see me play.
rusty young was coming to see ME play!
i got off the phone and went into the other office and jumped on the internet…i had to let some people know about this.
no sooner had i logged onto the PC and opened up instant messenger on matt’s laptop than i saw jon rosenbaums’ screen name pop up…and he beat me to the punch.
before i could tell jon that rusty was coming to see me play, jon had something he had to tell me…he had talked to george grantham, poco’s original drummer, who lived in nashville now, and had told him that i’d be doing an in-store performance at the tower records in nashville on thursday, and that he really should go check me out.
so george told jon he’d stop by to see my set.
ok, so let’s review…both rusty young AND george grantham are coming to see me play at tower records in nashville on thursday.
just let that sink in for a minute.
two fifths of one of my favorite bands of all time…a band i used to listen to as a kid and marvel at their talent…a band that i had idolized ever since…are going to show up to see my set on thursday.
i had to stand up at this point to avoid any damage to any of the office furniture that might result from involuntary, personally humiliating, reactionary bodily functions.
you have to understand – even at this point in time, i considered myself a pro. i’d been playing in front of people since junior high school, and i really felt that i had the process down at this point….but i was petrified. i hadn’t had stage fright since i was a kid. on occasion, for the right gig, there’d be a bit of adrenalin, but never anything that actually resembled fear.
i was scared to death when thursday rolled around.
also in attendance at the thursday gig were a webcasting crew who were in town covering the conference and a fellow named Tiger, who had played on michelle’s record and was (i found out later), a big buffalo springfield fan and a great guitar player.
adding to my trepidation was the fact that i didn’t really have any insight or background into the details surrounding george’s having left the band the last time…was it on good terms? did he leave amicably, or were there hard feelings involved? worse yet, would rusty be pissed at me when george showed up? i mean, this did have the makings of a bad after-school special in some ways…lure the two feuding bandmates into the same public place without the knowledge or consent of the other….watch the awkward intial sighting turn into a poignant reunion…jesus keeHRIST, man! of course he’s gonna be pissed! this is just some fan who happens to have a record in the stores, trying to play matchmaker to the divorced bandmates!
i just knew, as i was pacing about before my show, that this could only turn out badly. i shoulda swallowed my ego and called rusty and made an attempt to level with him….”listen, here’s the deal…this is what happened, and i hope you’re ok with it…”
but i didn’t.
i’m still not sure why, to this day, but i left things alone and chose to sweat it out…i certainly didn’t feel like i knew rusty well enough to expect him to think i was levelling with him if i had called him, and i figured there’d be some way i could smooth this out if it did turn out to be a bad idea for both of them to be there, somehow.
as it turned out, though, i had no real need to worry about it.
i was onstage, two or three songs into my set, when i saw rusty walk in the front door.
almost simultaneously, i saw george moving up through the classical section towards the stage.
i should tell you that, as i mentioned before, i rarely (never, really) get nervous as a result of a performance, but i was petrified with regard to what was happening here…but in a few seconds, it was obvious that there was no need to have been worried. they greeted each other like old friends, and stood there chatting a few yards from where i was playing.
so, ok, now i’m not nervous about the potential bad blood anymore….but now i’m being sized up by my idols.
it’s a hard thing…playing guitar while your hands are shaking.
i got through the set, though – and after a short interview with one of the most insightful guys i’ve ever talked to before or since, i went over and caught up with rusty and george, who had been chatting with each other through the last part of the show. i gave rusty a copy of the album and he split, and george and i talked for some time and made plans to have lunch at one of george’s favorite mexican food places in town the next day before i was to leave.
i’ve got to say that some of the best food in the country is in nashville, as far as i’m concerned…this past summer, i had dinner with ed king from lynyrd skynyrd at the most amazing barbeque place i think i’ve ever eaten at, and the mexican restaurant george and i went to was just as good.
i got to ask all my questions, and george graciously answered every one of them, to the best of his abilities…one thing he said stuck with me: “when you’ve made as many records as we have, and did it that long ago, it gets real hard to remember who did what. this was just part of our everyday life, no different than getting up and going to work for most folks. a lot of people don’t remember those kinds of details of their lives. hell, there are people on the internet message boards who know more about this band than i do, i think.”
we also talked a little bit about my record, which he’d had a chance to listen to (thanks to jon) and had a lot of nice things to say about…so i sprang the question on him: you think you’d be interested in playing on the next one?
“sure”, he said.
we talked about it a little more and i agreed to send him some of the demos i’d already been working on for the next record…and i said goodbye and we left for kentucky a few hours later. i was literally floating…it had been a great week (aside from the perpetual mental breakdowns that michelle subjected both matt and myself to during the whole tour), and we were on the homeward leg of our trip and i couldn’t wait to get back, to see my kids, and to tell steve wellner (my producer) what had happened during the trip.
but – the fact of the matter (which would remain lost on me for a little while yet) was that neither steve nor longview were terribly enthusiastic about the prospects of embarking on a second album adventure. steve and i continued to meet, and had done sessions for what would have become the second record, but i began to sense that steve’s drive – his sense of optimism and his unwavering belief in what we had done with that first album was eroding, a little at a time.
i think steve had been just as disillusioned about the lack of success of the first record as i’d been…we’d gotten great press, good reviews from insiders in the community and in the industry, but that didn’t translate into anything concrete in terms of contracts or distribution or anything of that nature…and we were both pretty certain that it was only a matter of time before we had AAA radio kneeling before us once this record was done.
we turned out to be wrong…not about the success of the record as a work of art, but about the success of the record in terms of laying the groundwork for something resembling a career. we didn’t sell many, nor did we think we would, but we didn’t get as much attention as we’d hoped, either…
so, without going too deeply down that road, we can suffice to say that the second record – the one that george grantham would have played drums on and that paul cotton had all but agreed to play guitar on in discussions after the fact – never happened….and still hasn’t, as of this writing.
but the good side is that our mutual angels had proven my abilities as a singer, a songwriter, and a musician to some important people, including myself…and it created some opportunities for me that i certainly wouldn’t have gotten without it. it got some great reviews…in performing songwriter and rockpile, as well as in a handful of smaller publications around the country…soundwaves, a connecticut magazine, compared my songs to dan fogelberg’s early work and bruce springsteen’s tunnel of love era, for instance.
and i soldiered on for some time, before starting to make the subconscious transition to my current path.
the best review i ever got, though, came from a stage in the center of Springfield, Massachusetts. i’ll tell you about that shortly.
in the meantime, though, jon and i would try to take in every poco show that came within a reasonable distance of us…one show in particular at the foxwoods casino, where mark was to interview paul for his magazine, poco shared a double bill with pure prairie league – we all went to the show, met paul, along with rich and tim, at the bar and sat around for a long time talking about nashville and the music business in general. paul was making a solo record, called firebird, and i offered my services, should he need someone in the band to cover some of the poco-esque instrumentation…we talked about it seriously for a bit before paul moved on as well…and as jon and i were walking back to the hotel afterward, jon let me in on a secret…
that night was the last night for rich neville and tim smith, where poco was concerned.
george grantham was rejoining the band.
apparently, way back there in nashville, in that tower records store, george and rusty had reconnected for the first time since the legacy split, and had started visiting each other on a regular basis. they both lived in the same town, after all, and they started splitting weekends cooking out at each other’s houses and such, and had had an opportunity to rekindle their friendship…and as such, george ended up rejoining the band. rusty hadn’t said anything to rich and tim yet, but george had told jon about it before we’d come up for the show.
so…what he was saying, in essence, was that my having contacted rusty in nashville, and his having subsequently contacted george about my in-store at tower records had been the direct catalyst that led to george rejoining the band that he’d helped form almost thirty years prior.
of whatever good things that came out of having recorded our mutual angels, that was the biggest, in my opinion.
the next show we went to, with george newly in the fold, was in Springfield.
i drove up to connecticut to jon’s house and the two of us picked up our friend mark gould and drove to springfield to see poco play in the square. jon recorded the show on videotape, and paul cotton actually rode to the show with us in jon’s car.
it was a rainy night, and there was a leak in the cover over the stage, but the show finally got underway…i stood off to paul’s side of the stage so i could watch him play. a few songs into the set, rusty went to the mic and said, “we’ve got a lot of friends in the audience tonight…one of them is a great singer and songwriter named tom hampton….”
“tom recorded one of our songs on his most recent record, and we liked his version so much that we started playing it again…so this one’s for tom.”
they then went into “made of stone”, the song that i’d recorded on OMA…
that was the best review my record ever got.
not many people get a chance to even brush up against their idols…i got the chance to get to know my idols personally, to be a part of their lineage, to influence them in a small way, i think – they went on to go back into the studio and record running horse, their first album of new material in over a decade, with george back in the band on drums and a great bass player and songwriter, jack sundrud, joining rusty and paul to complete this recording incarnation of the band. and they resurrected a song from their past as a result of my having resurrected it first.
if you’re a musician, if you’re an artist of any kind who holds someone else up as a source of inspiration or motivation, then you know how huge this was for me. it justified the effort i had put into honing my craft and striving to achieve even a piece of what they’d managed to do. this is a band that fathered an entire genre of music. how many people can that be said about? bill monroe. chuck berry. b.b. king. hank williams.