BIRMINGHAM RECORD COLLECTORS
DEDICATED TO THE COLLECTING OF MUSIC, ITS PRESERVATION, AND LASTING FRIENDSHIP
MONTHLY MEETING THIS SUNDAY, JANUARY 8th 2017
2:00 PM HOMEWOOD LIBRARY – 1721 OXMOOR ROAD 35209
NEXT MEETING SUNDAY, FEBRYARY12th, 2017 THE SECOND SUNDAY
THIS MONTH’S MEETING
At our January we’ll have our own Henry Lovoy speaking to us about his journey through a long musical career. Henry has many recordings to his credit since his first one at age 15. Those of us in the Birmingham area remember Rockin’ Rebellions songs such as ‘Anyway The Wind Blows’, ‘By My Side’, and ‘Would You Like To Go’. And if you are a collector of early rockers or local music from Birmingham you’ll be familiar with his first record, ‘Baggie Maggie’. Henry has been with many bands over the years and is still performing today. Be at the meeting and hear from a Birmingham legend.
In February 2016 BRC Hall of Fame inductee WSGN Good-Guy Joey Roberts will be with us to tell us about his career in radio and what it was like at WSGN. And in March we have BRC member and author Andy Millard discussing his new book that is to be released in the spring. The book, Magic City Nights tells about the local bands in Birmingham beginning in the 50’s and covers some of the more recent ones. You’ll want to make plans to be at these meetings. See ya there.
Many of BRC members and attendees to our yearly record show will remember BRC member Van Coppock. Van passed away on December 5, 2016 at age 69. He was very active with the club and at the record shows until he moved to Mobile. Our condolences go out to his family.
THE NASHVILLE A-TEAM
We started looking at the musicians behind the scene known as session musicians late last year checking out the LA sound of the ‘wrecking crew’ and Motown’s ‘funk brothers’. I thought we’d check out 2 or 3 more starting with the group that was given the nickname ‘The Nashville A-Team’. Nashville is known as ‘Music City and has been that way for many decades. The A-Team recorded for RCA and backed up more singers than they can remember and the names of the players is a list of who’s-who in the music business. Musicians such as Bob Moore, Floyd Cramer, Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, Owen Bradley, Bill Pursell, Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, Harold Bradley, Tommy Jackson, Vassar Clements, Earl Scruggs, Boots Randolph, Charlie McCoy, The Jordanaires, The Anita Kerr Singers, and Birmingham’s own, Henry Strzelecki on bass. Due to the busy holiday season it was easier for me to copy excerpts from 2 articles I found to make up this article. The websites I found them should be given credit so here they are. Angelfire.com had an article entitled ‘Hall of Fame to Honor Country Musics A-Team’ written by Wayne Bledsoe of KnoxNews.com. The other article comes from wideopencountry.com and is entitled ‘How the Nashville A’Team Shaped the Sound of Country Music’. The author is Jeremy Burchard. Here tis’:
Long before Mr. T and is his ragtag group of military cast-outs, or even before the real-life group of Vietnam soldiers who inspired them, Nashville had an “A-Team” of its own. While these “gunslingers” used instruments as their weapons, they had a very similar reputation to the other A-Teams of pop culture. What kind of reputation, you ask? The kind of reputation that led them to play on every major record coming out of Nashville from the 1950s well into the 1970s (and some still today). Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline — you name it.
The names of the men known collectively as The A Team may be unfamiliar, but artists once came to Nashville from all over the world to play with them. The A Team was made up of A-list studio musicians who performed on a dizzying number of hits during the Nashville Sound era. Their contributions began in the 1950s, and a few are still recording today. “We had absolutely no idea that we were making history,” says Bob Moore of the A-Team’s contributions to music history. “We were just doing a job.” “We worked a four-session day five or six days a week,” recalls Gordon Stoker, longtime member of the Jordanaires. Guitarist Harold Bradley, credited in Guitar Player magazine as the most-recorded guitar player in history, likens those classics-producing, back-to-back sessions to being invited to a party at 10 a.m., another at 2 p.m., another at 6 p.m. and yet another at 10 p.m. “One session would be Elvis Presley, another would be Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, George Beverly Shea …,” recalls Bradley.
The studio boom in Nashville started with Castle Studios in 1947, Nashville’s first established recording studio. Ten years later, country music faced a crossroads: it was dying at the hands of rock n’ roll. RCA built a world-class studio called RCA Victor Studio B right on music row. Chet Atkins became the prolific producer at RCA Records, while Owen Bradley was the head producer at Decca. The producers sought out musicians who were highly skilled and highly adaptable.
The pair quickly recognized the need to invigorate country music with a lot of the popular sounds of the day. The symphonic swirls, the pronounced, crooning vocals and the rockabilly guitars that all the kids loved so much. The “Nashville Sound,” as it soon became known, was really a whole bunch of sounds lumped into one. And a lot of it came from the eclectic interests of the A-Team.
Bradley’s late brother Owen (along with Chet Atkins) was one of the architects of what was called the Nashville Sound. However, Harold is quick to replace that singular term with a plural one. “There were lots of Nashville Sounds,” says Bradley, who became best known for playing the tic-tac bass that produced one of those signature sounds. Another sound that began with the group included the “fuzz tone” guitar sound that resulted from Grady Martin playing through a defective mixing board pre-amp on Marty Robbins’ song “Don’t Worry.”
Many of the musicians had worked the road with country stars but found that studio work was more lucrative. Bradley says the musicians saw each other more than their families, and it was sometimes difficult to adjust to their real families on weekends. However, Stoker says, musicians were loath to turn down work, fearing they might not get the next call. “I loved it, and I still love it,” says Bradley. “It’s real high. That was our drug of choice. It’s tremendously exciting.”
“The only thing in your mind was to do that particular song, then go onto the next one,” says Stoker. “Then you’d walk out of the studio and not remember one song you did.” Stoker says that by the time Twitty’s “Only Make Believe” was released, 18 months after it was recorded, he had forgotten that the band had played on the song. “I heard it on the radio and said, ‘Who is that? It sounds like us!'” says Stoker. Imagine playing on so many hit songs you actually don’t remember which ones you played.
Owen Bradley has particularly fond memories of Patsy Cline. He believes he played on all but two of the singer’s sessions. “‘Crazy’ was a special session,” says Bradley. “Patsy had just had the automobile accident, so my brother just kept working on the arrangement while she couldn’t be there. We had to learn and unlearn and relearn our parts.” Finally, when Cline came in to record, Bradley says she nailed the song in one take. “And that’s the No. 1 jukebox record of all time,” says Bradley. He’s also particularly proud of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” which begins with Bradley’s bass and Buddy Harman’s drums.
Stoker, Moore and Bradley have fond memories of working with Elvis Presley. It was Presley who demanded that the Jordanaires be given credit on his recordings. At the time, session players never saw their names on album liner notes, much less singles. Stoker says Presley was the first artist to insist that players be given credit on liner notes.
“It was the absolute opportunity of a lifetime,” says Moore. “I ended up spending my life with the finest musicians on earth. How fortunate can a poor kid from East Nashville be?” “It’s amazing,” says Bradley. “I was a big band player, then I made country records and I’ve also played with 11 members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.” “I can imagine how tragic it would be for a man to work all his life and not have access to what he did,” says Moore. “I can turn on the car radio, and I can always hear me!”
One of the most influential members of the A-Team, Charlie McCoy, had a rougher road to legendary status. McCoy had several attempts at his own solo career, and he also held spots in a few ill-fated bands. One of his first experiences in town came when he auditioned for Owen Bradley to join his collection of musicians.
“I went into to Owen’s little office with a Fender Bassman amp and a big Gibson fretless wonder and I played and sang Johnny Be Good,” McCoy says. “I probably played pretty loud because that’s the way we played, then he said, ‘Well son, I think you’re pretty good, but we’re not doing that kind of music around here.’” But Bradley invited the 18-year-old McCoy to watch a Brenda Lee session featuring his brother and his brother’s friends. After that, McCoy knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Chet Atkins also heard some of McCoy’s demos and hired him to play on some of Studio B’s sessions, but Fred Foster of Monument Records really gave McCoy his first break. Foster, who believed in employing the unconventional around town, hired McCoy to play harmonica on Roy Orbison’s “Candy Man,” which sold more than a million records. McCoy’s star rose quickly.
Eventually, rumors of Nashville’s A-Team spread far and wide. The prowess of the musicians attracted Bob Dylan to Nashville, where he recorded four of his most famous albums, including “Nashville Skyline.” The move effectively let the “cat” out of the bag on Nashville’s collection of session musicians.
In fact, those artists who comprised the A-Team ultimately inspired the upcoming session musicians of the 1970s to bring their own flavors as well. Whereas the A-Team melted their love of hillbilly music (country) with jazz and pop to create the Nashville Sound, the artists who played on Dylan’s works and the works of the 70s (of whom McCoy was one) blended their love of “new country” with rock and folk. The Country Music Hall of Fame retroactively called this era of studio musician the ‘Nashville Cats’
The Cats and the A-Team held many similarities (including membership). But most importantly, they shaped and affected countless records from everybody including Willie Nelson and The Beatles to Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. Their scope and reach truly were prolific.
And to this day, their influence on Nashville’s recording scene can be felt by the handful of infamous studio musicians who continue to help shape country music.
BRC RADIO – HEART AND SOUL OF ROCK AND ROLL
Don’t forget to check out the radio shows the club offers on our website. We now have over 100 shows with over 1600 different songs. Check it out at http://www.birminghamrecord.com/brc/. Tell a friend!
HEY! HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE?
Jim Foley & The Big Beats
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HEARD THIS HIT?
# 1 Country and # 3 US Pop 1961