The Harmonic Ornithology // Chapter Two: The Byrds’ Opry Performance (47th Anniversary)

 

20140530_140220 (1)

=An artsy horse vintage coffee table belonging to The Connor Family.

 The Harmonic Ornithology: The Byrds

Chapter Two

“Sweetheart of the Rodeo”

47th Anniversary of Opry Performance

On this night in Nashville 47 years ago, In good ol’ 1968…One of the most important Airs in Music History blew open the heavy doors of the church of Country Music.

An Air rushing so powerful, that not even the greasiest, coarsest, shortest of hairs inside a tight-fitting cowboy hat could keep from bending back in its forwardly blowing direction.

Of course, those “unique” individuals sporting longer hairs experienced this ‘Air’ more as an exhilarating charge than a bend. A charge that rushed up the end of each strand like a current of electricity—flowing back and forth through the contours of each wave, looping around curls, and resolving to a shimmery cadence in the roots.

‘Air’ or ‘Ayre’ is something that was ‘pop’ back in the “Baroque” era…it also had a place among bards…later among folkies..and a few moons later in the 60s, The Beatles soared with it.

An ‘Air”s definition changes throughout the centuries, but for guitar nuts who love Elizabethan groovers like John Dowland, The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians explains it: that composition which consisted of a melody accompanied either by other voices or an instrument.

It’s light. It’s AIR-Y. Simple melody, simple accompaniment. Distinctions of “air”…is determined by its content and purpose…usually derives from an Italian form like, an “aria”.

Bach’s Air chimed on the G String…In 1968, the song had major (G) but moved a little more like “Wind” than “Air”, and the sound was the meowing of a pedal steel player climbing up an oak tree, not a voice coming from a cat’s gut. Although there was some fiddle bowed on the album…meow, Hartford.

Just like the pressure of Bach’s air, This “Wind” pushed around things. “Hickory Wind” as this so called controversial song is known, was written by none other than (G)ram Parsons (and Bob Buchanan). Think of it a Country Aria where the singer has full discretion with simple instruments working under his/her direction. Pedal steel plays the harpsichord in this setting, haha.

When the older conservative people living in Nashville hear this title mentioned in present-day conversation, you are gonna get a lot more rolling eyes than you are rolling air-banjo licks in support.

sweetheartbyrds

Sweethearts in the midst of a Rodeo. Xoxo. Love ’em.

The story goes that The Byrds were long-haired troublemakers. Not-so-good ol’ boys. A washed up rock band responsible for rattling a Tambourine to lure naïve victims into death–like the Pied Piper of Hamelin did innocent children and rats with a flute in German folklore. The WEST COAST group where only two of its founding members remained (and likely broken as a result of disorganization and partying)—joined by a drumming cousin of Chris Hillman and a Southern, rich college drop-out of a punk who sounded like cornbread glows brown on the top…or “George Jones in a sequined suit”—as Roger McGuinn once described him. They can’t see to correctly put on their boots with their eyes covered in hair!! If they even WEAR SHOES, those hippie dippies.

Buy me a flute and gun that shoots.

You ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Imposters are what they were to Nashvillians. Threats. Dressed not in rhinestones where everyone could see ’em, but hiding under modest country gentleman’s clothing. And gray-haired disc jockeys like Ralph Emery needed to keep authentic flutes broadcasting the Right, wholesome melodies of drinkin’ and cheatin’ to keep the slow cookin’ good lookin’ people from leaving home.

So DJ Emery’s weapon of choice was his own fingers, shaped into a gun….and along with dissonant comments, he fired at the blasphemes recording The Byrds had made…that very week, in Music Row’s very own Columbia studio, with Nashville’s A Team musicians (country version of the Wrecking Crew), using country music’s words and instruments. Lloyd Green, a well-known Nashville pedal steel player who worked with them on the album said that he was in the WSM station with Roger and Gram during the interview; and that just to hear the bullets shooting from Emery’s tongue was painful.

Wow. To think Johnny Cash’s references to wishing for drugs on Sunday morning in a song he did just a few years later were a laughing matter in this town…

sweetheart

Album Cover.

But as for the Hitchcockian scary Byrds that descended upon Nashville..

When by the grace of God, the Opry saints agreed to grant The Byrds a mere (let’s call it what it was) “15 minutes of experiencing reality” out of respect for Columbia Records—Lloyd Green told me in conversation that he had never seen Gram more excited to receive anything in his life. This reaction coming from a wealthy boy thought to ‘get everything he wanted’.

And so they stood on that hallowed stage in the late evening of March 15, 1968…

A rock group. For the first time at the Opry. Byrds. FLYING from the seat of their new breeches. Allowed. On the AIR. Friday Night Frolics…not the actual Saturday night show, but still as important…and broadcasted on the radio.

(For those of you less familiar with this story: The Byrds were instructed to play a couple of Merle Haggard tunes. After they performed the first song to a cold audience, Gram made the switch without anyone’s consent–thus, “‘messing” with the format of the program…which The Opry folk interpreted that as rebellious…changing their recipe out of spite…making the Opry’s usually polished production look bad in front of their audience.)

Of course, when Gram made the switch…..the establishment went ballistic.

Les Leverett, the famed Opry staff photographer who took photos of them that night said, “The audience was not happy at all.” As he showed the pictures to me he continued:”Here are these nice young men and people were makin’ bird calls, tweeting and stuff, and telling them to cut their hair. I felt sorry for them.”

Talkin’ bout finger-guns earlier…I imagine it like:

*1968 Opry audience members pull finger-guns from his/her Levi’s*

How dare these barely experienced, barely adult aged men stand on our pulpit and preach a musical sermon laced with the devil’s intentions! POW POW POW POW POW.

The Byrds were shot down and buried underground….to rest in the Outlaws section in the Country Music Hall of Fame….where they remain to this day.

Life in Prison.

 For the wrongs they’d done.

Hope that changes in the new exhibit this month…..if not, I’ll be hittin’ sense into ’em with a cosmic book soon. Maybe that’ll teach em? If old dogs can be taught?

Hmm.

Which brings me to this thought. I wonder…

Was this song really an act of rebellion against the establishment. Or was it that The Byrds were sincerely attempting to convert their artistic souls to the genre?

I’d like to challenge you all to take off your hats and crawl into mine for a moment. I speak to you from a place of LOVE and as a musician who has often faced the ugly end of the “music politics” gun time and time again….

It’s true:

Sometimes musicians actually want to improve and expand upon how they communicate with their listeners. Even if that means committing to speak in a different voice.

Are you still with me?

Sometimes musicians like to explore cultures different from where they came, or in Gram’s case, come home to familiar ones.

Howdy partners?

And sometimes, musicians don’t have to leave new traditions behind to adopt old ones.

images

Gram was guilty of being innocent.

“Hickory Wind” was not  an act of rebellion against the establishment. It was an authentic act of improvisation at an appropriate moment to its artist, unbeknownst to or planned by its accompanying members and the venue managers of the production. Inconvenient, yes. Embarassing to the Opry’s sleek event formula….yes, but the Opry didn’t burn down. None of this was in the control of anyone, it was a choice made from the heart and mind…hence….IMPROV.

There, I said it. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. So shoot me.

I will go further in detail in my upcoming book, but for sake of a teaser explanation, roll around a little longer in my hat.

At the moment that the switch was made, it was a surprise to everyone–to Roger, to Chris, to Kevin, to other band members…and to Gram. Lloyd Green said that he had only played “HW” in the studio a few times, but the key was simple and the freedom of interpretation was a breath of fresh *AIR* (Wind). THAT COMING FROM A MUSICIAN LIVIN’ IN THE “COUNTRY”. Of the countless artists Lloyd’s worked with, he cites The Byrds as some of the most fun he has ever had playing. AND the coolest, most professional company he’s ever kept.

A closeup/crop of Gram and Roger. 1968 Backstage at the Opry. Special Thanks to Les Leverett, photographer for the use of this photo.

Gram and Roger. 1968 Backstage at the Opry.

If Gram did anything “controversial”, it was that he took the “Hickory Wind” out of  the sails of hard-headed country executives and their self-entitled supporters. Here, a rock band was trying to respectfully relate to the audience with a piece of their own cooking. To cook something from scratch and serve your guests is very classy Southern etiquette. The Opry should’ve returned the favor with respect whether they liked the taste of it or not.

NOW, think, just think of what it is to be an artist. With given talent, you have a responsibility to represent yourself and your art in the most authentic way possible. Play-gerism is of course wrong. Covering songs isn’t wrong when permission is sought—but it isn’t the highest degree of personal expression. What would you do? You’d wave when the camera’s lens is made available.

Not only did the audience get a sincerely beautiful slice about simple things, they got to hear The Byrds tweet their own idea, not “serve” a variation of someone else’s recipe. (Not that there is anything wrong with performing work of others…but with that country audience hating on rockstars it was not such a welcomed gesture).

Chosen for especially for Mama Nancy, his paternal grandmother—whom he loved dearly…and who was in attendance. His cousins and Aunt Pauline quietly cheering along with her. All of whom he’d make sure to visit when he’d pass through town.

There is no question in my mind why he would love visiting Mama Nancy so much. When I walked around the gorgeous house his father, Coon Dog grew up in..an early 1900’s home in Columbia, TN…I quickly understood the charm and warmth surrounding the Connor family. The staircase, the fireplaces, and porch all beamed TN comfort. Which I know, because Music City has always been my home…and I say the Connors and their kin are golden eggs. Seems a good word about the family would’ve suffice for those audience members. Before I was aware of  his place of origin, I knew within the first few sounds of Gram’s voice–he was part Tennessean by blood, which is more than enough proof he knew about all things country.

Music History is very fortunate that The Byrds had the courage to stand up at the Opry. Thanks to “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” , we have reaped an abundance of cosmic influence since.

Nashville is just as obsessed with a polished formula today as it was then…and now look at what this city is doing to itself with a new found popularity status: destroying well-known establishments and breaking music with heavy business. The publications say we don’t have enough affordable living space per capita…and popular country music is rapidly becoming more artificial to match. I can’t believe there had to be an official halt made to keep builders from demolishing up historic Music Row. Outrageous.

The Byrds sure didn’t throw the past aside to embrace futuristic sounds in”Sweetheart”…Nashville used to be scared of ‘change’….didn’t need to be in 1968, but now’s a good time to start up again! Let’s follow Gram’s lead and abandon formulas this very moment!!

Happy 47th Anniversary to The Byrds Opry performance. May the Hickory Wind still blow us in a positive direction One Hundred Years from Now.

Cosmically yours,

The ENdie Chick

Poems and Songs: The Burger Joint

Howdy Friends,

Another poem of gentrification. Read it and sop up the remains with your buns.

(Playing country guitar vamp along with the following words…)

Cosmically Yours,

The ENdie Chick   burgerpharmacy

The Burger Joint

When the red light restrains

The homeward-bound passers-by

Within its cuffs of economic imbalance

The eyes of its captives tend to

Break freely for a moment

Toward activity on the left

Where an ever-extending, creeping line

Of richly clothed anemics

Stand farther apart from

Their usual positions at sunset

***

Who wrap themselves

Tightly around the building

As their hands intend to do

With sliders of 100% local recipe

That are hand-crafted

to be square

***

Who lean against

The once freely exposed

Now freshly painted brick

Warming themselves

Under suspended fixtures

That while decorative

Beam a jaded light

Upon the well-done

***

Who crave to be on the inside

To find the quench for their thirst

Of trendy flavors

And have it bottled up

And dispensed to them

Over-the-counter

***

Who welcome an abundance

Of condiments for burger or wurst

But lack interest

In seeking second opinions

Because the only medicine

They care to taste

is that of their own prescribing.

***

MOCKINGBYRD

Poems and Songs: The Regression of Golden Country

Dear Friends,

This post is the first of my special poems/songs, a completely separate section from my feature/review posts.

It’s a lot different from anything you’ve read or will read on the site… a much more intimate section about my thoughts, feelings, and opinions of Nashville subjects and beyond. I don’t have a lot of experience writing songs or poetry…so I thought I’d try my boots on here with y’all. It’s terrifying to write music when all I’ve ever done was play and interpret other people’s work.

About this piece…

Although I am happy about many of the new people and things coming to Nashville—the amount of fast paced un-natural change (with closings of historic buildings/well-known establishments, Music Row shifting, weirdly designed huge developments, crowding infill construction, expense of living increasing, and painful demolitions) is greatly disturbing to me. I am worried that what everyone loves about Nashville is disappearing: A consequence of those individuals who lack respect for the local history and diversity of this city. Our “trendy it-city status” attracts new residents, of which TOO MANY want to bring their home here instead of acclimating to the intimate/unique culture of Nashville. They want their three story beach castle on Eastland Ave DAMMIT. Doesn’t matter if the house is bigger than the lot it sits within. I am willing to bet that Austin, TX and Portland, OR and Brooklyn, NY know exactly what I mean.

Soon I’ll be looking at putting music on these words. This will be condensed and arranged when it springs song form. Kinda like how Pete Seegar and other folkies adapted poetry to create their music. Turn, turn, turn.

Cosmically yours,
The ENdie Chick

hankboots

Recently auctioned off, these boots belonged to Hank Williams…made by Nudie himself.

 

The Regression of Golden Country
A song/poem by The ENdieChick

Slouched on the curb near Ernest Tubbs’
Cloaked in a vintage denim jacket
Sin City patch on the back
Boots crossed Left over Right
Hands under thighs with bangs bent forward
Eyes weighing intensely toward the cigarettes
Compartmentalized in my thinning calico pocket

I cock forward my hat to shield myself
From the increasing illumination of Lower Broad
My hair floating inside of its half empty gallons
Tourists bustle around me on the sidewalk
Looking to capture a note of authenticity in their seashell wicker hats

The population is growing strong enough to lift things
I unbutton a button from the top collar in an attempt to stay grounded
I’ve never moved, but lack understanding of where I am
Whisky is not casting a spell on my mind
I wish it could, but no amount will satisfy me
When its magic is being rapidly diluted

Newcomers seem more at home here than I do
Signs everywhere attempting to convince me nothing has ever changed
In a town where sound defines its character
The silence of an era is growing louder
Business is history in the breaking

Cutters of fabric make my hat band feel much too tight
So I strain for whatever comfort is left in my pocket
I must remember to slip out the smokes
And prepare them carefully because
If I smack the pack just hard enough
The tobacco will shimmy away
From the butts
Where lips arrive when there is something to inhale
And trendsetters are junkies eager to get a buzz
The sound of change hitting the table is addictive
As the Country Gentleman once drawled

Plastic boots that are designed to fit snuggly around rubber souls
Make too quiet a noise along the concrete sidewalks of a city seeking to be amplified
Variances of civil rights remain unpassed
Yet exceptions for land move freely forward
Moonshine branding has become an approved mockery of our culture
But grass is an offense to smoke or to remain thriving
On property where a profitable structure could be built
Precious gems are being chiseled away quicker than rhinestones are glued
And wealthy strangers pinch the tops of hats
Lifting them from heads of unsuspecting residents
Without any intention of trying them on

Hats are starting to crowd more shelves than honky tonks
Venues recognize more labels of beer than faces
Sad that cowboys used to be the ones on top
Until the ships rolled in
And pirates mounted their horses
Eager to bury all treasures in maps
Secretly tucked under tooled saddles

Lies tend to get buried beneath the shade of the tulip poplars
Planted around modern upscale high rises
Where zoning sign prongs stay firmly stabbed in loose dirt
But the mockingbirds perching in the branches hear the truths from above
What they repeat is far from traditional
And songs are becoming less rural than ever
The messages are artificially distressed
In a city who claims her heart beats that rhythm of Ole country

The passionate individuals who dig
And create grooves deep in vinyl
They are the protectors of the fortune of golden music
They rest along the Cumberland
Where the irises sleep
And ears stay awake

I rise from the curb
To join in harmony
With them I stand upon the banks
To drag in what remains of the Old

Where at the end things burn
With lips embracing
Breathe in the present
For there is much to take in
And to be exhaled

Artist Feature: Pokey LaFarge–The Midwestern American Picker

guitar

My noble steed, Ginger.

Howdy,

Hope you enjoyed the first two (in one post) chapters last week of this ENdie adventure! This writing has been a major step forward. Things have been so busy already–my feet have rubbed a hole through the bottom of my Minnetonkas. Whew. The grass is soggy in East Nashville today!

How ’bout it: I’ve decided to try posting on this site each Friday. Likely the morning or early afternoon time. Once I get this wagon wheel rolling–the schedule will be a little more predictable. We will ford the river each week.

What I ask of everyone who reads, is although I do not receive funds–if you would promise to post this website stories as you read, I would greatly appreciate it. Being able to hold an audience is important to my mission and well-being as an artist. Especially y’all musicians understand that, right?

I don’t have any way to advertise–and your personal endorsement matters more to me anyhow. Helps me to do my job well as a writer. Since I never went to “writing school” all of your feedback is my degree!  I love to teach you guys the things I know, but I also want to hear from you about the things you are curious about, love, and know about our Music City.

[Now Presenting: ENdie Artist Features]

indianmaid

An actual oil painting in my home by a famous Western artist…it’s my “logo” for now…cuz I like to hold and carry allayall ev’ry whar.

This hammerstone piece will be the first break on a flint about the artists who shape Nashville.

Sure, I’ll write about the people already thrive in this camp. Don’t you people already know everybody and they business ’round yere anyway? If ya think that this town’s run only by its inhabitants–that it isn’t often chipped by nomads from other cities and tribes–you must be friggin’ stoned.

Of the thousands of artists who periodically strike on our platform, I have a tale for ya about one of the greatest catches….

This weekend, a special gentleman will be visiting the city–Pokey LaFarge. I ain’t gonna lie–I have a major crush on him and want to take him out on a date to Loveless Café. (Although, he probably has about ten women around him that’d hit me over the head with a rolling pin if I did.) It isn’t only because he features both my classical and commercial instrument in his vagaband, but he also has a sorghumly sweet cosmic philosophy, a lot of love for music and our city–and he recorded right here just in the nick of Central Time. Sharp puns, eh? Poke!

He’s got class and charisma flowing straight from Missurrah. Just like our banjoist friend Doug Dillard who was also from Missouri; Pokey is a real Darling. I hope you’ll enjoy my ridiculousness and observation….and that you’ll end up in the front row this weekend actin’ a bootleggin’ fool with me as he plays at the Mercy Lounge (GET TICKETS HERE).

Just gettin’ byyyyyyyyy…wink….poke….

The ENdie Chick

 An Artist Feature:

Pokey LaFarge: The Midwestern American Picker

 pokey

If ever there was a voice that could stroll in a pair of wing-tipped oxfords, it’s Pokey LaFarge’s.

This boy’s hair rolls like the waters of the Mis’Sippi river. He combs it with the smoothness of a rower’s backstroke, makin’ it glisten like the skin of catfish…all the while grinnin’ like one, too.

He strikes me as the type of guy who lies on the surface…a bottom-dweller…certainly not in the sense that he socially or artistically sinks, but in that he slowly grazes the floor taking up all the delicious ingredients other respected artists had left behind.

Slowly he winds and consumes; allowing the tonal substances to digest as he fiddles around in the depths.

When he sings, he has the whimsy of Ukelele Ike (substitute mandolin for uke), the smooth patriotic air of Jimmie Rodgers, and the smiling tremolo of Blind Willie McTell. If Curley Weaver was still alive, his swaggin’ trampoline-like guitar texture’d give quite nicely beneath Pokey’s bound.

Yes sir or ma’am. He’s what I’d call a Midwestern American picker. Swimmin’ inland and upstream from St. Louis.

Upon his archtop shines the sun as he glides along the waters snatching up the particles of yore–but friends he doesn’t scavenge to take care of himself yesterday. He likes to take what sounds have survived and modernize them. In music, this is not referred to as being “retro”. The proper term is”neo” which means, to make NEW. In other words, his harvested meal nourishes in the present and future tense–scraped up by hands synched to Central Standard Time.

And when he’s done swimming, he emerges to become the picker…or Poker…take your pick/poke.

It’s been said that Pokey got his name from being a slow-moving person. Not such a bad trait to have…someone who travels fast couldn’t otherwise afford the time to strategize and bait lines with such promise. Pokey does just that. He gathers six steel-wound strings with his fingers–then he attaches shiny new hooks–gracefully pitching them into ponds filled with hungry listeners. As one of the submerged prey looking up to the bank from where he casts his song…I see that he does appear to “look the part” of a valuable antique. However looking beyond the ripples of the water’s surface, I realize that he isn’t “old-hat” or irrelevant. He is just wearing and promoting the things that complement his style: unique, dapper, and preservationist. Ain’t nuttin’ gettin’ old ’bout that. (wiggles fishy whisker lips)

In belonging to a cosmic school of thought, I dare say…he’s a keeper. Once admirers are captured in his net, he has no intention of throwing anyone back.

byrds_sweetb - Copy (2) - Copy

I’m not surprised that among American pickers, he gained the attention of  Nashville rocker and vinyl-ambassador, Jack White. Third Man Records is who helped Pokey to release his latest self-titled album: “Pokey LaFarge (2013)”. These two share the same type of music philosophies. I definitely appreciate that Jack White promotes fellas like Pokey LaFarge. There don’t seem to be enough budding neo-musicians who embrace and promote such American traditions as present-day routines.

I *was* surprised to discover that someone I actually know–you might know him from Old Crow Medicine Show–Ketch Secor helped to produce this album. (I hope to work with Ketch sometime, he’s also a great artist.) The idea that Ketch and Pokey have worked together is as good as biscuits and gravy on the same plate. Everyone should have this album for breakfast.

Gone, gone, gone. Jumpin' like a catfish on a pole.

Gone, gone, gone. Jumpin’ like a catfish on a pole.

 The past is never dead. It’s not even past. –William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (1951)

What’s so funny is ever since these words were first read, people have misquoted them and STILL continue to do so…I guess that in itself is proof! So keep on misquotin’.

The past is not gone. There are instruments and sounds that have happened. It doesn’t make them any less relevant because they occurred for the first time, _____years ago.

Classical musicians somehow get overlooked in the age discrimination game. I could whip out a whole Brahms Sonata or some Shostakovich Waltzes and no one would think of searching for a hearing aid.

What doesn’t make sense is why listeners want to label and date everything as if it has an expiration, categorize music so that it can’t be acceptable to mold it in new and interesting ways. Everyone raves about Michael Buble who tips his fedora back to Sinatra and Bobby Darin, yet no one is giving him the retro-treatment. Pokey borrows vintage concepts, yet “The Devil Ain’t Lazy”—he lets the bons temps rouler aujourd’hui a la Reinhardt. And all that hot jazz…

Furthermore, instrumentation only determines the texture of the sound. How old and in what arrangement they are doesn’t dictate how it speaks to us now. The craftsmanship of a luthier whether that be a Depression-era Gibson (like my Ginger) or an Italian violin maker’s skill and quality of materials matter more than when it was made….(of course wood ages..but isn’t a well-built instrument everlasting?) There are violins ranging from Stradivariuses to state-of-the-art carbonfiber Luis and Clark violins that will in the same concert play pieces written by today’s composers such as Michael Daughetry, Roberto Sierra, Libby Larsen, and Joan Tower….then turn around and rock a Vivaldi season.

Blues man, Bullmoose Jackson sang “I Want A Bowlegged Woman” in 1948….Why can’t a man fall in love with a “Bowlegged Woman” today? Pokey says ya can. He’s right. I’ve seen plenty of bowlegged women pouring into the honky tonks on Broadway.

Whiskey ages well–why can’t we aspire to sit and swirl a nice glass of music also? At what point will Howlin’ Wolf be shelved in the same section in the library as Beethoven? Or Jack White’s Lazaretto be written about in the Nashville Retrospect?

There should be less of a connection made between ‘era’ and ‘affiliation’ in regard to music if it is to last for centuries.What was fermented then, is being sipped right now. How good it will taste depends on how well it is preserved.

likeike

Pokey LaFarge is just the guy to ask for the recipe. He talks about his ideas and philosophies in this fantastic interview. Click here.

Like he says in the video: He’s a steamin’ cat with a passion for navigating the rivers–and we all know that the most important variable in a good whiskey is the quality of its water.

I hope that one day, I’ll get to sit down and chat with Pokey. Id’ like to American pick his brain about his work. He’s easy on the eyes and the ears that’s for sure. I think he has a lot more say and a lot more to find. I wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his Central Time Tour and that he’ll up-cycle some hidden treasures for us tomorrow at Mercy Lounge.

NOW, let’s take the opportunity–and attend on Saturday, to promote this mission of  musical preservation by continuing to support the pickers (like Pokey) that work to uncover gems and raise awareness about the precious sounds of history by translating them into melodies our souls will sing tomorrow.

‘Cause there ain’t no time like the present– See you there.

 The ENdie Chick

Howdy and Roger McGuinn–The Migrant Byrd

220px-TheByrdsSweetheartoftheRodeo

HOWDY!

This site is premiering in celebration of the Byrd’s album Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968), which was partially recorded here in my hometown of Nashville, TN. It was released 46 YEARS AGO on this date and has been rockin’ turntables ever since.

I couldn’t think of a more cosmic appropriate time–if it weren’t for Gram Parsons this adventure would have never started for me.

May this album continue to inspire musicians and fans one hundred years from now.

 

byrds_sweetb

Greetings Friends—

Many of you might be visiting my page for the first time and it HAS been a while since my last entry—so I thought I would give a proper hello/introduction before the piece:

Heyyy y’all! Grab a seat on this virtual couch and relax or spin along with some vinyl and pour yourself a nice drink. All are welcome here.

I’m a twenty-something professional classical musician/teacher who writes while seriously pursuing commercial/classic country/60s folk-rock guitar. I straddle the saddle upon two parallel universes, because I want listeners to hear me when I have something to share….it doesn’t make as much sense if I’m singing/playing into the mic while its pointing the opposite direction now does it?! If it’s country-rock I am speaking about, it will be country-rock I will be living.

This life suits me anyhow. I’m already an outlaw in my own genre. I’ve been kicked out of establishments and had arrows shot at me from members of my own tribe. I’ve been labeled “unconventional”, “dangerous”, and “too curious”. My trusty guitar, Ginger whom I’ll formally introduce you to at some point–is my noble steed. She’s a depression-era Gibson who helps me to climb the ages of rock while anchoring my roots in American music. She tries to keep me from falling off her back while learnin’ to yodel…I feel sorry for her sometimes. I hope one day I’ll free her doubtful mind.

Because I’m a native of Nashville, I chose the pen name “ENdie Chick”=E.ast N.ashville and I’m as Independent as the U.S. of Cosmic A. East Nashville has been my home for a long time….I was among the original ‘Eastside pioneers’. A running joke for our hood is, “37206: Firework or gun shot?”  In fact, both have been shot at the Victorian-era house from where I write.

My neighborhood is a colorful quilt..all squares with different designs….Victorian house–Tomato Art–shack–brick ranch home–Edwardian mansion–New Absurd-looking Modern Building–art garage-what the hell is an Infill?!-coffeehouse–Lovely bungalow–crappy dollar store–etc. woven together with artsy looking, friendly thread. With all the growth happening here lately, I just hope our community doesn’t get too big for its britches.

Right now, it’s high-cut and snug in Nashville….the way a good pair of jeans should feel stretched around the curves.

guitar

If you must know my real name, you’ll have to come and sit next to me at a concert (or see me play one). Afterall, ‘Tis the proper way in Music City to meet people…one has to provide a handshake to get a name—a.k.a. the Nashville Business Card.  In fact, we have a rootin’ tootin’ boot scootin’ dance named after this custom. It’s called the “Music City Name Drop”.  Learn it, because if you don’t…expect to get “booted out” of the line—you’ll fall on your face with your hat landing on your ass and the spurs on your shoes will end up functioning more like weathervanes than rodeo decorations.

hankwilliams

Buh dum chick. I’ve written a Hank-Williams-esque song about this and also workin on a sequel to “Kawliga”….so it’s gonna be (c)opyrighted. True story.

Yee hahhhhhhh. Jambalayahhhhh crawfish piiiiie, me oh my ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Lawd. I luhhhh me some Hank. I HAVE SUPER retrocrush on him. I’m working on a special project for him too…..

This site is a music-educationally focused environment of which not one cent other than my own has ever funded. No one dictates how I write, pays me the dollars, politically sways, or is holding me back from telling truths.  I’m doing this because I believe that there are hungry souls out there who (while appreciate the news and information) need more than just another music article+advertisement. Read this site more like a journal…Music is an experience, not a product. It is an art and should be respected and written about as such.

Guess you could say I’m a neo-hippie cowgirl…a loyal friend musicians can trust–their secrets will always remain inside the tonic of my soul. I have a reputation for protecting the individual rights of musicians and I vow to keep it that way.

My desk is a music stand; and wherever it happens to sit—the sounds and words unfold towards the cosmos.  Although I have learned much, I am not an expert and do not seek to flaunt intelligence. I desire to share from a musician’s position everything I have seen and experienced during my travels on the oooooooopen-road under Godddddddd’s blue skyyyyy, in hope that you’ll find answers, perspective, motivation, and inspiration.

byrdswhy

<<THIS ONE’S FOR THE BYRDS>>

For today, I’ve decided to take a short break from a biography I’m working on about the Cosmic American musician Gram Parsons to write a special piece about an equally influential artist: Roger McGuinn.  They are both my muses in different aspects…

What does this temporary tangent have to do with Roger McGuinn? A big part of the GP study has included research about his time with the Byrds in Nashville during 1968—when Sweetheart of the Rodeo was recorded. I plan on releasing some familar and a few never seen photos along with personal interviews, new information, etc. I can’t wait to share this with y’all.

Through a series of interesting events and connections during my journey, I was eventually granted the rare privilege of talking to THE Roger McGuinn! He’s an established musician who has so much more road left to travel. Even though I’ve not talked with him many times, I consider him a friend. He’s a nice and generous gentleman.

I’ve also become friends with his two equally brilliant and cordial sons, Patrick and Henry.

Because Roger has been spinning on my turntable, in old pictures sitting upon my library desk, and circulating through my mind so much over the last few months—AND all this compounded by the fact that he’s been floating around the tonal universe a lot recently–I felt I should respond to recent news about him/The Byrds that has sparked some negative response/confusion. I found this whole situation a good opportunity to dig into other areas.

Heyyy! He also celebrated his 72nd Birthday this summer! How cool is that? (Sings):

He was so much older then, but younger than that now.

<<MUSIC’S GONNA BE COMIN’ OUT THE OISEUAX>>

MOCKINGBYRD

Booda-lee Booda-lee Booda-lee BOOH.

The following piece will begin a series a little different than what you will see with the Gram project. A “harmonic ornithology” is what I be cookin’ up.

Meaning: I plan on making it my “Byrd” journal. A field guide to my thoughts on all things Byrds. It’s more nerdy/opinion/thoughts in fashion, the Gram stuff will be alot more researchy, academic, introspective, Tennessean, cawntryfried, wonderful, and cosmic. There are alot of composers, musicians, and influences in my heart–Gram Parsons is in the center. His family, fans, and friends are there too. The Byrds are a fat tooled-leather belt strapped around all that.

Get ready for things to get crazy! The ENdie Chick site is unfiltered and gritty—just as the music world is. I do not report my findings in traditional literary style, I like to wind them into an artistic performance. I was trained to play not to write! My words should have sound! So I shall play for you. If you see anything ITALICIZED that’s me singing. Got it? GOOD.

Excerpts are gonna be comin’ out the oiseaux for the next several weeks. So stand here and watch your head, ‘cuz you’ll never know when they’ll be dropping.

Please know that I love and appreciate each one of you when it counts, but allayall grammar police, anxious red ink pens, language martyrs, and writing-purists have no jurisdiction here—this hippie-outlaw must have her freedom (and you like FREE too, how else did you get here?), so as a compromise, you gotta deal with the kinks or roll on, respectively. See what I did there? You hate when I talk in first person? And. But. Fragments are? What. D’oh!

Thank you in advance for reading. Enjoy.

Cosmically Yours,

The ENdie Chick

 The Harmonic Ornithology

CHAPTER ONE

 

Turn+Turn+Turn

A Ramblin’ Gal’s thoughts on:

Roger McGuinn–The Migrant Byrd

To everything there is a season.

Recently, there have been reports flying around that Roger McGuinn has no interest in joining up with David Crosby and Chris Hillman for a Byrds reunion in honor of their anniversary—their 5 D in the world of music.

Fittie years of rock and roll. Five decades and still shaking their tailfeathers! Congrats to ’em.

Sidenote: I feel a little guilty because I’m gonna be preening Roger so much, but don’t worry Chris and David–please know I am not overlooking your important contributions at all, I will come around to you eventually.

We are so fortunate that the three remaining Byrds are doing well these days, still jamming. Guess that’s why everyone wants to see what they would do if together again……

Eager fans are broadcasting waves of interest in attending a reunion, yet Roger does not want to ‘copy that’ moment in the 60s. He’s said so in articles and also on Facebook.

Instead (singing with head down):

He’s striking another match….starting anew…

It’s all over now, baby blue.

The Rolling Stone tells Byrds fans that they shouldn’t ‘hold their breath waiting for a Byrds reunion’. Click here to read the article, then continue or you won’t have any idea what I am talking about..

The article is mostly neutral. McGuinn speaks highly of Crosby and Hillman while respectfully declining the invitations and thoughtfully explaining the reasons behind his choice. Crosby understands his stance, wishes he would reconsider, leaving the door open. There wasn’t any comment in there from Hillman, but it’s understood he has interest…(Heeeey Chris!  Call me!*wink* I got some questions for ya.)

Enthusiasts want so much to see it happen, they are willing to toss out many bags worth of seed…but..Roger McGuinn doesn’t want to stick his beak in people’s hands. He believes:

The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind.

Sounds like the richest way to make an exit if you ask me.

Yet many fans are disappointed or confused about his decision. Some were saddened but understood his stance, while others…Well, I don’t really want to repeat some of the things I read on social media and beyond…but let’s put it this way…what the comments read was worse than anything muttered here back in ’68 at the Opry.

MI0002749471I know there are others of you out there who are quietly frustrated.

I believe that part of the reason for this strong reaction, is because of all the reunions happening these days and/or former popular artists who are still going strong with tours…..and fans…well, they have certain expectations. They want their turn, turn, turn.

For example: Bob Dylan and our friends the Rolling Stones are still rockin’ (Haaaay KEEF!). As far as the reunions go, The Beach Boys did a 50th anniversary tour in 2012. The Monkees did a 45th anniversary tour in 2011. Last Spring, I was shocked to open the Nashville Scene and read that The Zombies had performed a concert. Tell everyone YES.

Back in December, Eric Burdon was supposed to perform a show at the Ryman, but he had to cancel/reschedule for health reasons–he’ll come back around I hope….and Paul McCartney was supposed be here, but he had to reschedule for sometime in October.

This summer, Elton John crocodile-rocked at Bonnaroo….tick tock tick tock….he set the hook on everyone in the best way. Dee dah dum bump BUMP. Dee dah dum bump. BUMP!

There are many more in addition to these folks I mentioned. It’s amazing they still have the stamina!

I’d imagine after many years, that there are musicians who experience a considerable amount of pressure to keep the career going. More so if they were wildly popular and influencial. I bet that in the golden years of a music career–the decision to either move forward, backward, or retire is a very difficult one to make.

I wonder..do they think:

Will my fans still care about me?

What if I can’t meet their expectations?

If I cease to create, will I cease to exist?

Has my thread run out or is there more left in me to unwind?

How long should I suspend until I can officially resolve on a good note?

Hmmm.

With this resurgence of 1960s-70s groups and individuals, rock and roll fans have been watching…waiting…hoping….that someday very soon, The Byrds will assume their position among the pecking order.

But……

Roger keep sayin’ no to us,

not ev-en may-be.

WHY?

WHY?

Considering the years of loyalty–buying all the albums, attending concerts, wearing the merchandise, reading books, defending them from naysayers, even sticking with the various changes in hair and personnel..and all that genre bending–doesn’t Roger McGuinn owe it to his fans?

Why can’t he just go back to doing what the audience wants? Without them there would be no him, right?

SING THAT SONG! BEAT THOSE WINGS!

However……

Some say there is a limit

He can’t go past that.

He don’t believe us

He don’t think that’s where its at.

WHY?

WHY?

For HALF A CENTURY the Byrds vinyls have sounded out futuristic ideas from the turn-turn-turntables, yet it’s obvious that not everyone is “Rogering” that message. It’s as if the unhappy fans are blasting words from their ONE way radios:

“Roger, Ready to Copy? Wilco?”

 ……..

 “Negative?!

 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! MAYDAY!!!!”

C’mon y’all…Don’t flip the byrd. They were never the sort of group to fly in circles. Especially McGuinn. He isn’t doing it to ruffle your feathers. He’s staying true to himself. And in return, true to the music for you…the fans whom he appreciates.

aintgoinnowherebyrdsInstead of being pissed off or confused he isn’t going to do a reunion, we should consider why his answer is surprising at all.

When have Byrds ever had the habit of flying backwards?

The negative perceptions of McGuinn’s decision is mind-boggling considering that everyone is aware that he has never had any other behavior than soaring above and beyond the call of genre—finding the sounds and connections beyond The Byrds nest rested eight-miles high atop the mountain of American Rock and Roll.

rogermcguinnstare

Asking him to suck it up and do it anyway would be selfish. It’s like asking him to revert from who he has evolved to be—forcing him to go back to long hair, wearing rectangular granny glasses, and changing his name back to James Joseph McGuinn III. This WAS his identity when he started. Byrds who live in Indonesia stay in Indonesia, whatever! Clip his wings why don’t we?

For those of you who were lucky to have been at a Byrds concert in the 60s: Would you want to put that mini-skirt back on now? How about those groovy boots…if you wear ’em while stepping on the accelerator in your Cadillac, would fast it a go go?

Yeah, much has changed…

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown

Roger So Far?

Dear friends, I’m sayin’ this…We can’t have it both ways. We can’t let go and allow a byrd to spread his wings and take off—then, expect and demand him to fly right back…damning him to eternal air space if he doesn’t.  An artist should be free to catch the draft that moves him or her. We’re just lucky when one swoops down, snatches us up by our shoulders, and pitches us around…like the eagles at Kentucky Lake tossing fish to each other in the sky. Embrace it:

Just be quiet and feel it around you.

Besides, isn’t it the experience you are looking for? The best performances are never the result of a demanding audience. No one produces well when being forced. The only pushing anyone should be doing is upon the play button. Allow the player to direct. Navigating the patterns, curls, currents, and temperatures of the air bring out the best creations. This is how artists gain altitude.

We have to keep swimming or we’ll sink like a stone.

For the times, they are a changing.

Progression is how music form survives too. When did you ever hear a song start off and then in the middle start playing the same notes in reverse? Symmetry in pattern…recapitulations in song occurs, refrains, verses yes, but mirroring and folding in on itself, not a good thing.

Haven’t you heard some of those ol’ people who sit in the front church pews whisperin’ stuff about how ‘playing a rock and roll song backwards reveals an evil message from the devil?’

BWAH HA HA HAAAH. Stairway to Heaven or Hell? What SHALL IT BEEEE…Satan is real….don’t wear his jeweled crown.

And what happens to the needle the more it skates along the grooves of the record as it turn, turn, turns?

It eventually loses its point.

My fav Beatle, George Harrison once said to Jon Gilliland in an interview for Pop Chronicles:

“You go from one field of happiness to a greater field happiness and one thing gets boring..and it’s the same thing with music. It progresses…gets better, sometimes it gets worse…but generally it gets better. You’ve gotta go from one thing to another otherwise everyone would be bored stiff..it’s just a natural progression.”

5D ByrdsWhile historically important, Music is a forward moving art. Our roots can be firmly planted into one genre or another, but our arms need to always be extending, intertwining with other artists, soaking in the sound rays, and reaching into the heights—providing ample protection, nutrients, and shade for which future seeds can germinate and sprout.

A time to plant, A time to reap.

The dirt beneath these roots is ancient, but when one turn, turn, turns it—it retains some old sediment, yet it falls into new places.

This is the reason I highly respect Roger McGuinn. He understands this process, contributes to the music world in this fashion, and spiritually lives this philosophy.

And what about you people saying: Pleeeease. Just a reunion for the sake of reliving the glory days of yore? We can’t lose that!

Nowhere is there warmth to be found
Among those afraid of losing their ground

The Byrds didn’t write those lyrics describing their experiences in drug tripping, they wrote what they were feeling about flying overseas for the first time. About stretching beyond the familiar…not leaving it entirely behind.

trippysweater

I understand the “love of the past”. Okay, Okay. I admit, I DO try to live in it alot. If you’ve seen me around town, you’d know I Live TRUE at vintage clothing stores (I love ya Tammy Pope!), wear a 60s Byrdish bangin hairstyle, blast Hippie Radio 94.5, and sport cat-eye glasses older than the Tambourine Man himself. Check out some of my fav pieces collected from Hip Zipper, Pre to Post Modern, Goodwill, and LIVE TRUE vintage shops. See the looks: “Raga Child” “Trippy Sweater” and “Countrybyrd”.

countrybyrdshirt

As a young musician looking for inspiration, I’d be so super psyched at a chance to see the Byrds..but wouldn’t it be better to observe them in their natural habitat, not in a cage built by circumstances from their past?

Roger’s flown through the skies for 50+ years y’all. He is seventy-two years old!

Oh how is it that he could come out to here and be still floating?

raga

He floats because he constantly creates. That’s where his heart is.

Henry McGuinn and I talked about a Byrd reunion among many things. He agrees with his father’s choice. He’s very happy that Roger finds peace in being a troubadour these days. Ha. One of very clubs he started playing in was called The Troubadour. How appropriate that after all this time, he is homing back to that–both with this Folk Den Project and many international solo-performances/interviews. I’ll talk about that later…

True. The Byrds have a history of struggle internally and externally, but each has broken from the flock successfully whether you measure that in money or legacy. Sad, a few Byrds have fallen along the way-but their contributions to the art of music will exist forever.

album-The-Byrds-Mr-Tambourine-Man

As for the living Byrds who are really livin’, It’d be a nice idea for them to be together for a special event that raises money or awareness for a good cause…but I think we shouldn’t force The Byrds to ground. Instead, we should be patient and hold out the perch for them, but not feel entitled to a return. Although some Byrds have fallen along the years, Chris, David, and Roger have evolved well…it’d be a damn shame to end that by getting angry and pulling the support from under them.

As Robert Frost would sing if a rockstar:

Let’s give our tambourines a shake. Not to ask if there’s a mistake–The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake–whose magic swirling ships these are….I think I know..they have eight miles to go before they sleep…JAZ-ZY RA-GA ROCK SO-LO…..

And for Chris, Roger, and David—-

They will keep falling as long as they live…
All without ending
And they will remember the place that is now
That has ended before the beginning.

 

Not to worry Byrds fans. They might not all fly back together, but at least the music they gave us ain’t goin’ nowhere….

 

 

Roger–Ten Four From the Fifth Dimension,

The ENdie Chick