Final Thoughts on the Journey

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Charlie McCoy told me they sorta had a hard sell in music.  Food on the table, the mortgage and the electric bill all come before expendable income, or at least it should and music is an expendable item.  Even if there is expendable income  there are many ways that it can be used, especially in the 21st century, so in that sense, the purchasing of music is expendable.  That is very true.

But the listening to music and the making of music is necessary for our souls.  It’s food for the savage beast. Even the littlest of souls need music.  A crying baby can often be soothed by a song.  Children sing as they play, those who can whistle often whistle while they work.  Many couples often have “their” song.  Mama has an impromptu dance party with her little ones when a fun song plays on the radio.  The slaves used song as reminders that they were valuable, they used lyrics to communicate to other slaves.  When Saul was troubled, he’d call for David and his lyre. God designed us for song.    In some way it isn’t an extra commodity, but it is a necessary.   Like a good book, music can transport us to far off worlds. Lyrics can speak when we can’t. Music reaches our soul when words fail us.

Recently, I’ve been reading Crystal Evans Hurst book “She’s Still There.”  This week she’s encouraging her readers to find “an” answer.  Not “the” answer but an answer that is part of the journey to “the” answer.

As I read this particular chapter, I found myself wondering about Uncle Chip and his buddies, and the music and their lives.  They didn’t plan to change Nashville.  They came to Nashville to do what they loved. They had fun while they did it. They didn’t look for “the” answer, they found an answer many times over.

For many of them an answer came in Atlanta with Bill Lowery

Others, found an answer in Louisiana, or California, or Missouri.

Ray Stevens found an answer when he moved from the big studio to the little house.

Fred Foster found an answer when he left the farm.

Elvis found an answer in a little recording studio in Memphis

Uncle Chip found an answer when Reed offered a couch to sleep on

These guys all found an answer by making the trip to Nashville and staying there.

And the world found an answer when they listened to the music.

God gave them talents and they didn’t hold back. They kept finding an answer, one answer at a time. And they made a difference because they offered their talents and gifts to Nashville. When I think about these guys, their passion, their talents, the dreams they chased and caught, the way they enjoyed the music, and their lives, I am astonished.  Even when they weren’t living to seek God’s glory, God was using their talents to make some great music.  Music that touched people.

Jerry Reed found an answer when he started asking questions

Buzz Cason opened his home.

At some point Chip and others joined them.  Many of these guys found an answer around Buzz’s kitchen table.  (And there’s another miss!  Buzz!)

Guys from all walks of life are still finding an answer (I hope). Last I knew they were gathering around a conference table at a construction company early on Thursday mornings while Pastor Jerry leads the group.

I wrote stories about the music these guys made, but I pray the stories propel you to seek the Savior these guys knew.   That’s what Uncle Chip would have wanted.  He would have wanted to tell the world about his Savior.  His buddies that sat around that table with him and studied the Bible would want you to know too. They’d want me to tell you that Jesus is more important than the music they made.

By the worlds standards, Uncle Chip was a good man.  He was always upbeat, pleasant, kind and concerned about others.  I saw it firsthand and heard it from every person I talked to and met.  But I know he would tell you otherwise, because when you know the love of Jesus, you realize how great a sinner you are without him.  You realize that you need Jesus as your Savior.  Uncle Chip knew that.  By the end of his life he found himself more in love with Jesus than with anything else life could offer.

When Chip decided to have the bypass surgery, he knew it was risky.  He knew he might not make it through.  As he prayed about it and considered his limited options he concluded that whether he lived or died, it would be a win! If he lived he’d have a better quality of life, if he died, he’d be with Jesus.  Those of us who know Jesus know his words are absolutely true.  Paul spoke similar.  To live is Christ, to die is gain.

I am reminded of the story of Esther.  God brought her to the place he had appointed as Queen  “for such a time as this” She was in the right place to have an audience with the King.  Her position saved the Jewish Nation.

I believe God brought these men and so many others together in Nashville for such a time as this.  For the music, yes. Songwriters, guitar pickers, pianists, harmonica players, drummers, engineers, producers, singers and so many others.  God isn’t partial, he gives his gifts to the unjust and to the just.  Their talent and abilities came from God when he created them before they were even born.  But I also believe God brought these folks together for the Gospel.  Not just for the change He made in their lives, but  that His light might shine to those that listen to the music, to those that learn about their lives and seek to find Jesus for themselves.

Those guys, Chip and his buddies, aren’t the only ones with gifts and talents. Each of us have them. You may not sing, you may not play or be musically inclined at all.  But I know God gave you talent.  Maybe you haven’t found it yet.  Maybe you’ve struggled.  Chip struggled with health issues for a large portion of his life, I wrote about that 3 years ago. But you know what?  No one lives problem free.  Maybe you have physical pain, or chronic illness, or maybe your pain is emotional.    You might need to know that God is there with you.  He didn’t cause whatever you’re going through, but he allowed it to grow you, to strengthen you and to show you how much you need him.  I know that seems counter productive, but I know firsthand, it’s true! I know that Chip and a lot of the folks I sat down with would want me to tell you that God is real.  He’s not dead.  His desire is for you to give up yourself and to live for Him!

The kindness Jesus has shown is the price he paid.  His life, his blood in exchange for your sin, my sin, Uncle Chip’s sin.  None of us have done one thing worthy enough to deserve even one of the blessings he’s given us, and yet he blesses us over and over in ways we often don’t understand.

Chip finished well.  He went from loving Budweiser and golf to loving Jesus more. Once saved, he never drank another Budweiser, maybe he continued to play the occasional golf game?  I’m not sure.  But a conversation about Jesus was never far away.

I had planned a trip and was slated to spend the night with Uncle Chip and Diane the day he fell. The next day, he had the heart attack that led to the surgery.   The next week, he was lying in a hospital bed scheduled for the surgery as I drove back through Nashville.  We all knew how serious this surgery was, we knew it was risky.  Wild horses couldn’t have kept me from stopping in and seeing him.  We prayed together before Diane and I went to dinner.  I held the hand that God had used to build fences, to remodel all sorts of places, that built at least one car and beautiful furniture and played  some of the music we all love. Those were also the hands that had held his Bible.

He made it through the surgery just fine but he never regained his strength. One afternoon about a month later he lay in the hospital bed and began to have trouble breathing.  He was tired and wanted to go Home. Later that afternoon he slipped from this world into the next.

I’m still sad that I missed the time with him that we had planned, but God’s divine providence was different and even better.

Several years before his death, Chip was helping to install the new baptistry at their church, he decided he needed be baptized.

CYGT baptism 1 001
The smile he was known for is even bigger in this picture as he makes his way to prepare for his baptism

This came about in part, because of a patient wife who prayed and would often ask  if Chip wanted to go to church with her, and a little bible study that began around the kitchen table at Forge Seat.

CYGT Bible study group
One of the gathering places of the bible study

 

Thanks for taking the ride with me!

 

 

 

 

 

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This and That and Another Light Bulb Moment

If you can’t make somebody happy with music, there ain’t no sense in doing the music         Chip Young

 

Tomorrow is the 31st day of the month and the end of this years challenge.

Thanks for hopping in and riding along with me.  I pray I gave honor to Uncle Chip and the friends he thumbed around with in Nashville.  I pray I did their stories justice and made the journey entertaining and informative and a little fun.

I remember this same feeling three years ago. Like there’s so much more to be said but not enough time to say it. There were a lot of people I would have liked to have chatted with but I didn’t get the chance.  I wish I could have taken more time, been more thorough.  For reasons beyond this, I wish life hadn’t thrown that curve ball two years ago.  I wish I could have written this while it was fresh. But the words weren’t there then.

Even so, God has been good.  Listening to the recordings I made were painful, like a lot of folks I don’t like listening to myself, but listening to them almost took me right back to where I was two year ago.   I can see the love Jerry Kennedy had for my Uncle as he spoke about missing Chip’s smile or hearing “Heeeeeey J.K.” when he’d answer the phone.  I can almost taste the chocolate bar Ray Stevens shared with me while we chatted at his little studio on Music Row.  I nearly bounced out of my chair earlier this month as I listened to Gordon talk about Black Eyed Peas.  My heart warms as I think about driving up to Boxwood and walking through the Southern Ground studio all these years later.

When I began this journey I wasn’t sure I’d have the words. Even now,there were days when the writing was hard, but I pushed through and did it.  I’m sure these guys had days they didn’t want to make the music, but they got themselves up and went on because they had to do it.  Uncle Chip did it after he received the call that his mother had died. He finished the session then left for Atlanta. Uncle Chip was a lot like Grandma, just plain lovable, so I know he’d rather have skipped out and left the session.

I missed some things because I’m inexperienced and because I wasn’t diligent in note taking.  One afternoon in Glenn’s home studio/shop I had the recorder going, but then forgot to save it before I turned it off.  We were just chatting about things of yesteryear, nothing special, but that afternoon is gone.  How could I have taken notes as Diane and I lived together those 2 weeks when I was there?  Looking back, I know I should have gone straight to my laptop that Friday evening after Bruno and the sightseeing group pulled out on that big bus.  Because of this, I’m not sure it’s my best work. But it’s the best I have to offer.

I’ll have a little more to say as I wrap this up tomorrow.   But today, I want to post some more fun stuff I found as I was piddling around.

A couple of things I discovered by happenstance, which we know isn’t.  Shane found a record titled Guitar’s Greatest Hits; Tom (Tomlinson) and Jerry (Kennedy) in a thrift store this past Sunday afternoon.  The album cover had a little bio on  Jerry Kennedy, and on Tom too.   From it I found that in his younger years Jerry Kennedy was called Jerry Glenn.  Jerry Glenn had a record deal when he was 10, not for guitar, but for vocals. It made the top 10 on the country charts!

This tune came next.  RCA waited for Jerry Glenn’s voice to change, but his contract expired before it did, by then Jerry Kennedy was on his way to becoming a great guitarist and producer.  As far as I know he never went back to vocals.

Wouldn’t have been funny if Jerry Kennedy had been involved with this little Shel Silverstein  project?

 

Reggie Young has a new CD out, Forever Young.  You can find it on Amazon and several other outlets.  He and Jenny Lynn have also done an album together, Be Still.  It is a beautiful compilation of instrumental hymns.  You can find it on Amazon too.

I can’t imagine music without these guys.  Writers, musicians, artists, producers, engineers, they all played a part in making the music we love.  No matter what genre of music you like, many of these guys affected it somehow.  It takes everyone working together, especially back when most musicians and artists met in the studio and knew the way each other worked well enough to play off each other to make a great sound. When everyone wanted to give their absolute best and they were willing to be innovative and willing to try new things. That’s what makes great music.

Maybe that’s why it’s frustrating to watch as Nashville changes again. And the light bulb clicks on again in my brain for another moment when things are coming together.

When these guys came in they weren’t trying to change country music, they were using their talents, trying to make it better. Fred was instrumental in slowing down the work, instead of 4 songs in a session, the musicians would work on a song until they made it the best they felt it could be.  That’s why Kennedy called Chip to see if he could run over in between sessions to tweak a little tune by Mel McDaniel that ended in the number 1 spot in 1984.

It wasn’t about cranking out tunes.  It was about being artistic and meticulous. Like Rudy told me, it was about finding the right sound for the song whether it was clanking two Craftsman wrenches together to resemble a pick digging for gold  in California or a Rickenbacker guitar for a good song that never made number one.  I believe they did that with all the songs they worked on back then.  Every song can’t be a number one, but these guys were about making every song they worked on the best they could make it.  Maybe that’s the light bulb moment;  maybe these guys feel that the work they did, the task they accomplished, has been abandoned for convenience once again.  Instead of making quality they feel like there’s some back-peddling.

Cranking out tunes has overtaken the desire to make music be the best it can be.

Technology might be continually improving, but is it making music better?  I believe Fred is right when he says much of the music being cranked out of Nashville won’t be memorable–he’s one that definitely would know what it takes to make a memorable tune.  Today, there seems to be a lot of  technology coming out of Nashville instead of talented musicians, artists or innovation.  Is that taking it too far?  Maybe, but I’m gonna leave it out there to be massaged for a while.

The guys I’ve written about made a lot of people happy with their music.  I wonder if that’s what’s happening today.  For a lot of years I wasn’t listening to mainstream music.  I was listening to more Contemporary Christian Music and hymns.  When I turned the radio again I found a lot had changed.  Maybe happy is what’s missing from today’s music.

Here’s a little clip by NAAM done in his house in 2012.

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/chip-young

Forgive me if I posted Fred’s little interview earlier this month.   I can’t remember right now and need to skedaddle so I don’t have time to look. The stained glass in the background is from the Young’un Sound studio.

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/fred-foster

These guys know what makes good music that makes people happy.

This part of the journey ends tomorrow.  After that, I’ll keep working.  I’ll try to post updates here and on the Facebook page I made.  I may post other fun facts or things I find interesting along the way.  If you find something, or have something you think this project needs, feel free to use the contact me page.

 

 

Sunday Funs 2

Want a little Chip Young?  Yes I do!!! I’m not sure where this is picture is taken, but I’m pretty sure that’s the Super 400 that kept him and Diane from seeing Kenny Rogers one night a few years ago.  Remember that little family trait I mentioned the other day when I told you about the car they rebuilt out at Jack and Gretchen’s?  It sure sounds good and he sure loved having that guitar.

Fred said Chip played like he lived, I agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe if Fred had gotten a hold of this, Uncle Chip might have made some waves as a singer too…I think it needs some do waps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about a little vintage Dolly singing her first hit, released in 1967 produced by Fred Foster on the Monument label before she signed with Porter.  The cut was on Dolly’s first album Hello, I’m Dolly.

It’s from the Bobby Lord show in 1967.  Back then, blondes, brunettes and redheads all had big hair.  Since then, big and blonde has definitely worked for Dolly.  She has become one of, if not the most successful woman in country music and in several other venues too, and not all in the entertainment industry. The Imagination Library, is a foundation that gifts books to children regardless of income.  It began in Dolly’s hometown, Sevier County Tennessee in 1995 and has expanded across the country, into Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.    In other words, she’s a pretty smart lady for a dumb blonde.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a link to Monument’s first release and also it’s first hit.  Billy Grammar’s, Gotta Travel On.   The song itself was covered by many artists for many year, including Bobby Bare, Chet Atkins, and Bill Monroe.

 

 

 

 

 

In respect to the passing of Tony Joe White this week, I thought I’d post a tune that didn’t really make the Country hit list.  This little number was recorded by Tina Turner and a funny story I found on the Jonesboro Arkansas ABC affiliate’s website.

White said also in 2006 that Turner was taken aback when they first met.

“She turned around and looked at me and started hysterically laughing and couldn’t get her breath,” he recalled. “She was doubling over and I thought, ‘Are my pants unzipped or something?’ Finally she got her breath and came over to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m sorry, man. Ever since ‘Polk Salad Annie’ I always thought you were a black man.’

 

 

Want a little insight on studio musicians?  Reggie didn’t read music and neither did Uncle Chip but they made some great sounds!

 

 

 

And the original 5 A-team members

 

I’m feeling the crunch of day 28.  I could post a plethora of things I found and I would love to, but I just can’t.   One more short one of Reggie playing the intro to I Can Help in Sweden.  I’m sure he was there with Bruno.

 

Happy Sunday y’all!

Thursday Throwback

Another Thursday with a crazy busy day ahead of me. I may not make it back to write, but wanted to give you a little something…I’m working on some new posts but haven’t had time to finish them this week…it’s the real world her in Kansas City MO.

Here’s another throwback from the first series…I didn’t even try to fake this one with Rudy…a Rickkenwhater????

In 1986 The Gatlins released the album Partners.

Chip had a slew of guitars, 30? 40? 50? Maybe more, when he was in the business.  He had a Rickenbaker among them.   Rudy kindly explained that it produces a distinctive sound, tinny even, and mentioned The Birds, I guess I sounded dumbfounded because he started singing “To everything turn turn, turn…ahhhhh yes! The light bulb went off and I knew the tune and the sound he was referring to.  (You have to remember, I’m a young pup and I’m NOT a musician).

Chip and Rudy wanted to use the electric Rickenbacker, was it a 6 string or 12 string? Rudy couldn’t remember, but they were waiting patiently for the right song.  In 1986, they got their chance. When the song came along, both Chip and Rudy looked at each other, neither said a word, but they each knew. Chip trotted to his guitar room and brought out the Rickenbacker. And that is what you hear on the song.

Rudy says, “Back then they used what felt “right’ for the song.” And it seems Chip was a genius at knowing what was right.

The Rickenbacker was right for the song, Changing Partners.

Rudy was kind enough to call me after Diane sent the email that began all of this.  And he was kind enough to allow us to chat again after I realized how ridiculous I had been the first time around.  I’m over my starstruck, fangirling, so if you or Steve or Larry have any other fun stories to share from the studio, ring me back.

Happy Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Funs

In the original series I took Sunday’s easy.  I’m carrying on that tradition.  Sunday’s give me some time listen to the chats I had, to begin drafts for the week ahead and to plan.  Here’s to Sundays.

How about a little Poke Salad Annie?  I think Tony Joe sounds a bit like Elvis?

a little Reggie with the same guitar he played on the In The Ghetto session.

How about a little Billy and Elvis story.  Billy told me a fan had sent some items from Germany asking for autographs. His fan included what he assumed to be gift, at least he hoped it was a gift, because he kept it.  Well…are you wondering what the gift was?  It was an outtake from Elvis’s version of I Can Help.  When it begins you hear a Elvis’s voice saying “Billy Swan my a**”  Billy assumed Elvis was psyching himself up to record it.  Chip played for the Elvis version; when you hear it, you’ll know.  Thanks youtube!

Sorry Elvis, I know you’re the king, but Billy’s version wins my vote, except for that Chip Young guitar because, well Billy I love you man but I know you’ll understand,  he’s my uncle and I know you loved him too.

How about a little something for the road? A few weeks ago, I found these interviews that each of the Kennedy men had done with Paul Leslie.  I haven’t had time to listen to much of them yet, but I’m guessing there’s some good stuff.

http://www.thepaulleslie.com/the-paul-leslie-hour-episode-77-jerry-kennedy/

http://www.thepaulleslie.com/the-paul-leslie-hour-episode-84-gordon-kennedy/

http://www.thepaulleslie.com/the-paul-leslie-hour-episode-65-bryan-kennedy/

http://www.thepaulleslie.com/episode-149-shelby-kennedy/

Have a wonderful Sunday!

***Y’all, the enemy is fighting hard.  please pray for me as I write.  Pray for my family because the enemy is attacking and what he’s doing is almost unbelievable. (Nothing between my husband and children and I).  Because of stuff that happened a couple of years ago, I still struggle to write words but I have to push past the fear.  I’m here and I will press forward because the stories of God’s goodness intertwined with the great music and the lives of these guys have to be told.

 

Sunday Musical Delights

I thought I might link a few things today for your listening pleasure.  If you’re getting this by email, you’ll have to click to see what I posted.

 

Charlie told me that he thought Grady Martin’s rendition of El Paso was the best out there.

Something from Faron Young written by Willie

 

 

And one that Chip probably played on because JK produced it

 

And something a little more recent.  Glenn Rieuf playing steel with John Anderson.  Glenn was Chip’s long time buddy, engineer and a tremendous help to me as I wrote the last blog series.

 

Who Am I?

It just occurred to me that some of you may not know who I am or why I am here writing about Chip Young and Nashville.

I had a blog for about 15 years. I began on a free hosting platform that is now defunct and moved to WordPress.  For many years I had a free site that suited me just fine, but after I wrote the first series (Chip Young’s Gold Thumb), I began going to writing retreats and conferences.  I decided that I needed to go bigger.  So I began self-hosting.  Through a very big series of several unfortunate events,  I ended up giving up that blog.   I didn’t feel like writing for a long time, not even pen and paper.  The joy was gone.  In many ways I still don’t feel like writing but I know it’s now or never for Chip’s story and I know it can’t be never!  This story must be told.  It must include his precious friends and his even more precious Lord and Savior.

Chip Young was my Uncle. He was one of 7 kids that grew up in a homestead built by his fathers hands that now sits in a sketchy part of Atlanta at the end of the property line for the Atlanta airport.  Back then it was farmland.  Chip was the third youngest of the 7.  My dad?  The second youngest.

We lived in Knoxville. Uncle Chip lived in Murfreesboro in a huge antebellum home that had been saved during the Civil War by asking the soldiers to gather round the piano with the family and join in the singing.  After an enjoyable evening, the soldiers left the place standing.  There was a little log cabin out back that he converted into a studio.  Remember this was back when technology wasn’t what it is today.  A home studio was something no one else had.

Many of my happiest childhood memories are from the farm in Murfreesboro.  Swimming in the pool, riding in the bucket of the tractor, playing under the big magnolia tree or weaving between the huge boxwoods, hence the name Boxwood Farm.   Family gatherings and larger gatherings like the dove shoot and the party where Dad and Uncle Chip ended up carrying the half roasted spoiled pig that was supposed to be dinner  out to the back of the property in the bucket of the tractor, and ran all over the county to make sure there’d be enough bbq to serve that night.

Now, I wonder how many of these guys were at that dove shoot, or that party.  How many of them chuckled when Debbie’s little sister and I came out wearing Jimmy Buffet t-shirts that quoted one of his most famous songs, but wasn’t appropriate attire for 8 year old little girls?

How many of them were edged along the field when I ran out to pick up one of the birds dad had shot, but came running back without it when it’s wings flapped and startled me?

I may never have the answers to those questions and that’s okay.

Uncle Chip was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet.  He was loved by all who met him and treated everyone as if they were the most special person he knew. He and his buddies made a lot of good music.  Most of them didn’t didn’t care about fame or fortune, they were doing what they loved.

I had no idea how far that golden thumb had reached until after his funeral.

I’m trying to share a few of those stories that I knew, or that were told to me by those who were there.  I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to talk to Uncle Chip about this stuff firsthand, but I honestly didn’t know.  Many of us didn’t know until the headlines told us and it was too late.

Uncle Chip also faced a debilitating illness and had three failed marriages before he met the love of his life. He also had a love for Budweiser and golf, but God diminished those loves and put a desire in his heart for Jesus.  God weaved his story; this story about Uncle Chip.  God brought people in and out of Chip’s life that would contribute to the changing face country music.  Music wasn’t all that change, many hearts in Nashville changed too.

This is their story.  I pray I do them honor.