Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Icons and Legends

Great seeing Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and Joe Walsh performing as guests the other night on Willie Nelson's TV special from L.A. which was carried here in Canada on Bravo. Ben Harpur, Al Green, Toby Keith, Keith Richards, Shelby Lynne and others rounded out the stellar line-up and although much more of Merle Haggard on the evening overall would have pleased me personally, it was a pretty good offering for TV all things considered and at least Merle got to sing a few songs. Zimmy only played one. Merle has recently wrapped up his co-billed US tour dates with Dylan and Bob & Willie's 2nd consecutive summer tour of minor league ballpark shows is now winding its way towards mid-July when they will each headline their own separate shows in Canada and the US Northwest.

Bob's dates are posted at for those who need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Speaking of Shelby Lynne, I have to confess that while I'm not a big fan, it does give me a certain satisfaction to see Shelby move forward in her career as she continues marching to the beat of her own drum. Shelby's talent should be more widely exposed as she is under appreciated. Willie Nelson, with whom Shelby has had a long and complex relationship over the years, is a long time supporter and promotes her whenever he can. I was a young staff songwriter at Combine Music in December of 1987 when Shelby Lynne first arrived in Nashville to meet with Bob Tubert, a Combine associate who later became her manager.

Indeed, I heard the introductory demo of an unknown Shelby Lynne singing in Tuberts office that first day. I can still remember one of the titles from that demo...a song called "What About The Love We Made". Later on, I met Shelby as she walked through our door at Combine for the very first time. My 1971 Martin D28 was the first guitar she held in her hands and played in Nashville. She seemed so young, but she was very determined and focused on what she wanted to accomplish as a singer...and Shelby is a great singer. She really liked Tim Menzie's songs as I recall. Tim is a terrific writer who was signed at Combine at the time. He's known by the name Tim Mensy. Anyway, Shelby had a rough time in Nashville for a few years despite the fact that everybody in town loved her voice and wanted her to "happen"....I know firsthand how tough she could be in negotiations and dealings with label people though and that, more than anything, did not serve Shelby well, especially through the hard times and poor sales of product she never really believed in. My own belief is that Bob Tubert had created such a buzz early on, that the follow-through reality could never have matched the hype. She was pitched as the reincarnation of Patsy Cline.

Shelby got to perform and record right out the starting gate with the likes of Willie Nelson and George Jones and that in the end, is what hurt her the most. She presumed it would all be a cake walk no matter how hard she played ball. She was wrong in the end to play it that way and maybe she blew a good thing but again, I take a certain satisfaction from knowing that in the end, as an artist and writer, she stood up for her own vision and said the hell with the crap. She demanded to be herself and while huge commercial success may have eluded her, she has made her stand count. It seems to have worked out on some level for Shelby...there've been some hard dues to pay, but there she was on stage with Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan & singing Stormy Weather with Willie Nelson. I'd settle for that.

Here's to Shelby's future and her quest towards artistic fulfillment.

Joe Walsh is another story...a true victory story for one of my all time favorite guitar players. I've been a Joe Walsh fan since his early days in The James Gang. And of course, I've been to a few Eagles concerts over the years which just goes to show you how long in the tooth I'm getting these days...but seriously folks, life's been good to me so far, as I've spent these last years Rocky Mountain Way. Hey Joe... congratulations on beatin' the devil several years ago, even though you drank his beer for nothin' as Kristofferson would say. Easy does it!

You knew when to walk away.

That will wrap it up for me for the moment as I contemplate the possibility of bringing forward a few great concert memories next time. How great you ask....? Well, there I was front and center to hear The Jeff Beck Group [with Tim Bogert and Carmen Appice]. Cobo Hall. Detroit City. Summer of '72 ...out strolls the opening band ....a totally unknown, tough lookin' outfit with a debut album to sell. They were called Steely Dan...Jeff "Skunk" Baxter AND Denny Diaz both playing guitar. They played the "Can't Buy A Thrill" album right in front of me LIVE.

Blew me away...most amazing concert I've ever attended...til next time, God Bless.

Frank Trainor


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