AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL KIRCHEN

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AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL KIRCHEN

Post by Admin on Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:27 pm


AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL KIRCHEN


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Back in Feb. of '95, Bill Kirchen came blowin' through Ann Arbor. I'm
used to catching 'ol Bill on an occasional Christmas in tree-town, with his
Telecaster, sittin in for at least one, if not two sets with George Bedard and
his band, The Kingpins. I remember when George was frontin the Bonnevilles with
Mark O'boyle on steel and Bill sat in at Joe's Star Lounge for a night of hard
country songs; "Pardon Me I've Got Someone To Kill, Seven Nights To Rock, Mama
Tried", and others. Ah yes, the days when REAL country could be heard in town.
Anyway, this trip brought Bill here with Nick Lowe and his outfit. Bill was
not only here to wail his Telly' for Nick, but also to promote his new, at
that time, CD, "Tombstone Every Mile". I managed to get a hold of Bill and
force him to remember me, (I used to track him down when he came to town. He
also played hippie games with some family of mine), he knew about the Radio
show and agreed to hang with me for a couple of hours and let me tape our
conversation. Mindy, from Black Top records chaperoned our talk to make sure
our verbosity was lacking in bullshittery and grandiose rhetoric. A lot of
water and a pretty long bridge separates Bill from the old days with Commander
Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. I definitely wasn't gonna Tabloid style old
Bill. We covered a lot of ground about the early 70s country scene, and we
could have gone much farther as each question and answer revealed a new
question. At some point I'd like to sit with Bill again and go for round two.
But, I got what I got, and this is it.

It's pretty apparent who is who, to be helpful I put "D," or "B"
before and after every question. If you can't figure it out, read it again!.
For broadcast on the radio, I listened to the interview afterwards, and added
10sec breaks in spots that would allow me to roll-in songs we were talking
about. I will name the songs in places they aired.

Show start's with Armadillo Stomp from Deep In The Heart Of Texas

D How Are ya Bill?

B Fine and dandy, good to be here, good to be back home.

D Yea, when was the last time you were in Ann Arbor?

B That's a very good question, which I'm not prepared to answer right
now. Maybe when we played the Nectarine Ballroom with Cody.

D Haven't you been through a couple of times and played with George
Bedard?

B Oh yea, I've jammed, I sat in with him at my brothers wedding about
eight years ago, and played with him in Detroit about three Christmas's ago,
I'm usually here for Christmas these days now that I live in D.C. and I always
come lookin' for George Bedard. I missed him last time, he tricked me, he was
playin' under a different name

D It was probably "Johnny Jumbo Jet And His Large"

B Somethin like that, yeah yeah, George, don't do that to me!

D So what's happenin with your CD, how'd that come about?

B Well, I was, you know livin in DC and put this trio together, I
started out just kinda sittin in with Danny Gattons' rhythm section and the
next thing I know, I'm in a trio you know, and we're singing all this, all my
favorite hillbilly tunes and writin' em, and rockabilly and what not. We
made a CD and put it out initially on Demon in the UK., which is owned by
Nick Lowes' people, you know, Elvis Costello, he's got a piece of it, my
friends from that world, and then we released it on Blacktop here in the
states so here I am. I think I'm the affirmative action hillbilly band.

D I was listenin to that CD, I got a copy of it from Harold (Bills'
brother), the first cut is western swing, then a truck drivin tune, then you
got a weeper, "Fool On A Stool"

B Right right, that's a Blackie Farell song

D That's a great tune. Then you play honky-tonk, "Johnny Horton", then
some pop sort of stuff and a Nick Lowe tune and a couple of original songs,
so you cover alot of ground on there

B Yeah there's one swamp pop tune in there. We got "Think It Over" a
couple of Jimmy Donnely swamp pops, "Lovin' Cajun Style",

D So you cover alot of ground and it's real fun, a real fun CD

B Well, it grew out of the fact that I'm playin', I'm playin' three
sets a night alot, you know, my criteria for a song, if I'm gonna do a song
I halfta, A) like it, and B) know at least a verse of the chorus. Other than
that I'm pretty loose about it.

Lots of laughter

B To me it's all fits together. To someone else maybe it doesn't and the
problem does arise when you try to say what it is. I mean, I'm hesitant to call
it country music because I think today country music means something a little
bit different than it did when I was thrilling to it, what really spoke to me
when I first got into it 20-25 years ago. To me it sounds a little bit
different, and modern country music doesn't particularly, alot of it doesn't
particularly speak to me, it reminds me more of 70s rock-n-roll which I was
kinda tryin to pull away from, and that's fine, that's cool, it's just a
different thing. So to me this all fits together, to me it's you know, I hate
to use, it's overused but, "Roots" music, I've taken to callin' it hillbilly
music, which is probably a little bit of a caricature. It's really not just
that.

D Well I think the term "Hillbilly" music describes a wider genre than
it used to

B RIGHT!.

D Forty-fifty years ago, or even thirty years ago when you said
"Hillbilly"

B You were talkin banjo's and overalls, straw hats

D: Yeah, someone like Gid Tanner or somebody. I guess doing bars like
you do, you have to have a wider repertoire of music, as it's a lot different
from a concert situation.

B: Well that's a good point, it is driven by me trying to entertain. I
don't think of it has having an artistic vision that I'm trying to make these
people understand, mostly we're just trying to have a good time.

D: And that's evidenced by a couple of those pictures I saw in your
promotional package!

B: Well that one shot where my hair is all sticking up - I only look that
good for about a sixth of a second every five years, and there happened to be
a photographer there. I was playing at "La Zona Rosa", which is Marcia Balls'
club and I guess I had thrown my head back and was hollering about something.
I think we were doing "Rock-a-billy Funeral" and I was acting out something.

D Well, I know when I was listening to your CD I thought, the same thing
I liked about Commander Cody and your band The Moonlighters, was that it was
real fun. A real good time, entertaining oriented. I remember seeing The
Moonlighters play out there on U.S.23, and you guys went through the crowd
and had every body jumpin up and down, that was alot of fun!

B Oh yeah sure. That was the late 70s wasn't it?

D Yeah. I don't hear that alot in music these days where it's just a
genuine good time. I talked to people who saw the show last night and they
said it really was a good time.

B Yeah it was! Nick's great, he's wonderful to work with and he's a
real generous guy on and off stage and that's cool.

D Oh, did he buy lunch today? yuk yuk yuk

B No I think he slept in. I had to buy lunch today

D Back to that CD. How did you get Buddy Charleton to play on that?

B Well, I'm down there in Fredricksburg,, and I'm recording part of it
at studio called, "Wally Clevers'", this is Fredricksburg Virginia. Not, you
know, an hour and a half from DC. I live in the DC environs. I live in southern
Maryland, that's like southern Virginia on the other side of the Potomac. So,
we were looking for a steel player, and the guy says', "Lets get Buddy
Charleton", and I went "Whoa!, where would we find him?", and the guy says,
"He's right over there". He's like, a couple of doors away practically. So we
brought him in. Buddy lives in Fredricksburg, he doesn't... for instance, the
guy who recorded this for me was in Mary Chapin Carpenter's first band and did
alot of her original demo's, and they offered Buddy the gig of touring with
them and he, as the story has it, turned them down because he didn't want to
be bothered to join the Musicians union, evidently he's done it. You know he
was in the Troubadours for at least 12-15 years and they must have played 375
dates a year with that band. He does fine, he teaches and, have you seen him
at the steel guitar convention?

D Well that's one reason I asked, because he wasn't there, well at
least he wasn't on stage playing and because they didn't make mention that he
was there...

B I guess he likes to stay at home. I guess he's one of the guy's who's
over being on the road

D Yeah, I love those twin guitar duets you guys do on -Bottle Baby Boogie-

B Oh man that's fun

D Now is that an old Billy Jack Wills tune?

B I don't know. I learned it on an old Bob Wills record. I think I may
have heard it once on a Buddy Emmons record. I'm not positive about that.
I've got it on a Bob Wills record. That' where I first heard it

D It was good to hear you open things up with those real fun twin leads

insert song from CD, TOMBSTONE EVERY MILE---Bottle Baby Boogie---

D Are you getting any radio play on contemporary radio stations?

B There's an Americana chart now which is a chart with root's
rock-n-roll and country music that's other than Garth Brooks. It's country
music with people who don't have hockey player haircuts. I'm on that chart
now and it's the second week it's been out. It's a chart on the Gavin
report. It's got some real alternative stations reporting, some mainstream
country, progressive country stations who report in Americana chart also.
They do SOME programming in that direction but probably also play mainstream
country, I guess some others that you would consider "Alternative" country.
So that's cool 'cause the first week the charts came out, of the four most
added records, one was Nick Lowe's which was the most added, there was a
couple of others' and mine was up there. It's neat to be involved in that.
Apparently they've come up with a chart that describes what I'm up to.

D Well there's so much music that's not being played on the radio at all.
Our show, The Down Home Show, we play music you are not going to hear any
where else on the radio.

B I don't think you can hear Merle haggard on the radio

D No you can't, and that's a shame

B Yeah, one of the greatest American songwriter/musicians

D Did you know that he was the first country music guitar player to be
featured on the cover of Down Beat magazine.

B Is that right? No kiddin

D O.K. so let's talk about the old days in Ann Arbor

B OOOOOHHHH KAAAAYYYY, I'll try and remember

D Well, I've been tryin to document a story for our program guide about
the evolution of country music in Ann Arbor. I was talkin to Danny Erlewhine
(Guitar guru and writer for guitar player magazine),who said that his band,
"The Jewel Tones" was the first real country band in town, and they played out
at a place called, "The Town And Country" bar, in Taylor!.

B Yeah, and you see, I didn't even know about that, it was before my
time. I think he played with Jack Molete, who ended up in the Troubadours
with Buddy Charleton

D Right, and then Mark O'boyle, Dan's brother in-law ended up playin
steel guitar with Jack Molete in 1980. Danny was sayin that until 1966-67
when the "Jewel Tones" got goin, after the "Prime Movers" broke up, that
there was no country music in Ann Arbor. There was the Hootenanny type of
stuff going on at the Canterbury house

B No. There was none, and I didn't even know about him. In other words,
when we were playin country music with Cody in 68, I guess it started in 68,
we didn't know of any precedent for that. We were finding these records in
the music section at K-Mart for a buck 99 and

D What records were you finding?

B We found a Bob Wills record, only because there was a great graphic,
a full head shot of Bob Wills in a cowboy hat with a huge toothy grin on his
face, yuk, yuk, yuk, so we bought it for the cover and went wwwooowww, this
was the 60s

D Well you guys were like 18 or something right?

B Or something...Younger than that mentally. One of the guys in the
band, John Tichy, was a frat buddy of George's, (Cody), and John was from
Plymouth Michigan. He actually knew people who liked country music. Hey man,
I never even heard of the stuff, I knew Bluegrass. I knew what ever was
accepted by the folkies. For some reason they drew the line at country music,
which I think was a huge mistake. Anyway, that's the way it worked. So we
were gettin Buck Owens, and at this time, it was a great period for Buck
And Merle and Bakersfield country. They were still recording the most
screamingly cool honky-tonk records. Bob Wills and that stuff. You know, some
Wynn Stewart, a bunch of Hank Williams and rock-a-billy,

D George Jones?

B Oh yeah, and Webb Pierce, all that stuff. We learned, Hot Rod Lincoln,
AND Smoke That Cigarette, off of the same Harmony cheapie by Johnny Bond. It
was a Johnny Bond harmony record called "Greatest Hits", AND there was a song
that was called something like, Won't You Put Me To Bed, that we cannibalized
and made into, Rock That Boogie, or something. We mined that vein pretty hard.

D It seemed that country music was pretty big in Detroit at that time,
as it had been from the fifties and before. There was a lot of honky-tonk,
western swing and especially bluegrass. There were radio, and television
programs, like barn dances, but there was NO country music in Ann Arbor. Then
you hook up with George and Billy C., and here comes country music wrapped
around rhythm and blues and truck drivin songs. That first record you did,
the whole first side was hard C&W

B That's right. Hard core

D You even got that Willie Nelson cover (Family Bible). Side two is
really unbelievable because it's rock-a-billy, rhythm-n-blues and boogie woogie

B I never noticed that. Is that how we organized that. Do you think we
did that intentionally? I don't even remember.

D I want to get to that gig at Hill Auditorium. From what I've heard,
you guys had been barnstorming the area pretty strong, were you playing
Detroit and other college towns?

B I'm not sure if Russ Gibb was still promoting in Detroit or not.
Maybe we'd play the Eastowne Ballroom or something, maybe the Grande was
still going I don't remember. We were on the road at that point. We would
leave California and come home and play The Canterbury House or Hill
Auditorium

D So you went to California what, 69' or 70' ?

B No, I went in 68'. I talked the rest of the band to come out in 69'

D Cause the gig at Hill Auditorium in 71' was set up to record the
whole gig, and only one cut from that gig ended up on that first album

B Oh, so the record wasn't out. You're right. Yeah, it was Beat Me
Daddy Eight To The Bar.

D Yeah, Beat Me Daddy came out, and it was recorded at that gig and I
was wondering what happened to the rest of that recording?

B Man, that's a very good question. Well you know, it was pretty loose
back then, and when you listen to tapes in the cold light of day of what we
had done in our wild moments the night before, you really didn't want to save
em for posterity. It was like, if you were there, fine, if you weren't
there you missed it. We weren't the most cautious, thoughtful people in those
days. What happened at that gig, I know what you're referring to, you can hear
shouts of, "sexist pig", in the background during that recording. What had
happened was, the interesting thing was, I didn't know this was going on, but
we were talking earlier about the experimental film scene in Ann Arbor.
Someone had made a movie, I can't remember who

D From what I've heard it was Pat Alezko, who made a film called,
"Trucker's Fantasy"

B Right, and it had a nude woman riding on the dashboard of a semi, and
we didn't even know this was going on. So, much to my surprise, a bunch of
women came on stage at Hill Auditorium and stopped the show. I later found
out why, that it was offensive to them. It was just sort of, those were
the times. I mean, it was a cool thing for them to do back then. I'm glad
they came up and stopped the show. Nothing horrible happened. They made that
point, and pretty soon the show continued. But you can hear in the background
of Beat Me Daddy, SEXIST PIG!, along with some feedback and other extraneous
noise. yuk yuk yuk

D Yeah man. There's a great sequence of solo's on that song called one
after the other by the great, Billy C. From the Creeper on steel, to Andy
Stein on Sax, you on trombone, Billy C blowin a great harp, to Buffalo Bruce
Barlow on bass and Cody on piano, it's quite a mixture!

insert songs from albums, LOST IN THE OZONE---Beat Me Daddy Eight To
The Bar,-Daddy's Gonna Treat You Right. Country Casanova, Smoke That Cigarette

D Steve Newhouse was playin in a band, Buddies In The Saddle, with Lisa
Silver, no Lisa Silver was in another band

B It was probably Lorna Richards

D O.K. so you do this gig and you go out on the road. When do you meet
Asleep At The Wheel? In the Asleep At The Wheel, Tribute To Bob Wills CD,
that just came out, Ray

B It's a great record, fabulous

D Yeah it's great. It's unbelievable to hear Garth Brooks sing, Deep
Water. He does a really fine job

B Yeah he does a fine job

D Ray does a fine job producing that disc. In the liner notes he gives
you guys credit for helpin 'em out. You know, the help, or direction that the
Lost Planet Airmen gave them.

B Well, I met them first. Both he and Rueben "Lucky Oceans" Gosfield
were at Antioch college in Yellow Springs Ohio.

D That's where Rod Serling went to college was Antioch

B Really? I didn't know that. yuk yuk yuk. So we did a gig, and I think
the opening act was, Ed Chicken And The French Fries, laughter and a long
pause, so anyway, there was Ray, and Lucky Oceans had a blues radio show on
college radio and he was learning steel guitar and simultaneously
discovering old country music and we were kind of a notch ahead of 'em, and
what happened was they moved to Paw Paw West Virginia and they set us up with
a gig in DC at a club called, The Emergency Room, which we played in
71 or 72. We in turn invited them out to California, and we used to put them
up. We had some old houses we lived in and we'd go on the road and they'd
stay at our house. And when we'd come back from the road they'd stay in the
chicken shack out back you know, so we kinda put 'em up and got 'em going.
And this was around the same time, The Boogie Brothers, with Johnny Nicholas,
Franny Christina, and Steve Nardella came out, so there was a kind of cool
scene in California that we were already firmly established in. Then pretty
soon they got their own legs and moved on to Austin maybe in 73, I don't know
when they moved to Austin, but right around the early 70s

D Yeah their first record was 73, the, "Comin Right At Ya", record. A
real good record

B Andy Stein our fiddle player played on that

D Yeah what a player! Let's talk about the Hot Licks And Cold Steel
record. Man that's a fine record!.

B Yeah! I like that too! It was straight up. It was recorded on a four
track. Bobby black our steel player...

D How'd you hook up with him?. When you went to Nashville, you hooked
up with Hoyt Axton or something in 72 or so?

B No no no. We met Hoyt in California. But before we met Hoyt, the
Creeper had quit the band

D Who is this guy the "Creeper"?

B Oh he's this Ann Arbor guy Steve Davis, the West Virginia Creeper. He
played bass in the frat bands that George and Tichy had, and so he learned
steel for the occasion. We get to California, and we were going down to this
club in San Jose called "Cow Town". We'd go down and win the talent contest
and make fifty bucks or a hundred bucks or whatever. Andy Stein went down
there a couple of times and played Orange Blossom Special. So he comes back
one time and say's "listen, there's this steel player you won't believe down
there", and it was Bobby. Bobby was a generation older than us. Bobby had
learned steel in the late 40s, and had a letter that Jerry Byrd had sent him
explaining how he played steel back in 48 or something. But he had followed
Jerry Byrd around from the Louisiana Hayride to the Barn dance in Chicago or
something. And Bobby had played in the Cherokee Cowboys before it was Ray
Price's band, when it was still a regional band in Texas, and moved with his
brother Larry to California and played in the 50s and was heavily influenced
by the west coast country scene which was really big at that time. I don't
know what his history was, or if he worked at that time with Cliffie Stone,
or if that was before his time, but any rate, Bobby was there and he was a
fully formed, fabulous musician at the time. In retrospect, I wish I paid
closer attention to what he was doing. I still think he was one of the best
musicians I've ever worked with.

D Boy his licks just JUMP right off that album at you. Especially in
the Terry Fell classic Truck Drivin Man

B Oh yeah! He just screams man!

insert song from, HOT LICKS, COLD AND TRUCKER'S FAVORITES-----
Truck Drivin Man

B Man he screams! Well he and his brother had a four-track studio

D You recorded that on a four track?

B Yeah yuk, yuk,yuk

D Now, you wrote Semi-Truck right?

B Yeah I did

D I remember I was in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1975, and I heard a 45 that was
out, I think it was Mama Hated Diesel's and the flip side was either
Semi-Truck, or, Lookin At The World Through A Windshield. It was on a juke
box in a truck stop and I remember play in that and thinkin about Ann
Arbor. It was really crazy 'cause Tulsa Oklahoma at that time was not, if you
had long hair...

B Was not "hippie friendly"

D Yeah, not at all yuk, yuk, yuk. How were you guys perceived in the
world of country music?. Here you've got Hot Rod Lincoln on the charts, and
you're doing these hard C&W ballads and truck-drivin songs..

B Well, we were quite a sight I think. We were into being the
"long-haired bad boys of country music", so it was the kind of thing where at
first we were sort of a novelty, but then people who liked "Real" country
music would by and large dig what we were up to, so it was kind of like, "hey
these boys are allright".

D You were country, but you also had saxophone and trombone almost like
the western swing style of the old days

B We went down and played the DJ's convention in Nashville and that was
always world's in collision, and finally we ran ourselves out of country
music. On the third album we recorded a song that we learned from the Modern
Mountaineer's record that I think we took credit for writing, but we didn't.
It's called "Everybody's Doin It Now", and it has the "F" word about 83 times.
And the other thing, I don't know if this was intentional or if this was an
accident, I suspect it was just an accident, but Paramount records, our label
at the time, put a sticker on the label that said "side A, cut 3 not suitable
for airplay". Now, they blew that and the song that they listed, if you look
to see what "A 3" was, that was a gospel song

D Oh, that was "Shall We Meet" from Country Casanova

B Exactly. So the song with the bad language went un-protected so to
speak, chuckle chuckle, and I remember Jim Fogelsong who was the head of DOT
records at the time, Paramounts' country subsidiary, 'cause all our singles
were released on DOT, he wrote us a letter that started "Gentlemen, we
have a serious problem here".

insert song -Country Casanova, Everybody's Doin It Now--

B At that point we were through in Nashville. I mean they didn't really,
it was too early for that, there wasn't any, "Outlaw" scene. Nobody had long
hair

D Well that was right when Willie Nelson had moved out to Austin out of
Nashville

B Wasn't he still in Nashville?

D He moved out in 71'. I think Charlie Pride was the #1 male singer in
country music 71-72-73, and this was at the time when Conway Twitty was at his
Honky-Tonk finest!

B Yeah he was fabulous

D And when you look at the history of Nashville...

B Well in all fairness to them, we were trying to be the "bad boys", and
we succeeded. It's not like we had a higher moral ground that wasn't accepted.
I mean we were in their face

D But your music was country all the way. Real fun stuff. So then you
go down to Austin and cut the live one which is truly an outstanding record,
with, Seeds And Stems, and The Sunset On The Sage, which is a very pretty
song. You sing that.

B Yeah that is a pretty song (smiling) That was written by an Ann
Arborite named Mike Richards.

D No kiddin, well allright. And that's where the classic version of
"Too Much Fun" comes out with those great lyrics, "Stole a car drove to
Kalamazoo, met a girl she was ugly too". yuk, yuk, yuk

B You know, I don't sing that line anymore, I can't bring myself to,
I guess I'm ugly enough, chuckle chuckle, I can't sing that. It's like,
"Look who's talkin"

D It's so raucous. It's 100% male...

B IDIOT SONG! hahahaha, somebody with testerone poisoning essentially
out there! hahahaha

insert songs from, From Deep In The Heart Of Texas-Too Much Fun---
Down To Seeds And Stems Again---Sunset On The Sage---

D Is any of this stuff being re-issued?

B A lot of it. MCA I believe owns it

D Do you ever see Cody or the guys

B Yeah I see George

D He's been through here a couple of times in the last three or four
years with a real wild outfit. I guess him and Billy C. are...

B I guess their not together anymore. There was talk of a re-union in
Austin about a month ago. It kind of just blew up for a variety of reasons.
I don't think...once again, no comment. I'm not too un-happy about it. You
know, if you got that band back together now, it might not rock, what if it
didn't rock, what a drag!

D A potential for let down

B It really is a heavy potential for let down. I think re-living youth
is fine on an individual basis, but it doesn't sometimes work when you try
and take it to the bank or re-present it so...I'm just as happy to leave that
alone. I have very fond memories and I don't want to mess with my memories.
And if my memories are skewed, as I'm sure they are...

D Well it's like Louis Bunuel said, " Between your memories, dreams,
desires and regrets, who is certain of what really happens?".

B Yeah. You know a good example of that is, people will come up to me
and they will tell me about double bills they saw. A lot of times they'll be
something that cronologically were impossible. For instance, no way did
Commander Cody and Jimmi Hendrix share a stage, but I've had people tell me,
EARNESTLY, about these shows, and I've come to realize that in this person's
mind this show exists, so why bother? What's for me to say that it didn't you
know. I know it never happened in my time frame ha hah hah ha. It doesn't do
me any good to go, "Hey you're wrong!". It's like if someone comes up to you
and say's they really enjoyed a show you guys were great, the last thing I
wanna say is, "Oh no we weren't".

D Let's jump back so I can ask you about Ernie Hagar.

B Well, Bobby left for awhile and decided to pursue Nashville. Bobby
was older than us and I used to think, man he's got a teen-age son and we're
doing stuff that he'd put his son on restriction for. He was not a... He was
a straight arrow. He had to put up with some...I remember a story. We played
in New York at the Academy of Music, which is maybe five thousand people
whatever. The first big gig he did with us, and we, I think we got to drunk
to play is what happened. So the first big gig he does with us, Bobby
Black gets up on stage with us, a bunch of idiots. He described walking the
streets of New York that night thinking, "What have I done, what have I done!
I've thrown my lot in with a bunch of knuckleheads"., which he had. So at one
point he left and decided to pursue a straight up Nashville career. That was
the period of time we got Ernie Hagar, also an older guy who had played steel
a long time. Interestingly enough, Bobby's main influence was Jerry Byrd,
Ernie's influence was Speedy West. Two of the original no-pedal, steel players
there. We had the two camps represented. So Ernie's on that one record, that
Warner Brothers record.

D There's a beautiful steel guitar sound on that record. The song,
California Oakie, which was written by Blackie Farrell, and The Devil In me,
which was written by George and John Tichy wrote, are outstanding ballads with
gorgeous steel guitar.

B You know more about this stuff than I do ha ha hahaha. I'd forgotten
about these songs, going, "Yeah that's right.

D I'm the TWO O'CLOCK COWBOY MAN. I love those songs, and, Mama
Hated Diesels, or the later stuff in England with Norton Buffalo,
Eighteen Wheels! Man that's a hot song!!!

B That's a steaming track!!

insert songs from---We Got A Live One, Eighteen Wheels--
1974 Warner Bros., Devil In Me

D I had never heard of Ernie Hagar before, and when I went down to the
Steel Guitar Convention last year I had a chance to talk to Speedy West for
about 45min one night

B Does he remember Ernie?

D I didn't ask him cause I didn't know. But when I go back next year
I'll ask him. Speedy is just a TREMENDOUS guy. A real swell fellow. he can't
play 'cause he had a stroke.

B He's a real sweetheart!. Doesn't he sit on stage and cry when Jimmy
Day plays'?

D Actually, well, he went up to a guy named, Herbie Wallace, who played
steel for Dolly Parton, and put a brown bag over his head. The guy is playin'
steel and right in the middle of a chord, Speedy comes up and puts a bag over
his head. And they love it. They love it.

B That's great!. That gives me some ideas for the Nick Lowe Show!!!

D So when you went to London, is that when you met some of these guys?.

B I met Nick back then although neither one of us had hard, firm
recollections of it. We ran into another guy in Brimsley Schwartz, Ian Gom on
this last English tour. He lives in Wales, and Ian remembers more about the
encounter. We met at a club in London and went over to Brimsley's house and
jammed. That's how I met Nick. My connection with him was really through a
guy named Austin DeLone, a guy I played with in the Moonlighters, and he later
ended up playing keyboard in the T-Birds a while ago. Audie had had a band
called, Egs Over Easy, that was in London in the late 60s. He was credited
with starting the British "Pub Rock" movement. Before Nick had a band together
he used to go and see Audie and Eggs Over Easy. I had the Moonlighters
together with Audie and we sent Nick a tape and he ended up inviting us to
come to England and he would produce our record, which he did. He produced
the Moonlighters' record, Rush Hour.

D So the Moonlighters' tour was after your tour with Cody?

B That's right. Yeah. I went to London a bunch of times with Cody over
the years. Lots.

D So when did the Moonlighters' come out?

B The first album on Amherst with the seven piece band, that was in the
late 70s

D Yeah, with Steve Fischell. That had Durango, which is a lot like
what's being played now except it's got more soul to it. You know, saxophones.

B Yeah. More of an R&B component

D Right. And I think that's what's missing from a lot of this stuff
called, "Young Country". It just doesn't have a lot of soul to it

B Right right. It's like ROCQ. Not Rock-n-Roll so much as ROCQ

D Yeah, with heavy emphasis on a bass and bass drum line. Thumpa, thumpa,
thumpa. So when you started the Moonlighters' you broke out of Cody or what?

B Yeah. Iwas literally "moonlighting" from them at one point. But you
know, the writing was on the wall. I think the first gig we got was backing
up Lily Tomlin who had just been in the movie, Nashville, and had developed
a country persona called, Wanda V. Wilford. She would open up for the Lily
Tomlin comedy show as Wanda V. Wilford and we got the job backing her up. I
really started the Moonlighters' to back up Blackie Farrell. The guy who
wrote, Mama Hated Diesels, California Oakie, Connie, Tina Louise, on up
through Rock-a-billy Funeral. He was a buddy of mine in California. He's this
guy, this California cowboy. A great old American original. You know he'd
grown up in the hills behind Berkeley and so had kind of hung there. Hung
with the horses and hung with the hippies too. A great guy! A great writer!
He was just getting into song writing when I met him. We both liked Hank
Williams and Merle Haggard. He's just my buddy, he's still out there, and i
still talk to him every month. He's still in the canyon.

D I think it would be interesting to do an album of just his songs.

B I'd love to do it. One day I will.

D Like George Jones did an album of Dallas Frazier songs, or Leon Payne
songs

B Exactly. I'm looking forward to doing that sometime. I'm always the
guy to record that stuff. Every Cody album had one Blackie Farrell song on it.

insert songs from albums--1974 Warner Bros.,California Oakie,
Tombstone Every Mile,Fool On A Stool, Hot Licks Cold Steel And Truckers
Favorites, Mama Hated Diesels

D It's really great to see you out on the road man.

B Well thanks a lot. I'm glad you like the CD.

D Oh yeah, it's great!! First 'cause it's a lot of fun, and also
because you're a local guy, so we can all say, "Yeah, we knew him when..."

B Right! "We've seen him walk into walls" hah ha ha ha ha

D It's a pretty demanding life: touring, writing songs etc...

B I've always been a pretty down-stream kind of guy. All of a sudden
I'll wake up and say, (scratchinh his head)"say, I appear to be in a band". I
didn't set out to be fronting a trio, it just worked out that way.
Incidentally, you know how I got started before, I wanted to get this on tape.
The way I got started in this whole fretted instrument thing, I was going to
Interlochen Michigan national music camp, and my counselor, my cabin counselor
for keeping all us young boys out of trubble in the cabin was, Dave Siglin. he
was maybe in his early twenties back then, maybe late teens, I don't know.
This was about 1962, and he played twelve string guitar and sang, god, who
knows what he sang, maybe, Lemmon Tree, Micheal Row The Boat Ashore, or
whatever. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life and I
think I could imagine, maybe I could be meeting girls if I did something like
this. yuk yuk yuk. Of course Dave Siglin runs the Ark, the longest existing
folk venue in the USSA That's really the reason I started. In the early 60s.
Right around the "folk scare" of the early 60s. I went home and my mom had a
five string banjo in the attic from an earlier banjo craze, I got her banjo
out and took it down to Herb David's, which was down on State street and had
him fix it up for me.

D So you went from the trombone to the guitar because of Dave Siglins'
influence. That's great.

B Yeah, and that was the times too of course, you know. I wanted to
have more fun than I was having.

D So what was it like in 1963 Ann Arbor?

B It was fabulous. When I was in high school I'd go over to the
building that housed the University Of Michigan Folklore Society. People
would sit around and play John Hurt songs and all the old white folk stuff
as well.

D Like Buel Kaise and all that?

B Yeah, buck dancers choice and all that. So I would learn from them.
They also brought Bloomfield to town before he hooked up with Butterfield.
This was 64 or so. I remember seeing them up in the Michigan Union.

D Where did you guys play around town? I know from talking to Haven,
who did lights and sound at the 5TH Dimension, that there were quite a few
places to play in back then.

B I used to go downtown and rent the West Park bandshell. You could
rent it for like two bucks or something, until they found out that you were'nt
a marching band hah hah hahaha. My parents would come and sit way up in the
back. It probably wasn't loud by today's standards. I was too young to go
into the bars before I joined Cody, so I didn't know what kind of a scene
there was.

D No country traveled through town until Buddy Jack And Ned Duke opened
Mr. Floods Party. I've got a poster from when the Wheel played there in like
72 or something.

B Oh yeah, Mr. Floods. It was our big thing when we were traveling
across country on I80 was, where are we and can we make last call at Floods!?
O.K. we're in Lawrence Kansas and it's noon, can we... hahahahahaa

D So what's next?

B Well I'm going to finish this tour with Nick. We're going to do
Scandinavia and Germany, so that's a couple of weeks there. By mid-April I
guess. Then i'll be back in the DC area playing with my band. And I've gotta
make a new Cd. I was just talkin about that with Mindy and Heather from
Black Top. I'm definitely gonna do it on Black Top, and definitely this summer.

D Any plans for taking the three piece on the road?

B I was gonna do that right now but the Nick Lowe tour came up instead,
and I decided to use that to promote my album. He gives me a spot on the show.
I've been talkin to club owners as I go through different places. So I assume
some time this summer though I can't promise you that.

D So if we're out in Washington DC,

B Here's what you do. Drop me a line at Box 525 Maryland 20736 and I'll
put you on the mailing list. Otherwise, I've got a gig every Thursday at The
Sunset Grill, in Annondale, inside the beltway on the Virginia side. It's a
great country scene. I play in a club that I think Marvin Rainwater played
in.

D Oh. I love Kitty Wells' version of I'm Gonna Find Me A Blue Bird. OK,
right now I'm gonna play you a song that I don't know if you've heard or not,
it's by a guy named, Stompin' Tom Connors

B Oh the spuds are big on the backa my rig hahahahahahahahahaha

D So you're hip to Bud The Spud?

B Is that the same song you're gonna play me? is that what it's called?

D Yea buddy!

Loud Guffaws

B Let's hear Bud The Spud

insert songs---Bud The Spud, from Stompin Tom Connors
Nitro Express, Red Simpson, I'm A Truck
Semi Truck, Hot Licks Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites

D I wasn't sure if the legend of Tom Connors had...

B Are you kidding! Oh man!!!Stompin Tom!! A friend of mine up in
Saleneka, New York was watching Canadian t.v. at three in the morning and
he heard that song and bolted upright with bulging eyes, and taped it for me
but I guess I lost it.

D I had to play that for ya

B Oh man, I may have to do that song!! See if you can tighten me up
with that song will ya Dan? It might be just what it takes to push me over
the top! I'll hitch my wagon to the shooting star of Stompin Tom

D Hey Bill, it's been great, thanks a lot man.

B Thanks Dan. It's nice to be back in town. Now turn that thing off and
let's talk!!

So ends my talk with Diesel Bill Kirchen

If you have taken the time to read this, and get a chance to see ol
Bill, tell him about the interview and ask him some more questions. Like, "Hey
Bill, you doin Bud The Spud yet?" I know I will. Thanks for reading!!
http://www.wcbn.org/downhome/dan/billkirchen.html
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