News From The Woods - May, 1990


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published May, 1990

"Gotta' Keep Writing! Gotta' Keep Writing!"

Every time Nightflying's illustrious publisher (who doubles as delivery boy) comes through Mountain Home, it's usually two or three in the A. M. and we never get to see him. He does, however, leave "love notes" bundled in a parcel of new issues at the studio's front door. I only wish I could reprint some of his choice tidbits, but good taste would suggest that I refrain from such activities. Let's just say that they get a little nastier each issue.

Nasty?? Whatever for?!?

Well, to be honest about it, I must admit that I DID sort of promise to "occasionally" submit henscratching of my own design to Mr. Read's publication and I have been grossly deviating from those duties. To make matters worse, I've even used all of my good excuses:
I've been busy
The typewriter broke
Are there 30 days in this month?
I've been sick
The cat ate my manuscript
Susan didn't approve of it
I'm thinking of a GOOD one
I have an idea for the series
150,000 readers isn't good enough
The studio flooded . . again!
I've been out of town all month
Spectrum wants me (uh huh, yeah)

You get the idea. Oh well - a Boyd in the hand is worth a Burger in the Busch, or something like that......

Being a typical musician-type (you know what procrastinators we are), I rarely get more than half an hour at a time to sit down and ponder my list of "things to do". My BIG problem is that I have let so much time slip by that my mind boggles at trying to bring anyone up to date on what we've been up to.

One of the most noteworthy events that comes to mind is the near completion of another M. R. Keck project. Anyone who listens to Marc Turner on KABF will recall the first M. R. Keck album, Dalte Kizer. I've heard Marc play "1984" and "Thin Lines" from the LP, which was released in 1984, naturally. That session took almost a year to record. It was one of the first 8-track sessions we did and it still holds up pretty well. This new project, tentatively titled Whiplash Gumbo, has been two and a half years in the making and features a list of contributing performers that Warner Brothers would be envious of. It boasts no less than thirteen cuts and clocks in at over an hour. I have decided to write an accounting of this entire project which will appear very soon right here in Nightflying. (No really, I mean it - really!)

Also, while it's on my mind, I want to say "Hi" to John Hudgens. I keep seeing him on those "Ernest" clone TV spots selling pickup trucks around Little Rock. Many moons ago when I was still a DJ in Fort Smith our paths crossed, but I lost track of him. Then last summer John Davies called me up and asked if I wanted to do a gig here in Mountain Home for a private party on the Lake Norfork ferry. I'd be playing drums, Davies said, with JD on bass and Jerry Sallings on guitar backing up "some guy named John." No rehearsal. I never met the "guy" until I was lugging my kit down the ramp to the ferry boat.

You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw the "guy". We just looked at each other and said "Hey! I remember you." Hudgens played guitar while his son handled the keyboard parts. What a scream! We played songs (or parts of them) I hadn't played for 25 years! I mean, there we were, cruisin' down lake Norfork on the old ferry - a warm summer night - the moon's up and the crowd's bombed. Hudgens is jumping up and down doing Pete Townsend windmills to 96 Tears, Twist and Shout, Satisfaction, and Wooly Bully anything we could think of, we did! No responsibilities except to entertain the party goers. If JH only knew one verse, we'd do it over and over until someone thought of another verse. And why worry about ending songs? Just make a 45-minute medley out of 'em!!!

Our son John was with me and at one point he couldn't stand it anymore (I guess he figured ANYONE can do this) so he grabbed a tambourine and joined right in on the choruses he was familiar with. His first "pro" gig!!!

About midnight a ski boat pulled up next to us as we made our way back toward the landing. They matched our speed and proceeded to boogie down in the middle of the boat. Maybe you had to have been there, but it was one of those nights you don't forget. It's been a long time since I didn't have to worry about arrangements. Every time Hudgens would launch into yet another "gem" we would just laugh and jump in somewhere. Thanks fellas, for letting me blow out the cobwebs! If I hadn't made a penny it still would have been worth every minute of it.

Y'know it's a shame that the music business has developed to the point that songs and bands have to be so "polished". With everything being so calculated some of that excitement is lost. Granted, a good arrangement can make a performance shine, but it still takes killer lyrics, savvy musicians, and a comfortable and qualified studio to produce the goods.

Right now one of the biggest and most controversial issues facing the industry is the increasing popularity of "home studio" enviroments. With the aid of multi-track sequencers, mid-priced samplers, and sophisticated drum computers it seems anyone who has a little money (or credit) can set themselves up pretty good. Many "middle class" studios are starting to hurt and in California someone is trying to curb the trend by finding loopholes in city regulations concerning residential and business zonings.

No one knows exactly how that issue will turn out, but it is putting pressure on the recording industry everywhere. Good! Maybe it will cause musicians to really consider where they will record when they DO get their pre-production ideas mapped out. The true test is STILL what happens in the studio. Tracks and gear help, but it takes more than that to make the "Magic" happen.

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