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James R. Stout

          Welcome to "My Musical Journey".  Each entry will be about a particular song that I have written and will feature a link to listen to a recording of the song. I will provide pertinent facts and information of how the song was written and recorded. Each song will be one of my songs that I feel is important to my development as a singer-songwriter. Thank you for checking out my musical journey and I hope that you enjoy the trip! To listen to any and all of the songs listed in My Musical Journey just click on https://soundcloud.com/jrsojourn

245

            When I was a small child there was a TV series called “Peter Gunn”. It was probably more famous for the Henry Mancini theme and soundtrack than anything else. Every time the theme song would be played on the radio (it was a hit record) my father would say, “There’s the theme to Peter Pistol”. The song would gain new life 20 years later when it was used throughout the movie “The Blues Brothers”. I remembered seeing Henry Mancini in an interview and that song was discussed. Mancini said that his intention was to use a repeating musical phrase for 3 minutes and keep it interesting by adding instruments along the way. I thought that was a cool idea.

            Fast forward to 2009. I remembered that interview and thought that I would give it a try myself. That’s how I came up with “245”. The title is also the length of the song – 2 minutes and 45 seconds. I had a Yamaha keyboard/synth that I was using quite a bit at the time. The first thing that that I did was come up with a repeating bass phrase matched to a drum loop. I literally played it for 3 minutes without modulating the key or having a separate verse and chorus. I opened the recording with a three-note phrase that I sort of lifted from the old children’s song, “Three Blind Mice”. But you have to listen close to catch it. I then added a Fender Rhodes electric piano and a tremolo guitar strummed on every 1st beat of the 4/4-time signature. After that, I added a choppy electric rhythm guitar and a phrase on the keyboard using a tight phaser modulation effect that I tweaked onboard. It really bumped it up. Finally, I added another electric guitar lead with a completely different phrase than anything else on the recording. Meanwhile, all of this was being added on top of that original repeating bass and drum loop.

            Well, I like it. It’s got a good beat and by adding the instruments and using different phrasing over the same bass and drum parts I kept it interesting. I had originally recorded 3 minutes worth with a long fade out, but I edited it down to 2:45. The recording itself was made on the 12-track Zoom digital recorder that I had at the time. I hope you like it.

He's A Fool (for foolin' you)

            Over the years I have written several “country” songs. country. They may not be twangy country, but they most definitely fit the genre better than any other. I always liked country songs that had a clever turn of a phrase. It was with this in mind that I wrote, “He’s A Fool (for foolin’ you)”. The song is not about anyone in real life. It’s just a story song. A guy is in love with a girl at work, but she’s in love with someone else and that someone else keeps cheating on her and making her cry. The guy singing the song is basically telling her that the other guy is a fool for fooling her. He ends up expressing his love for her, but the song doesn’t resolve that issue. That was on purpose. I like the song and I certainly think it could have been a hit country song of the early 80’s and perhaps even today.

            The recording of the song came about in March of 1984. I was using my 8-track Fostex reel-to-reel recorder. I’ve expressed in earlier posts how many problems I had with that recorder. It was lacking. But it was what I had. The recording was not mastered, and the volume was too low for anything but as a demo. I have never been happy with the lead guitar part. It’s weak and cheesy, but at the time I was considering the recording as a demo only. What I had in mind for that guitar part was a fiddle or mandolin or perhaps both. But I didn’t have either of those instruments and I don’t play the fiddle anyway. Considering all of this info, the recording now pleases me more than it did back then. I did transfer it to my DAW on the computer and applied some mastering effects to lift the volume and tweak the overall eq. The things that I like most about the recording are the acoustic guitar and my vocals. I double-tracked the vocal and it was at a time when I still had that “young” voice. I have long considered re-recording the song and may yet, but the song is a good song and the recording is not without merit. I hope you like it.

I Want To Be Your Hero

            It was November of 1997. My job required me to take 32 hours of continuing education a year. The classes were held at various places around the Houston area. The only times available for the classes that I needed were on Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. until 5 p.m. both days and for two weekends in a row. I managed to get through the classes and on the last Sunday I headed for home. It was about a 40-mile drive and it was already dark by the time I got on the road. As I drove along, I thought about the troubles between me and my wife. We had stopped communicating in the way that a couple should. She was unhappy and I was unhappy that she was unhappy. I remembered a time in our relationship when all I had to do was write a song for her and she would respond positively. I decided I needed to try that again. Perhaps I could say in a song what I couldn’t express verbally. So, driving on a Houston freeway in the dark I started to write a song for her.

            A melody came along, and I tapped out a rhythm on the steering wheel as I sang that the first verse. Within 20 minutes the song was complete. Verses and all. When I got home, she and the kids had gone out to eat and to buy groceries. I picked up my guitar and worked out the chords that went with the melody. By the time she got home, I had the song completed on the guitar. I told her that when she had a moment after putting away the groceries that I wanted to show her something. She didn’t act very enthused though. About 30 minutes later we went into our bedroom and I closed the door and picked up my guitar. We both sat on the bed as I sang the song to her. The lyrics were about as personal as I ever get in a song. You’ll have to listen to the recording to see what I mean. But the first verse pretty much set the tone:

            I wanna be your hero. I want to be your shining knight.

           I wanna be the one you come to, to set things right.

          I wanna kiss your eyes and wipe away your tears.

          I wanna be the one you come to with all your fears.

         Babe, I know I’m not Superman and the bank account is rather small.

        Just tell me is there a way I can in your eyes stand tall.

        When I finished singing the song, I looked at her and waited for a response. That’s when she looked at me and said, “That’s not gonna happen.”

        Well, despite her response I liked the song. Two years later as I was recording a CD called “Looking Back” I recorded this song for it. I was using the Yamaha MD8

8-track  multitracker and my Korg X-3 keyboard. I started with a couple of drum loops that I programmed by playing them out on the keyboard. It was then a matter of adding

some guitars, bass, and vocals. The guitar used was my ’56 Les Paul Gold Top reissue. I have always liked this song. To be honest, when I listen to the song, I don’t really

think about all of the stuff that inspired the song. It’s just a song to me now. After all, it’s been well over 20 years now and I am content with my life as it is. I hope you enjoy

the song and I hope that if you have a special someone in your life that you feel this kind of love for them. Thanks for listening.

           

(There's You) When I Get Home Tonight

            Before I get to this song, I thought I might answer a question that has been asked of me several times. The question is how I know exact dates of things like when I wrote a song. Well, that’s an easy one. First, let me say that without some fortunate forward thinking, I probably could at the least name the month and year when I wrote a song. But the reason that I know exact dates is because I started writing the date on the paper when I wrote a song. Prior to September 7, 1975 I had done this occasionally, but not on a regular basis. My memory is what I have to go on for most of the songs that I wrote prior to that date. If special events coincided with when I wrote a song, then I can pin those dates down. But starting with “Cry Me A Rainbow” I actually wrote the date on the sheet of paper. Its as simple as that.

            Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I know that I wrote “(There’s You) When I Get Home” on May 30,1979. It’s right there on the paper. Now, for the song itself. I had been using a picking style for awhile on other songs, but I used it on most of this song. I wrote the song on my 12-String Takemine that I had bought in November of 1975. I’ve said it before, that was one heck of a guitar. The best 12-string that I’ve ever owned. In those days of 1979, I worked downtown at a job that was essentially just a job. It was a family owned business and I wasn’t in the family. Translation, all the good jobs went to sons, in-laws, and cousins. I didn’t like the job, but it paid the bills. I worked at that company for 30 months starting in May of 1977. I also didn’t like the commute to and from work. I drove an old clunker with no A/C or heater and the traffic was always horrendous. Sitting in 100-degree heat with only the windows open was miserable. The same for 30 degree cold and rainy days. This was on my mind as I was staring at another hot summer. Also, in those days my wife and I were still young and in love. I wanted to be with her instead of being at that job or spending 2 hours a day commuting. I was 23 and she was 20.

            Well, I thought about all of this and I had a chorus for a song and an idea for the verses. I sat down that day and wrote the song. We were going to be going on a two-week vacation starting three days later. So, I was in a good mood. At first, the song starts off with a little whimsy.

            I’ll kiss you in the morning and say goodbye. For the life of my I don’t know why.

            I spend my day away from you and your smile.

            Every day it’s an endless race. I spend the hours going place to place.

            Never knowing what the reason is for my pace.

            The second line is kind of misleading until you hear the third line. Then I wrote the chorus. I think it’s a great chorus.

            But there’s you when I get home, no more dues when I get home,

            Just your arms to hold me through the night.

            And it’s you that I come to, when my day is finally through,

            And there’s you when I get home tonight.

            The second verse simply states how I felt most of the time back then. I was hoping for a break that would allow me to earn enough money so that we could live our lives with each other during the day. The vacation we were going on was in part an attempt to take a first step towards that dream. I was set to meet with several song publishers in Nashville and show them some demoes that I had made earlier that month. This being on my mind gave birth to the second verse.

            I keep on dreaming of the days to come when we won’t have to live this way.

            We’ll spend our days fulfilling all our dreams.

            I know it’s not too far from now and I feel that somehow.

            Until that day comes to us, I still know. (repeat chorus)

            I didn’t have time to record the song before we left for vacation, so it wasn’t going to be heard by the publishers. That may have been a mistake because looking back on it the song is better than most of the songs that I took with me. Sometime in late June, with long lines at the gas station due to some made-up shortage, I recorded the song at home on my humble reel-to-reel with “sound on sound”. I’ve explained how this machine worked in detail in earlier entries if you’re interested. I never recorded the song again. It’s one of many of my songs that I have planned on recording properly, but just haven’t done so. Maybe I’ll get it done someday. It’s certainly worthy of a polished recording. But what you can listen to is that one recording made nearly 41 years ago. What I like most about it is hearing my younger voice and the harmony on the chorus. The 12-string sounds good, but there’s too much echo on it. There’s only the vocals and a couple of guitars. I had kind of forgotten about the song for a long time, but about 6 years ago I transferred a great many of my old recordings to my computer and this was one of them. I hadn’t heard it in at least 30 years. I was surprised at how much I like the song when I heard it again. The only things that I did on the computer DAW was to clean up the recording a bit, apply some overall eq, and to give it a faux stereo due to the original recording was in mono. I really like it. I hope you do to.

You're Gonna Cry

            I wrote “You’re Gonna Cry” on May 31, 1983. I was trying to write a song that would have fit in the folk-rock genre of the mid to late 60’s. The song began life as an acoustic song. It’s not about anyone. It’s just another made-up song. I recorded the song the next March and while that version isn’t bad, it suffered from the recording set-up that I had at the time. I always liked the song a lot though. Fast forward to 2010. I was getting close to finishing my CD “Sojourn of Love”. With the exception of “Without Your Sweet Love” and “You’re Gonna Cry” all the other songs were written for the album itself. I needed another song to record and I thought of this one. I figured that I could update it and do a better job. So, I did.

            Although there is an acoustic guitar buried in the mix, the song is not an “acoustic” song. It may not be discernable to most people, but the rhythm guitars are a highbred. I recorded the first guitar using normal chords. But when I listened back to it, I felt that it needed something else. So, I used a capo on the third fret and then inverted the chords to play higher up on the frets. I also gave the rhythm a bit more syncopation. I composed some drum loops and synched them up and then added bass using my Fender Jaguar Bass. After recording the vocals, I experimented with a lead guitar, but it seemed to be coming off too strong and didn’t have the folk sound that I was looking for. After experimenting with my electric Godin Freeway Classic, I came up with a laid back and subdued lead that I think fits well.

            Well, I apparently succeeded in getting the right sound because when the CD was released I got several comments on the song that included a review that stated, “You’re Gonna Cry” has the feel of mid-60’s folk-rock classic that I can imagine being a hit in 1967 or 1968.” High praise! I’ll take it. I hope you like it.

A Good Time

            I had a revival in my songwriting starting in 2008 and lasting until 2010. I’ve written some of my favorite songs since then, but it was those few songs that I wrote starting in the middle of 2008 and continuing through the middle of 2010 that became my CD, “Sojourn of Love”. The song that kicked off the revival was “A Good Time”. My intention was to capture the feel and sound of another revival. In the mid to late 70’s several artists revived the style of the early rock and roll era of the late 50’s but did so with newly written songs and an added edge to the style. The added edge came via updated drums, a bit of distortion on the guitar, a more pronounced bass guitar, and their vocals. When I wrote this song, I had in mind two artists in particular. I could imagine them both doing the song. The two artists were Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. My voice in more suited to pop and soft rock than those two guys. They each had a raspy quality to their voices that would likely have suited the song better. The song itself is pretty much straight-up old-style rock and roll. As with several of my songs, it was not about anybody in particular. It was simply about a fictitious person the singer is in love with whether he wants to be or not.

            At the time that I recorded the song I owned an inexpensive 12-track Zoom digital recorder. It wasn’t bad, and I had certainly previously owned some bad machines, but it wasn’t quite the quality that I desired. That said, I recorded this song with that Zoom machine. I started out by programming a drum loop that fit the song. I then added rhythm guitar. At that point, I owned a fairly inexpensive Yamaha bass guitar. Even with flat wound strings it still was a bit brittle for my taste. Brittle meaning it was too trebly for me. I compensated for this by taking a run-of-the-mill sponge, cutting off about a two-inch-wide strip that was the length of the spread of the strings, and wedged it up against the bridge under the strings. It gave the bass a more thumpy sound. But there was still something about the bass that didn’t please my ears. I then did something that I had never done before. I used a capo on the bass guitar on the third fret and transposed the bass key to be in tune with the rest of the recording. I recorded the vocal and to be honest I believe that I could have done better. But I had been dealing with a sinus infection and still had trouble with my vocal cords being a bit clogged up. I didn’t quite have the power on the vocal as I wanted, but it was the best that I could do at the time. After all of that was recorded along with a double-tracked lead guitar and a saxophone triad augmenting the song, there was still something missing. A straight-out-of-the-50’s early rock and roll piano. I had a Yamaha keyboard/synth and I dialed in an upright piano and recorded the piano track. That did the trick.

            I had not yet decided to due a CD at that point. That decision wouldn’t come for another year. By the time I started working on the CD I had upgraded to a 24-track multitrack machine and I was going to do the mixing on my computer using a DAW that I had purchased. I immediately considered “A Good Time” for the CD. But I didn’t want to have to re-record the song. I made a tactical error when I sold my Zoom recorder. I had saved as wav files all of the tracks, but for some reason had forgotten to save the drum track. Well, this meant that I couldn’t do a full-blown remix of each track. I was left with a choice. I could re-record everything from scratch or I could make do with the stereo mixed track that I already had. I chose the latter. However, I did transfer it to the DAW, beefed up the volume, and applied a mastering program to even out some of the EQ.

            I had posted this song on YouTube for a while back in 2011 or so and I got quite a lot of listens (over 1,000) and some very nice comments. I took it off of YouTube not long after posting it and it ended up NOT being on the CD. I decided that although I liked the track a lot, it just didn’t fit the theme of the CD and would have seemed out of place. I hope you like it.

Cry Me A Rainbow

            On the night of September 6, 1975, I took my girlfriend out to a movie and dinner for her 17th birthday. We watched a movie called “Stardust” starring David Essex. It was a sequel to a movie called “That’ll Be The Day”. It was loosely based on John Lennon’s life from the 60’s. The fictitious band he was in was called The Stray Cats. No, not the same band that came into being and had hits in the 80’s. Although, one of the members of the movie band was played by Dave Edmunds and much of the music was performed by him. Dave Edmunds would later produce some of the real Stray Cats’ albums. I loved the music from the movie. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the story line, but then it was based on John Lennon and let’s face it, Mr. Lennon was not a good guy in those days.

            Anyway, later that night and into the early morning of the 7th of September I had an extremely realistic dream. I dreamed that I was a successful singer-songwriter and that I was being interviewed about a new single that was about to be released. This record had a title and even a melody line. It was so darned realistic of a dream. I woke up in the morning and that title and a chorus melody was still very vivid to me. I picked up my guitar and strummed the tune long enough so that I wouldn’t forget it. I went into my parent’s den and Dad was sitting there listening to Sunday morning gospel tunes. I asked him if he had ever heard of a song called, “Cry Me A Rainbow”. That was the name of the song in my dream. He said that he hadn’t but remembered a hit record in the 50’s called “Cry Me A River”.

            Well, I went back into my room and within 20 minutes I had the song written including verses and chorus. It was somewhat in the style of the mid to late 60’s and given the night before that wasn’t much of a surprise. The song immediately became one of my then favorite songs of mine. For years after that, I would get requests in clubs and gatherings to “sing that song about the rainbow”. I made a couple of home demo recordings of it over the next year, but they didn’t quite live up to the quality of the song. In May of 1979 I recorded a studio demo of the song with just acoustic guitar and vocal. I was never happy with that version either. Over the next decade I recorded two home demos of the song on the multitrackers that I owned at the time. I still failed to capture the feel of the song. I kept trying to make it into an acoustic song. I was about ready to give up on the song, but then in 1999 I decided to try one last time. Only this time I decided to take a fresh look at the song that was nearly 25 years old. I threw out the idea of it being acoustic. I used my Les Paul Gold Top and recorded the rhythm guitar with it instead. I also composed a drum loop that fit the style that I was going for. I added bass, a tremolo guitar part, and vocals. I was very pleased with that recording. Especially when compared to any other version that I had ever tried before. With 20 years of listening to that version I now believe that an even better version could be done, but there’s no real reason to ride that horse to death.

            An addendum to this story is that I put together a slideshow set to that recording about 10 years ago and posted it on YouTube. It’s not still there, so don’t look for it. I figured a few friends and family would enjoy the song and slideshow. Then in 2011 I got an email out of the blue from a guy in Holland. He informed me that the song was getting radio play in Holland, Belgium, and of all places, Hungary. Even though the song is copywritten here in the U.S.A. I had no control over what someone might be doing with it elsewhere. Well, this guy said that it was my version that was being played and that if there were a distribution deal the song would have been a hit. This was before downloading was the new wave. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me that someone was possibly making money off of my recording and song. I was just flattered that people over there liked it. I hope you do too.

That Blue

            I wrote “That Blue” in 2008. If the lyrics seem to be contradictory, then that’s because it was my intention for them to be. I had been through quite a rough time from 2003 through 2005 and it had taken me a couple of years to get over it. As embarrassing as it is to admit, my wife of 27 years and I divorced in 2003. I was ripe for the picking. By that I mean that to a con artist I was such because I was emotionally vulnerable. So, I met a woman in 2004 and she said all the right things and pretended to love me. We got married in late 2004. Well, it didn’t take long for the “real” person to emerge from the petite blond that I had married. I won’t go into all of the gory details, but suffice it say she was expecting me to get her out of financial debt and she had lied about several major things regarding her past. The result was the marriage lasted 6 months and three of those had been pure misery.

            Now, having said all that, I harkened back to my days as a teenager and the girl that I had dated prior to my first wife. Yes, we had been very young, but we were also very much in love. My immaturity lead to our breaking up. I take full responsibility. When I wrote the chorus for “That Blue” all of these things were in my head and they created a conflicting story. So, in the verses I took up two polar opposite views on love. Here’s part of the first verse lyrics that I’m talking about:

            And if I’d ever known that I could be with you, I would never have been that blue.

            That was in the first verse and I was thinking of that girl from long ago. I imagined that if I had been able to be with her instead of my first wife, then I would have avoided the pain that I had experienced. But then there’s another side to love.

            And if I’d ever known the harm that love can do, I would not have been that blue.

            Most definitely 20-20 hindsight there. Avoiding the harm that loving someone who betrays you and hurts you could save you from being that blue. Then I wrote a final verse. I was 53 when I wrote the song and was feeling ancient. Obviously, I wasn’t ancient, but to me at the time I felt like I was getting old. This is how the lyrics to that final verse came about.

            And as the twilight of life begins, I hold a memory through smoky lens. And if I’d ever known that I could be with you,

            and if I’d ever known the harm that love can do, then I would never have been that blue.

            As you can see, I joined the two thoughts together. I knew both of those feelings and sometimes it was difficult to divorce the two from each other.

            So, when I chose songs to record for my CD “Sojourn of Love, I chose to do this song. It’s a good song even if it did hurt a bit to reflect upon. I wanted an almost Ennio Morricone feel to the song. I included chimes and a bass line reminiscent of his style. If I were to re-record it again, then I might raise the key a step, but then without hearing it that way, I can’t really say. I like the song despite the mixed-up feelings that I had when writing it. I hope you like it too.

Darwin & Rosie's Theme

            I have a friend that I first met in 1967 when I was 11-years-old and he was 12-years-old. His name is Darwin. We became very good friends and have been friends now for 53 years. We had periods of time when we weren’t as close as other times, but we were always friends. All through junior high and high school we saw each other on an almost daily basis. But Darwin graduated before I did and for a period of about a year or so we didn’t see each other much. I would wave at him as he drove by the house and we would once in a while run into each other at a store and chat. But in September of 1975 we once again became quite close. He was married by then and he and his wife Rose (we used to call her Rosie) would invite me over to watch a movie or Saturday Night Live during it’s first fall season when it was at it’s best. I was dating the girl that I would marry a year later and the four of us did a lot of things together. Movies, out to eat at Pizza Hut, and several such events.

            Many times, Darwin and Rosie would stop by my parent’s house where I was still living at the time and I would show them new songs that I had written. They were always very supportive of my music and came to see me when I played in clubs. In October of 1975 they came by and I showed them a brand-new song that I had written that I called “There Was A Time”. I always liked the music part of the song very much and they would for years mention that song as one of their favorites of mine. Fast-forward to 2016. It had been over 40 years since I had first shared that song with them. I never quite liked the lyrics to the song. In fact, the sound that was in my head didn’t include singing or lyrics at all. I had tried to record the song a couple of times over the years but had never been happy with those attempts.

            My father passed away in June of 2016 and Darwin and Rosie came to the funeral. Darwin had always liked my father and respected him greatly and my Dad had enjoyed visiting with Darwin many times. About two months after my father died, I was searching for something to take my mind off of things and get back to recording. My old computer was suffering and upon advice from someone who knew computers it was suggested that I get everything off of it before it died. So, I bought a new desktop and started the long and arduous task of copying files onto flash drives and transferring them to the new computer. That’s when I found something that I had almost forgotten about. Back in 2008 I had made a start at recording the song. It had originally been written with a 12-string, but in 2008 I didn’t own one. The feel of the song needed a 12-string though. So, I took my Martin and did what is known as “Nashville Tuning” on it. Essentially, you take the strings that are usually the higher octave strings on a 12-string and string your guitar with those. It gives it a light and airy sound. I had a 10-track Zoom multitracker at the time and I first recorded the acoustic guitar parts, double tracked, using the Nashville tuning and then I strung the guitar with normal strings and double tracked the same part. This effectively gave me a double tracked 12-string recording of the acoustic rhythm. But that was as far as I got. I had saved the tracks by transferring them to my old computer. Therefore, when I was getting all my files off of that desktop, I found these 4-tracks of acoustic guitar for the song. That’s when I decided to finally record the song properly. However, I decided to make it strictly an instrumental song. All through the recording of that song I had three people in mind. First, my father. He loved soundtrack recordings of the 60’s era. He loved instrumentals of the 60’s era. Second and third, I thought of Darwin and Rosie due to them having been the first people to ever hear the song in any form. The idea came to me to record the song in the style of a soundtrack from those great days of instrumentals in the 60’s.

            I had those acoustic tracks to start with. I then added a repeating snare drum on parts of the song. I started to add instruments. Bass guitar, an electric guitar, electric piano, strings, and other instruments all came out of my head and onto the recording. I always loved the sound of a baritone guitar as heard on many instrumentals in that era. So, since I owned a 1967 Danelectro baritone guitar, I played the lead on one verse with it. By the time I was finished I felt that it was about the best instrumental of any kind that I had ever done. I still feel that way. I feel that it could be used even today on the right soundtrack. Well, you’ll just have to listen to it. Finally, I thought a great deal about the title. It not longer had lyrics and that rendered “There Was A Time” as irrelevant. That’s when I thought of Darwin and Rosie and how they were my friends for so long, had been there when I first wrote that tune, and how they had been married for over 40 years. I decided to rename the song, “The Darwin and Rosie Theme”. That’s the story of this song. If you can sit down and relax with the headphones on when you hear this recording, I think it will take you away to another time and another era. I hope you like it.

Baby That's Not You

            It was October of 2002. Things between me and my wife had been bad for nearly a decade. I clearly remember the day in 1993 when we had an argument over something inconsequential. I don’t actually recall what the argument was about. But we both felt that we were right. There came a moment when the look on my wife’s face went through a metamorphosis at the speed of light. The look scared me. No, I didn’t think she was going to do anything terrible or insane. The fact is the look on her face was one that seem to shout, “I don’t care anymore.” The next two years were bad. Very bad. We were going through the motions for our kids. There was no more feeling of love from her.  There was no intimacy or softness in her towards me. For a brief period from the summer of 1995 until early spring of 1996 we were a couple again. I had opened up to her in June of 1995 and told her that I loved her and then I did something that I had not done before. I cried. I literally wept at the loss of love. We had been married nearly 20 years and those long-ago days of the beginning of our relationship bore fond memories of a love that didn’t seem capable of dying. But it had been on life support for two years. I guess I touched her by my honesty and my expression of sorrow at the thought of losing her. The marriage made a rebound for about 9 months. We had the best Christmas in years. We attended church together and prayed together. It seemed like things would be ok. But by March of 1996 she again distanced herself from me. To this day I’m not sure why.

            We hung on for another two years and one day she told me that maybe I should move out of the house and we should have a trial separation. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to abandon my family. My two kids were 13 & 14 at the time. I told my wife that I couldn’t stop her from leaving, but I was staying right there, and I was going to do my best to take care of my family – her included if she so chose. The discussion was tabled at the time. Then the summer of 1998 came along. When I was 12-years-old I had a pretty bad accident on my bike. I scarred up part of my right leg. What I didn’t know at the time was I had caused damage to some of my blood veins. The damage didn’t show much for the next 10 or so years, but by my mid-20’s it started to be noticeable. By the time I was 30 I stopped wearing shorts in public and I wouldn’t swim in public because of the embarrassment of how my leg looked. Finally, in June of 1998 I decided to do something about it. I was tired of my wife and kids going swimming while I sat nearby and watched. So, I went to a specialist to see what could be done. He was a vascular surgeon and after examining me he said that he could fix me up with no problem. They set a date for the surgery and took blood samples for the same. For a brief 24 hours I was happy as can be. My wife was also pleased. It meant that we would be able to some of the things that she liked to do that I had avoided for many years. Then the next morning I got a call from the doctor. He told me that they couldn’t do the operation due to my platelets were very low. Something was wrong with me and until whatever it was could be treated, I would have to forego the surgery. He strongly suggested that I contact an internal medicine doctor which I did. The next three months were one test after another. My first MRI, Cat Scan, loads of blood tests, and a bone marrow test that they had to put me in the hospital overnight so that I could be given 10 bags of platelets to make it safe enough for the bone marrow test. When all of that was over the doctor told me that he couldn’t be positive, but he felt that I had some kind of liver damage. He couldn’t do a liver biopsy and suggested I contact specialists in Dallas. That lead to a week of tests at the Baylor Medical Center in Dallas the last week of September. They did a bunch of tests and then the liver biopsy. I was sent home to await the results. Three days later I got a call from the Hepatic Specialists and was informed that I had liver damage which was causing my spleen to not be able to send platelets into my liver. That answered that question. Then he told me that I would need to come back for more tests, but he firmly believed that I would likely not live more than 3-5 years without a liver transplant. Meanwhile, the stress on the marriage was incredible. I eventually had another week of tests in early 1999 and was then place on the transplant waiting list. They also gave me some drugs had side effects that caused me to gain weight among other things. My wife didn’t want to touch me, and she appeared to feel more obligated to stay than she actually wanted to. The next three years were like watching a ship slowly sink. She distanced herself from me and I became depressed. I felt so unloved that it physically hurt. Every 3 months I had to make a trip to Dallas for routine tests. I was in a holding pattern. Not getting better, but not getting worse. A lot of prayers were said for me by church members and old friends and family. By the summer of 2002 I felt like my wife was only staying to wait for me to die. That sounds horrible, but it was what I believed. The distance between us had gotten much worse after August of 2001. I wouldn’t know why for two long years.

            Now we’re back to October of 2002. My wife was gone on one of her many “lady’s trips to Galveston”. I had started to suspect that there was no such thing. Both my kids were at their part-time jobs and I sat down and wrote the song, “Baby, That’s Not You”. The title makes it sound like a joke. That deception was on purpose. The song was as serious a song as I had ever written at the time. Here’s the lyrics:

I took a walk out in the rain, just to hide my tears.

I was crippled by the pain, and the wasted years.

I want to be in love with someone who loves me too,

And baby, that’s not you.

 

I gave away my heart and I didn’t mind.

And I believe at the start you loved me too.

I want to be in love with someone who loves me too,

And baby, that’s not you.

 

And every time I think I’ll stay I hear the words that you won’t say.

And I try to find another way.

 

            Well, I never sang the song to her. Three months later we had the talk and decided that after nearly 27 years of marriage we would get divorced. She agreed to wait until our daughter graduated the next May. She moved out the day after my daughter graduated high school. We were officially divorced on August 19, 2003. The song laid in my briefcase for nearly 8 years. But things for me were much better by 2010. I was much happier in life. I had started working on a CD called “Sojourn of Love” in 2009. It was released in October of 2010. When looking for songs to put on the album I came across this song. I changed up the chorus a bit, but it was mostly the same as when it was written. I recorded it using a 24-track Tascam recorder and did the mixing using Reason on my computer. I had the mixed tracks mastered at a lab in Dallas. Even though the song represents some painful times in my life, I think that it’s one of my very best recordings. I tried to give it a feel of the soulful songs from the late 60’s and early 70’s. I imagined Johnny Rivers during his later period of hits doing the song or perhaps someone like Van Morrison. But in the end, it just sounds like me doing me. Sorry this entry is so long and that it discloses so much personal information, but it is my desire with these blogs on My Musical Journey to be straight-up honest on how I came to write the songs and record them. When you listen to the song try to think of it as a positive step. It was one of my ways of expressing my feelings and getting through that time in my life. It was necessary and the by-product is that it’s a really good song and recording. Thanks!

Loneliness

            It was a new year. The year was 1974. My duet partner and I were booked into a private restaurant and club in Surfside, Texas for three weekends in a row on Friday and Saturday night. January is not to time to be playing in a club that is literally on the beach. It was cold and there were perhaps a total of 20 customers over the three weekends that we performed. The restaurant side of the place was doing well, but not the club. We weren’t exactly getting rich either. I think we got paid $80 for two nights work. Split in half and two nights factored into the equation meant that I got $20 a night. It cost as much money for gas to drive down there as staying in a motel room. Well, it was not exactly a great situation. The silver lining was we were also booked into a Steak-n-Ale restaurant/club near where we lived for Sunday and Monday nights. The pay was just as horrid, but at least it was close and there were more people there.

            The worst part of playing in Surfside was finding something to do on Saturday. We had to check out of our room by 11:00 a.m. and didn’t have to be at the club until 7:00 p.m. We drove home after performing on Saturday nights. We were cash strapped at one point and the restaurant owner gave us free baked potatoes to eat. He also allowed us to come in and hang out at the club starting at 2 p.m. We did some practicing, listened to Glenn Miller and Merle Haggard on the Jukebox, and generally just sat around. I was missing my girlfriend something terrible. There I was just getting enough money to barely survive, it was cold and windy on the beach, and things were just miserable. After that first Friday night, it was obvious that our time there was going to be a bust. But we were under contract for three weeks and we wanted so badly to play. I think the low point for me was on that first Friday night some guy kept asking us to play “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”.

            But something very good came out of that experience. On that first Saturday afternoon, January 5, 1974, we were sitting in the club. Lonny was playing on an old Wurlitzer organ that was tucked away under a staircase. I was sitting at a table and playing my guitar. We were neither one paying much attention to each other. The club had a wall of mostly windows that looked out into the Gulf of Mexico. I was sitting there thinking about how I wanted to be with my girlfriend while watching the waves rolling in and crashing onto the beach. It was very windy outside and the windchill must have been down in the upper 30’s. Well, I started writing a song that became what I have considered my first “adult” song. Adult meaning it wasn’t a kid kind of song. It was serious and the lyrics just captured the feeling that I was having. That’s how my song “Loneliness” came into being. The words were at first just my observation of what was going on around me. The tables had ashtrays and books of matches on them and I took one of those books and one at a time struck a match and watched it burn down. That’s how the song began.

           “Sitting alone in total boredom, I’m lost from the world. I light a match, an itch to Scratch, what is there to do?

           “A man playing organ, seems to enjoy. But he’s really bored too, I’m ready to go home.”

            I had the first and second verses in about as long as it took to write the words down. It

was merely me describing what was going on around me. Then the chorus came. I just related how I was feeling.

           

            “I’m longing for the arms that hold me, and my home so far away.

            I’m waiting here to leave and be there with you.”

            The third verse was about things that we were experiencing that weekend.

            “This hotel room stinks. I’m sick of the drinks. The ocean waves behind me,

            remind me of my loneliness, you ask me to cry. Yes.”

            The music of the song started with me doing some finger picking of Am7, Am6, Dm, and G. That was pretty much the chords of the verses. I fleshed it out more for the chorus and gave it more flow. I remember playing the song for my mother that next week and she told me that it was the first song that I had written that was of substance. She liked it very much and it meant a lot to have her approval.

            I have included two different recordings of the song. The first one is very much what it sounded like live. It was just me and Lonny playing our acoustic guitars and singing. He provided harmony on the chorus. That first version was recorded May 5th, 1979 at the same session as “Determination” that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. The second version was recorded in April of 2000 more than 26 years after I had written the song. It is a much more produced version. I like both versions, but I lean towards the first version for its simplicity and for the analog feel of the recording. The second version was made with my Yamaha MD8 and Korg X3 as several others were. I included the acoustic guitars pretty much as before but added a doubled bass line on two tracks. One had a real bass playing the same notes as the other track which was a stand-up bass that gives it that fretless sound. I did add a third part harmony at the end of each chorus. I’d been hearing that part in my head for over two decades! The only thing on that recording that I would change now if I could, would be the piano/string pad lead. I guess I just felt like doing something different at the time, but I should have left the acoustic guitar lead alone. Although there is one other song that I include in any list of my first good songs, this one is very special to me for many reasons. I hope you like.

Technogirl

            I wrote “Technogirl” in March of 1997. At the time, I covered a very large territory handling claims investigation for a major insurance carrier. It wasn’t unusual for me to drive 250-300 miles a day in addition to doing the inspections, estimates, and investigation of each claim. Fortunately, I had a company car 24/7. But it was limited to AM/FM stereo with no cassette or CD player. My next company car would have those things. As part of my investigations I would sometimes have to take a recorded statement using a small hand-held mono cassette player. I started using it for other things such as leaving myself a memo to do something at the end of the day. I also put it to use for my songwriting. When I would be on long drives and lyrics or a melody would come to me, I would record it while driving along down the highway. Such was the case for “Technogirl”. I was driving down Hwy 288 south of Houston and heading for an appointment in Lake Jackson, Texas when the melody for the verse came into my head. I had recently seen a movie about computers and the code used of 0’s and 1’s. This got me to thinking of other ways to say it. At first, I thought of yes and no, but that didn’t really mean anything. Then I thought about in and out and off and on. The off and on made me think of a switch being turned off and on. By the time I got to Lake Jackson I had the verse written. The verse was pretty straight forward:

            “She’s moving it in. She’s moving it out. The switch is on. There can be no doubt. She’s the one with the Pentium moves. She’s the one who’s got the groove.”

            Well, I took care of my appointment and started back to Houston and that verse was playing in my head. I needed a chorus and somewhere on Hwy 288 the idea for the chorus came my way. I remembered not being too crazy about most of the techno music of the 80’s, but I kept thinking this song was going to have to be along those lines. Then the idea of the “she” from the verse becoming Technogirl came to me. The melody just seemed to write itself at that point. By the time I got home that day, the song was pretty much written and had been done so without any instrumental accompaniment.

            In 1997 I was still using my Yamaha MD8 multi-track and I still had my Korg X3. For about a week I toyed with music backing for the song. It was a longer than usual process for me. At first, I tried just playing guitar as the main rhythm instrument, but it just didn’t fit. Then one night I was sitting there singing the song and I started to tap out a rhythm on my desk. Then I put on the headphones and using the Korg I searched for a techno sounding drum kit. I worked out the drum loop as I sang along with it. With that done it was a matter of fitting other instruments to fill it out and give it a production. I decided playing a bass guitar wouldn’t fit. I opted for a keyboard synth bass sound instead. I did employ a driving kind of rhythm guitar in syncopation with the bass and drums. But there was something missing. That something was a cheesy organ. The Korg had plenty of those and it was just a matter of finding the one that fit best. With the instrumental tracks mostly complete, I double-tracked the vocal with no harmony. It didn’t seem to need it. All that was left was a lead instrument on the break. Well, I wanted something with a bite. Something real and not a synth. I plugged in my Les Paul to a Roland effects processor for the guitar. I dialed in this and that until I came up with just the right distortion, delay, and who knows what else. It worked. One think that you might notice when you listen to the recording is at the very end as it fades out you can hear a wobbly sounding guitar. I had tried using that sound at first on the lead, but it was too busy. But it was perfect as a fade out.

            The girl reference in the title was my ex-wife. She loved techno music. While she thought the music of the 80’s was the best ever, I didn’t much care for most of it. She would listen to the techno music and start busting a move. I really like this song though. It’s different for me and it gave me room to venture out of my normal wheelhouse. I hope you enjoy it.

You

            I always liked the triplet rhythm guitar chording on The Beatles song “This Boy”. The song itself is one of my favorites by them. That said, I didn’t want to copy the song or anything of that nature, but I wanted to write a song that incorporated the triplet rhythm chords. Nearly 16 years after that song by The Beatles came out, I was writing a song that I originally had in mind to be an homage to some of the 1950’s music that was made popular by such artists as Pat Boone, Paul Anka, and Bobby Darin. This is how my song, “You”, came about. It’s pretty straight forward in the style mentioned above only I used that triplet rhythm. I wrote the song in March of 1979. I recorded a version of it in 1984, but I was never pleased with that version.

            Fast-forward to 2019. I started working on a project of recording some of my songs that I either never recorded before or felt a better recording was needed. Time isn’t always kind to our bodies. In fact, it rarely is. I have started to deal with arthritis in my hands and playing the guitar is not nearly as easy as it once was. So, I wanted to record these songs before the day comes when I can’t. “You” was one of those songs. I recorded it using my DAW (digital audio workstation) and liked certain aspects of it, but was not pleased with the direct injection of the electric guitar part. So, I still possess an 8-track porta studio that I recorded the guitar on using a large diaphragm condenser microphone and an Orange micro amp. I transferred these back into the DAW and added the other instruments. One thing that I felt it had to have was a piano. When I had recorded the song back in 1984 I didn’t own a piano or even an electric piano. I like the recording very much and I’ve always liked the song. I hope you do too.

I Can't Get Over You

            Oh, the joys and pains of young love. Many songs have been written about them. It was February of 1974 and I was 18 years old. My high school girlfriend and I were on a rollercoaster ride that lasted several months. We had been going together for well over a year by the time I wrote, “I Can’t Get Over You”. I take 95% of the blame for our troubles. I was most definitely in love with her, but I was immature and that lead to a series of break-ups and make-ups. We’d break up and then two weeks later we’d make up and then two weeks later break up. Repeat. It was during one of those break-ups that I wrote this song. I had always liked The Bee Gees during their early days of 1967-1971. Their harmonies and songs were terrific. I thought about writing a song that they could have done. This was still 18 months before they made their big comeback and we’re the biggest thing out there with disco.

            I made a couple of attempts at recording the song over the next ten years. None of those attempts seemed to capture what I had in my mind. Fast-forward to 1999. I thought that maybe I should give the song another try. I had just bought a new Washburn Craig Chaquico signature acoustic-electric guitar. It had great action and the tone was special. It is the only acoustic-electric that I’ve ever owned that sounded good plugged directly into the mixer. I started with the rhythm guitar part using that guitar and immediately loved the sound. I might add that I was in the doghouse with my ex-wife for buying that guitar. So much so that I ended-up returning it to the store within the 30-day period for a full refund. I didn’t want to, but there was just no living with her otherwise.

            Most of the other instruments are pretty much the norm. I once again was using my Yamaha MD8 and Korg X3. What I wanted to pay more attention to were the vocal tracks. It is mostly two-part harmony, but there is a section where it breaks into three-part harmony worthy of the Brothers Gibb. It’s one of my personal favorite vocal blends of my recordings. I still think that it would have been a big hit in the early 70’s if done right. Perhaps adding some strings etc. The truth is that song is pretty much unchanged as a song from when I wrote it at 18. I was hitting my stride about then. I had started writing songs when I was 13 and I learned by dissecting the hits of the day. What made them hits? Sometimes you never know what will be a hit, but there were things that most hits had in common. The structure of the song with an aim to try to have one part of the song that is only used once and is so good that people will listen to the song over and over just to hear that part. Having a beginning, middle, and ending. There was a song that barely cracked the top 40 back in 1970 called “Jennifer Tomkins”. It had a catchy beginning and chorus, but then it just sort of died. That song could have been a bigger hit if the writer had given the listeners a complete journey. I didn’t just listen to songs only because I liked them. I listen closely as to why I liked them. Most of my early songs were as bad as you might expect. Moon in June lyrics and incomplete structure. But with time I was learning. By the time I was 18 I had learned enough to craft a good song. I still enjoy writing today, but I don’t do it near as much as I once did. I’ve written over 600 songs since 1969. But the majority of them were early songs that just weren’t up to snuff. I count about 100 of my songs as quality songs that I would be proud to play for people. This one is certainly one of those songs.

So Good (Ode To The Bayou City)

            My favorite guitar effect since I can remember has always been tremolo. This goes back to my earliest memories of hearing “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers. The effect has been used by many artists for well over 60 years now. The effect was augmented with the fuzz effect on the 1966 hit song by The Electric Prunes, “I Had Too Much To Dream”. It seemed like tremolo and dreaming were a great match. Then came the late 60’s. Tommy James even used the effect on his vocals on “Crimson and Clover”. But the group that became one of my all-time favorites and used the effect with distortion was Creedence Clearwater Revival. I loved John Fogerty’s guitar sounds that utilized the effect to varying degrees. At the same time, I also liked a then current hit maker named Tony Joe White. His soulful voice, deep and mysterious, was great on his hit songs “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night In Georgia”.

            Now that I’ve laid down that foundation for you, let’s get to the year 2012. Not that long ago. I had just bought a new Peavey Delta Blues amplifier which featured all tube power including tube tremolo. Yee-haw! It may be merely my opinion, but there’s something about the E chord and tremolo that just seem to go together. I started messing around with some chords built around an E chord and an idea came to me. Why not mesh Creedence with Tony Joe White? This is how I came to write, “So Good (Ode To The Bayou City)”. I don’t live in Houston and haven’t since about 2007, but it was where most of my growing up was done and I was born in a hospital that overlooked the Braes Bayou that could be seen from upper floor windows. I utilized the speaking almost singing effect that Tony Joe White had used and given my voice is over three octaves, it was somewhat natural to do it in a lower key. Meanwhile, I used the tremolo guitar with and without distortion throughout the song. I recorded the song as I wrote it. It was literally written and recorded within three or four hours.

            I had the rhythm feel going on the guitar and pounded out some drums that fit nicely on a little drum machine that I have and played the rhythm guitar first. I was using my DAW to record but used a microphone in front of the Peavey rather going directly into the amp. For that matter, the Peavey had no direct output even if I had wanted to do it that way. I came up with a second verse in which I actually sing and then started to add on guitars, bass, etc. The bass that I used was a Fender Jaguar and the guitar parts were all recorded on a Gretsch Electromatic 5420 solid white guitar with gold hardware. It had the vibe I was looking for. You may notice that I also double-tracked part of the lead guitar solo using a wah-wah along with the tremolo. This was inspired by both Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” and the tail end of “Polk Salad Annie” in the fade out as Tony Joe White clicks in with a wah-wah.

            I am very pleased with this song and recording. It’s a fun song and it was great fun to write and record. I hope you enjoy it.

The Missing Person

            I had just heard on the news that Linda McCartney had passed away. It was April of 1998. One of the main influences on my development as a singer-songwriter was Paul McCartney. I had been a fan throughout his Beatle days and I remember well buying his first solo album and becoming acquainted with Linda via the photos on the album. Hearing the news of her passing caused me to think about Paul and how he must have felt. They had been together for nearly 30 years and married for 29 years. I read an interview with him once in which he said that except for the 8 days he spent in jail in Japan back in 1980 for possession of marijuana he and Linda had been with each other every day since the days of the Beatles White Album. I figured he had to be hurting.

            I was inspired to write this song while thinking about how he must have felt. I tried to paint a picture of him at a beach house alone and looking out at the sea and then going for a walk alone on the beach. It was a blustery day and he was thinking of her. I think my favorite line from the song is “And he wonders if the salt on his lips is from the sea or from his tears”. As for the music, I wanted to evoke a time of being alone. At first, I imagined listening to the song while driving in a convertible on a lonely highway at night. I still believe it could be a great part of a movie soundtrack for setting a mood.

            I recorded this song using my Yamaha digital 8-track porta studio and my Korg X-3. This was yet another song that I used my Les Paul Gold Top. The drum loops were composed on the Korg as well as the bongo drum loop. I also used the Korg to play the bass part and the Hammond B-3 organ part. There are basically only two vocal tracks that are augmented with a digital delay that fills out the sound of the vocals. The repeating tremolo guitar part was achieved using an outboard effects module with tremolo. There are three other guitar parts. I owned an effects unit that you could get vocal harmony through and I tried it out. It sounded weak and fake, so I scraped that and just did the harmony myself. I never used that effects unit and returned it to the store for a refund.

            In 2019 I took that original stereo master and again loaded it into my computer. I used Reason to beef up the overall sound and I used a mastering program to get a better EQ on the overall track. I really like this song and the recording. Sometimes when I’m driving alone at night, I’ll play the track on my car stereo. I don’t drive a convertible, but I do have a moonroof. More importantly, I still have all my hair to be blown around in the wind!

Determination

            “Determination” was written in October of 1978. It was during a particularly trying time for me. I felt stuck in a dead-end job with an immediate supervisor that was extremely hard to get along with. I used to call her Ellen the Melon Headed Monster. I had also been feeling as though my musical journey was stuck in a backwater town with my car in Goober’s garage for repairs. I had started back to college that summer and had done well, but money was tight and when the fall semester came along, I felt like I was getting nowhere. I couldn’t afford to keep going to school at the time, I had not played live for 18 months, and I was quite simply lost in figuring out what to do. This is what inspired me to write the song. All of those feelings ultimately gave me the determination to get out of the rut that I was in and get moving. This song is one of my very favorite songs that I have written. The lyrics still speak to me whenever I’m facing adversity.

            “You can take from me all things I remember, but you can’t take from me my memory.”

            “You can give to me a messy situation, but what you give to me is determination.”

            I also liked the imagery in the lines, “You can take from me my sword and my steed, but still I’ll accomplish my good deed”. The song was written to be very intimate. Just me and my guitar. I had been experimenting with finger-picking styles and decided to utilize this for the song. It may not sound like it when you listen to the song via the link below, but it was very difficult in parts. Well, difficult for me at least.

            This recording was made on May 5, 1979 in a small studio in Houston, Texas called MRS Studio. The studio had a small booth for isolation, but the large room was used for most of the recording. The control room housed an Otari 8-track ½ inch tape machine, the soundboard, some monitors, and some outboard effects. I had several appointments the first week of June with some music publishers in Nashville. I recorded several demos to take with me and “Determination” was one of them. I recorded this song in one take and live at that. I had practiced it so much that I had it completely worked out before the first note was played. The only thing used in the recording process other than my vocal and the guitar was a light amount of reverb on the vocal. When I went to Nashville in June, I was offered a staff songwriter job for MCA’s music publication division based on those demos. I so wanted to take that job because it would have given me a chance to meet the right people. However, the job didn’t pay much in the way of salary (not as much as I currently made) and it would mean moving to Nashville. I was married at the time and my ex-wife just wasn’t ready to move that far away from her parents. She was only 20 and I understand. Furthermore, we also counted on the income from her job and moving to Nashville would mean her having to quit her job and find something in Nashville. Well, it just didn’t work out. I’ve too often played the woulda-coulda-shoulda game and in the end, things just happened the way that they did and that’s that. I might add that I have the original ½ inch tape of those demos but finding a machine to play them and do a proper mix would be very difficult. I was running out of money and had to spend very little time in mixing the recordings. The result was essentially a rough mix. I did transfer the recording to my computer and applied some overall EQ and mastering effects to fill out the sound. I hope you enjoy this one. It means a lot to me even though the song is now 41 years old.

Big Brass Bed

            In November of 1979 I moved to Dallas for a new job. What I didn’t know was the company had beaucoup problems. The owner of the company was not exactly an honest man. In fact, what I didn’t know when I took the job was, he was a suspect in the murder of his former business partner. That’s a long story not needed here. One of the other problems was his son. He was the kind of guy all fathers pray their daughter will never meet. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth that got tarnished just by being there. In the spring of 1980, I was seeing all of this unfold. I was inspired to write a poem about this son. Well, before long I quit that job and moved on to other endeavors. The poem languished in a large briefcase that I had (still have) for keeping my poems and songs in.

            In the spring of 1981 I wrote the music for “Big Brass Bed” and came up with the chorus that goes, “C’mon girl, where’s your head? Did you lose it in the middle of that big brass bed?” But then I needed lyrics to go with it for the verses. Something cutting. Something worthy of Bob Dylan in his 1965/1966 era. Then I remembered that poem. I dug it out, played a little with the words and changed genders so that the song would be about a woman instead of a man. True to my usual self, I made a rough cassette recording to keep for reference when I would eventually record it proper. It collected dust for 14 years.

            In 1995, I decided to record an album of material with an extremely modest set-up. I had a Tascam 464 cassette multi-track Portastudio. It had 4 tracks. I’ve mentioned previously that on those old analog machines with midi capability you would lose a track syncing it up to another device. I had recently purchased a Korg X-3 keyboard/synth. I was able to sync up the two, but that left me only 3 tracks for guitars and vocals. Well, that’s not much to work with when you’re doing everything yourself. I composed a percussion loop on the Korg and then played the toms on the Korg to augment the chorus. The tremolo guitar was recorded with a Mexican Fender Stratocaster. The bass was played on the Korg. I never have liked the bass sound on this one. I would have much preferred to play a real bass, but I just didn’t have one nor the money for one.

            All of that said, I still very much like the recording and song. There’s a certain feel about it. I have considered re-recording it, but there always seems to be something else that captures my inspiration. The recording as it stands was “mastered” on a cassette deck. I took that recording and transferred it in stereo to my computer where I tweaked the EQ and brought up the volume. Listening to it again I realize that a truly excellent song could be brought more to life with a proper re-recording. Perhaps that will happen yet. I hope you enjoy it as it stands.

She's Got Love

            In 1983 I was preparing to play live again in a local restaurant/club. I was working on building my repertoire and one of the groups that was still very popular despite having split-up was The Eagles. I knew that there would be many requests for some of their songs. I worked-up “Take It Easy”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Tequila Sunrise”, and “Lyin’ Eyes”. Doing these songs made me hungry for those days in the early and mid-70’s when acoustic singer-songwriter music was very popular. Artists such as The Eagles, America, James Taylor, Loggins and Messina, Seals and Crofts, and Jim Croce had once filled the airwaves. They were still very popular in the club scene where people in their 30’s frequented. Some of my own songs fit nicely in that genre as well.

            All of that music got me to thinking one day. Could I write a song that would have been a hit by The Eagles had they wished to record it? That’s how I came to write “She’s Got Love”. If it sounds like something the Eagles would have done, then there’s a good reason for that. It was supposed to. The tricky part was to not sound exactly like one of their songs. My intention was to capture the feel of their early work, but not copy it. With this regard, I believe that I was successful. In March of 1984 I decided to record the song. I’ve previously mentioned the Fostex 8-track analog machine that I had, so I won’t repeat myself here. I wanted the acoustic guitar sound with a subdued electric guitar and harmonies reminiscent of those early hits of theirs. The acoustic guitar used was my 1976 Alvarez Bi-Centennial Model 6 string. The bass was a borrowed Gibson EB-1 “Violin” bass. I muted the strings with the palm of my right hand while picking the notes. The electric guitar was a Peavey T-60 with natural finish. When I wrote the song, it wasn’t about anybody at all. 

            The only thing that is different with this recording compared to the original mix is that in 2015 I decided to add one thing. After transferring the stereo track to my computer and loading it into Reason I recorded the acoustic guitar fill-ins that had not been there before. They just seemed to fit and filled out the track a bit. I hope you enjoy this one.

I'll Sing To You

            I wrote “I’ll Sing To You” in May of 1980. I will admit that my ex-wife was the inspiration for the song. I did make a recording of the song a few weeks later, but it was like so many of the home demos of that time for me that lacked the polish that I felt it deserved.

            Fast-forward to 2014. I was going through a stack of my old songs looking for something to record and this one came up. I was still not using Reason (name of the recording program that I use) for some of my recordings due to my computer just wasn’t fast enough to support some of the productions. A problem that can arise when a computer isn’t fast enough when you’re recording is latency. Simply put, this means there’s too much information for the processor to get the job done without lag and delay. This makes recording very difficult at best. Imagine you’re recording something and the audio in your headphones is delayed from what you’re doing. You just can’t do it. I needed a new computer, but since I still owned a 24-track Tascam DP-24 digital recorder I used it on more complex recordings such as this one. It may not seem like it, but the recording has a lot of stuff going on. There’s at least 4 guitars which are each recorded in stereo, a bass guitar, some pretty cool effects, drum loops, some bongos that I played and recorded in stereo, and several vocal parts. Heck, I may be forgetting some of the stuff I threw in there! The opening 12-string lead was doubled with an electric lead. The 12-string guitar that I had at the time was a Seagull S12 Cedar and I liked the results on this recording. I played the bass on a 2009 Fender Jaguar and the electric guitar was played on a 2014 Fender American Stratocaster. I also used for the first time a new microphone that has turned out to be a great vocal mic. It’s an Avantone CR-14 ribbon microphone. The amplifier that I used was a Peavey Delta Blues.

            If you listen closely at the very beginning of the track, then you’ll hear me whisper, “This one’s for you.” My friend Lonny heard it and said that it was yet another example of me being psycho! It wasn’t a message to my ex-wife at all though. I had reconnected with an old classmate from high school via Facebook and we had talked about long ago days. I admitted to her that way back when I had a bit of a crush on her. So, I threw in that little whisper as a nod to her. She’s never heard it though. Maybe she will now. But I won’t say her name for privacy reasons. I did transfer the tracks from the Tascam machine to my computer and did the mixdown and mastering using Reason. I would shortly thereafter buy a new desktop with much more RAM and I have mostly used Reason to do my recording the past few years. I hope you like the song and the recording.

Baby With You

            “Baby With You” was written late one night in February of 1974. I was 18-years-old at the time. A recent number one song by the late Jim Croce entitled “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” was a song that my duet partner and I were trying to work up for our club performances. We were already performing several of his songs and wanted to add a recent one to our repertoire. As it turned out, we never did get the song worked up. We decided that we liked “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” better and that the two songs were very similar and therefore only one was necessary. We opted to work up “I’ll Have To Say I Love You” instead. That said, I was impressed with a simple chord progression in the song. The progression was G-A7-B7-C-D7. The instrumental break of “Baby With You” incorporated part of the chord progression. I left off the D7 and decided to go with G-A-B-C, leaving off the 7th variation. The arrangement of the song had a different lead guitar part over these chords than the version that you can listen to via the link below. In fact, the original arrangement was acoustic with the lead guitar played on my 12-string acoustic. It sounds nothing like Jim Croce’s song. It just happens to use that similar chord progression in the breaks.

            Lonny and I were practicing in my parent’s den that night and trying to work up the Croce song. We took a break and I started to mess around with the chords. Then I came up with the verses and we put it all together within 30 minutes. The title of the song was a joke on my part. It never appears in the song at all. Thirty-six years later I put those three words in a song entitled, “Hooked”, as another inside joke. The significance of this song for my progression as a songwriter was that it was one of the first songs that people requested for me to sing in my performances. It had a following! Over the years I attempted to record the song several times. There’s even a live performance of Lonny and me doing the song in 1975 that was recorded. I never could seem to get comfortable with the recordings that I made of the song. But, in 1998 I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness. I was told that I probably had 3-5 years to live. I’m glad to report that they were wrong. That was 22 years ago and I’m still here. What that diagnosis did do was to cause me to record several songs that I had yet to record or had not been pleased with recordings previously made. I put together a 20-song retrospective CD that I gave to close friends and loved ones in 2000. Between late 1998 and May of 2000 I recorded several songs for this retrospective. “Baby With You” was one of them and that version is what you have a link to.

            By 1998 I had purchased an 8-track multi-track machine made by Yamaha. It was the MD-8. “MD” stood for mini-disc. It was digital but did not quite have the full CD quality of machines to come. It also included a 3-band EQ and most importantly it had midi connections. I owned a Korg X3 keyboard at the time which had a built in 16-track sequencer. Sounds like a lot and it was certainly an improvement for my home studio. However, it just wasn’t going to ever play 16-tracks at the same time. There’s a thing called polyphony. The Korg had a polyphony of 32.  In simple terms it meant that on any given time no more than 32 bits of information could play at once. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not. The good news was that I didn’t lose a track in order to sync up the MD-8 and the Korg X3. In the older analog tape systems, you could sync up to another device, but it cost you a track. I started out by composing a couple of drum loops on the Korg that would fit the song. Those stereo loops were held in the Korg sequencer and that was great. I then recorded the guitar parts on three tracks of the MD-8. I used a 1956 Les Paul Gold Top reissue for the guitar parts. I loved the sound of that guitar, but not the weight. It was like holding a large anvil so far as I was concerned. But the P-90 pickups on the guitar were magic. I then went back to the Korg and played a keyboard bass part. I didn’t own a bass guitar at the time. That’s a long story not for now. I was pleased with the bass track despite not being able to do certain things that I might have done with an actual bass guitar. My old friend Lonny came down and we each double-tracked our vocal parts on the MD-8. If you’re counting, that meant that I used 7 tracks on the MD-8 and 3 tracks on the sequencer without having to bounce anything and having each track with its own EQ. I mixed the whole thing down to a 2-track stereo master.

            Fast forward to 2019. Once again, I no longer owned the original multi-tracker or Korg. So, there was no way to remix the recording. I do still have the stereo 2-track machine and I transferred the original stereo master to my computer. I was able to get the volume turned up overall and I was able to tweak the overall EQ giving the song a little more punch than it had before. I did find an MD-8 via eBay that didn’t cost too much, but it wouldn’t have done me any good without also having a Korg X3 with the original sequencer tracks. I may or may not have the discs that contain those tracks, but without the keyboard I don’t know. I saw no reason to purchase those machines and gamble that I “might” be able to do a remix. I’m satisfied with the song as it is. I might add that the guitar parts and the drum loops that I used gave the song a more country feel than it originally had, but that’s OK by me. There you have it for “Baby With You”. As I sit here writing this, I realize that the song itself is now 46 years old. Good grief! How did that happen?

Now That I'm Losing You

            I wrote “Now That I’m Losing You” in January of 1980. It’s not about a real breakup though. It was written in the middle of what I consider one of my most prolific songwriting spans that began in the fall of 1978 and ended in the fall of 1980. In my personal opinion, I believe that the quality of the songs that I was writing had matured.

            I recorded a version of the song in February of 1980, but it was merely a home demo that mostly ironed out some of the minor wrinkles in the song. The song was quickly set aside in lieu of other songs. In November of 1982 I purchased my first multi-track recorder. This was before the digital era and although it cost me quite a sum for the recorder, a 2-track mastering recorder, a mixer, and a new fangled thing called a “digital delay” which also gave me other effects, it was not a good machine. I did like the analog tape saturation that can be easily be missed in the digital recordings that came along later, but there was a certain warmth and fullness that digital recorders don’t have. However, I am glad to say that by using effects and doing the mixdown correctly can render a digital recording very close to those analog recordings.

            The 8-track recorder was made by a company known as Fostex. It was their first personal multi-track intended for home studio enthusiasts. But it had problems. The tape it used was ¼ inch. That meant that the head alignment and configuration was very critical. Before I had a chance to really get things recorded (remember that I was working full-time and was awaiting the birth of my first child) the darned machine started to give me fits. By the time I sold the machine in 1985 it was in reality a 6-track machine due to the last two tracks were messed up big time. A loud distortion and buzz was all I could get out of those two tracks. I had taken it into a Fostex repair facility and was told I needed a new recording head that would cost about $1000. That just wasn’t going to happen. So, I didn’t use the last two tracks. Couldn’t use them, I should say.

            All that said, I did manage to record about 15 songs completely. The other problem with those recordings was my lack of experience at the time with getting what I performed to sound on tape the way that I performed it. This falls under the heading of not knowing my way around the mixer and especially mastering techniques. Still, I did manage to get some decent recordings made. “Now That I’m Losing You” is one of those recordings. I had a friend who played drums and he came over and while I played a “ghost” guitar track of a song he would play the drums. In many cases, I had to tap out the beat or a fill-in on my knee to show him what I was looking for. But the sad truth is I had never recorded a drummer before those recordings. I had previously relied on the drummer and the engineer in studios to worry about that. The upshot of this was it almost sounds like no cymbals were played at all. I recorded with four microphones. Two on booms – one on the left side of the kit and one on the right side. Another microphone underneath the snare and the fourth one inside the bass drum with the front skin removed. I put a towel over the microphone to tone it down some. The drummer did a good job, but I didn’t capture it great. Furthermore, given I was limited with the number of tracks to work with I mixed the drums down to two-tracks. I did not want to bounce tracks with that recorder for obvious reasons. I do know that there appears to be three guitars, two vocals, bass, and drums.

            Now, for the “rest of the story”. The mixdown just wasn’t loud enough and the EQ was lacking. Fast forward to 2019. I transferred the recording from a cassette copy of the original “master” recording to my computer. I then used a program called “Reason” to apply some EQ and raise the volume on the recording. However, I was limited to a stereo track only. I still own the original 8-track recording, but I do not own a machine that could play it. I checked into buying a machine via eBay that might work. They cost more now than they did then! I just can’t justify spending $1000 for a machine that is nearly 40 years old only to remix about 15 songs. So, what you hear in the recording via the link below is the best sound quality of the original recording that I could get with the resources that I have. I am NOT making excuses. I believe the recording is excellent, but the sound could be greatly improved further if I could do a proper 8-track remix. Such is life. As for the performance on the tape, I am quite pleased. I do remember that after recording the lead vocal I felt that there was something needed. I decided to play it back and record whatever came out of mouth. I knew immediately that I was onto a good harmony vocal and I ended-up only doing it in one take. When it came time to record the ending lead guitar (which may have been recorded on the same track as a vocal track since there were no vocals on that part of the song) I didn’t want to just play the melody. I came up with a guitar part not like anything else in the song. It worked.

            I hope you enjoy the recording. I considered doing a new recording for my CD “Sojourn of Love” that I released in 2010. In fact, I recorded some basic tracks of the song. But the magic wasn’t there. Sometimes it just happens that way. Perhaps it’s the difference in the guitars used or canned drums versus a real drummer. I like this song and this recording very much as it is. I hope you do too.

So Alone

            This is the first entry in “My Musical Journey” featured on my website jamesrstout.com. This will be a history of songs that I have written and recorded over the past 45 years. Each entry will have a link to Soundcloud for the particular song featured in that entry. You will need only click on the link and it will take you to a site where you can listen to the song.

            This first song is a song entitled “So Alone”. I wrote this song on December 22, 1979. This recording was made the next week. At the time I did not have a multi-track recorder or much in the way recording equipment at all. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Dallas, Texas. My “studio” was merely the living room and was limited to a Dokorder 1120 reel-to-reel recorder. While it was only a stereo deck with no multi-track capabilities, it did have what was known as “Sound on Sound”. To make a long story short, I could layer parts on top of each other, but with each layer there was a loss of sound quality. Furthermore, once a new layer was applied the previous layers could not be changed in any way and the recording itself was limited to being in mono. So, I basically had to produce and mix as I went.

            This particular song did not have a great deal of layers and this accounts for a better sound quality than some of the recordings that I was making at the time that incorporated several instruments and vocals. I was using a simple Sony small diaphragm microphone that was about 6 years old at the time. I did have several AKG microphones that I used in live performances, but they were not as suited for recording. The guitar that you hear is a 1976 (although I purchased it in November of 1975) Alvarez Bi-Centennial 6-string acoustic. It was a great guitar. The only thing that I have done to enhance the original recording is to transfer it to my computer. By doing this I was able to sharpen the overall eq and apply a faux stereo effect. I was also able to apply a mastering effect that brought out certain eq levels in the recording and subdued others while also bringing the volume level up to a proper level that smoothed out the peaks and valleys. Enough about the recording itself. I won’t put this much detail in most of these blog entries, but I felt that I should explain things a bit more on this first entry.

            As for the song itself, while I have certainly written some of my songs over the years about a particular person or perhaps was inspired by a particular person, this one is not one of those songs. It’s what I call and “imagining”. The lyrics are simply me imagining how I would feel if the person that I loved deeply decided to leave. I actually started out by writing the chorus. I then wrote verses to go with the chorus. This song is one of my personal favorites. The music and melody perfectly match the lyrics. I enjoy listening to this one especially on the headphones where the three-part harmony on the chorus can be best appreciated.

            I hope that you will visit this page often and listen to the songs. Being a singer-songwriter was the major part of my creative output for more than 40 years. Therefore, these songs will tell you a great deal about who I am and how I came to be the person that I am today. Also, each song will remain on Soundcloud once I have uploaded it. So, after awhile there will be a great number of my songs on Soundcloud allowing you a chance to listen to them as a playlist.

https://soundcloud.com/jrsojourn/so-alone