Tag Archives: warren haynes

Fred Mills: A Marty Stuart Story

Marty bw

Won’t you please take me along for a ride: From the editor’s archives, a dip back to ’05: the Byrds, a Mule, a holiday celebration, and the power of the internet. Sometimes those dang rock critics can be useful.

BY FRED MILLS

Country music superstar, scholar, collector and archivist Marty Stuart is so obviously outgoing and gregarious that I have no doubt everyone he’s met over his long, luminous career, starting in the early ‘70s with Lester Flatt’s band, has a pretty colorful anecdote to relate. As you might imagine from the title here, I’ve got one too.

First things first: listening to his new (released: Sept. 30, Superlatone Records) 2-disc album Saturday Night / Sunday Morning with his band the Fabulous Superlatives, I’m not only knocked out by the pure, as in pure, country tones therein — the kind of stuff that real-life country artists made back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and which latterday emulators discovered and tried to emulate and/or pay tribute to in the ‘90s and ‘00s — I’m also struck by how reactionary the record sounds, within the contemporary context of ‘mersh Music Row country and mealy-mouthed post-alt.country wannabes. Without devolving into an actual review of the album, let me just say that you could do far worse than to add this to your collection and then spend the rest of your 2014 shopping sprees collecting Norwegian black metal, ‘cos there ain’t gonna be nothing else that even comes close to hitting your required roots-rock twang, gospel harmony, and alt-grass strum quota for the annum.

A diversion: go HERE to listen to a hugely entertaining interview between Stuart and Teri Gross on a recent episode of her NPR program “Fresh Air.” You won’t learn all you need to know about Stuart, but it’ll work nicely as a primer if you aren’t intimately familiar with the dude.

Marty Stuart CD

***

On December 16, 2005, I wandered into Asheville (rhymes with Nashville) venue the Orange Peel, primed and pumped for that year’s Warren Haynes Christmas Jam pre-Jam, part of the annual Haynes Jam ritual; I faithfully attended every one of those events during the 10 years I lived in Asheville, from 2002 through 2011, and I was honored to be a member of the attending media for most of those years at the pre-Jam festivities held at the Peel the night before the official event at the Asheville Civic Center. (Important note: I faithfully purchased my Jam ticket each and every year as it was a benefit for the local Habitat For Humanity chapter, which I felt strongly about supporting.)

Marty Stuart was to be among the special guests for the ’05 Haynes Jam, and as these things tended to work out, he arrived a day early in order to participate in the pre-Jam. The evening unfolded on schedule, with friends and associates of Haynes, along with already scheduled Jam (proper) artists who were in town, getting up onstage at the Orange Peel for a kind of preview-and-icing-on-the-cake of the Jam (proper); the concert was also broadcast, as per tradition, over local public radio station WNCW-FM (Spindale, NC), and listeners were encouraged to make donations to Habitat. Pretty soon Stuart was up there with Haynes, members of Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic and others, steaming through a ragged-but-right version of the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman.”

Not long afterward, during a break in the festivities, I was backstage talking to Haynes as Stuart himself came wandering up. Warren introduced us, and I congratulated him on the Byrds song, long one of my favorites, and that if he heard anyone singing loud and out of tune from the audience during it, that was probably me. I added that I’d always loved the version from the Untitled album era, and that he’d hit some pretty mean guitar licks while performing it.

“I really appreciate that,” Stuart replied. “And since you mentioned Untitled, you might like to know that I was playing Clarence White’s old guitar during the song.”

Well, damn. Clarence is one of my heroes, I tell him. He was one of the giants. To which Stuart nods vigorously. “I picked that guitar up a few years ago. When I play it I can really feel something special.”

“But,” he continued, “I really screwed up the lyrics on that song. Just couldn’t remember ‘em off the top of my head. We’re thinking we might do it again [at the Jam] and I need to figure ‘em out so I don’t embarrass myself.”

I mentioned it would be easy enough to get the lyrics off the internet, and at that he quickly shot back, “You think you could print them out and get them to me in time for tomorrow night?”

That I could indeed do, Marty. I will be backstage and downstairs at the Jam tomorrow night and can bring ‘em with me. “Oh wow, if you could, I thank you in advance. Just come find me.” Stuart then turns to Haynes, nodding at me: “You can always count on a journalist when you need something like that.” This may be the first and last time a superstar musician has endorsed the career known as “rock critic,” considering the general legacy of tension that exists between artists and writers, but I’ll still take the endorsement.

Marty live

***

Saturday morning: log onto computer; find “Mr. Spaceman” lyrics; print out.

Saturday evening: head to the Asheville Civic Center for the 2005 Warren Haynes Christmas Jam; present my ticket plus backstage pass to Civic Center security; head downstairs to the artist area.

Sure enough, it’s not long before I spot Stuart wandering around, talking to folks and availing himself of the buffet. He spots me heading his way and turns in my direction, smiling. I smile back, produce the page of lyrics, and simply say “As promised.”

Stuart scans the paper, grinned a Cheshire Cat-worthy grin, then grabs my hand and pumps it hard. “Man, how can I thank you?” he says. “Well,” I reply, “How about signing this for me,” showing him my CD cover to his ’99 album The Pilgrim.”

He snatches it plus the Sharpie pen I’d smartly thought to bring from me and, as he inscribes the booklet, asks if I have his latest album Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota, which had come out about a month and a half earlier.“Listen,” he says, “c’mon over here with me to my tour bus so I can get you a copy of it.

***

So I’m walking through the bottom of the Asheville Civic Center, Marty Stuart’s arm around my shoulder, leading me to his tour bus, talking about how cool it is to be playing the Haynes Jam (“Everybody I know who’s played it says they had the best damn time of their lives!”), and then ushering me into the bus and sitting me down while he gets a copy of Badlands for me.

“You said you were a fan of Clarence last night—you wanna see his guitar?”

Holy shit. Here I am, sitting on Marty Stuart’s tour bus, and he’s handing me one of Clarence White’s guitars, and I’m somehow managing to form a “D” chord then a “G” chord then an “E” chord on it without shaking uncontrollably. Meanwhile, Marty Stuart is telling me about his guitar collection, and his country music memorabilia collection, and how awhile back he decided somebody had to start collecting all this stuff in one place and could be archived carefully so it didn’t all wind up in places like eBay and the Hard Rock Café. He shows me a few other guitars, although if he tells me they belonged to famous people, I don’t hear him because…

Holy shit. Here I am, holding Clarence White’s guitar and strumming chords on it in front of Marty Stuart.

Luckily I come down to Planet Earth before I take an interstellar piss in my pants, and I make some kind of semi-intelligent comments in Stuart’s direction. (Memo to music fans: this is where being a rock critic comes in handy. You can dredge up all manner of semi-intelligent music comments on command, even when you’re essentially speechless.)

Well, soon enough I am getting up and thanking Stuart for his autograph, the CD, and the hospitality, and descending down the stairs of the bus back into the bottom of the Asheville Civic Center and, it seems, to the real world. Stuart thanks me one last time for the “Mr. Spaceman” lyrics, then stays behind on the bus to stow the guitars away.

***

A couple of hours later, onstage for his Haynes Jam set, Stuart plays a tune or two then is joined by Haynes plus Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools on bass and Gov’t Mule’s Matt Abts and Danny Louis (on drums and keys). They do rousing versions of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” then as set-closer, you guessed it, “Mr. Spaceman.” Stuart nails the lyrics this time—no doubt having closely scanned a certain piece of paper before his set—and the Civic Center crowd roars its approval while singing along. As the song comes to its anthemic conclusion, Stuart steps to the edge of the stage to nod and wave a thank-you to the audience. (As it turns out, he’ll be back next year for the 2006 Jam, this time with his band The Fabulous Superlatives in tow.)

Me, I’m out there in that Civic Center crowd too, and while I’m in no way vain enough to think for one moment that he was up there waving at me, well… rock ‘n’ roll’s always been a little about dreaming and wish fulfillment, so….

Thanks, Marty. You are the real deal.

Marty Stuart autograph 2005

 

Fred Mills: Who Wants an Autograph?

Replacements crop

Yeah, I’m showing off with all these signed record sleeves. And you’d do the same. Above: The Replacements (duh).

 BY FRED MILLS

 This weekend an old friend dropped by, and while looking through some of my records he spotted my copy of the first Replacements 45, which had been signed by all four of the original members, including the late Bob Stinson—I had gotten the single autographed in January of 1985 when the ‘mats played a punk rock club in Charlotte, NC, and subsequently wrote about the memorable night in a story for BLURT. This prompted my friend to ask me how many other records I had autographed. Well, you could say there are a few: 45s and LPs along with CDs, the stray cassette cover, and even a few napkins and scraps of paper I later inserted into sleeves. (There’s also a framed Patti Smith concert poster from ’79 that also houses the autograph she gave me at the concert.)

 Some I’ve gotten rid of over the years, either selling them or giving them to friends who were super fans, like a copy of Jane’s Addiction Nothing Shocking. I actually wish I still had the signed GG Allin 45 and the signed copy of Screw Magazine (the one with the GG pictorial) from the early ‘90s, but I had eBayed them a number of years ago because at the time memorabilia of the late scum-rocker was fetching seriously good money. But I still have quite a few, and my friend encouraged me to scan some of them and share with a wider audience. Yeah, I’m bragging, sorta, but I’m also proud that I have these. In recent years I’ve started getting records inscribed to my young son. I’m not sure exactly why, since he hasn’t demonstrated the slightest interest in becoming a record collector; maybe there’s some weird paternal ego thing going on. He will inherit them some day and maybe he will figure out what my urge was all about if and when he becomes a father.

 Anyhow, here’s a modest sampling of some of the signatures I’ve scored. Enjoy.

  U2 crop

In the early ‘80s I had started a fanzine called U2/USA (yeah, I was a U2 geek, so sue me), and, taking notice of it, the band subsequently gave the staff pretty much blanket access when touring the States. I got the double-45 for “Pride” signed by the band when I went to a concert in Roanoke, VA. Shortly after I obtained the signatures I found myself sitting backstage with Bono, sharing a bottle of wine and interviewing him for the zine. Those were certainly far more innocent times.

 REM crop

Similarly, in the ‘80s I wrote frequently about R.E.M., even penning the liner notes for the sleeve of the “Femme Fatale” flexidisc they did for rock mag The Bob. I have copies of that signed as well as the original Hib-Tone 45, but the double-45 for “Wendell Gee” is my favorite.

 Minutemen crop

Speaking of R.E.M., the Minutemen were guests on one of the band’s tours, and as I had backstage passes for a series of NC and VA shows I was able to strike up a friendship with the opening act as well. Rest in peace, D. Boon.

 Ramones crop

The Ramones—should I even comment? One of my greatest regrets is selling my signed copy of Road To Ruin, but at least I held on to a couple of singles that Joey, Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee inscribed. (Look closely.) The band was in Raleigh, NC, to do a show at the club The Pier and that afternoon they did an in-store at the nearby Record Bar. After the signing session they all fanned out, scouring the bins for music. Joey was particularly excited with some of his finds.

 MoB crop

Raise your hand if you were a Mission Of Burma fan. Their initial incarnation was my favorite version of the band, and when they came to Chapel Hill around the time of their first album, I had the good luck to be the one chosen to show them around the UNC campus and take them for some post-soundcheck grub at a small Greek eatery. Their “Trem-Two” 45 is my favorite record by the Boston band.

 Chilton

Alex Chilton: you may have heard of him. Or possibly that little band from Memphis he was in. I got him to sign a few sleeves when he came to Charlotte with his solo band. He wasn’t the crabby guy I had heard him made out to be, but gracious and easy to talk to. Rest in peace, LX.

 Joe Strummer cop

Joe Strummer: you may have heard of him or a band he was in as well. When Joe and The Mescaleros played the States in October of 2001, they appeared at Irving Plaza and I was assigned to do a profile for Magnet magazine. He signed my London Calling CD sleeve after the show and also asked if I had gotten enough material for my interview. I don’t think he was just being nice—he really seemed to care about treating journalists and fans (and, it should be said, opening bands) properly. Go here to read my interview.

 Arcade Fire crop

Around the time that Arcade Fire’s Funeral album was starting to blow up they came to Asheville, NC, to honor a previously-made booking. The 2005 show was sold out, of course, and they could have played four nights in a row. I was doing a profile on the band for Magnet (you can read the story and interview here), so I got my copy of the CD signed by everyone in the band the next day when I took them all out for lunch.

 Warren Haynes crop

I’ve seen Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule numerous times, often at the annual Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville. Interviewing Warren for Stereophile Magazine prior to one of the Jams, I got him to sign a couple of pieces, and for some reason I asked him to autograph one to my son, setting in motion a tradition on my part that I still indulge.

 Jason Isbell crop

Ditto Jason Isbell, who I’ve also seen numerous times and of whom I have sung the praises frequently in these pages. He signed this one to my son when he came to the Grey Eagle in Asheville for a solo performance.

 Ettes crop

And ditto one of my favorite bands in the whole damn universe, garage demons The Ettes. I suspect my son might be embarrassed by all the scribbling on the sleeve dedicated to him, so Eli, if you are reading this—please don’t be. It’s all sincere (you were only six at the time anyway), and I know for a fact that the folks in the band dig you.

 Alejandro crop

Alejandro Escovedo actually asked me what my son’s name was without prompting at a show one night in Asheville. Amazingly, he’d remembered I had a young kid from when I’d interviewed him several years earlier. After the concert he came out to the merch table and patiently stood for more than a half hour for autographs and photos with fans. A class act all around.

 Rainer crop

It’s fitting that the last one I share with you is of Rainer Ptacek, who passed away from a brain tumor in late 1997. I had gotten to know the Arizona guitar maestro (and sometime member of Giant Sand) while living in Tucson from 1992-2001, and I’m proud to have called him my friend. We would often talk music down at the record store where I worked, or at the music shop where he worked, and I also interviewed him a few times for different publications. Nocturnes is my eternal Rainer favorite, a gentle and luminous album that I played in the delivery room when my child was born. This is the proverbial record I would rescue first if a fire broke out at my house. God bless you, Rainer, I still miss you deeply.