DIARY - 1 AUGUST 2003
PHILLIPS RIP @ 80
Life imitates art when reviewing music - especially when making rash predictions
about the future.
Take this finale line from the DVD review which appeared this week in
Melbourne street magazine 'Beat.'
'The journey is well worth the admission as there will be even less survivors
for a sequel.'
The review appeared on Wednesday July 30 and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips
followed fellow DVD icon Rufus Thomas into honky tonk heaven the same
Phillips, a Memphis record producer and engineer, is best known for taking
a punt on the late Elvis Aaron Presley when he was a hillbilly from Tupelo,
But, unlike fellow late Tupelo troubadour Tammy Wynette, young Elvis was
guided down the embryonic rock route.
Phillips decided in 1953 the unknown Elvis Presley deserved a recording
contract when he heard him sing songs for his mother Gladys.
"When I first heard Elvis, the essence of what I heard in his voice
was such that I knew there might be a number of areas that we could go
into," Phillips once said.
Phillips started Sun Records in 1952 and died on July 30 of respiratory
failure at St. Francis Hospital, Memphis, his son Knox Phillips said.
He said his father had been in declining health for a year.
In the summer of 1953, Presley went to Sun to record two songs for his
Phillips noticed him and offered Presley a recording contract.
He produced Presley's first record, the 1954 single that featured Arthur
Big Boy Crudup's 'That's All Right, Mama' and Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon
of Kentucky,' and nine more.
"God only knows that we didn't know it would have the response that
it would have," Phillips said in an interview in 1997. "But
I always knew that the rebellion of young people, which is as natural
as breathing, would be a part of that breakthrough."
Presley was a good balladeer but didn't need to challenge the established
crooners Perry Como, Frankie Laine and Bing Crosby.
"What there was a need for was a rhythm that had a very pronounced
beat, a joyous sound and a quality that young people in particular could
identify with," he said.
By 1956, when Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA for $35,000, the
rock 'n' roll craze had become a cultural phenomenon and a multimillion-dollar
Phillips was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
In 2000, the A&E cable network ran a two-hour biography called "Sam
Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll."
Born Samuel Cornelius Phillips in Florence, Ala., Phillips worked as an
announcer at radio stations in Alabama and Nashville, before settling
in Memphis in 1945.
Sam began as a radio station engineer and started Sun Records so he could
record both R & B & blues and country performers.
His plan was to let artists who had no formal training play their music
as they felt it, raw and full of life.
The Sun motto was "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime."
In the early days Phillips worked mostly with black musicians such as
B.B. King and the late Rufus Thomas who featured in the 'Good Rockin'
After the success of Presley on Sun, others who recorded for the label
under Phillips included Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Conway
Twitty and Charlie Rich.
RECORDS SOLD TO SHELBY SINGLETON
He left the recording business in 1962 and sold Sun Records in 1969 to
producer Shelby Singleton of Nashville.
Shelby released the embryonic vinyl albums of infamous former convict
and serial marriage celebrant and actor David Allan Coe on his Plantation
They included 'Penitentiary Blues' in 1969 and 'Requiem For A Harlequin'
in 1971 and when Coe celebrated his release from gaol by pitching his
songs from a hearse outside 'Grand Ole Opry' at the Ryman Auditorium in
Singleton also released 'Willie And David' - rare songs by Shotgun Willie
Nelson and Coe (including Billy Joe Shaver's 'Ride Me Down Easy' in 1980.
The Sun studio on Union Avenue in Memphis is now a tourist attraction.
In his later years, Phillips spent much of his time operating radio stations
in Memphis and in Alabama.
He stayed out of the limelight except for appearances at Presley-related
events after Presley's death.
"I'll never retire. I'm just using up somebody else's oxygen if I
retire," he said in an interview in 2000.
PHILLIPS DISCOVERED COWBOY JACK CLEMENT
Equally importantly he nurtured the engineering and production career
of 'Cowboy Jack Clement' at Sun.
Clement was also a prolific writer - he wrote 'It'll Be Me' (the flip
side of Jerry Lee Lewis's Sun smash 'Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On' and
a swag of hits for his mate Johnny Cash with whom he toured Australia
He wrote and produced 'Ballad Of A Teenage Queen', 'Guess Things Happened
That Way,' 'Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart,' 'Egg Sucking Dog,'
'I Got A Thing About Trains', 'The One On The Right Is On The Left' and
'Everybody Loves A Nut' for Cash.
Clement split with Phillips and worked with Chet Atkins in Nashville and
wrote hits such as 'I Know One' for Jim Reeves, 'Miller's Cave' for Hank
Snow, 'Just A Girl I Used To Know' for George Jones and 'Let's All Help
The Cowboy Sing The Blues.'
Cowboy Jack also paid for Charley Pride's first recording but went broke
and had to sell his recording studio after an ill fated movie production
hit the wall after the movie 'Dear Dead Delilah' in 1971.
Failure of the movie, starring Will Geer and Agnes Moorehead, forced Clement
to sell his three studios, a graphic arts studio, the 'Dipsy Doodle Production
Company and have to fire 46 staff.
But in April, 1978, he bounced back with the support of Phillips and released
his own solo debut 'All I Want To Do In Life' at the ripe young age of
Which is why Clement, now 71 and producer of the late Townes Van Zandt's
recent belatedly released debut disc, was genuine in his praise for Phillips
in 'Good Rockin' Tonight.'
JACK MATCH MAKER FOR LUCKY OCEANS
Former Asleep At The Wheel pedal steel guitarist and latter day ABC radio
show host Lucky Oceans thank Cowboy Jack for his move to Australia.
He met his wife Christine Haddow - daughter of a gold miner from Broad
Arrow near Kalgoorlie at the Exit Inn in Nashville in 1977 - when she
was working for Cowboy Jack's new movie and music production company.
The couple fell in love, wed and moved to Fremantle despite Asleep At
The Wheel leader Ray Benson offering Lucky a role in the movie 'Roadie'
with Hank Williams Jr, Meatloaf, Roy Orbison, Joe Ely, Alice Cooper, Blondie
and, of course, Asleep At The Wheel.
The movie was made in Austin, Texas, - then home of Oceans, born Reuben
Gosfeld, - at the same time as 'Honeysuckle Rose' starring the late Slim
Pickens and Willie Nelson.
Lucky didn't appear in the movie but Johnny Redneck - pioneer country
music DJ at 2XX Canberra and later on the same Bellingen station as Nu
Country radio star and actor Bobby Bright - landed cameo roles as an extra
while working on the set.
GOOD ROCKIN' TONIGHT:
The Legacy of Sun Records (2001) (AV Channel-Umbrella.) When Johnny Cash
fronted Sun Records in Memphis in late 1954 he was given good advice by
label boss Sam Phillips. Go out and sin and then come back and sing about
Cash, now 71, acted out his mentor's message and reaped the riches in
a career whose musical embryo he shared with diverse peers in this incisive
There is vigorous debate about whether Memphis was the birthplace of rock
n roll and if the Tennessee city is better known for blues.
Well, country and blues permeated the south - especially Memphis - long
before rock as Rufus Thomas recalled before departing his mortal coil.
Ronny Elliott sang on 'Born In 1947,' that Jimmy Liggins created rock
'n roll in 1947 - year of the birth of himself and Emmylou Harris.
There's verbal vitriol from rockabilly Billy Lee Riley on being discarded
by Phillips in preference for Jerry Lee Lewis who has an almost comatose
cameo with an inspired 'Matchbox 20' on Charlie Rich hit 'Lonely Weekends.'
The one hour 52 celebration, inspired by the 50th anniversary of Sun,
is an invaluable trip through entrées and exits of Phillips' colts
who soared and then crashed and burned.
Cash sidekick and Aussie touring partner Cowboy Jack Clement - Phillips
protégé and engineer-producer - grins and bares it while
Riley moans his personal blues.
A good lawyer was just as important back then, as it is now, to ensure
sharks circled without gnashing victims.
But Phillips, who needed a decent lawyer when he sold Elvis to RCA for
$35,000, is a charismatic character who deserves praise for his creativity,
longevity and anecdotes.
"It was a hell of a thing," says Memphis born hit writer Clement
who also discovered the late Townes Van Zandt, "I'm really glad I
was there. That's about the best three years of my life, really. Boy,
did we have fun."
So what about the 'new kids on the block' like Paul McCartney and Mark
Knopfler who teamed up with Presley band survivors Scotty Moore and D
J Fontana for Arthur Crudup's 'That's Alright Mamma' and 'Rock 'n Roll
They worked fine - like the Ben Folds Five on Carl Perkins 'Honey Don't'
and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on Hank Williams 'My Bucket's Got A Hole
In It' from which Springtseen borrowed a chorus for 'The River.'
Kid Rock and Malcolm Yelvington cut 'Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O Dee with
comedic clout but 'Third Eye Blind' might revert to their day job after
botching Cash's classic 'Cry, Cry, Cry.'
'Zucchero' do justice to 'A Fool Such As I' but Johnny Hallyday proves
he was never more than a French tributary of the Presley torrent on Perkins
'Blue Suede Shows.' But those are minor criticisms - the journey is well
worth the admission as there will be even less survivors for a sequel.
FRIEDMAN RETURN TOUR #6
Kinky Friedman and Little Jewford are tipped to return to Australia for
his sixth tour in January-February, 2004.
The duo will tour to promote their 'Live From Down Under' CD featuring
Billy Joe Shaver, Jesse Taylor and Washington Ratso.
The colourful cover pix for that epic CD were taken by former Nu Country
treasurer Kip Karpik who has also been approached to provide pix for a
new live Kevin Welch CD.
Karpik, photographer to the roots music stars on their Aussie sojourns,
has had his work published in glossy magazines and the street press.
Sadly Kip never caught Kink sporting his dreadlocks which are now being
auctioned on E-BAY.
Kacey Jones - who made her name with 'Ethel & The Shameless Hussies
in 1988 and is a successful solo artist - is sending video clips of herself
and Kinky to Nu Country TV.
Jones, producer of Kinky tribute disc 'Pearls In The Snow' and a prolific
song writer, has just released a new single 'Never Wear Panties To A Party.'
Her most recent albums to score airplay on Nu Country were 'Men Are Some
Of My Favourite People' and 'Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay Or
Kacey and Delbert McClinton also scored exposure for their revamp of the
Conway Twitty-Loretta Lynn hit 'You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,'
which topped European charts for seven weeks.
KILLS TWO BIRDS AND GETS STONED
The Kinkster hopes to have his 17th crime novel 'The Mystery Of The Missing
Puppet Head' available here through Penguin in early 2004.
Kinky also has other books available in the U.S. including 'Kill Two Birds
And Get Stoned' New York: William Morrow, published in April, 2003.
Fans of Kinky detective novels may be alarmed to learn he is not the male
lead in this book which was described by the New York Times as a "multi-layered
little artichoke of a novel that puts one in mind of the Fellini movie
It's about a self-involved, self-analytical film director in crisis, trying
to develop a new project, struggling to discover who he really is and
answer questions about the meaning of life, art and truth while running
the streets with crazy strangers.
It's also about a self-involved, self-analytical writer in crisis, trying
to develop a new project, struggling to discover who he really is and
answer questions about meaning of life, art and truth while running the
streets with crazy strangers.
The writer in residence is Walter Snow, whose first novel, 'The Rise and
Fall of Nothing at All,' published seven years earlier, was considered
Unfortunately, the promise is still just a promise.
Since then Snow has been mentally residing in that dreaded and most feared
of all places to authors, known as writer's block, and is unable to write
even one word of a new book he has entitled ''The Great Armenian Novel.'
Not that he is Armenian, but he once had an Armenian girlfriend, and like
all good writers he likes to write about something he knows.
His actual residence is a colourless basement apartment in Greenwich Village,
and at present he has no meaningful sexual relationship to speak of (other
than with himself) and only a minimal view of the world from his window,
mostly of feet and ankles and an occasional dog.
WOMAN - NOT A CAMEL NAMED CLYDE
Walter desperately needs a larger vision and he knows it.
Soon one shows up in the person of a mysterious woman he meets at the
bank, named Clyde Potts, who according to Walter has ''a gorgeous mass
of golden storybook hair'' and ''the eyes of a slumming angel.''
From the moment she asks to borrow his safe deposit box to stash a package
she claims to be her grandmother's silver, he is hooked.
He soon becomes friends with Clyde and her best friend and roommate, a
wild-haired former mental patient sporting a blue cape, who is either
the King of the Gypsies or a man named Fox Harris.
Walter grabs onto them like a drowning man. They will be either the muse
he has been searching for or his destruction.
Along the way several mysteries present themselves.
Who are these two roommates, anyway?
But more important to Walter, will he ever get the elusive Clyde Potts
out of his sexual fantasies and into his bed?
Walter, who has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for six and a half years,
falls off the wagon and dives headfirst into Margaritaville sans everything
but the tequila.
GUIDE TO TEXAS ETIQUETTE
The Kinkster has also published a non fiction book, of sorts.
The name - 'Kinky Friedman's Guide to Texas Etiquette or How to Get to
Heaven or Hell Without Going Through Dallas-Fort Worth.'
The confirmed bachelor has also appeared nude on the cover of the 'Dallas
Observer' in a parody of the 'Dixie Chicks' whom he wrote about in his
monthly column for the glossy 'Texas Monthly.'
Friedman also appeared with Shotgun Willie Nelson on the cover of the
January 2002 issue of Texas Monthly in a cute spoof of Grant Wood's famous
"American Gothic" painting.
Nelson portrays the farmer - Friedman the farmer's wife.
"I've been exploring my sexuality for many years now."
KINKY BIOGRAPHIES - ONE FROM DOWN UNDER
is now the subject of two biographies at the ripe young age of 58.
The first one was written by his campaign director when he ran for
Justice Of The Peace in Kerrville.
The second is a work in progress by Melbourne biographer Melita Granger
who was a recent 'house pest' at his Echo Hill Ranch at Medina in
the Texas Hill Country.
He also took her to his other homes in Austin and Greenwich Village
and introduced her to a vast variety of 'Kerrverts' in hill country
THOSE WHO CAN'T WAIT
Kinky is performing on August 7 in Austin, Texas at Threadgill's South
- The Armadillo World Headquarters 33rd Birthday Party (And Fundraiser).
The show is to raise funds for legendary Texas promoter and songwriter
Kent Finlay who penned 'Blow Up Plastic Girl' for Mel McDaniel's 1977
Capitol album 'Gentle To Your Senses.'
In a 1983 interview in Nashville the Oklahoma born singer told me that
the song was recorded late in the sessions for his album as a bonus song
- a precursor of latter day hidden tracks.
But EMI Australia, in an uncharacteristic burst of creativity, released
it in the unlucky radio country as a single.
It scored national headlines in Australia when Queensland morals campaigner
Vilma Ward object to it being played on 4KQ in Brisbane.
Former Nu Country DJ and promotions and sponsorship wizard Rod Stone became
so bemused with the wowser campaign he broke a copy of the vinyl single
live on air when he programmed the top rating Brisbane station.
Finlay, who is seriously ill, also discovered latter day stars Todd Snider
and Terri Hendrix when they worked as bus persons at his 'Cheatham St
Warehouse' in San Marcos.
Ironically, Snider - from Portland, Oregon, became a star here because
of his parody 'Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.'
It was a hidden track on debut disc 'Songs From The Daily Planet' on Margaritaville
Records - a label owned by singing sailor, songwriter and author Jimmy
Buffett who toured here twice after being the pin up boy for Dennis Connor's
in his America's Cup Challenge against Alan Bond in Fremantle.
Kinky Friedman, Greezy Wheels, Uranium Savages, Sweet Mary's Blazing Bows,
plus exclusive wide-screen video footage of vintage Armadillo shows!
The Armadillo World HQ was an embryonic, but now defunct, Austin honky
tonk where Willie Nelson consummated the hippie redneck nuptials of country
and rock in 1973.
It was locale and source of the 'Improbable Rise Of Redneck Rock' - a
book on the birth of progressive Texas country music.
And, of course, the inspiration for Australian country artists of the
seventies such as 'Saltbush', 'Hit & Run' and the 'Dead Livers' who
broke the mould of the matching shirt and frozen smile groups.
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