DIARY - 18 MARCH 2006 - EMMYLOU HARRIS
HARRIS A SURIVIVOR
born country star Emmylou Harris is a true survivor in a career that
starred as a solo artist in the mid-sixties.
She grew up near Washington, DC, and began playing folk clubs as a
student before moving to Greenwich Village.
Emmylou shared stages with artists diverse as Jerry Jeff Walker and
Dave Bromberg and cut her debut disc Gliding Bird in 1968.
Chris Hillman discovered her in 1971 and brought Gram Parsons to hear
her sing in a small club in the Washington area.
In 1972, she answered the call from Gram to join him in Los Angeles
to work on his first solo album, GP.
After Gram died in 1973, Emmylou went back to the D.C. area and formed
a country band.
She played with them until her 1975 major label debut, Pieces of
the Sky, when she formed the first version of the legendary Hot
The Hot Band
included a galaxy of musicians including Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell, Hank
DeVito, Emory Gordy Jr, Ricky Skaggs, James Burton and Glenn Hardin.
Emmylou scored a brace of hits and embraced all sub genres of country
on albums that have stood the test of time.
cut her first live disc in 1992 at the Ryman Auditorium - mother ship
of the Grand Ole Opry with her Nash City Ramblers.
Harris has won 12 Grammys in a career embracing more than 30 studio and
live discs, DVDS and two albums with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton as
Third husband Paul Kennerley produced her revered concept album The
Ballad of Sally Rose in 1985.
The prominent social activist has also been honoured with many compilation
discs including the excellent duets pair on Australian label Raven.
I have interviewed Emmylou several times including her 1984 tour for the
expatriate Australasian promoter and Nashville superstar manager and publisher
I also interviewed her famed tour manager and infamous Gram Parsons body
snatcher Phil Kaufman who chronicled his adventures in the book Road
Kaufman re-enacted the body snatch with his Aussie partner in crime Michael
Martin outside the Sebel Town House Hotel in Elizabeth Bay for the Sydney
Daily Telegraph and now defunct Daily Mirror.
Here is my latest Emmylou Harris interview when she was promoting recent
COUNTRY INTERVIEW 2000
STILL QUEEN OF THE SILVER DOLLAR
Harris vividly recalls a night she voted for a transvestite in a bizarre
beauty contest in Nashville and inspired two smash hits by the late
Playboy cartoonist, singer and author Shel Silverstein.
Silverstein, who died on May, 9, 1999 at 67, penned Queen Of The
Silver Dollar and Boy Named Sue about the tiara toting
"I thought it was only appropriate that I chose a drag queen,"
Emmylou, now 56, told Nu Country TV in a call from her Nashville home,
"but my decision was overturned."
Ronstadt, Dr Hook and Doyle Holly recorded Queen Of The Silver Dollar
but it was Tulsa Queen - a Harris-Rodney Crowell tune - that embroidered
her 25th album Spyboy on Festival.
The thrice-wed Alabama born singer, whose recording career started with
Gliding Bird in 1968, also included Crowell tune Ain't Living
Long Like This - once a hit for Waylon Jennings.
album, cut at Albert Hall in London during that tour, hasn't surfaced.
But Spyboy - named after the leader of the New Orleans Mardi Gras
parade - earned one of three recent Grammy nominations.
Harris was secretive about the locale of Spyboy, recorded in Europe
in 1997, and featuring the band - Buddy Miller, Daryl Johnson and Brady
Blade - who toured Australia with her.
"That's my little secret," Harris teased.
"What I would like is for anyone who came to any show was a part
of the making of the record. I didn't want to get specific about the actual
place - I wanted it to be a more spiritual realm.
"I still love the old material and you want to keep that while adding
new songs to the old songs."
cut David Olney tune Deeper Well - part of a sequence that
also features her solo version of her original tune Prayer In Open
D and acapella version of Calling My Children Home, originally
cut by bluegrass group The Country Gentlemen.
The album finale is a cover of Wrecking Ball producer Daniel
Lanois tune The Maker - the only song she hadn't previously
"The Maker is the main reason I decided to make a live
record in the first place," says Emmylou, "I started singing
it when Daniel and I were on a short tour. I performed it each night
with him. I really loved it and knew I wanted it on record.
was no way I could compete with his studio version so I thought I would
record our shows to get a live version of it to put on a studio record.
This album is representative of where I was during those two years of
my life, which is what a record should be."
planned to include more songs from Wrecking Ball but Asylum records
vetoed that so she cut Jesse Winchester tune My Songbird, the late
Boudleaux Bryant's Love Hurts, Julie Miller's All My Tears,
Green Pastures and her third ex-husband Paul Kennerley's tune Born
"My audience wants me to try things that are different," Emmylou
"I might have alienated a few people with Wrecking Ball. There's
certain part of my audience that thinks I stopped making records in 1980.
I can't be responsible for that. I have to find things to keep myself
excited, otherwise I would just quit."
She also included Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman tune Wheels and Boulder
To Birmingham - the ode to Gram she wrote with Bill Danoff (who penned
late John Denver hit Take Me Home, Country Road.)
"I went back to the drawing board and listened to some of the older
material we'd been doing just out of necessity," Emmylou recalled.
"Ultimately, I think, that made for a better record."
also devoting her energies to a tribute album to former singing partner
Gram who died at 26 on September 19, 1973, from a heroin and booze
Tour manager Phil Kaufman and Aussie mate Michael Martin stole Gram's
body and coffin from Van Nuys airport, Los Angeles, and burned it
at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree national park desert in a bizarre death
pact made two months earlier at Byrds guitarist Clarence White's funeral.
Harris and Parsons duetted on his two solo discs and now the belated
tribute has been released here by Festival Records and replaced Kinky
Friedman tribute disc Pearls In The Snow at No 1 on the prestige
Williams cut Grievous Angel and Steve Earle and Chris Hillman did
High Fashion Queen," says the singer.
are spirited recordings which capture the essence of Gram's work. It's
an amazing project."
Other tracks include She (Emmylou & The Pretenders), Ooh
Las Vegas (Cowboy Junkies), Sin City (Emmylou & Beck),
$1,000 Wedding (Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield), Juanita
(Emmylou & Sheryl Crow), Sleepless Nights (Elvis Costello),
Return Of The Grievous Angel (Lucinda Williams & David Crosby),
100 Years (Wilco), Hickory Wind (Gillian Welch & David
Rawlings), In My Hour Of Darkness (The Rolling Creekdippers) and
Hot Burrito #1 (The Mavericks).
Harris & Rodney Crowell
Trio 2, recorded five years ago for Asylum, enjoyed healthy
sales despite radio apathy.
It's a fitting entree for her duets album with Ms Ronstadt, mother
of two, who quit the bright lights of Los Angeles to return home to
Harley Allen tune High Sierra, one of the four songs cut by
Linda on her solo album Feels Like Going Home, was the first
single from the disc which sold 150,000 plus.
The Trio also reprised Olney tune Women Across The River from
the same disc for Trio 2 which may not be surpass success of
the original Trio, a two million seller, which enjoyed a sales
spurt because of publicity for the sequel and the CMT and free TV
really on our way," says Emmylou of the duets disc which is due in
July, "we're on the road in August-September to promote it and hope
to include Australia."
Harris also harmonised with Shotgun Willie Nelson on The Maker
from his solo disc, Teatro, filmed by Wim Wenders during a live
gig at the old Teatro Mexican theatre where his album was recorded in
Tribute discs are a bonus for fans of Emmylou who cut Golden Ring with
Linda and Anna and Kate McGarrigle on Tammy Wynette Remembered
and Love Still Remains on Treasures Left Behind - the Kate
Wolf eulogy produced by Nina Gerber who toured here as Mollie O'Brien's
She also shared a Grammy with an even dozen peers for Same Old Train
on Tribute To Tradition.
And, of course, Emmylou, daughter Meghann and Linda were in the large
choir on the Roy Huskey Jr tribute, The Pilgrim, on Earle's 10th
album The Mountain, with the Del McCoury Band.
CHORDS AND THE TRUTH
the longevity of her career Emmylou is not keen to talk about a short
stanza in her life, vividly described in a long chapter in Laurence
Leamer book, Three Chords And The Truth.
Harris, shunned by American radio and undertaking gruelling European
tour in 1995, reportedly told Leamer "I'm a hard woman, a hard
woman. And I'm at the bottom of the fucking heap."
The singer, whose serenity was shattered by an uncustomary dose of
red wine, uttered home truths she didn't expect to be repeated.
& Gram Parsons
think it was accurate and don't want to discuss it," she said.
"I had bronchitis and I was very sick on that tour. I was disappointed
and let him know what I felt about it."
Emmylou is a grass roots artist with no superstar aspirations at the peak
of a 38 year recording career.
"I've basically made my living in the trenches and I probably always
will," Harris admits,
"I think it's always going to be uphill. I don't think I'm ever going
to be at the top of the charts."
The eight time Grammy winner and most in demand harmony singer and duet
partner in Nashville is eager to discuss the future, not that savage snapshot
of her tear stained past.
Harris's star is burning brightly again after a visit with her mother
to Vietnam and Cambodia to study the impact of land mines.
is a forte for the daughter of decorated Marine Pilot and Major
Walter Harris who spent 16 months as a POW during the Korean conflict.
"Land mines are wrong and need to be got out of the ground
if people are to live some normal kind of life where they're not
subjected to terrorism in their life every day when they're supposed
to be living in peace time," Harris says, "it's civilians
who are the casualties. The people working there are trying to raise
the standard of medical facilities and schools. It's very inspiring
to know there are still people in the world trying to help other
Emmylou Harris & Buddy Miller
the Vietnam veteran who went back there and started the campaign to end
land mines was one of the co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. He saw
the devastation and set up a clinic outside Phnom Penn and provides free
artificial limbs and rehab for victims of land mines."
pro-active role prompted her guitarist and prolific singer songwriter
Buddy Miller to include his tune 100 Million Little Bombs on his
second disc Poison Love and perform land mine eradication benefit
concerts with Lucinda, Willie, Steve and Sheryl.
The singer is a free spirit like her namesake paddle steamer at Echuca
on the Murray River.
"I have no idea where I'm going but I'm enjoying the trip,"
says Emmylou, "as long as I feel excited about music, I won't have
to worry about what will be next."
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