DIARY - 23 OCTOBER 2005 - DANNY O'KEEFE
O'KEEFE - BLUES NO MORE
gone away/ believe this time they've gone to stay/ there's not a soul
I know around/ everybody's leavin' town, some gotta win, some gotta lose/
Good Time Charlie's got the blues." - Danny O'Keefe
O'Keefe might be best known here for his classic oft-recorded song
Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues.
But the singer, born in Spokane and raised in Wenatchee, Washington,
has a brace of albums dating back to 1966 that have a rich vein of
country songs featuring the Nashville A team pickers of that era.
Although he developed a love of music at high school in St Paul, Minnesota,
where his grandmother owned a stockman's hotel, his songwriting was
prompted by a near fatal motor cycle accident.
And O'Keefe will showcase his deep catalogue on his first Australian
tour that begins at Basement Discs - embryonic Nu Country TV sponsor
- on Wednesday November 16.
O'Keefe also performs at the annual Troubadour festival from November
18-20 and also the Corner Hotel, Richmond on November 22.
HERE for details.
Equally importantly he agreed to be filmed for Nu Country TV at Basement
Discs after he visited our internationally acclaimed web page.
"I am fearless. Sign me up. I certainly don't look as worse for wear
as Billy Joe and Kinky," O'Keefe joked.
"Of course they've lived much harder lives than I."
BRIEF O'KEEFE CV
honed his craft live in Minnesota and New York before recording his
1966 debut single Don't Wake Me In The Morning and That
Old Sweet Song for the Seattle-based Jerden label.
The Panorama label released an album of his demos in 1966.
He next performed with Seattle based psychedelic band Calliope and
made one album Steamed for Buddah Records in 1968.
Atlantic Records CEO Ahmet Ertegun signed O'Keefe to its Cotillion
subsidiary after being sent a tape of Good Time Charlie's Got the
Blues, penned in 1967.
Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, Mel Tormé, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Lee
Lewis, Cab Calloway, Leon Russell and Waylon Jennings covered the song
over the years and kept the wolves from Danny's doors.
In 1972, O'Keefe cracked the Top 10 with the classic version of his song.
"It's just so bone simple. You can't take anything else away from
it," O'Keefe revealed in a recent interview.
"And it was a perfect little encapsulation of where I was at the
time, which is why I still love it. I was barely a guitar player and learning
my trade. I hadn't been very successful at it, and friends of mine were
just starting to get some success and were literally leaving Seattle to
go to L.A., and I wanted to go with them."
During the sixties many artists, including Glen Campbell, expressed interest
in the song but were put off by one line.
"In '67, if you had a line that made any reference to drug use, no
one would touch it," O'Keefe said.
"And it had [the line] 'I've got my pills to ease the pain.' But
it was true. I'd been in a motorcycle accident, and I was almost strung
out on codeine. Finally somebody did change it and said, 'I got my booze
to ease the pain,' or something, and I think it did make the country charts.
It wasn't a big hit or anything."
O'Keefe confesses his worst job was working in the Boeing mailroom.
"I had shattered my femur in a motorcycle accident the year prior
and was in constant pain. The mailroom job required a great deal of time
on my legs and considerable overtime that had to be worked. The pain became
overwhelming one day, and I just walked out. Pain has been one of the
constants that propelled me into a songwriting career and I suppose it's
an essential to art. Technique and understanding are the great palliatives
as is the reward of the audience's appreciation."
recorded most of self titled debut disc in Muscle Shoals with Eddie
Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitar, Barry Beckett on keyboards,
drummer Roger Hawkins and bassist David Hood whose son Paterson
is a focus of the Driver By Truckers.
Four of the songs were cut in Hollywood with Flying Burrito Brothers
bassist Chris Etheridge who toured here many times with Shotgun
O'Keefe also played guitar on the original of Good Time Charlie's
Got The Blues that was reprised on his Arif Mardin produced 1972
Atlantic disc, also self titled.
guested on guitar and headed the Nashville A team pickers who played on
the singer's 11 originals and a cover of Hank Williams Honky Tonkin.
wrote 10 of the 11 songs on his 1973 Atlantic disc Breezy Stories
and all of his 1975 disc So Long Harry Truman with Linda Ronstadt,
Sneaky Pete Kleinow, David Grisman and some Eagles flying in for guest
He also wrote nine of the 10 songs on 1977 album American Roulette
and all on 1979 disc The Global Blues.
Aptly titled Coldwater released his 1984 album, The Day to Day.
The owners had 20,000 copies pressed, but didn't have the money to pick
them up. All but a few of the discs were turned into scrap vinyl.
In 1990, Chameleon Records reissued the disc (retitled Redux) on
CD with two new tracks.
Only 5,000 of the discs were pressed but it earned radio airplay and light
rotation on VH1.
The first run of discs sold out, but the company was fading and didn't
press any more.
O'Keefe released another album, Runnin' From the Devil, on Seattle-based
Miramar Records in 2000.
"There was a great sense of enthusiasm from all involved that made
the recording process fun again," O'Keefe said.
"Miramar Recordings was a Seattle-based company that was in the process
of reforming, and I wanted to work with a company I could have a more
personal relationship with.
Unfortunately, they went bankrupt not long after the release of Runnin'
From the Devil and that, accompanied by some complications I had from
a surgery gone awry, made touring problematic. Recording makes sense as
an artistic endeavour because the process avails you the canvas to flesh
out musical ideas. You need the promotion and production aspects to make
it a success, however."
O'Keefe released his latest album Don't Ask in June, 2003, on Bicameral
with writing partner and longtime friend Bill Braun.
Australian label Raven and U.S. company Rhino have released O'Keefe compilations.
early albums featured steel guitars and fiddles but O'Keefe wasn't
limited to one genre.
He mixed country with jazz, R&B and rock.
"I don't think the marketing guys had a clue as to what to do
with me," says O'Keefe.
Judy Collins recorded his song Angel Spread Your Wings and
Jackson Browne cut The Road on Running on Empty.
Mel Torme performed Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues in a poignant
episode of the 1980s sitcom Night Court.
Donny Hathaway and Leo Sayer both did versions of his song Magdalena.
recorded the O'Keefe-Dave Mallett song Never Got off the Ground
on her 1999 album Forget About It and Nickel Creek and Ute Lemper
have also covered his songs.
Linda Ronstadt is a supporter.
"She was a dear friend," says O'Keefe.
"That was a lot of fun because she was going first class. So I got
to be in the Lear Jet, too. I tell ya, you know, there's a certain addictive
quality to being able to come out of the Plaza Hotel at 5 o'clock in the
afternoon and get in the limousine with all your pals and go zipping to
the private airport while the paparazzi ride alongside snapping pictures
of you, and then you go on to the runway and get into the Lear Jet, and
you're at the gig a half an hour later. You can see why people get very
fond of that lifestyle. I wasn't allowed to get too fond of it!"
American Roulette contained some of his strongest material, but
it was recorded in a drugged haze.
"To this day I kick myself," says O'Keefe.
"The first of the album was recorded in Johnny Mercer's studio. Here's
Johnny Mercer sitting in the front office, one of the greatest lyricists
and songwriters of all time. He's dying of cancer. He's a very open and
generous and friendly guy. All I have to do is go in there and hang out
with him and learn what he could've taught me. Maybe even have written
a song with him! But, you know, I'm stumblin' in there with my ego inflated,
and too high and too blind to recognize all the opportunities that I had
O'Keefe became a contract songwriter for publishing companies including
one owned by Bob Dylan with whom he collaborated on one song.
Unfortunately, his songs were too esoteric for Nashville.
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