Lee Hazlewood vs. Don Nix: ’73

I discovered another musical coincidence recently — two albums with similarly-constructed titles released the same year by two hip and influential songwriter-producer-arrangers:  Poet, Fool or Bum by Lee Hazlewood -vs.- Hobos, Heroes & Street Corner Clowns by Don Nix, both from 1973.

Lee Hazlewood LP-1Don Nix LP

On his one and only album for Capitol, Hazlewood surprisingly (or not) turns over production reins to Jimmy Bowen (vinyl copies would later fetch decent money).   Hazlewood would then find himself ejected from the cover of the UK edition of Poet, Fool or Bum – could it have been the prospect of having to market Hazlewood without his trademark mustache?  Hazlewood and Tim Buckley, it bears noting, would be the first among many artists to record “Martha” off the debut album by Tom Waits.

UK cover

Lee Hazlewood LP-2In 1973, Capitol would issue a pair of singles:  “Nancy and Me” b/w “Kari” in May, followed by a promo 45 in November of “Feathers” b/w “The Performer“:  an especially powerful B-side — “a stark and somewhat autobiographical picture of a singer who’s sick of the game”  as writes Michael Erlewine in All Music Guide to Country:

“The Performer”     Lee Hazlewood     1973

Stax, meanwhile, would issue two singles from Hoboes, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns — “Black Cat Moan” b/w “The Train Don’t Stop Here No More” (released in 1973 in the US, UK & Germany), followed by “She’s a Friend of Mine” b/w “When I Lay My Burden Down” in October.  I’m only sorry Stax didn’t put more promotional heft into the latter 45, which would have sounded great on the radio in 1973, especially when the strings kick in at the chorus:

“She’s a Friend of Mine”     Don Nix     1973

How fascinating to discover that “Black Cat Moan” would be the lead-off song for the famous John Peel broadcast of May 29, 1973 on which he played side one of Tubular Bells by a then unknown Mike Oldfield on tiny indie label, Virgin Records – a radio first (and “the show that launched the Branson empire!“)

 Pretend it’s the B-side “The Performer”        Written, performed & produced by Don Nix

Lee Hazlewood 45-aDon Nix 45-a

Charles Shaar Murray vs. Barton Lee Hazlewood

Financial Times grimly reported last July that the New Musical Express — the first magazine, in 1952, to publish the pop charts in the UK, and one which once boasted a circulation of 270,000 during its 1970s peak — has now been turned into a freebie publication by its owner, Time Inc. UK (worse:  content is no longer solely devoted to music).  NME, nevertheless, will always have its own distinctive place in Lee Hazlewood history, as noted here:

“In 1952 the NME greeted the arrival of rock and roll with the breezy exclamation: “Guitars are news!”  Two decades later its star writers behaved as though they were rock stars themselves, chief among them Nick Kent, who extended his worship of Keith Richards to contracting a severe heroin addiction.  Reviews toughened up, such as Charles Shaar Murray’s one-word dismissal of a 1974 album called Poet, Fool or Bum by the US singer Lee Hazelwood:  ‘Bum.'”

German 45

Don Nix 45-b

Mack: Synonymous with Diesel

Can you believe it’s been 4 months and 20 days since I last featured a truck driving song?  And how perfect is it that Lonnie Mack once wrote and sang a truck driving song for 1971 Elektra album, The Hills of Indiana?

“Asphalt Outlaw Hero”     Lonnie Mack     1971

Don Nix – who also wrote “Oh What a Mighty Time” for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, with Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia (previously celebrated here) – co-wrote “Asphalt Outlaw Hero” with Lonnie Mack.

Acoustic & Electric Guitar – Lonnie Mack
Rhythm Guitar – Wayne Perkins*
Steel Guitar – Lloyd Green
Bass – Norbert Putnam, Tim Drummond, Troy Seals & David Hood*
Drums – Kenneth Buttrey & Roger Hawkins*
Fiddle – Buddy Spicher
Baritone Saxophone – Don Nix*
Keyboards – David Briggs & Barry Beckett*
Lead Vocals – Lonnie Mack & Don Nix
Choir – Mt. Zion Singers
Producer – Lonnie Mack & Russ Miller
Arranger – Norbert Putnam
Engineer – Brian Ross-Myring, Gene Eichelberger & Marlin Greene*

* designates personnel on “Asphalt Outlaw Hero”

“Asphalt Outlaw Hero” & “All Good Things Will Come to Pass” recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio — all others at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.  Elektra would issue a promo 7-inch of “Lay It Down” in 1971 but no actual singles.

Billboard’s review of The Hills of Indiana in its September 25, 1971 edition:

“Memphis, now Nashville.  Lonnie Mack bids for a chart comeback with still another fine LP country-soul and pop-gospel.  Mack is dedicated, often moving and brilliant , yet “undiscovered” by a pop public that would tune in fast if they could hear Mack soul away on ‘Rings,’ Dylan’s ‘The Man in Me’ and ‘All Good Things Will Come to Pass.’  Buttrey, Briggs and Putnam back Mack for an honest shot at popular exposure.”

Mojo would include The Hills of Indiana in its list of 60 Greatest Elektra Albums in the magazine’s November, 2010 issue — along with Don Nix’s Living by the Days, also from 1971.

The many moods of Lonnie Mack’s ‘The Hills of Indiana’

Lonnie Mack - Hills-1xElektra Records album sleevesLonnie Mack - Hills-2

Seven months ago, someone paid $20 for a sealed copy of The Hills of Indiana on Ebay.

“Mighty Time”: New Riders + Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia

Oh, what a mighty find at the local thrift shop last week:  the title track from this 1975 album by New Riders of the Purple Sage – with special guests, Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia:

Skip Battin:  Bass, Vocals & Percussion
Buddy Cage:  Pedal Steel & Vocal
John Dawson:  Guitar, Vocals, Autoharp & Mouth Harp, et al.
Spencer Dryden:  Drums, Percussion & Vocal
David Nelson:  Guitar, Vocal & Percussion
Sly Stone:  Organ, Piano & Vocal
Jerry Garcia:  Guitar

Behind the mixing console is none other than Bob Johnston, who famously produced Dylan and Cash in the 1960s.  Oh, What a Mighty Time would be the band’s last album for almighty Columbia, who would not issue any 45s from this LP.

“Mighty Time” written by Don Nix, who is probably best known for having written blues standard, “Goin’ Down” and whose session work as a saxophonist – as exemplified on sax & organ instrumental, “Last Night” – helped define the Stax sound.

George Harrison & Don Nix off Catalina Island, 1971

George Harrison & Don Nix