It seems like music has always been in the air around you and in your head.
Folk Music, Country Music, Rock ‘n’ Roll.
And, you write poems, lyrics if you will, that maybe could be songs.
Along comes the Guitar and those poems really do sound like songs.
There’s something about the sound of the 12 string especially that frees up the spirit.
Listened to a lot of music in Texas growing up and in the Service the radio was always a lifeline.
Now you’re back in civilian life it’s time to see if any of these songs have a life outside your head.
Head West Young Man!Embed from Getty Images
Los Angeles has quite a scene.
There’s a club, The Troubadour, in West Hollywood that has a Monday night Hootenanny where all kinds of songs get played by folks desperate to get their songs sung and heard.
Some of these singers are really building a following and some have even got record deals.
Now if I could just get someone like that to sing and record one of my songs I’d be launched as a songwriter and maybe people would take the time to listen to me singing my other songs.
Might even make a few bucks!
There’s this guy, John Herald, heads up a bluegrass outfit, The Greenbriar Boys, and we get along fine – play each other our songs.
He thinks, ‘Different Drum’ has got that something a song has to have so that it sticks in people’s minds and has them singing along before they even realise they are doing it.
Well, praise be!, John only went and recorded, ‘Different Drum’ and put it out on their album, ‘Better Late than Never!’
Now I have an official song writing credit!
But, I wont be needing a truck to haul away my royalties!
John and the Boys slowed the song down and their version sounds a little worthy to me; a hit for the Hoot crowd but nowhere else.
But, all songwriters will tell you, once a song is out there on record and on the radio, its like a message in a bottle and there’s no knowing whose feet it will wash up at.Embed from Getty Images
Turns out there’s this group called The Stone Poneys and that the girl in the group, Linda Ronstadt, heard the Greenbriar Boys take on, ‘Different Drum’ and thought here, finally, was a song that would suit her.
I got to say that anyone who has ever seen The Stone Poneys knows that while Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel love their music they are very low watt bulbs in comparison to the brilliance that surrounds Linda.
She’s hotter than Mojave and she has a true voice that pierces the heart.
So, one day, I turn on the radio and Hallelujah!
Different Drum blasting out and no doubt about it a sure fire hit.
Got to say Linda has given the song a sweetness and sensuality that even surprises me.
Amazing how good a song can sound when its sung by a singer like Linda supported by musicians who can really play directed by a Producer who can make a song fly off those vinyl grooves.
I did some research and it seems Linda was the only Stone Poney on the record.
Nick Venet, the Producer, twigged that the song shouldn’t be one more of the thousands of pretty acoustic ballads out there.
Give it a stylish arrangement, add in the chops of first rate musicians to match Linda’s shining vocals and you’ve got a record that will have people turning up their radio’s and saying, ‘Who is that?’ and hot footing it to their nearest record store.
So, Jimmy Bond plays the hell out of the Bass – he’s got all that Jazz training and he knows the studio – how else did he get to be part of the Wrecking Crew!
Al Viola and Bernie Leadon played those sweet guitar parts.
Jim Gordon, the Jim Gordon, made the song swing from the Drum stool.
Add in a little magic from Sid Sharp’s strings and Don Randi’s Harpsichord and I defy anyone not to sing along with gusto!
This time the royalties really did flow in!
Now, some of you might know, that for a few years in the late 60s, I became something of a celebrity, heard someone call the group I was in, ‘The Monkees’ a Pop phenomenon indeed!
Of course, all the while the TV Show and the recording and tours were in full spate I never lost track of the fact that at heart I was a singer songwriter and that when all this frenzy finished (as it always must sooner or later) I would pick up the 12 String and find a new audience.
You know, ‘Different Drum’ has been pretty good to me so I figured let’s see how it sounds with Red Rhodes on the pedal steel and me taking a mellow meander through the song.
Now songwriters love all their songs and I ain’t no different but Different Drum is close to my heart and it seems to keep finding new singers who want to put their own stamp on it.
Listen here to Susanna Hoffs (wasn’t she in a group that was something of a modest pop phenomenon in the 80s?).
Don’t she and Matthew Sweet charm us all!
That’s my kind of Hootennany right there.
One of the greatest gifts a songwriter can ever get is to hear one of their songs completely reimagined so that it comes up anew shining bright and dazzling a new audience.
That happened to me when I heard P P Arnold take on Different Drum with a bunch of English musicians.
Most everybody knows her as a backing singer or for cutting the original of Cat Stevens’ ‘First Cut is the Deepest’ but the more you investigate her career you realise she’s a magnificent soul singer and that any writer ought to be real proud to have her cover one of their songs.
Once heard you won’t forget this.
She can flat out sing!
Compared to Linda and Susanna and P P Arnold I can’t sing at all.
But, Over the years I have learned how to tell a story and make co-conspirators of an audience.
Different Drum is an old friend now and I like to make sure I don’t rush through it pretending I was still in my 20s.
A story needs to be properly framed and told for maximum impact.
So now it goes something like this :
Long as I can make it up on stage I’m going to be singing that song.
Time to close out with a tribute to the person who sent this song soaring into so many hearts.
Linda’s health doesn’t let her sing anymore but a voice like she had will always be lifting spirits and touching souls.
Oh my. How did Michael Nesmith get so old, when I have not aged a bit. Yeah right. Amazing how he came from a TV contrived musical group. Thanks for sharing Thom. Allan
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It’s easy to see why/how this was one of the perennial ‘readers’ favorites’ on Jukebox! I read it again with the same affection as when you first shared it, and this time opened some youtube interviews w/nesmith.. nice…
In another post you mention the Tennessee plates which got my attention. I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, and if you ever make that ‘Elvis and Blues Country’ tour, give me some notice! If it’s not possible to plan a trip back to N. Mississippi and the Delta, I could still introduce you to folks who might give you a more-personal visit, esp in Clarksdale.
As always, your posts are appreciated and treasured!
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Many thanks for your very kind words. Regards Thom.
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