Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week No. 57 - Gordon Terry - Battle of New Orleans

Gordon Terry was a good looking dude, big and strong with a solid quiff and a big personality. I’m not sure what is the most important thing in a man, his quiff or his personality. Terry was born in Decatur, Alabama and became an accomplished fiddle player at an early age. Amazingly, he made his debut on thr Grand Ole Opry at the age of nine. He backed artists like Bill Monroe before serving in the army in Korea. After his discharge, he relocated in Tinsletown and with his rugged looks he landed a part in the 1956 western Hidden Guns. Half a dozen more film roles followed before he returned to the music scene. He never made it massive, despite his abilities, but did get to work with most of the biggies, from Elvis to Merle Haggard. He could count on the Nashville greats as his buddies, with Johnny Cash being a firm friend. He founded ROPE Reunion Of Professional Entertainers, an association with an aim to build a retirement home for entertainers and in 1981 he was inducted into the Fiddlers Hall of Fame. In the 1980s, he had the Gordon Terry Parkway named after him. He died in 2006 in Spring Hill, Tennessee, a couple of months before he was inducted into The Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame.

The song of his I’ve been listening to today, was unissued at the time (not surprisingly), and sees him recording with Johnny Cash. It was recorded at the Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood on May 10th, 1960, with Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and Roy Cash Jnr, together with Terry’s usual pickers, Fury Kazak on drums, Jim pierce on piano and Dick Stubbs on steel. The session details in the Bear Family booklet have Johnny Cash listed as session leader – this was more like the blind leading the blind. While Terry struggles to remember the lyrics (especially written by former Drifting Cowboy, Don Helms), him and Cash crack up during their duet in the chorus. The new words tell the story like no Nashville books were telling it at the time. The guys behind the scene get a right going over for their single-minded money making schemes, hiring and firing and taking backhanders left, right and centre. You’ve got to hear the song right through, but some of the characters assassinations include, Oscar Davis, “he told us he was gonna make us rich, and we starting believing that little son-of-a-bitch”, and Jim Denny “A short fat bastard with artificial hair, Jim told Hank he wanted half of what he made, else he was gonna tell Audrey of all the girls Hank had laid”. Great fun, if only there were more of these things out there. I’m sure some of these guys must have goofed around all the time on tour buses and backstage, it’s just a shame more of them didn’t get recorded.

Recommended listening: I’ll be honest with you here, his Bear Family CD is not one of my favourites in their catalogue. But there are obviously a few standouts, notably A Lotta Lotta Women and his covers of Revenooer Man and Honky Tonk Man.

Wild Honey from Ranch Party

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