Updated: Mar 4
A long time ago in 1996 (shortly after the Plaid days) I wrote a tune called Wedding Day Blues. This particular song is quite depraved as it is about a jealous ex boy friend that crashes his ex girl friend's wedding, makes an ass of himself at the reception and runs off with her afterwards. The song wrote itself in about 45 min. I've always had better luck with songs that were written quickly. Everything is clear, the concept, storyline...I wish it happened more often that way.... any way.. At the time I was still heavy into playing drums and was in a band called Cornbred with Jay Wilson, Tim Tucker, Chuck Bradburn, and Rob Malone. Jay Wilson and I were sort also moonlighting down in Auburn as drummer and keyboard player with a band called Passing Through.. This band was comprised of some rad Huntsville musicians Stephen Jackson (StoveHouse, FolkMission, Stephen Jackson) David Schrimsher, Mike Douglas, Philip Price and Taylor Hicks. (Patrick Lunceford of Spoonful James became the full time drummer for the band shortly after) Taylor was 19 at the time, shit tons of grey hair for a kid his age and a voice that sounded like it had been marinating in scotch and limestone gravel. Our friendship with the band was immediate as I had played with members of that band in Plaid. David Schrimsher and Mike Douglas. Gigging with Passing Through was pivotal. That was the first time I had the realization that was playing music with someone who was definitely going to "make it" as we used to say... meaning he was destined for a great record deal and the world will eventually hear him and know his name.
We hit it off quickly. I was always noticing how enthusiastic he was about music in general. Made me excited about music more too. It was contagious. After gigs in Auburn or Bham wherever Passing Through was playing...we'd find time to get guitars out and share music, parking lots or someone's apartment. Normally old JT or Jackson Browne as well as Ray Charles tunes.. We'd bounce original music off of one another. One particular time in Auburn I had recently written Wedding Day Blues and played it for Taylor. He was one of the first (if not the first) to hear the song if memory serves. He really liked it. Had me play it again. Sort of a funny song despite its dark content.... I mean, bride stealing and all.... One of the nights we were gigging he said, "Alan, one day I'd like to record that song. I love it." That was the best feedback I'd ever gotten back on a song.
"One day I'd like to record that song."
Over the years I'd run into Taylor from time to time normally having something to do with music. Seeing shows at venues in the south. He'd always talk about Wedding Day Blues... "I love that song bro, I want to cut it one of these days."
"Its yours man, anytime", I'd say.
Fast forward about 10 years. Haven't seen Taylor in years, then he goes on American Idol.
I remember sending a message to Mark Thornhill predicting that Taylor Hicks would win Season 5 of the famed musical game show. As you will recall, Taylor stole that show. Ran away with it. Still to this date no one in the history of that show has won by a larger margin than Taylor Hicks. Anyway, I can easily get of the subject... I thought, well there goes Taylor, will probably never hear from him again...
Low and behold Taylor calls me..
I freak out for a bit,.... what the hell!? how are you?! Lots of laughter blah blah... getting the run down on the whole Idol thing... Tells me he wants to but can't get WDB on his debut album, but assures it will be on the next one... fast forward about a year.. Taylor and I have circled back around, talking about Wedding Day Blues. I end up spending a weekend in Nashville to hang out and discuss some preproduction possibilities for the song... Fast forward another few months Taylor is out in Burbank, CA at Glenwood Place Studios cutting his sophomore record which will be named The Distance. He calls me up and tells me its official, "go get your self a beer, time to celebrate, Wedding Day Blues is going on the next record!" he says. Its a done deal and official. Major excitement. I remember being in the front yard flipping out with Maryanne. If you happened to see that, it probably looked like we won the lottery. Fast forward another day or so... I get a phone call from Simon Climie.... look him up. (Produced Faith Hill, Carlos Santana and freakin Eric Clapton. (He'd just release about year earlier "The Road To Escondido" Clapton and JJ Cale one of my favorite records as it is comprised of some killer players... Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, John Mayer... give that record a listen. Genius.
Simon is now on the phone. That was exhilarating to hear this English accent and him asking me if I'd "be willing to come out to Burbank and record the guitar part on Wedding Day Blues.....if I had time". If I had time. Shit. There was no way in hell I was turning that invite down. So Taylor and I talk, he arranges for his management to get me a flight out to Burbank within about a weeks time. We talk some more, discuss how we are going to doctor up the song to make it "radio friendly". Often songs get doctored up for records. Goes in one way and comes out another. Its an exciting thing really. Gives it new life... a new look. Like tinting the windows on a car, lowering it, putting rims on it... you get the picture. Yes, they do that with songs too.
Once I get to LAX I get my rental car. A Toyota Corolla. It was a tight fit as I never figured out how to get the seat to move back until I was turning the damn car back in.. Idiot me. Go
od times. Got on the phone with Taylor, we arrange to meet at Nobu with Bill Williams "Bill Will" his good pal who always helped with tour stuff... like an assistant really but also really good friend. Meet up at Nobu and kill sushi for about an hour. Amazing sushi by the way. I'm sure its where Jesus eats sushi too. Head to The Roxy to catch Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. At the time I'd never heard of them. Killer show. I remember hearing "Stop The Bus", and then "Down by the River" Neil Young. They covered that like a champ. Grace actually spit on the stage in the middle of melting everyone's face. To say it or type it sounds or reads so gross. But it was pure rock'n roll and might as well been badass pyrotechnics. Anyway...
Hanging in the parking lot about to wrap up the evening, I ask Taylor a question.
"Say man, who do you have in the studio with you? "You'll see, its a surprise". I laugh.
Some how I get it out of him, but all he says is "it's Eric Clapton's studio band".
Make it back to the hotel where I proceed to absolutely not at all sleep my ass off. I've not been that wired ever. Partook in some embellishments to no avail. But I get on the internet to check who I may see there the next day at the studio. Have to be at Glenwood Place Studios at 8am.
Glenwood Place is just as much of a spa as it is a world class recording studio. The accommodations were so insane.
The next morning I take off for a place across the street, forget the name, but Taylor had informed me it was the best omelette place. Really small joint. It looked closed. I walk in and the place is literally like this 15 by 15ft room. Only one other person in there. Patton Oswalt.
He's always been one of my favorites. I was seated with my back to him, but I turn around and say "excuse me, Patton? Don't mean to bother you but I'm in town for a week and wanted to know if you're performing anywhere."
He responds, "hey, thanks man, I am not, but thanks a lot for asking."
I reply, "well, shit, I'm a big fan.
He says, "Care to join me for breakfast?" So I sat and jived with Patton Oswalt for about 30 minutes while eating breakfast. He's a giant comic book lover as there was a comic book store next door he'd hit after eating. We talked about our wives and our daughters, ...etc. and I basically told him everything you've read up to the point. A really cool down to earth fellow. I hated to hear that he lost his wife. I could tell he was a serious family man.
I had a short drive to the studio. (which is great because remember the car is like a go-cart, I
have my knees in my armpits) I'm amped and ready to jam since my killer breakfast with a famous comedian. The day was off to a killer start. Next stop, Glenwood Place Studios.
I get there, link up with Taylor in this courtyard type area of the studio. Talking about the song, cutting a spot, adding a phrase here etc.. typical production stuff. Taylor tells me Courtney Love is also recording there with Hole in the studio next to where his being recorded. Wow. (fun fact: the album that Hole was recording had a sound engineer that spent 2 full days working on getting the drums to sound right. 2 days. Any time we'd step out for fresh air and have a cigarette in the courtyard, we could hear it. boom......boom.......boom.....boom. The record they were working on was Nobody's Daughter. Only saw Courtney Love once. We'd be leaving the studio around 8pm and she'd show up around then. Night owl.
Anyway..in the courtyard.. And here comes this stocky all dressed in black African American fellow with a giant camera and he's just clicking away. I'm standing next to Taylor, thinking to myself, I guess this is how it is when you're famous. smh. Then the photographer pulls the camera away from his face. And its Nathan East. So he loves photography and is also a pilot. Loves to fly. He's also Bass Player Extraordinaire Nathan East as Eric Clapton's, Phil Collins bass player... as well as many others.. But...Nathan East? Whoa. Then Tim Carmon rolls in, (keys for Sheryll Crow, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton. He also did all the piano arrangements for films. By the age of 12 he was organist in 3 different churches. 12 years old. Michael Thompson rolls up. Michael is a long time amazing studio guitar player, toured with about everyone and I
guarantee you that if you listen to any pop radio in the last 30 years, you've heard Michael's guitar work. To name a few he's recorded with...Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, 'N Sync, Toni Braxton, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, the Scorpions, Vince Neil, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler, Madonna, BabyFace, En Vogue, Gloria Estefan, and Ricky Martin. Then low and behold Abe Laborial Jr. shows up. Abe current gig then and still to today is drumming for Sir Paul McCartney... yes. the Beatle.... and was with Sting prior to Paul. Unbelievable. Surreal to see folks I've known about.... in a studio, working on a project that I also get to work on. Still blown away that happened. So, back to this spa like recording studio.
Every morning someone would come by and offer fully loaded Belgium waffle, fresh squeezed OJ. In the evening around 3:30 or 4, a staff member would come in and offer hot brownies and ice cold milk. No Joke. And at lunch, something bad ass was delivered to eat from somewhere local mostly. Taylor did have Dreamland ribs flown in. Crazy. We all ate together which was a real hoot. Damn good food. Just sitting there and listening to their stories about who they were working with... like what was going on with Van Morrison as one of them was talking about him. Or, how when they were recording The Road to Escondido, Billy Preston was asleep in the studio when Derek Trucks shows up and starts warming up. Billy Preston was unfamiliar with Derek at the time and as Derek hit his first few notes to warm up, Billy P raises up from his sleep, startled at the badassery coming from Derek's playing... He's blown away. Billy Preston, also known as the 5th Beatle. It was really wild to be a literal fly on the wall. I was sitting next to Abe Laboriel, Jr. one day at lunch. He's really nice guy. Great sense of humor. I asked him where the next rung on the ladder was for him. I said, "So you went from Sting to Paul McCartney. Where does one go from there?" Bill Will sitting across from us says, "sorry bro, only way from there is down". We all laughed. Because its freakin true. I'll never forget playing and recording Wedding Day Blues with Nathan East, Abe Laboriel Jr, Taylor Hicks, Tim Carmon at the same time. Feeling like I've been consumed by the greatest of musicians. By the end of the week, "Guitar Day" rolls around and thats were the guitar solos get tracked. Doyle Bramhall II shows up. His wrap sheet is stellar. Shit, Doyle grew up with Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughn. Childhood friends. Wild. Doyle still tours a good bit with Clapton and also plays lead when Roger Waters tours. He also has worked with Tedeschi Trucks Band, Elton John, Sheryl Crow.... He's just a beast. Hell of a nice guy. Also a father of only daughters, doesn't eat sugar and plays a right handed guitar upside down and backwards like Hendrix. This experience is something that I'll hang on to forever. I was out there for about 4 full days. I watched the majority of the record get put together. Watched these guys do single takes and knock their parts out of the park. Jay Leach, arguably the best pedal steel guitar player in the world, plays a solo on Taylor's cover of Ray Charles' Hide Nor Hair. His first take was perfect. However, it blew Simon (the producer) away. Taylor, Me, Bill Will and Doyle in there watching and listening. Our jaws were on the floor. Simon asked him if he'd like to run thru the part again... he does. Another home run. Plays a 3rd take, and a 4th. Simon comes over the mic and says, "I'm positive we got what we need Jay, but feel free to keep taking passes, we are really enjoying it in here". Lol. No fooling, he must have run thru that part at least 30 more times. We were floored. It was definitely a thing to remember. I‘m positive all that were in the booth remembers that event. So, that was the last time I heard the song. That's 11 years ago. Can't stream it. Can only buy the CD from Walmart. Which is literally what I just did a few minutes ago. That particular song was an exclusive release that only Walmart carries. There were 3 different versions of The Distance. Each version with their own bonus song.
Taylor knew for years that I had a goal of having a song I wrote be a part of a big release. He knew that one day I would want to take my kids to the music store and show them an album where their dad wrote a song... I did just that. I'm super thankful for Taylor and his friendship over the years. I'm especially grateful for this experience 11 years ago. Still feels like last week.
I admire his talent and how he has stayed true to himself as an artist and friend.
For now, I need to find a way to get Taylor to town to be a part of Listen Local show one of these days.
Thanks for stopping by,