(Note- In the earlier edition today I left out Willie Ackerman, drummer.
This is in atonement for that mistake.)
When I first got to Nashville as a producer
Starday Records was the main country label,
and their recording studio was on Dickerson Road.
I had worked in studios in Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and Miami,
but this was a whole new experience.
Some of the Starday artists were Red Sovine, Johnny Bond,
Willie Nelson, George Jones, The Willis Brothers, Minnie Pearl,
Dottie West, Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, and Roger Miller.
I wrote and produced for several artists there in the 1960’s
and early 1970’s.
Our old friend Tommy Hill was the house producer,
and the studio musicians were Pete Drake: steel,
Jerry Shook: lead guitar, Jerry Smith: piano,
Willie Ackerman: drums, and Junior Huskey on acoustic bass.
Tommy Hill played rhythm guitar,
and the backup singers were The Hardin Trio,
with Ray King added to sing bass.
Buddy Spicher may have sometimes played fiddle.
and the engineer may have been Scotty Moore.
It’s been so long that I hope my memory is accurate.
In those days an artist or producer could do a session
at the Dickerson Road studio for $600 to $900..
This would cover the studio, the musicians and singers,
the engineer, and the studio time.
I had never seen musicians using The Nashville Number System
It was fast and accurate, and left space for improvisation.
Writing charts (sheet music) was my usual job, but not here.
We first played them a home made demo,
they made some symbols on yellow paper, and started playing.
It was better than anything I would have written.
My artists released singles and album material
on Starday, Starday-King, Gusto, and King labels,
all part of the Starday group.
A few of the sessions Misty and I produced at Criteria Studios
in Miami were also leased to Starday and King.
In the 1970’s, the Gusto label was doing re-recordings of hit records.
They featured the original artist, but not the original backup.
Misty and I were asked in to redo Tennessee Birdwalk and Humphrey the Camel.
The backup music was prerecorded by their staff people,
and we sang over it, like karaoke.
I said to Tommy, “The key sounds a bit higher than our original.”
He said, “A lot of older stars do these, and we raise the pitch
to make them sound as young as they did back then.”
We thought we sounded sort of chipmunky.
These cuts were billed as “Original Hits by Original Artists”,
but they weren’t very close to the original hit sounds.
Anyway, they will live forever at Walmart on labels like K-Tel.
I’ll always be grateful to Tommy Hill, Pete Drake, and Starday
for my early training in country music…
and to Junior Huskey for his friendship and moral support.