The Monkees recorded at RCA Nashville in the summer of 1967, and Michael later returned for his famed 'Nashville Sessions' in May and June of 1968 (which produced songs like "Listen to the Band," "Good Clean Fun," "Some of Shelly's Blues," and "St. Matthew"). The musicians who supplied backup for Michael's sessions in 1968 (and for numerous other artists) were honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame last night in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael attended the tribute and performed "Some of Shelly's Blues." Norbert Putnam and David Briggs, who both recorded with Michael in Nashville in 1968, accompanied Nez onstage.
Michael talked about his appearance at the show today on Facebook:
The show at the CMHOF [Country Music Hall of Fame] went well. Good to see and perform with David Briggs and Norbert Putnam –piano and bass –and to have Jeff Hannah sing harmony on “Some of Shelly's Blues.” True fun on its own.
The evening started really rolling afterwards at Robert’s Western World on South Broadway in Nashville where I saw Rachel Hester and her band which included Chris Scruggs.
Joe Chemay and I went and had a good table right up front.
Chris, as many of you know from the MOTM [Movies of the Mind] tour, is a treasure, and he is getting better and better. He has a great voice, and I am astounded still at his playing skill; his all around sense of design key and center. He plays and sings just the right thing at just the right time --perfectly.
Rachel is in a league by herself. I want to say she is our Patsy Cline – but that sells her short. Cline had a clearwater alto and sense of heartbreak that is unequaled in Country music, but Rachel has lifted the bar and brought an extra dimension.
Joe leaned over at one point and said to me, “It is no work at all to listen to her.” I knew exactly what he meant. 2nd wife Kathryn said the same thing to me about Tony Bennett but in different words.
There is an ease I feel in the presence of a great singer/performer that has to do with comfort – just knowing they are not going to fall, or slip, and allowing me to sink into the lazy-afternoon-hammock depths of their confidence. Rachel’s tone and delivery were smooth and powerful. She sings the way we hear it in our heads – so it sounds the way it is expected to sound. It’s the mark of a true and great talent, honed to perfection.
I have written a little about this over the years.
I learned it for myself when I was racing cars and noticed that the really fast drivers were not working all that hard – or at least seemed to be in a pocket of surety that I call “easy speed.” Mind bogglingly fast with no apparent effort.
Rachel was like that. I could have listened all night.
They play for tips, no cover, no minimum. At one point they start a kind of looping musical interlude and Rachel jumps off the stage and passes around a tip jar. Chris was riffing from the stage and said “anybody who wants to can put a 100 dollar bill in the jar and write 'You stink' if you want to. We wont mind.”
I had a hundred with me I brought for the trip so I borrowed a pen and did just as Chris had joked. I knew he would appreciate it. When Rachel came up she flashed the jar in front of me and I dropped the hundred in as she swung past – but then she must have seen the bill. She paused and patted me on the shoulder and said “Thank you, sir.”
Nice high point of a night of high points.
Last recording Rachel made was years ago, as I understand it. I’m going to try to find it and listen to it on the plane home. Keep a little in my ear pocket for emergencies.
The book “Listen to the Band” goes out to the Publishers this week. My agent, John Brockman, had good things to say and feels comfortable taking it out now. It’s not a memoir but is sort of chronological. It follows my life as different bands come together and break up – all kinds of bands. Groups of extraordinary people who sweep into our lives, we play along with them for a while, then we all move on. This bandology, as I call it, has always impressed me, whether I am listening or playing.
Last night, here in the home of the record “Listen to the Band,” it all came together in the best way.