That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 14: Me and the Boys
In 1985, in the wake of the ‘Honky Tonk Avenue’ debacle - and if you didn’t read the story of that LOST album, be sure to check it out here: https://bit.ly/CDB50LostAlbum - dad regrouped and they left the Nashville CBS/Epic Records offices which rejected the ‘HTA’ album and started over again through the New York CBS offices which had been their home since 1975.
Dad and producer John Boylan had toyed around with keeping some of the songs that were recorded for ‘HTA’ including “Honky Tonk Avenue,” “You Have Been a Friend to Me” and “Peace on the River” ultimately, all those were shelved. There were also at least 3 other songs that were recorded for “Me and the Boys” which didn’t make it including “Charlie’s Angel,” “Our Love” and “Honky Tonk Dreams,” a duet featuring Lacy J. Dalton.
The irony of the Nashville CBS office wanting something more commercial is that this NY CBS release produced a top ten country hit, but I’ll talk about that shortly.
I also wanted to mention the album cover I mocked up for ‘Honky Tonk Avenue’ last time, several people pointed out that it was the cover for ‘Me and the Boys.’ Yes, that was intentional because I purposely used that cover because that would probably have been what the cover looked like since the original photo shoot was intended for the ‘HTA’ album. It was shot in Printer’s Alley to get that Honky Tonk feeling. But, yes, you would be correct that the cover did get used for the ‘M&TB’ album, but the photo shoot was done with the original ‘HTA’ album concept in mind.
One thing that I noticed while researching… by 1985, vocal reverb was king, and there is a LOT of it on this album.
On to the music.
It’s worth mentioning that the album kicked off with three tunes NOT written by dad or any member of the band, but rather covers – previously recorded songs - something quite unusual for the CDB.
The title track, “Me and the Boys” was written and previously recorded by Matt Minglewood. It’s an ode to the memories of growing up, skipping school and acting a fool, cars and just being young and optimistic. It’s a bit of a departure stylistically, but it’s a good song.
The same goes for, “Still Hurtin’ Me,” a cover of a song by Australian artist Brian Cadd. It’s about a man who is trying to move on after a breakup, but all the thoughts of her, even hearing her name tears him to pieces, despite moving away to try to get away from her memory, but he still wants to get her back.
Stylistically, both “Me and the Boys” are very 80s soft pop compared to most of the CDB’s music up until that point.
The final cover on the album is “Talking to the Moon” by Don Henley, and co-written by Henley and JD Souther, and to me, it feels more CDB than the other two songs, even though it’s a cover too. It’s about a man in Texas who keeps talking to the moon hoping to get over his lost love. Taz’s piano is featured throughout and is well-suited to the song. It’s another rare ballad, but it definitely fits the CDB style, and some of the most soulful vocals of dad’s I can remember in a song of that style.
The CDB version differs a bit from Henley’s – which was from his 1982 album, ‘I Can’t Stand Still.’ In that the first (and only ) verse is a couple of lines shorter and there is a second verse that was newly written by J.D. at dad's request. Dad felt it needed a second verse, and J.D. was good enough to tweak the song for the CDB to cut, and he also provided background vocals on the album.
We saw Don Henley at the Grand Ole Opry House, I believe shortly after dad recorded the song, on his Building the Perfect Beast Tour, and we got to go backstage and say hello. It was pretty cool.
Tommy Crain’s song, “The Class of ‘63” is about a musician returning home to his class reunion in the small town he grew up in. If I had to guess, this was a somewhat fictionalized version of Tommy’s own twentieth class reunion, which would have been a couple of years before the album was released.
He talks about how most of his friends still live in town, but it’s ultimately about change, “Ain’t it kinda funny how everybody’s changed, but me.”
He details what many of his friends are doing now versus what they were like back in high school. One line, in particular, is pretty powerful, “It’s like Little Steven the race champ said, I ain’t got a dime, but at least I ain’t dead, and these memories’ll beat the money by a mile.”
“American Farmer” was a song written before Farm Aid, but it was based on the plight of those who grow the food that feeds our country and much of the world, which is still not great, but it started getting lots of attention in the mid-80s which led to the first Farm Aid, which the CDB was part of. During a press conference for the show, a reporter asked about dad seemingly quickly writing a song to coincided with the concert, which he did not take very kindly to. He said something to the effect that this was some overnight “twang twang” song, that he had recorded this song before the concert was even announced.
Dad was focused on current events for a long time before, and was until the day he died.
The next song, “M.I.A.” was an outgrowth of the Vietnam veterans’ groups' relationships built with “Still in Saigon.” There were still concerns from veterans that there were still lots of M.I.A.s and that some of them could potentially be prisoners of war that were still being held by the Viet Cong, “If right is right and fair is fair, tell me how, how can we leave them there” and goes on to say that if we can’t bring them back then “let’s don’t send them off no more,” a sentiment that dad would echo many years later when he released “Let ‘em Win, or Bring ‘em Home.”
On a side note, this was twice that the CDB missed out on having a relevant song in the Sylvester Stallone “Rambo” series. I always thought that “Still in Saigon” would have fit in the first movie, “First Blood” perfectly, and this one was tailor-made for “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” but neither one made it in, whether the timing wasn’t there and the songs missed the window by a few months, I’m not sure. I wasn’t involved in the business at that point in my life, but I always thought that it was a shame that they weren’t included.
“American Rock & Roll” is just what it says. It’s a rockin’ song with a simple theme, about how so many different parts of the country and influences helped form rock & roll music, and the different styles that exist, but it’s all still just “American Rock & Roll.”
Taz’s “Ever Changing Lady” is a sweet love song about, his “ever changing lady” and how he’s happy when she’s happy and sad when she’s blue, and how he feels all of her changes.
It’s a departure from Taz’s previous story songs about criminals and death, but it’s a nice change of pace.
“Louisiana Fais Do Do” is a song I remember dad toying around with since probably 1977, I remember him playing around with the first line for about that long, “The fiddlin’ man took the bow in his hand and started playing Baltimore, then the bald-headed man who was leading the band started dancing out across the floor,” I think it was just one of those songs he couldn’t figure out how to finish until he revisited it years later, which happens with songwriters sometimes.
But he turned it into a fun song about a band playing a Fais Do Do, which is basically a Cajun party with lots of dancing, and the song’s second verse talks about having been to parties all over the country, but nothing compares to the Fais Do Do.
The final song on the project is, “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” which in my opinion is the rowdiest breakup song of all time.
This is another song that I remember parts of from earlier in my life, but it all came together in 1985 after the ‘HTA’ debacle. Dad said, “if they want something commercial, I’ll give it to them,” and it was a commercial success, but since it was released through the New York office it wasn’t a success for the Nashville office who turned down ‘HTA,’ but it was a top ten hit, and still gets played a lot.
I’ve heard some people question the song’s message and how dad could advocate something like that, but it’s not meant to be a message. It’s not saying that if your heart gets broken, go drink her off your mind. It’s a story, and it’s how the guy in the song dealt with a breakup, it’s not meant to be words to live by, but it happens every day.
This was the first CDB CD that wasn’t previously released in another format first, and it was back when CDs were trying to compete with LPs for shelf space, the CD long box was introduced, which was a cardboard box about 2 ½ times the size of the CD itself to make the cover image more eye-catching. Four years later, the LP was pretty much gone from the bins and it was strictly CDs and cassettes.
Finally, the album was dedicated to one of dad’s heroes, Mr. Roy Acuff, legendary fiddle player and Grand Ole Opry mainstay for many decades.
It’s a bit lengthy, so I’m not going to put the whole thing here, but just to give you a taste.
“Mr. Acuff, you’re my hero.
No one does it quite like you.
Whether it’s “The Great Speckled Bird,”
Or “Good Old Mountain Dew”
When the history book is written
Your name will be on every page
How you’ve lived your life in glory
On that Grand Ole Opry stage
And no matter what we do for you
It’ll never be enough
You’re the King of Country Music
May God bless you Roy Acuff – Charlie Daniels 1985”
Mr. Acuff lived to see this dedication and was with us up until he went home in 1992. I imagine that there was a beautiful reunion of fiddle players in July of 2020.
Next time, I will talk about one of my favorite albums which unfortunately had very bad timing.
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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