That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 16: Homesick Heroes
In 1988, the CDB released ‘Homesick Heroes.’ This was a pivotal album for dad and the band after the dismal performance of ‘Powder Keg.’
The band lineup was pretty much the only thing that stayed the same. Not only was it the end of the John Boylan as producer era, there was also a management change as dad split from his manager of almost 15 years.
The band also officially moved back to the Nashville office of CBS/Epic Records after the ‘Honky Tonk Avenue’ album debacle which resulted in returning to the NYC offices for both ‘Me and the Boys,’ and ‘Powder Keg.’ I believe that the same regime that turned down ‘HTA’ was still there, but this time, an album – several actually – would be released.
The first matter was finding a new producer to replace John Boylan. Dad talked to several potential producers, but finally settled on giving James Stroud, drummer for a killer blues band called The Kingsnakes and frequent studio drummer for many artists in many genres of music from disco to rock and country artists like Joe Cocker, Eddie Rabbit, K.T. Oslin and many others, but unproven as a record producer a shot.
‘Homesick Heroes’ was Stroud’s first work in Nashville as a producer, but it definitely wouldn’t be his last as he would go on to work with such artists as Clint Black, Darryl Worley, Tracy Lawrence, Clay Walker, Little Texas and many more.
It worked out pretty well for both dad and James.
Now onto the music.
The album kicks off with “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” which was the first single and also a very low-budget cheesy but fun music video. You’ll notice a lot of cameos including our fried David Stringfield who had been head of Baptist Hospital back in the ‘80s, and me, who’s not a doctor, but I played one in the video.
It’s a pretty basic fun fiddle song with the hook being “mama call the doctor ‘cause I think I got the rockin’ boogie woogie fiddle country blues” which I can only assume is a variant of the “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” but I’d have to check with Dr. Fauci.
This single returned the CDB to the top ten of the Billboard Country charts. This brings up another issue with the CBS Nashville record executive who was a big reason that the 1984 ‘Honky Tonk Avenue’ album never got released. – Read about that HERE: It was either “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” in 1986, or “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” in 1988 which this executive ordered that the CDB song that had gone top ten had the label drop support for the single and those points (how radio weights songs climbing the charts) to another group on the label. And, he laughed in dad’s face when he did it. Again, I’m not sure which song it was, but it was one of them.
Soon that executive would leave the label and was replaced by someone who was a little friendlier to the CDB camp.
Next up is “Alligator,” a spiritual sibling to “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” if there ever was one. It’s a story about Catahoula Brown, a very despicable and controlling father who lived in the swamp with his teenage daughters. Brown had a long-running feud with Silas Green, and when his daughter runs off with Silas Green’s youngest son, he plans revenge by killing Green and his relatives, and he heads out with his shotgun.
But that’s the last anyone ever sees of Brown. After a week, they found his shotgun, his boots and his hat near a very proudly well-fed alligator.
“Get Me Back to Dixie” by Tommy Crain is next. It says you can drop me in the desert, in Alaska in the snow, or anywhere, as long as he gets back to Dixie and Tennessee in particular.
“Boogie Woogie Man” is a pretty fun rockin’ track which feels a little reminiscent of some older CDB music, like “Evil” from ‘Nightrider’ and a few others. It has lots of Taz’s B-3 featured on the track which helps give it that vintage feel.
Next up is “Cowboy Hat in Dallas” a pretty clever tune where a man points out among other things, “there ain’t a cowboy hat in Dallas if I ain’t in love with you, also “there ain’t no B.S. in D.C.” which is as on point as you can get.
The Oak Ridge Boys are featured on the CDB’s cover of the Jimmy Dean classic, “Big Bad John.” The classic story song of a “mountain of a man” who rescues his fellow miners when the timbers start to collapse as he holds them up long enough for everyone to escape but ends up giving his life in the process.
“At the bottom of this mine lies one hell of a man, BIG JOHN.”
The Oaks add a nice vocal touch to the song, and personally I think it should have been a single, but again, I didn’t have any say in the process.
“Midnight Train was the second single and video from “Homesick Heroes,” and once again, I made a cameo as a ghostly Mexican bandit character from the song’s story about a poker game on a train that goes wrong when a stranger cheats his way to winning everyone’s money who had been playing and then disappeared when the lights went out. It’s another fun story song from the story song master.
“Honky Tonk Avenue” is the next song, and when I was writing about the unreleased “HTA” album, people kept pointing out that the song had been released, and that’s true, but this version is a completely different arrangement, and it adds a second verse that wasn’t included in the original song. It’s not a bad version, I’m just so partial to the ‘HTA’ album version that I’m afraid I’m a bit biased.
“You Can’t Pick Cotton” is another fiddle song, it’s about a grandfather who gets in trouble with the law, disappears for a while and then comes back with girls in his Cadillac, “whiskey in the jug and money in the sack” playing his fiddle for everyone. The song also references the classic “Cotton Eyed Joe.”
“Ill Wind” is another story song about a woman who does a number on a man by blowing through Georgian on a Midnight Wind.” She says she wants to come back, but she does it to him again.
The final song is “Uneasy Rider ‘88” an updating of dad’s “hippie in the redneck bar” classic from 1973, this time, dad throws political correctness out the window with a humorous tale of two good ol’ boys traveling who unknowingly stop in a gay bar, and hijinks ensue.
It definitely ain’t “woke” – which dad never would have been accused of – and dad got some flak for it, back then and years later, but it’s not meant to be anything but a funny song, and some people just seem to thrive of the indignation of being offended.
It was lightly pushed as a single, but as an album cut single, possibly because CBS was afraid of a larger backlash. I’m not sure.
The album was dedicated to my grandmother, LaRue.
“Dedication to Mrs. LaRue Daniels
Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for driving me to all those fiddler’s conventions in the early years. Thank you for teaching me right from wrong and then forgiving me when I did the wrong thing.
Thank you for putting up with all those years of ear bending practice. I love you Momma, God Bless You Charlie Daniels 1988.”
The partnership with James Stroud and the Nashville CBS office worked this time, and next time the controversy and the success got bigger.
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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