That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 22: Same Ol’ Me
Last time, I spoke about how the EMI Music labels were a mixed blessing, with the Sparrow Records releases being the high points.
Next up is a low point. Not musically, per se, but the experience as a whole.
First of all, Liberty Records was undergoing major changes in that label head, Jimmy Bowen, who produced ‘America, I Believe in You,’ resigned from his position for health reasons. There may have been more involved, I remember hearing that Garth Brooks wanted him out, but at this point in his life, Bowen had nothing he needed to prove, so he may just have decided to focus on his health rather than a turf war at a record label.
So, in 1995 producer, Scott Hendricks, was chosen to lead the label that EMI had decided to re-rename Capitol Nashville.
Bowen had wanted the change to Liberty to establish an identity other than just the Nashville branch of another label, but with him gone, EMI decided to bring back Capitol.
Since dad’s corner man, Jimmy Bowen, was gone, what would become of dad’s contract?
The powers that be at the re-named label had an idea, they wanted dad to be part of the Nashville system that had always eluded him. Before she left Liberty/Capitol, A&R head, Reneé Bell set dad up to write with some of Nashville’s finest songwriters. With few exceptions like writing with Steven Curtis Chapman for ‘The Door’ album - dad had almost always written by himself, or with members of the CDB. This was something dad hadn’t done since the late 60s/early 70s.
For ‘Same Ol’ Me,’ dad wrote with Craig Wiseman, Al Anderson and Mike Lawler, Kim Williams and Kent Blazy and a slew of songs with Chuck Jones.
When it came time to pick a new producer, dad selected veteran producer and keyboard player, Barry Beckett. Beckett had been a founding member of the Muscle Shoals “swampers.” If you ever wondered what “the swampers” were from “Sweet Home Alabama,” they were the backing band at Muscle Shoals Studio.
He also, like Jimmy Bowen, had produced a wide variety of acts including Boz Skaggs, Neal McCoy, Kenny Chesney’s early stuff, Chely Wright, Confederate Railroad, Hank Williams, Jr., Vince Gill, Alabama and Bob Dylan just to name a very few. The list goes on and on.
There was just one more detail, and it broke dad’s heart, but he was trying to do what he thought was best for his career, and play the Nashville game. For the first time since forming the CDB, his band would not be featured on ‘Same Ol’ Me.” Instead, some of Nashville’s finest session musicians would back him up for the record.
No slight to these musicians. They are all tops in their fields, but after having recorded Grammy, CMA, ACM and now a Dove Award winning album in ‘The Door,’ being told that his band would have to sit this one out was disappointing.
It meant the album would probably be finished sooner than if the CDB backed dad up, but it also meant that his guys wouldn’t get paid for the sessions either.
But, again, he was trying to find a way back to radio success, so he gave in.
The result is not a bad album at all, but curiously, though dad is featured playing fiddle all over the album, another fiddle player is the only one credited.
So, let’s begin.
The album kicks off with the rockin’ title track, co-written with Craig Wiseman.
It’s similar thematically to “Renegade” mixed with “Simple Man,” but’s it’s almost a manifesto of dad’s outlook and philosophy.
He states that he’s “redneck white and blue” and “a hard-workin’ simple man.” He also takes a jab at the Clintons first by saying that “all his hard-earned money is spent by the Congress and the president, but I guess SHE’s only trying to do her best.”
He talks about waving the flag and not being politically correct and also being an advocate for free speech, and the Tennessee Vols.
The second jab at the Clintons is “I might’ve tried it, but I didn’t inhale” ending with “I’m the same ol’ CDB.”
Fun song, and a pretty good music video as well.
Next up is “Little Joe and Big Bill.” It’s a slammin’ uptempo number which refers to a small dance club and BBQ joint which goes by the full-length “Little Joe and Big Bill’s Dance Hall and Sugar Hill Barbeque Emporium.”
It’s a fun place with great food, but don’t cause any trouble, because Big Bill and Little Joe will mess you up.
Y’all been warned.
It was the first of several songs written with Chuck Jones, a frequent collaborator of Deanna Carter and one of the writers on John Berry’s “Your Love Amazes Me.”
The Daniels/Jones collaborations continue with “Take Me to the Wild Side,” the first of two swampy grooved story songs that the duo would write for this album.
It tells the story of a young woman who sneaks out of her house at night to meet a man who picks her up in a ’57 Chevy. The girl wants to get out of her parent’s home and wants her mystery man to “take her to the wild side.”
Things quickly go downhill when the man kills another man over a $20 bill at an all-night diner. The two romanticize about being like Bonnie and Clyde.
Soon they are trapped by the police and a shootout begins. We don’t for sure know the outcome, but the song says “bullets stared flyin’ and people started dyin’” with the moral of the story being “when you shake hands with the devil you get burned.” Most likely they died in the gunfight.
The next song, “My Baby Plays Me Just Like a Fiddle” is another Daniels/Jones song, and it’s fun… but…
This is one song that I think the arrangement didn’t work. I love the feel of the song, and the 1950s Jordanaires-style vocals, but for some reason, producer Barry Beckett thought a song that should have been a fiddle-heavy song would benefit from… a Dixieland Jazz horns…?
It’s about a man who is wrapped around the finger of his woman who “plays him just like a fiddle,” but not in a bad way per se. If he’s tired and he wants to stay home, but she’s ready to go out, she just gives him that look, and he’s hooked.
It’s a cute song, but the Dixieland horns are just a very bizarre production decision, in my opinion.
Next up, dad collaborates with Al Anderson and Mike Lawler for “Gone For Real,” another song which has a kind of a 50s feel – both the groove and backgound vocals - about a man whose woman just left him, even though he begged her to stay after she cheated on him. What makes it even worse is that she took off in his red convertible.
it’s a bouncy fun song about a bad time.
The Daniels/Jones collaborations continue with “Sure Beats Pickin’ Cotton” a song that probably would cause outrage if it was released today, but it’s just a song about a young man who worked cotton fields in the 50s, but dreamed of being a musician, bought his first guitar at 15 and then started playing 50s and 60s covers, and many of them referenced in the lyrics.
Later in the song, he mentions that he’s fused all the styles of music he had played together into his own sound.
In some ways, it’s a semi-autobiographical song, except that dad was born in North Carolina, although he did pick cotton when he was growing up in addition to cutting tobacco.
The gist of the song is that playing music “sure beats pickin’ cotton” or cutting tobacco.
Next is “Guilty” written with Kim Williams and Kent Blazy, who wrote a bunch of hit songs, including several by Garth Brooks.
It’s that rare Charlie Daniels ballad, but it’s a beautiful one.
He sings – confesses - of not being an easy man to live with, not being the best listener and he’s sorry for the pain he’s put her through, but he’s “guilty most of all for loving you.” I had an A&R person read too much into that line once when I was pitching the song for one of their artists. They interpreted it as it was some sort of abusive relationship that the song’s male character was singing about. That would have never occurred to dad to think in those terms.
I know that what dad was singing about was a man who is rough around the edges and doesn’t always know how to share his feelings, and doesn’t always find the right words, but he is able to find some when he says “If being crazy about you is my crime, just sentence me to forever, I’ll gladly do my time.
It’s a great song, and no more needs to be read into it than a man who has trouble expressing his feelings to the woman he loves.
Chuck and dad continued with “Fais Do Do,” a Zydeco-flavored fiddle number about a Cajun party down on the bayou. The man in the song tells his girl he wants to go to the party, “Sonnier’s got his squeezebox pumpin’, Thibodeaux’s got his fiddle out meet me over by the side of the river, there’s big doin’s down at Boudreaux’s house.”
His girl doesn’t know “that I’ve got a ring of gold in my pocket, tonight’s the night, and you can’t say no.”
I really love this song, but…
There is one element to this song that could have been solved if it had been written today, the song started off with what dad thought was a Cajun phrase… he was ALMOST right.
He starts off with “Les le bon temps - pronounced like Temperature – Rouler,” I knew it wasn’t exactly right, but the internet was limited and dial up was the most common way to get on it, and you couldn’t find the answer any question you have like you can today.
I tried calling LSU or any place I could to try to research it, but I never could find the right phrase, so it went on the album that way.
Years later, I finally found it… “Laissez Le Bon Temps (pronounced like ton) Rouler.” But even when dad re-recorded it in 1998, we still didn’t get it right.
It’s still a fun song.
Bad Blood is the second swampy song dad and Chuck wrote for the album. It’s about a man who grew up rough in the mountains. His dad was a moonshiner and shot the sheriff’s deputy who came to shut down his still. His father tells him that he’s going to run away from his crime, but before he leaves, he tells his son that he has “bad blood,” essentially his family is cursed and the curse is passed through the males, his grandfather passed it on to his dad, and then on to him.
Years later, he moved away to New Orleans and met a woman named Rosalie and married her. One night, she flirts with a man at a bar and draws him into a fight with this man. In the course of the fight, the other man is mortally wounded and died in his arms, as he’s dying, his daddy’s voice echoes in his ears telling him about the curse of the “bad blood.”
It’s one of the best songs on the album, and one that dad would revisit for his Beau Weevils project in 2016.
The last song is – surprise – also written by Chuck and dad (seven total!), “Hit the Ground Runnin.’” It’s probably my least favorite song on the album. It’s an uptempo, about a man who was born on a train at 90 miles an hour and now is constantly moving, “you got to hit the ground runnin’ if you’re comin’ with me.”
He gets nervous if he stays in one place to long, and he likes to “burn his candle at both ends.”
It’s not bad, but I think it’s the weakest song on the album, more filler than anything.
The album was dedicated to dad’s friend and founding member of The Marshall Tucker Band, Toy Caldwell. The dedication is lengthy, and this is going to be long enough without adding another page to it, but Toy passed away in 1993, and dad honored him by dedicating “Same Ol’ Me” to him.
Overall, aside from the last song, and the oddly produced “My Baby Plays Me Just Like a Fiddle,” it’s a pretty decent album, but the new Capitol Nashville regime had absolutely no idea what to do with it.
Dad sat in a marketing meeting with people who had basically written off radio as a possibility and were going to have to rely on alternative marketing, but it was okay… they had done The Highwaymen so they knew what they were doing.
Dad was frustrated… he said to this crowded, boardroom “Have any of you seen me in concert?” The answer was obvious, no they had not.
This could have been easily remedied. Dad was playing in Nashville the following weekend where they could have seen the mixture of older fans, and much, much younger fans who enjoyed the CDB as much as the original fans did, but a corporate retreat had been scheduled, so – at least to my knowledge – nobody from Capitol attended.
Dad was so disgusted that he would only do one more album for EMI, and it was for Sparrow Records.
And we’ll talk about that next time.
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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