“Ain’t it funny, how time slips away?” Willie Nelson
“The past is always there, telling us, this time get it right.” Leslie Chang
“The present was once the days we longed for and will soon be the ones we miss.” J. Ashley
For this column I write about two separate episodes of my life that I wish to share and you may too.
The five Cajuns were driving home from Nashville and I was sadly staring out of the window. I had sung on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree over radio station W.S.M. the past night but I did not remember any of it, because of, as a physiatrist friend called it “Lacunar Amnesia”.
Dudley Bernard was trying to cheer me up as he said, “Ernest Tubb, standing back stage laughed out loud when you mimicked him by saying ‘come in Billy Byrd’. I could have done it better,” he said with a smile, “but you did fine.”
Cheering me up at that moment was not possible. I finally got over it and it only took 50 years!
Flash forward to the 1970’s when I was attending a B.M.I. regional awards ceremony in New Orleans. I was a songwriter member but the ticket was a hefty $50, so I went alone. Awards for deceased honorees were accepted by relatives and friends; “The Big Bopper” by his wife from Terrebonne Parish, (Bourg), and Hank Williams, by his former band member Hiram Buttram from St. Tammany Parish.
Other no-shows, without the legitimate reasons that Bopper and Hank had, were Webb Pierce and Faron Young from Shreveport and Hank Locklin from Florida.
Local artist present were Alan Toussaint, Pete Fountain and Mac Rebenac, still years away from his Dr. John alter ego.
I had hired him for many Cosimo sessions in the early 1960’s for myself, Vin Bruce, Joe Barry and Jimmy Donley. The pay then for a 3 to 5 hour session was $15. I don’t know what Dr. John gets today for a two hour concert, but I suspect it’s more than that.
Mac and I even co-wrote a song called “Heavenly” which was recorded by Tommy Ridgely. He recognized me and we chatted. Mac had been incarcerated in Texas a few years back for a minor marijuana incident, which would probably be dismissed today, but he did time in jail.
What I really remember about that night was a young man sitting next to me there to accept an award for his father. He introduced himself to me as Bix Carmichael, son of Hogey Carmichael.
Wow! I was stunned.
He had been named after the legendary trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke, played by Kirk Douglas in the movie “Young Man With a Horn.”
His father had written songs like (hold your breath) ”Stardust”, “Lazy Bones” and “Old Buttermilk Skies”. His song, “Georgia on my Mind”, had been published by Ralph Peer in 1930 and Ray Charles’ recent hit recording was receiving an award.
I proudly told him that Peer had published some of my songs. (They never were recorded, but I got his attention).
The state of Georgia had officially made it their state song and my family and I had the good fortune to hear the song by Ray Charles on the nightly laser show at Stone Mountain, Georgia. He said, “Yes, we get nice royalties from that, too.”
In our conversation, which was cut short when his name was called, he said he wished that “Stardust” had been published by Peer because “Georgia” had brought his family substantially more royalties than “Stardust” even though “Stardust” had been recorded hundreds of times more, and played on radio, television and movies incomparable times more than “Georgia”.
Ray Charles would soon close the gap. That 10-minute conversation still “lays gentle on my mind.” (Love that phrase).
Whether the song was written about a girl or the state has remained the composer’s secret and I certainly didn’t inquire about it. That ten-minute conversation still “lays gentle on my mind”.
Next week, I’ll explore a more future episode of my past, if that makes any sense.
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Posted on Tue, April 5, 2016
by The Lafourche Gazette