WILLIE NELSON: Story of a Songbird

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Was Harlan one of the writers who used to participate in the “guitar pullings” down in Nashville, during the early ‘60s?
Yeah. Well, we all wrote for Pamper Music. I lived in Hendersonville. It’s eight or ten miles away, and everybody else lived around Nashville somewhere. In the mornings we would meet there at the office in Goodlettsville-Hank Cochran, me, Harlan Howard…a lot of the writers. This would just be us sitting around, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and having a big time in the morning. We’d just sing whatever we’d written the night before, kind of pass the guitar around…a guitar pull, we called it. I looked forward to that every morning, not only to play what I had written, but to hear what those guys had written, cause they were some of the best songwriters in the world.

On the new CD, “Sad Songs and Waltzes (Aren’t Selling This Year)” is another number that you first recorded many years ago.
Yeah. It was one of those songs that I wrote sitting around at night in Nashville, played for the guys the next day, and we’d all have a nice laugh about how true it was. You know, sad songs and waltzes were not selling. So I was stating an obvious fact to those guys. And I was going through a divorce at the same time, so it was one of those serious/funny things.

When you were living and working in Nashville in the ‘60s, did you feel that you never really fit in?
It wasn’t just Nashville. I had that feeling just about everywhere I went-that I was a little different [chuckles]. I didn’t really blame the folks in Nashville. It just so happened that they were in the spot where I really needed to get listened to, and in all the other places it was okay whether they understood what I was doing or not. But in Nashville it really meant a lot that I get through to those people. Eventually, the bottom line is always…if it sells, they will like it…and if it don’t, they won’t. That’s the deal. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg, you know? You’ve gotta have some promotion in order for it to sell, and they have to have a good song to sell. It’s like rolling dice; you’ve gotta really have a lot of luck involved.

What kinds of struggles did you experience in Nashville at that time?
I felt like I was real lucky. I hit town and the first thing I did was run into a guy that I knew, a singer named Billy Walker. He took me to his house, and me and my family stayed there and he took me out and got me the job writing songs for Pamper Music. So, as soon as I got to town, I sort of hit it lucky. I met Hank Cochran because of Billy Walker. Hank was going to get a raise at Pamper Music, a $50 raise, so he talked [owner] Hal Smith over there into giving me that $50 a week-instead of him getting that raise. So I had a lot of help, got real lucky there.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

VINCE GILL: Breathing Room

THE SHINS > Wincing The Night Away