My life experiences include many well known, interesting people. The skills I have tracked down and learned have taught me to recognize some aspects of the gifts that I and others were given.
The skills needed to attempt such an endeavor are basically skills that have been proven successful for centuries. To wit: patience, perseverance, hard work, attention to detail, extreme self discipline, blah, blah, blah………
Talent is given. You do not have to deserve it. It was given freely. Some people never realize the talents they were given. Some do, but will not make those gifts active in their lives. A few others realize their gifts, make those gifts active as well as learning the skills necessary to achieve their goals in life.
It boils down to finding out what you know, and, what you do not know…..
Identify, accept and use your given gift and find out what skills you need to learn. Then you can be complete and attain the highest level you are able to handle.
In my case, I climbed to very high levels. Always in the background. There were two times in my life that I had to make a decision immediately with an answer of yes or no. The offers made to me were extremely simple. Remain at my current achieved level by responding with a No, or, respond with a Yes and instantly be accepted into the highest levels of the music business.
The second of these two mega opportunities developed the second day I arrived in Nashville, where I had been invited to hang out with my departed friend, Dr. John Harris, one of the best keyboard players I have ever recorded with. John was a graduate of Vanderbilt University and was a MD and anesthesiologist on the staff at the old Southern Pacific Hospital in San Francisco. I First met him at Mercury Records as we were on sessions together there and then Columbia Records in the late sixties and early seventies. He was in the same ivory league as Mike Finnigan, with whom I recorded on Dr Hook sessions and Gary Leach who was the programmer and arranger on each of my five CD’s.
I had been referred by a studio owner in San Jose, California, to his close friend, Gary Paxton, who was very firmly entrenched in the Nashville hit record community. On my second day in Nashville I went to Capital’s studio where Gary Paxton was producing a session in studio B and Charley Pride was performing another hit in studio A where the studio players were ten in number, set up, tuned and ready to play a song they had never heard before. Charley Pride was placed in a back corner of the room. with his microphone facing him.
Remember that in the Sixties there was a term technically referred to as natural separation. Still fits.
The entire two song session was recorded live by all playing with Charlie’s live Vocal. At the end of the three hour session two songs were mixed and the quarter inch Master was was rolled out tails first.
The studio owners, engineers and technical staff had perfected the “Nashville Sound.” The individual faders on the mixing board were screwed and taped down to their pre -mix positions. The studio musicians were told, “This is the electric bass used in this studio. This is the studio snare that the drummer must use.These are the basic effects we use in this studio and they will be recorded live to tape.” One of the more demanding instruments was the electric bass. “Don’t bring your bass to the studio. We have a bass here that we use on all our sessions.” The inside secret was that the original strings on a fifties Fender bass were very valuable after years of continual use always in temperature controlled environmental soundtrack rooms. The strings had achieved a rather dull, thumpy, smooth and aged sound that recorded extremely well.
I have experienced playing in sessions where the bass was run thru specific settings on a DBX which was an attempt to emit a sound not unlike the old Fender bass with variable EQ
Most Nashville hit sessions used the same three or four handfuls of studio players performing with the same specific instruments provided by the studio and recorded onto channels where the faders were screwed and taped to the board to insure that the achieved output was guaranteed. The entire Nashville Sound unfolded before me and I recognized that the process was one of replication.
After witnessing another hit record being recorded by Charlie Pride I went down the hall to meet Gary Paxton who was working in studio B. He had heard a song I produced for writer/artist Joe Richie. I had played harmonica on the recording and incidentally, Charlie Pride as well as Mac Davis later recorded the song, “I Feel the Country Calling Me.” Gary told me that he could use a regular harmonica player and asked if I lived in Nashville or was visiting to which I replied that I lived in San Francisco with my wife and three sons. He then said that he could use me immediately beginning that evening at 6:00. Then he added that I wouldn’t have time to go back home as he had a lot of work for me. So I was be here for the session tonight and stay here in Nashville, or, nice meeting me and have a nice trip home…….Yes or No.
I did not show up at the studio that evening.
The first mega opportunity occurred when I was at Columbia in San Francisco. I played harmonica on Dr.Hook’s “Silvia’s Mother” and guitar on their first album and then on Shel Silverstein’s “Uncle Shel and His Dirty Friends” album. We were playing double sessions five days a week and Dr Hook had two hours off and then on to the rehearsal hall across the street beginning at 6:00. Ray and then Dennis of Dr Hook were telling me that I should be coming to rehearsals because they were going on the road. No one has mentioned that I was supposed to be their lead guitar player and travel with them. Apparently they just assumed that I was going to be part of the group and go on the road with them. Dr Hook’s producer/manager cornered me in the control room a few days later and said be at rehearsal at 6:00 tonight or don’t come back. So for the second time it was be there at 6:00 this evening, or, don’t come back…..Yes or No
I did not show up at rehearsal that evening.
So now I had turned down two mega opportunities to make a name for myself in the big leagues. I never got another mega offer and to make matters worse, Dr Hook’s producer/manager mixed the sessions with my guitar barely audible and removed me from credits on both Hook’s and Shel’s albums. I realize that my guitar playing on their sessions was projected to be very prominent in the final mix but now that I was not going to be part of the group, he decided to cut me almost out of the final mix as my guitar parts were not going to be repeated by me on stage. In fact most all subsequent recordings by Dr Hook had no distinguishable lead guitar sound with the exception of “Only Sixteen.” Six months later in San Francisco I passed him on the street and he said, “Well Hewlett, how does it feel to have played on a gold record?” I answered that I don’t know, you took my name off of the credits. His response was that it didn’t matter; at least I knew I had played on it…….. Great guy.
However, professionally speaking, he made the right decision for the group, irrespective of removing me from credits. Anyway if I had gone with those wonderfully crazy guys I would not have survived be here now……