Story Number Ten
I was housesitting for my Dad one weekend while he was on a trip and the phone rang. It was Marty Stuart. My Dad and Marty have been friends since before Marty Stuart was even Marty Stuart yet, if you know what I mean. He was a fixture at my Dad’s house for years, he probably even has a key. My Dad gives people keys. I wish I had a dollar for every key my Dad has given to someone. He sees his house as sort of a big clubhouse for folks to come and delve into their own creative merriment. And believe me, people do. There is an open door policy there, IF you have a key, to do any or all of the following: enter, play either one of the pianos, make copies, have a cup of coffee, pick up a guitar or a stand up bass, write on a legal pad, hang, chill, create. And anything else that your creative heart and spirit can conjure up. You get my drift. I mean he did name it “The Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa”, after all.
Okay, so back to Marty Stuart. I’m housesitting, he calls. He wants to borrow my Dad’s Gibson J200 guitar for a show that same night. Well, I have to tell you that I didn’t exactly know what to say. I mean, my Dad bought that guitar when he was in the Marine Corps. That guitar has been played by Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Chet Atkins, John Prine, Elvis Presley and Marty Stuart. And that’s the short list. How do you authorize such a request? I had to call my Dad. I felt sure he would loan it to him, but I had to call. Of course he said “sure” and Marty came over to get it with his friend, Cheryl.
When they arrived, I was sitting in the breakfast nook peeling and chopping vegetables for some homemade soup. Marty and Cheryl came in and sat down with me. We talked for a minute and then Marty went into my Dad’s office to get the guitar and left me there with Cheryl, to visit.
I liked Cheryl right off. She was funny and sweet and even helped peel a veggie or two. She asked me some questions about the house and the history of the studio in the attic. She also asked me if I worked for my Dad and what did I do and all of that "getting acquainted" stuff. I told her that I was the bookkeeper and that I did write and sing some. I told her that I was starting my own publishing company and was going to take a shot at pitching my “catalog” (all six songs of it) and try to get something cut. I am sure I sounded VERY legit right about then.
After we talked about me for a little bit, I asked her some getting acquainted questions. How do you know Marty? “We’ve known each other for years”, she said. Do you sing? “Yeah, I sing some”, she replied. I told her that I would love to hear some of her songs sometime and she could come by and visit me one day and that I worked here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
After a little bit, Marty emerged from Dad’s office, guitar in hand and out the door they went. I finished putting the soup on and went on about my day.
I would be remiss, right here, if I did not stop and talk a little bit about my Dad’s homemade soup. It is not AT ALL uncommon to find my Dad standing in his kitchen, shirtless, wrapped in one of those wrap around towel skirt things that men wear that have the velcro across the top and the one big pocket, making vegetable soup. The list of people that have enjoyed a bowl of this soup and a slice of his cornbread is probably about the same as the one of the people that have played his guitar. And then some. It is the best soup in the world. I can’t explain it really, but it always tastes exactly the same and all of the vegetables are uniform in size and very small and square. When I make soup, I just chop, kinda loosely and largely and drop it in. Turns out, if you don’t do that and you make everything all little and precise you get a better variety of stuff on your spoon. I guess my Dad must have figured that out because his soup is a testament to that.
His record producing and songwriting seems to be a testament to that theory too. He always knows how much of something to add and how much to leave off. If you have heard of my Dad or know him, then you have probably heard him referred to as “the Genius”. This is absolutely the truth about him. In writing, producing and soup making, for sure. Sidebar: (His clam chowder can’t be beat, either). And don’t EVEN get me started on his cornbread. He must have made a thousand batches before he got it exactly the way he wanted it. Once he did, though, it has been the same ever since.
Doing things a thousand times until you get it just the way you want it is also a diehard theory of my Dad’s. This theory precisely explains why I saw a CD on his desk one day, marked, Final Mix Number 14. Nothing is ever finished completely enough that it can’t be made better. To his credit, though, as an artist myself, it IS hard to let it go out the door. Once it’s gone, you can’t fix it or change it or make it better. So, if you are my Dad and/or sometimes me, then you get some of your old tracks out every few years and add some fresh tracks or a cowbell to it, you mix it, make a CD of it and put it on your desk. Then you put the masters back up on the shelf and you start “partially finishing” something else. Hopefully in 125 years or so, some of it will actually get finished. Or not.
If you ever go in my Dad’s office, you might find him hidden behind stacks of CD’s on his desk. Not CD’s that have that little descriptive strip that tells you who the artist is running down the back. Nope. Clear boxes. You don’t know what’s in the case until you are looking through the top to see the actual label on the CD to know what it is. Most of the time it is written on there with a sharpie. It might say “Jack Clement Dance Mix Number 7 with Marimba” on it. Or it might say “John Prine Attic Singalong 1981”. You never know. The miraculous part of that scenario is that my Dad can reach into the stack he needs and within one or two CD’s on either side, pull out the one he is looking for. Like Jenga. Don’t forget, they all look exactly the same and there are about 300 of them.
Because of all of his creativity and the people who have come in and out of The Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, there is vibe there. A cool, creative vibe. I love housesitting. All the tv’s are big, all the speakers are loud and there is always plenty of paper towels and trash bags…
Okay, so back to the soup. Well, I ate my soup, a solid 7, next to a 10 for my Dad’s soup, and wrapped up my housesitting gig. I was sitting at my desk reading the paper when my Dad came back. I recapped all that had gone on and told him that his guitar had been returned by Marty and was safe and sound in his office. Then he asked me how Marty and Cheryl’s show had gone. “I didn’t really get to talk to Marty when he brought the guitar back”, I said. “Oh is Cheryl in his band or something?” I asked, (a little embarrassed that I didn’t already know that). He looked at me like I was crazy, then he said, “No Sheryl Crow has her own band, I’m sure”.
I thought to myself, what has this got to do with Sheryl Crow? Then it hit me. Oh, you mean SHERYL Crow? Sheryl with an “S”, Crow? Not just my vegetable chopping buddy and laid back listener captivatingly taking in all of that stuff about MY singing and writing. Not the Cheryl with a “C” that had to have just been thrilled at the prospects of playing a few songs for ME and MY new publishing company. Not Marty’s “running errands” buddy. No, it was Sheryl CROW. Sheryl Crow.
It was Grammy Award Winning, Michael Jackson background singing, million sales songwriting, worldwide sensation, Sheryl Crow.
Well, knock me over with a feather.