Kristofferson, Harlan, Johnny, Waylon, Chet, Fred…So many greats. too many are lost to us, but the ones left behind often tip their hats to their absent friends.
Harlan Howard was lost to the world this month in 2002. Kristofferson and Harlan Howard were close. In 2009, Kris told the Boot, “….there were people like Mel Tillis and Harlan Howard, people I respected, who encouraged me before I had a hit record. That helped me stay around until things started to happen for me.”
Greats from the heyday of the songwriter seem to be getting ever thinner on the ground. Thankfully, their life work lives on. People who had the honour of meeting or working with the greats are able to share their stories and experiences. Talking about Harlan prompted the following from James Hardie McGehee. As fans, we are especially grateful to those who allow us to share their memories.
James Hardie McGehee on meeting Harlan Howard
I met and crossed paths with Harland at a Handy-Pack just off Music Row. He was VERY old, hunched over and buying Marlboro lights with shaky hands – He still had that twinkle in his eyes.
There was SO much I wanted to say – about this song and that song – but I just said, “Hello” – and wished him well with, “Take care sir”
Harlan had the sweetest smile and was not long for this world –
James Hardie McGehee – Harlan, the songs and the Era
We asked what else McGehee could share with us about the times, the music and the magic of the days of the Songwriters …
Well I sang “PICK ME UP ON YOUR WAY DOWN” a lot at my live shows and on WBRC / ABC Tv in Birmingham AL where I did 6 shows a week 1985-1987, from 5am-7 am – waking up hundreds of thousands of viewers of THE COUNTRY BOY EDDIE SHOW where I met Tammy Wynette (who Eddie had on the air regularly when she was still a hairdresser), Loretta Lynn, Charlie Louvin, Doug Dillard, Jeanie Pruitt and my pal, Shelby Lynne . It’s one of my wife’s favorite songs .
“STREETS OF BALTIMORE” I learned from GP and performed a lot as well in my band TEXAS RADIO. I totally LOVE that song !!! Buck Owens’ version of “TIGER BY THE TAIL” inspired me as a writer of Country-Rock songs with a sense of humour (which I love to write) – They feel good to sing and light up a room of listeners/drinkers 🙂
“HEARTACHES BY THE NUMBERS” is THE best 4/4 time song ever IMHO, the Rulebook of the Country Shuffle a la’ GRAM and DWIGHT and all who put a little rock in their country 🙂
“I FALL TO PIECES” is perhaps THE most popular and played female-vocalist country song EVER. It put PATSY CLINE on her throne where she still resides with a few others like TAMMY WYNETTE and LORETTA
“LIFE TURNED HER THAT WAY” is reminiscent of the HANK WILLIAMS “Luke The Drifter” songs like “The Bad Girl Down The Street” from his “BEYOND THE SUNSET” genius album 🙂
HARLAN wrote a song with TOMPALL GLASER that I love much and often performed.
© Hardie* McGehee – artist/writer/fan/Nashville Survivor
James Hardie McGehee – Music Bio
I was a teenage rocker in Bham cover bands who got interested in Country Music thanks to GRAM PARSONS and EMMYLOU HARRIS and I mixed the 2 styles in my own way, leaning hard in each direction at different times. WBRC TV kept me singing on THE COUNTRY BOY EDDIE SHOW 6 days a week, for three years.
Of the two original Country-Rock bands I fronted, THE NEW RIVER BAND and TEXAS RADIO- The latter recorded twice and was published @ RICK HALL MUSIC / FAME STUDIOS. It was a VERY good, extremely original group that was turned down by every major label in Nashville in the mid-1990s despite our excellent sound and the wild dreamy songs I wrote having obvious hit potential.
TEXAS RADIO backed up CHUBBY CHECKER on his Country-Rock album “THE TEXAS TWIST” I played on /arranged/co-produced and had 6 songs on the album, including the title track.
Texas Radio opened shows for the likes of GEORGE JONES, EMMYLOU HARRIS, JAMES BROWN, CHARLIE LOUVIN, DIAMOND RIO, LITTLE RICHARD and LOS LOBOS.
Valley Of The Broken Hearts is the first song James Hardie Mcgehee says he felt good about writing
Muse, Music and Music Row
The ten years playing the WILDEST clubs of the Southeast, and solo all over this beautiful planet ushered in a time of mega highs and lows
After many Caribbean adventures (like attending Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica twice) she and I took my music from Maui to Amsterdam , The Canadian Rockies to the wild west coast of Mexico collecting world music and having a blast in between shows and recording sessions ; once while staying in a small boutique hotel in San Francisco looking for inspiration I wrote “DEDICATED BLUE” in a dream.
A 1997 JOB offer as a staff writer from CARLIN AMERICA (out of NYC) meant I wrote and recorded on MUSIC ROW backed up by Nashville A-Team Players like DAN DUGMORE, steel guitar wizard from Linda Ronstadt’s records and band, and a host of super-talented legendary sidemen like AL PERKINS, KENNY VAUGHN and RICHARD BENNETT. I continued to write and recorded constantly on MUSIC ROW.
– So I lived, partied and worked for almost a decade in my own office on the 3rd floor of the old historic WARNER BROTHERS building @ 18th and Division – surrounded by a multitude of primo instruments and recording gear.
Often I recorded demos there with my boss Jeff running the board while I sang and played all of the instruments myself.
“Nashville Bus” written due to my (McGehee’s) affection for Kris’ “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”
Kris’ Crash Pad, Inspiration and Songs
I could see Kris’ crash pad (where he lived and wrote) – and which the city preserved – from my office/suite window. That was inspirational!
“It’s All Over You” inspired by Kris Kristofferson and McGehee’s tribute to him
Records and DJs
Many recordings that followed were thanks to my NYC and later my WARNER BROS budget. Several of these appear on my “JIGSAW MAN” album.
This creative time helped me to help launch the career of my Nashville co-writer of 4 years and three albums, ELIZABETH COOK. She is one of the finest Country-Rock-Americana singers ever, and now a SIRIUS XM Outlaw Country DJ as well.
Afloat with Atlantic
Elizabeth Cook, our publisher/producer, Jeff Gordon, and I worked to get Elizabeth successfully signed to ATLANTIC RECORDS. We continued to record her albums “BLUE ALBUM” the ATLANTIC/WARNER “HEY Y’ALL” album and”THIS SIDE OF THE MOON” together. We were on a REAL roll until……
WARNER got ATLANTIC in a merger and just closed its doors one awful day! We lost our
Elizabeth Cook was unhappy at WARNER BROS RECORDS, and soon asked to be released from her contract.
Hollywood, Opry – Songs and shows
Our song “BLUE SHADES” and others like “WHAT ABOUT NOW?” are in several Hollywood films – like MGM’s “KILLSHOT” with Mickey Rourke and Diane Lane.
ELIZABETH and I sang on THE GRAND OLE OPRY many times including their 75th ANNIVERSARY
Homebound / Homefree
I relocated to my home town of Birmingham when my Dad got gravely ill. I started my own publishing company, made my “BLUE SUMMER” album, and never stopped making music and helping other artists make their records when asked. Playing LOTS of instruments, recording myself when needed, writing / copyrighting around 120 songs yearly (of ALL styles) and completing a book last year has kept me busy.
Nashville Survivor – One of a handful
My book? It’s a collection of quirky short stories and yes – I need to print it through a decent publisher. It will happen.
My song “DEDICATED BLUE” was written in a small boutique hotel just off Union Square in San Francisco. That day we met a street performer who was painted blue head to toe & sat still as a statue. I took several pics of her, tipped her some paper money in her little blue box & she summoned me to come to her with one finger. I had just completed my album “JIGSAW MAN” in Nashville & she handed me a blue piece of a jigsaw puzzle !
I had an Anchor Steam Beer before bed & woke up writing the words & notes on hotel stationery & finished it when I got home.
James Hardie McGehee’s byline is artist/writer/fan/Nashville Survivor. In my opinion, it’s hard-earned and well deserved. The above work is his own and used here with his kind consent.
My song “DON’T LOOK AWAY” I wrote with my friend & co-writer SEAN LOCKE in the old Warner building @ 18th & Division just off Music Row – Tt was chosen by GARY ALLAN & his producer for his best selling album “SMOKE RINGS IN THE DARK”.
My co-writer SEAN & his publisher held it back for SEAN’s own record which never got finalized/released. GARY liked the song SO much he kept performing it *live* anyway & awhile later it appeared on his platinum MCA album “SEE IF I CARE”.
It features a stellar group of Nashville “A Team” players including Linda Ronstadt’s steel guitar wizard/legend DAN DUGMORE on steel & CHAD CROMWELL on drums. DAN called my office to let me know the session had gone very well immediately upon completion.