Kristofferson, Harlan and James Hardie McGehee

Kristofferson_Harlan

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 & crossed paths with Harland at a Handy-Pack just off Music Row. He was VERY old, hunched over & buying Marlboro lights with skaky hands – He still had that twinkle in his eyes.

There was SO much I wanted to say – About this song & that song – but I just said, “Hello” – & wished him well with, “Take care sir”

Harlan had the sweetest smile & was not long for this world – JHM

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 & on WBRC / ABC Tv in Birmingham AL where I did 6 shows a week 1985-1987, from 5am-7am – 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 & my pal, Shelby Lynne . It’s one of my wife’s favorite songs .

“STREETS OF BALTIMORE” I learned from GP & 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 & 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 & DWIGHT & all who put a little rock in their country 🙂

“I FALL TO PIECES” is perhaps THE most popular & 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 LYNN .

“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 & 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 & EMMYLOU HARRIS & 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.

Texas Radio

Of the two original Country-Rock bands I fronted, THE NEW RIVER BAND & TEXAS RADIO- The latter recorded twice & 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

Texas Radio – Valley of the Broken Hearts

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 & lows traveling with my lovely wife and muse, MELISSA.

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 & 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.

Kris’ Crash Pad, Inspiration & Songs

Nashville Bus” written due to my (McGehee’s) affection for Kris’ “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”

I could see Kris’ crash pad (where he lived & wrote) – and which the city preserved – from my office/suite window. That was inspirational!

It’s All Over You” inspired by Kris Kristofferson & McGehee’s tribute to him

Inspired by Kris Kristofferson – A tribute

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 & “THIS SIDE OF THE MOON” together. We were on a REAL roll until……

Sinking Shennanigans

WARNER got ATLANTIC in a merger & just closed its doors one awful day! We lost our twenty person support staff in a single moment which was a real drag.

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” & others like “WHAT ABOUT NOW?” are in several Hollywood films – like MGM’s “KILLSHOT” with Mickey Rourke & Diane Lane.

Elizabeth Cook singing Blue Shades

ELIZABETH & I sang on THE GRAND OLE OPRY many times including their 75th ANNIVERSARY 3 day show . GARY ALLAN & BR5-49 recorded my songs “DON’T LOOK AWAY” & ” PSYCHIC LADY” on Gary’s Platinum MCA “See If I Care” album & BR5-49’s SONY/LUCKY DOG release “THIS IS BR549” respectively.

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.

Title track, Blue Summer

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.

Postscript

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.

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