Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day Two of 'Tin Pan South' Filled with Heart and Laughs


Day Two: March 26 (Wednesday)

         "Tin Pan South" continued in Music City with songwriters and music fans converging on a dozen area venues. Covering shows for MCAU this time were reporters Chuck Whiting and Wil Comstock. They decided to take in the 6 p.m. show at the Station Inn (featuring Billy Yates, Eddie Heinzelman, Buddy Jewell, and Jeff Bates); and the 9 p.m. show (also) at the Station Inn (featuring Leslie Satcher, Vince Gill, Bobby Tomberlin, and Larry Gatlin). While waiting in line outside the venue, Chuck had the opportunity to re-connect with Red Pepper Marketing Representative Catherine Garnett (whom he'd met eight years ago) and visiting Maryland singer-songwriter Joy Bodycomb. Everyone was amazed how the Gulch has changed, keeping our fingers crossed that the Station Inn would remain forever.

Leslie Satcher, Vince Gill,
Bobby Tomberlin and Larry Gatlin

March 26 (Wednesday):


         Some years ago, I had the good fortune to work with Buddy Jewell on a song demo. It was just before he made it big on "Nashville Star". I remember talking with him in the parking lot about what a wonderful job I thought he'd done, and my gut feeling that he was going to be a big star. I'm glad his dreams came true. He's a great guy with outstanding talent. In some ways, the Station Inn TPS show was an opportunity to celebrate his success. The other writers, Billy Yates, Eddie Heinzelman, and Jeff Bates were perfect complements for a show that featured country classics, moving stories, and belly-aching laughs.

         Billy Yates smiled and laughed throughout, adding a sense of fun and good nature to a show that reunited old friends. He and Buddy reminisced about their road trips together. Jeff, always throwing a timely comedic "rib", lamented that he hadn't joined the two on their Branson adventures. Billy reassured him (with a wink) that he would be invited to join them in the future.

         Calling himself the "guy who writes sad songs", Billy performed his Grammy-winning "Choices" as a tribute to the late George Jones (who recorded a number of his songs). He admitted that he moved to town to sing and fell into songwriting late. His voice certainly sounded "artist-worthy" as he sang stirring renditions of "Flowers" (Chris Young), "I Don't Need No Rocking Chair" (George Jones), and the most moving song of the night, "My Infinite Love" (George Strait). "My Infinite Love" was written for a 50-year-old neighbor who was suffering from cancer. "She asked me to write the song for her funeral," Billy said with a hint of emotion in his voice. "That wasn't easy to do." He said he was surprised when the song, which featured uncommon two-line verses, was later recorded by George Strait.

         Eddie Heinzelman showed his versatility, performing everything from the incredible love ballad "She's Water" (James Lann) to the Rebel-rousing "Crawl" (from the movie "Dead in 5 Heartbeats"). One of the greatest things about "Tin Pan South" is being able to support and learn from the legendary writers who have helped change the world. It was very special to see Eddie return that to songwriters in the audience with a moving performance of "Here's to the Ones Who Write the Songs". Tunes like that rev up our creative engines. Songwriters are indeed "unsung heros" who can never stop writing.

Eddie Heinzelman and Buddy Jewell
         Buddy Jewell delighted the sold-out crowd with hits such as "Abilene on Her Mind", "Help Pour Out the Rain", and "Sweet Southern Comfort". He serenaded his wife and son (who were in the audience) and paid tribute to his dad with the tender "When I'm Good and Gone". Buddy says he wrote the song after losing several extremely important loved ones over a six-year period. In the lyric, a dying man's old, tattered Bible is left open at the Book of John. The hit singer-songwriter moved the audience even more with "One in a Row", a country ballad about a broken-hearted guy who's suffering over a recent breakup. Based on what we heard and the crowd's enthusiastic applause, it's an easy guess that Buddy will be a country music mainstay for many years to come.

         How can you described Jeff Bates? His quip-and-take with Billy, Eddie and Buddy was hilarious. One thing is for sure: Jeff is an outstanding songwriter with an unmistakably deep baritone voice. He treated music fans to the sultry "Long Slow Kisses", telling them that he's known for writing songs for women. "I'm a specialist," he said matter-of-factly. "I've been married five times. If I say I've been married nine times, that don't sound so bad." He lamented with the men (on misunderstanding women), singing the cleverly penned "Chicktionary". He honored the late legend Conway Twitty with the song, "Me and Conway". "People always told me I sounded a lot like him," said Jeff, who recorded a Conway tribute album in 2012. Probably his most memorable (and most moving) song of the evening was "If Heaven Had a Phone". He used his wit in a surprising, heart-tugging way, recalling how his late mother encouraged him to chase his dreams. If he had a phone, he'd call his mom and dad (who are in Heaven) every single day. He thanked God for giving him the opportunity to write and perform. "When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life," he noted.

Jeff Bates
         What a great show... one to smile about for a long time!

-- Chuck Whiting, MCAU Editor


         I covered the show featuring Bobby Tomberlin, Larry Gatlin, Leslie Satcher, and Vince Gill -- an all star cast!
         This is my second time seeing this group of songwriters and entertainers together, so I knew what to expect. It was a wonderful show with killer harmonies, great musicianship, and lots of laughs. And boy did they ever deliver. 
         Bobby Tomberlin kicked off the show with a Hank Williams song, “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)". This group has so many hits between them they can play anything they want. We know who they are, and they know who they are... comfortable in their own skin and with each other. Later in the evening, Leslie performed one she didn’t write, the Tammy Wynette classic, “I’ll just keep falling in love Till I Get it Right”.
Bobby Tomberlin
         Larry serenaded us with “All the  Gold in California” and “My Heart Comes With Strings Attached". He told us that he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Leslie Satcher, who called him years ago and said, “I want to write a song with you”. Larry, who is used to writing alone replied, “You have three songs on the latest George Straight album. Why do you need to write with me?” Leslie was persistent, and Larry obliged. When they met, Leslie said Larry was like a gnat flying everywhere around the room, bringing lots of laugher on the stage and off. She had to tell him to sit down so they could write. Larry said, “I take that as a compliment.” Then Vince chimed in, “How could you not?”  These old friends ribbed each other mercilessly all night.
Larry Gatlin
         Vince, tearing up, announced that his daughter Jenny and her husband Josh are expecting a baby. He explained that he has been on the road for the last 40 years and set 2014 aside to rest and be with family, having no idea Jenny would be expecting. He segued into “I Will Ride The Rails No More”. With his voice breaking up, he told us he just wanted to stay at home and play with his grandbaby.
         Bobby had us on the edge of our seats with a new song called the “Grand Ole Opry”. The Opry is personified when he sings, “They say that I’m the one that made Country Music what it is today… But it’s the stars who crossed my stage that are the ones…”. Afterwards, we were delighted when Jan Howard was called up from the audience to sing “Heartaches By The Number”.  Everyone, young and old, joined in on the chorus!

-- Wil Comstock, MCAU Contributing Writer

Leslie Satcher and Vince Gill

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