I have been influenced by many artists but, it’s the mid Seventies artists that come to mind first… and not necessarily all Rock & Roll, either.
For example: I wrote “Aunt Rosie” with my friend James (Jim) McGregor, after we had a looooong talk about Shel Silverstein. Jim and I are both fans of his. Silverstein (for those who don’t know) was a wordsmith who wrote lyrics for the likes of Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue), The Irish Rovers (The Unicorn Song) and many of the lyrics for Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show (Cover of the Rolling Stone, Sylvia’s Mother). These are just a few of his accomplishments. Many other artists have covered his songs, and I greatly admire his work.
The Seventies was a time when songs really told a story, and Jim and I both share the desire to tell a story in song. As a matter of fact; when I told Jim that I had an Aunt who liked to imbibe on occasion and that I wanted to embellish the story in song. He nodded sagely, and went off on his merry way without saying much. Later that same evening, he e-mailed me part of what I like to call “Jim’s Big Box of Words” and his email had waaaay too many words in that story to fit into one song. This obviously called for a writing session together but, rather than write more words during that session; we pared down the “story” that Jim had written, to fit in to a four minute song. I had previously written the melody and the music so the session went rather fast. It only took an hour or so if I recall correctly but, the result was exactly as I had envisioned and I’m sure that Shel would have been impressed. I would like you to take a listen when I officially release “Aunt Rosie” later this month and see if you can hear the correlation and ‘nod’ to Shel.
Another influence on my songwriting is the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. They practically invented the southern rock sound that is so evident in songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” but, their songs were more inclined to social commentary than the songs that Shel Silverstein wrote. And as much as I admired the lyrics; it was the guitar work that I loved the most. ‘Skynyrd’ had three guitarists at their peak to get that signature sound comprised of Allen Collins, Gary Rossington and Steve Gaines. Steve Gaines brought his own style to ‘the Skynyrd sound’ and to a different level with songs like “I Know a Little” and others that he had penned and it is that sound is that I strove to achieve in more than one song that I have written over the years.
I have had many songwriting influences over the years, and I will continue the homage in my next post.