Tuesday, March 10, 2009
hank locklin 1918-2009
there was faron young & porter waggoner. guys that made it easy to make fun of country music way back in the day. the twang in their voices & the over produced music(lots of cheesy strings & an occasional odd horn section)wasn't what hank williams was all about as far as we were concerned. of course, had williams been alive then, he'd have probably been making records like that too. that's just how it was back then(hell, listen to early willie nelson & you'll want to get out of the room as quickly as possible). the record execs imposed their ideas upon the singers(forget the singer/songwriter, they didn't make an appearance for a few more years)& the singers played ball or went home.
hank locklin was another one of these guys caught up in the "nashville sound" mess back then. his biggest hit, "send me the pillow that you dream on" was an even bigger crossover hit for dean fucking martin. i can still remember mocking martin's version. this was just not music i wanted anything to do with.
philip met hank locklin through jeana walker's mother. locklin was born in the panhandle & is survived by many that still live there. i'm not sure how jeana's mother connected w/him but hank locklin was definitely a presence in their lives when philip was involved w/jeana. in fact, this connection was probably how we even knew hank locklin existed.
i'm sure ken & mike remember this little story but i have to tell it anyway. philip was at some gathering w/jeana & her mother. they may have been at locklin's farm which was in the north end of escambia county(i think). philip & locklin had talked music before. at the time, i think we could all fake it in terms of knowledge of country music(this was high school & just after). philip & hank were talking & locklin said, "o that reminds me," & he got up & went into the other room. he came back w/an unfinished guitar, a grammar guitar, & handed it to philip. "what do you think about this, partner?" & philip was mostly nonplussed. he finally managed a "how much does something like this cost?" & hank replied, "well that right there isn't gonna cost you a thing. it's yours." i remember we were all floored by the sheer magnanimity of this gesture when philip told us the story. grammar guitars were THE nashville guitar at the time.
philip took the guitar up to muscle shoals & had it finished by one of the top luthiers of the day. philip couldn't remember the guy's name. as fate would have it, when we were in new orleans this last summer, i'd met a guy by happenstance who ran the b&b next to the lamothe house where we were staying. he was working on a history of muscle shoals music. he'd done producing there & knew everything there was to know. he knew the guy who worked on philip's guitar. when i introduced philip to him, they talked about it. when he said the guy's name philip remembered.
the grammar was a real beauty. it was blond & you could see the eyeholes in the wood on the back of the body. i liked the tone tho the fretboard was thinner than i like. but who could complain? it was free. & since life loves to serve up amusing little ironies, it was stolen from philip when he lived up in new york city.
i actually never met hank locklin. it was supposed to happen several times but it just never did. if he'd been kristofferson or willie or waylon, i'd have pressed harder, i imagine. he got an autograph for me from waylon jennings that i carried around w/me for a while. "hoss, we got to play together some day," it said. that didn't happen either.
locklin's obit in the nyt.