Ich schaute ein wenig, wie auch schon öfter vorher, die Buddy Holly Tributesongs im Internet via google durch und stieß auf eine mir unbekannte Band mit dem Namen RUNAWAY EXPRESS.
Über ein Bandmitglied nahm ich Kontakt mit Jim Ratts auf und erwarb die erste Buddy Holly Tribute-CD "YEAH, BUDDY !" aus dem Jahr 2000.
Dies war der Beginn einer Freundschaft mit Jim und Salli Ratts und der ganzen Band. Inzwischen bin ich schon ein Edelfan, denn ich habe nicht nur zusätzlich die zweite Buddy Holly Tribute CD "OH, BOY !" von 2004, sondern auch eine Anzahl unveröffentlichter Demos, die die Projektphasen verdeutlichen, bevor die Qualität erreicht wurde, die diese Band mit jedem ihrer Projekte erzielte. Dazu einige andere CD's aus den 80ern und 90ern, wahre Raritäten und für mich echte Kostbarkeiten.
Zusätzlich habe ich einige persönliche Erinnerungsstücke wie Autogrammkarten mit allen Unterschriften der Band, von Jim und Salli Ratts handsignierte CD's, die handschriftliche Fassung von "Caprock", ein VHS Video einer Fernsehsendung aus dem amerikanischen Fernsehen vom Februar 2005 und alle Demos des neuesten Projekts von "Runaway Express", WOODSTOCK incl. der noch eingeschweissten CD.
Woodstock - Runaway Express
Everything began quite harmlessly: Search engine google.de, looking for *Buddy Holly* and starting the search of something, which I didn't know up to date.
I looked at the tribute-songs and found an unknown band with the name RUNAWAY EXPRESS. Via a band-member, I established contact with Jim Ratts and acquired the first Buddy Holly Tribute-CD "YEAH, BUDDY!" from the year 2000.
This was the beginning of a friendship with Jim and Salli Ratts and the whole band. Meanwhile, I am a noble-fan, because I not only have the tribute CD "OH, BOY!", as well, the second Buddy Holly tribute CD from 2004, but also a number of unreleased demos, that clarify the project-phases, before the quality was gained, that this band reached with each of their projects. To it some other CD's from the '80s and '90s, true rarities and for me real treasures.
And I have some personal memorabilia like autograped postcards, a handwritten text of "Caprock", a VHS video from American TV aired in February 2005 and the first demos of the next project of "Runaway Express", WOODSTOCK including the new CD, still factory sealed.
Great new CD ! Nearly 80 minutes to listen to.
Erschienen August 2006.
eMail vom 18. November 2007 von Jim Ratts / Runaway Express __________________________________________________________
Sorry that I've not been in touch recently. We've had some great
Woodstock shows lately, and I'm playing some gigs with Jimmy
Ibbotson from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band again.
We're not called Wild Jimbos these days, but Jimmys' House.
Last night I got to sing a few tunes with Ritchie Furay, who was
in the groundbreaking country-rock group Poco.
Before Poco, he was a member of Buffalo Springfield, with Neil
Young, Jim Messina, and Steven Stills.
Ritchie is a legendary singer and a preacher in Boulder, Colorado
Salli sends her love.
(Tribute Song on the CD "OH, BOY!")
A part of an eMail Jim Ratts sent to me on the 17th of November, 2003:
" The tune of mine is called CAPROCK.
It's the name they give the high plains of West Texas, where Lubbock is. Very flat for many miles, sometimes quite windy, and higher than the rest of Texas. The Spanish called it the Llano Estacado, or the staked plains. Caprock is a harder layer of stone that keeps the softer stone underneath from eroding,. It's why Lubbock is so high and flat.
The early pioneers of rock n roll are the caprock, or foundation of rock, and are responsible for the fact that it's endured after almost 50 years.
A Llano kid, a country soul (Peggy Sue told me Buddy had one)
Dust to rock, Caprock and roll
He flew ten thousand miles an hour
In the days of Eisenhower "
Was sie sagen
Hier ist ein Kommentar von John Pickering von den PICKS über den folgenden Artikel über RUNAWAY EXPRESS im Lance Monthly, bei dem ich nur sagen kann, dass mir dieser Mann aus der Seele spricht. Was ich Jim und Salli Ratts schon vor Monaten über ihre hervorragende musikalische Arbeit schrieb, wiederholt er nun sinngemäss und teilweise fast wörtlich, einfach unglaublich, wie John und ich deckungsgleich in unserer Bewertung von Runaway Express sind. Seine und die Geschichte der Picks hat John 2007 exclusiv hier auf dieser Webseite erzählt.
J o h n P i c k e r i n g – Member of the PICKS, who were backup vocalists to many of Holly’s hits, wrote a comment about an interview with Jim Ratts, published in the Lance Monthly, 02/2005.
John signed my guestbook in 2005.
Johnwrotethe story of the Picksexclusively for this website in 2007 !
You are an excellent interviewer, with a natural knack for asking the right questions. I'm a lucky guy to know and admire you and many of the people you interview.
Foremost among them are not only yourself, but also George Tomsco and Jim Ratts of this edition of The Lance Monthly, a must read for music fans worldwide. I personally do not miss an issue.
I'd just like to say that I've never encountered so much sheer talent in a person not famous.
Jim and Salli, I'm sure, do have a lot of fans, but in my opinion, they should be known worldwide.
I have their CDs entitled "Yeah, Buddy" and "Oh, Boy!" I believe that no Buddy Holly fan should be without them, as they contain the best original (not copied) versions of Buddy's songs that I've heard so far.
The arrangements, instrumentation, and performances are entirely fresh with mixed styles reminiscent of Jim's background. In my humble opinion, Buddy Holly himself would be pleased with these versions of his compositions, as well as other songs he recorded.
The vocals (lead and backup), as well as the instrumental sounds are excellent, and this is not at all a Buddy Holly sound-a-like group (though I like many groups who are). Jim and Salli can really sing well.
Yet, overall, Runaway Express puts a "feel" in these songs that certainly brings Buddy Holly to mind. I also relate to Jim Ratts' background, having country-boy roots and a singing family, myself. (Does anyone other than myself think that his father in the photograph shown looks a lot like Frank Sinatra?)
Jim is a Texas Tech graduate, as am I. I met the two of them several years ago at Lubbock, and my wife Vicky and I were struck by their friendliness and gentility. We count them as personal friends, and I'm jealous of Jim's ability on the guitar. Very few people have musical pedigrees to compare with Jim Ratts. One only has to read his own account. And Salli? Just listen to her. Their songs and sound speak for them. All the best to Jim Ratts and Runaway Express.
Nachdem man diese Bewertung des Interviews der Februar-Ausgabe 2005 von The Lance Monthly gelesen hat, kommt einem sicherlich Lust auf mehr, hier das vollständige Interview, es ist wirklich lesenswert:
Da dieser Artikel aus dem monatlich erscheinenden Musikmagazin The LanceMonthly sehr lang ist, bitte ich all jene, die Probleme mit der englischen Sprache haben, ein Übersetzungsprogramm zu nutzen, danke sehr.
This is the beginning of the article, worth to read it. You'll find some more photos that I added, please scroll down on this page.
A sensational CD from the '80s: 20 songs, including 4 Buddy Holly songs "LEARNIN' THE GAME, CRYIN', WAITIN', HOPIN', HEARTBEAT, THINK IT OVER" plus a lot of wonderful music. My personal favorites (except the Buddy Holly songs): "BOY NEXT DOOR - J.Ratts, HEARTBREAKS HARDER ALONE - J.Ratts, RADIO ROCKERS - J.Ratts". Great stuff, wonderfulfeelings coming over, you go back to the times of Dwight D. Eisenhower and you feel like a young child, gorgeous ! ! !
“How can you hear the Ventures and not think about wheels with cool hubcaps and 19-cent gas and parking at the lake with your girlfriend as you imagined surfable waves?”
“The folk scene was happening and you could see Joe Ely up close in a coffeehouse singin' Dylan tunes.” “Hollies and Beatles tunes were fair game, as were Woody Guthrie, John Sebastian, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton and Buddy Holly songs.” “We played nearly every state in the lower 48 and used Eisenhower's Interstate Highway and Defense System to get there.” “Through the years, it was this Dirt Band connection that proved valuable in so many ways.” “He delivered on all of his promises except fame and fortune, but what he delivered was priceless: a five-year odyssey of great gigs and golden opportunities.”
“That was the beginning of our two-decade Runaway Express journey, still in progress, as we've assembled a tight group of friends who share our common love of songs.” “I've gotten e-mails from the far side of the globe telling me they heard us sing Holly songs in Petty's studio.” “After fifty years of highfalutin' hotshot technology, digital and all, records still don't sound any better than those made in Clovis.”
Lance Monthly (LM): Jim, when and where were you born?
Jim Ratts (JR): Great Bend, Kansas. In the center of Kansas in the center of America on the late edge of the baby boom. September 6, 1948.
LM: In what kind of environment did you live as a youth? Was it in the country or a city neighborhood?
JR: I was a farm kid, big backyard of woods in which to pretend to be a cowboy. I had some real cowboy jobs, like checking fences and bringing in the cattle when the sun went down. It would've been pure poetry if I'd had a horse, I used to think. These days I wish I'd spent more time pretending to be an Indian.
LM: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
JR: I have three sisters, two younger and one older. My older sister, Lorraine, flipped for Elvis. I decided to flip for him too.
LM: Did other members in you birth family have an interest in music besides you?
JR: Music was a big deal for the Ratts clan. Harmony singing in church played the biggest part in establishing my early musical roots, until the radio got a strangle hold. My father Loyd, and his sisters Vida and Thelma (who later received her doctorate in vocal music) had a vocal trio when they were teenagers in the '30, and now and then traveled to do performances and radio shows around the area. Dad held a guitar. There was always a piano standing stoically in the living room, and it was often played.
LM: What kind of music did you listen to when you were a youngster?
Chris Stongle, the drummer in Jim's bandRunaway Express.
"Chris has the rare gift of powerful finesse. It's easy to appreciate his explosive, rock-steady approach to bombastic blues or raucous rock, with a backbeat that can move mountains, but a real drummer can play the other end of the spectrum, too.
Being a folkie at heart, I reserve my ultimate respect for the drummer who can relate to a finger-picked acoustic guitar. It ain't that easy, but it's a breeze for Chris. It's been said that he doesn't play drums as much as he plays songs. So important to us song junkies. Chris does not approach the song from the outside, but finds the heart of the tune and plays in that space. Each song will tell him what to play, and Chris cares enough to listen, and is gifted and versatile enough to treat each tune in a unique way. And, he's more fun to watch than any drummer I've ever seen. Jim Ratts
-- Jim and Salli Ratts
Thank you Chris, for signing my guestbook from the other side of the planet, as you said, the world is small thanks to the new technique, I'm very happy to communicate with music junkies like you, all the best to you from Buddy's German buddy Hans !!
JR: Sixties rock was built for my demographic, but I got the jump on my '50s grade school friends by going completely nuts for what I heard on the radio—the early sounds of rock. It was the key, the magic carpet, and the portal through which I looked and longed for the days I'd kiss a girl and she'd kiss me back. Of course we'd have a car, and its radio would be playing the soundtrack to our lives, rock and roll. Radio made me a hopeless romantic. At night I'd pull the covers over my head with the speaker next to my ear and hold my breath in anticipation of the next song. "Just one more and I'll go to sleep!" It was Elvis (of course!) and the Everlys and the frighteningly explosive sounds of Jerry Lee and Little Richard; and then the Browns singing "The Three Bells"; and then "Teen Angel" and "Seven Little Girls"; and Fats and Gene Vincent and some early Hank and a mysterious Johnny Cash; and who DID write the book of love? And Ricky Nelson turning into a teenage heartthrob before our very eyes and the heartbreak of loving Donna and "You Are My Destiny" and "Party Doll"; and there was the queen of the hop Peggy Sue; and finally the guilty pleasures of hillbilly and bluegrass on the country station.
LM: So were you a country fan before rock and roll made its presence being that Kansas has always been a country-music friendly state?
JR: When I first remember making active choices with the radio dial, it was always rock and roll. My seven-year-old mind was made up in 1955. Your Hit Parade kept me in touch with the current trends in pop music, and I've always been a sucker for a great song, no matter what the style. My father kept plenty of country on the radio, though the hillbilly stuff was not his cup of tea. I developed a guilty fascination with that high lonesome sounding southern mountain music, but must have stashed away that passion for later pursuit. I think the Louvin Brothers may have been flying below my radar screen, though in retrospect, they were giants of the scene (Elvis' favorite gospel group), even as they tried in vain to compete with those young crossover upstarts, the Everly Brothers. Though Hank Williams was gone by '52, his presence on the radio was not, and two and a half minutes with Lefty Frizzell or Webb Pierce was time well spent, and still is. However, it was really pop giving way to rock that got my attention. When Rosemary Clooney's "Come Onna My House" faded into "I Wanna Play House with You," and "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" became "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog," I felt the world tilt slightly on its axis.
Ernie Martinez plays just about every instrument that has strings, and more. He started out in the late 60's playing guitar and drums. Then, when Foggy Mountain Breakdown and The Dueling Banjos came out, he was inspired to learn 5-string banjo. Afterwards, he took up the mandolin, resophonic guitar and pedal steel. He also plays fiddle, piano and bass. Brilliant musician, teacher, recording artist, songwriter and producer.
'Port of Mystery' and 'Tilt-A-World' compilation (from the '90s)
Looking back to the '90s: 20 songs, the best ones taken from 2 albums. My personal favorites on this CD: "KATRINA - J.Ratts, HEAD OVER HEELS - J.Ratts, Tilt-A-World - J.Ratts". "HOWLIN' AT THE MOON" is another highlight on this wonderful CD.
LM: When did you first pick up the guitar and who gave you your first lessons? Do you remember the brand of the guitar?
JR: We always had an old guitar around the house—a boyfriend's gift to my grandmother when she was a teenager. A mail order job from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue just after the turn of the century, I believe it sold new for $3.95. Dad put it to use with The Ratts Trio in the '30s. My cousin Larry Ben Franklin, four years older and wiser in the ways of the world, must have shown me my first chords right around "Tom Dooley" time. He also gets credit for impressing upon me the importance of two profound concepts: the Dylanizing of American music and the Beatleizing of the world.
LM: What high school did you attend and give our readers a description of what it was like to be a teen during your high-school days? Was there the typical popular drive-in restaurant at which the teens hung out? Some of the drive-ins in Albuquerque, in addition to serving burgers and fries, offered Mexican dishes like fajitas, burritos, and tacos. Did you enjoy a similar menu?
JR: I'm always amazed when I think about the pop culture of the '60s and how unified its influence was all over the country. Thanks to a well-built rock-and-roll superstructure, the youth of America had an identity. Salina High School, deep in a Kansas heartland of the USA, would have been like a thousand other American schools of the time—girls obsessed with boys, boys obsessed with girls, and teenagers obsessed with cars and the freedom they implied. It was a universal preoccupation. The Sandy's Drive-In hit town and we knew where to go for burgers and fries (not a taco in sight) to show off our V8-powered attitude. My 1958 Plymouth had two factory-installed-four-barrel carburetors and a very aggressive potential that mufflers could not disguise. To that subdued rumble, add Phil Spector's latest offering or some good old garage-band rock and Salina, Kansas became Anywhere, USA. Each Beach Boys record seemed to devote one side to the distinctly un-Kansas-like activity of surfing and the other to CARS. Those cars had radios and those radios (WLS, WNOE, KLEO, and the Mighty K O M A, far more powerful than its advertised 50,000 watts) were uniting American youngsters like never before. How can you hear the Ventures and not think about wheels with cool hubcaps and 19-cent gas and parking at the lake with your girlfriend as you imagined surfable waves? My Plymouth, like its counterpart Steven King's “Christine,” had a mind of its own. When I shut it down after a drive, it refused to start 'til it cooled. "Sorry, Juli," I'd say. "We're gonna have to sit here for a couple of hours watching the stars and listening to the radio."
LM: Did you go on to college?
JR: A bachelor’s degree of arts and sciences was pursued in Lubbock, on the high plains of West Texas. LCC and Tech kept me in town from 1966 until the tornado of '71. Strange as it may seem, Lubbock was a fantastic place to be a middle-of-the-road hippie. The folk scene was happening and you could see Joe Ely up close in a coffeehouse singin' Dylan tunes. The sounds of McGuinn's Rickenbacker 12-string were omnipresent and psychedelic music went quite well with the higher-education concept of the university environment. The music of the Doors came pouring out of the windows of those cool college-kid alley apartments like mine, and a San Francisco-inspired summer of love ethic permeated the town, subtly and quietly, but undeniably. Thanks mainly to the Beatles, this rock-powered pop culture was going international, with youngsters in London, Paris, and Tokyo listening to a lot of the same music that was on our stereos, high up on the windy Llano Estacado.
With Jimmy Ibbotson from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
On this CD I only find one song that's better than the others, for me "Tilt-A-World" is the number one song on this CD. Wonderful to listen to this great music, a gorgeous project by Jim Ratts and his friends !
LM: What was the name of your first band and what mainstream artists influenced its beginnings?
JR: Colours, named after a song by Donovan, formed in college in 1967, and toured professionally for five years after my graduation in 1971. Early on, we featured acoustic guitars, string bass, banjo, and three-part harmony singing. We couldn't resist the Peter, Paul and Mary material ‘cause Gordon Parrish and I were singing with a dead ringer for Mary Travers. The Corpus Christie group Pozo Seco Singers of "Time" fame (featuring a young Don Williams) had the greatest harmony sound imaginable, and we labored to compete with their blend. Any song that sounded good with three parts was a contender. The whole “folk music scare” of the early '60s provided ample material for Colours, from Ian and Sylvia to Tom Paxton and, of course, Hibbing's own Bobby Zimmerman. Hollies and Beatles tunes were fair game, as were Woody Guthrie, John Sebastian, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton and Buddy Holly songs. We were unfocused, eclectic and slaves to vocal harmony. We morphed into a progressive county-rock band after our college days, as drums, electric guitars and pedal steel helped us preach the gospel of that Austin-based music scene ruled by Jerry Jeff and Mike Murphey. But that's another story.
LM: What enticed you to pursue your musical career in Austin, Texas and why do you suppose that this magnificent city has, for many years, ardently supported a healthy music scene?
JR: Though there were many Austin overtones to our music, we didn't actually move there. Two months before my graduation in 1971, Colours was chosen to represent Texas Tech at the National Entertainment Conference Showcase in Commerce, Texas. A well-respected talent agent from Colorado saw the show and got some big ideas. He suggested we move to Denver and sleep on his floor. We carried a large bag of Texas with us. Michael Martin Murphey would show up in town every few months and sing us a batch of his new tunes. They were always the best. At one time our repertoire included fifteen Murphey songs. What was it about Austin that gave birth to such great music? Gary P. Nunn has a song full of answers. I'd say the university environment, the hill country with those perfect rivers and springs, the progressive nature of the town, and the dynamic nature of the times. It became a Texas Mecca. No other area has such a well-defined regional music. Pickers of like mind tend to congregate, and the party was happening in Austin. Cotton cowboys, who wanted to plug in, headed down off the Caprock to join the fun. In 1970 Joe Ely invited me on a trip to Austin for some spontaneous jamming. I had to decline because Colours had a gig. In recent years I've come to realize that the Flatlanders were born on such a trip, during that very time. Austin unites those with a common bond. The town continues to define the progressive country and folk movements, plus any other kind of music you could wrap a guitar around.
LM: You said you toured for five years with your first group, Colours. What was your touring territory and did the group open for any high-profile artists?
JR: Imagine a commute to work of 165 miles, every day, seven days a week for five years. Colours drove! We played nearly every state in the lower 48 and used Eisenhower's Interstate Highway and Defense System to get there. We did the college circuit, but found some great clubs and bars along the way: The Ruby Gulch in Champaign, The Rubiayt in Dallas, The Bistro and The Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, The Red Mule in Virginia Beach, Amazing Grace north of Chicago, Detroit's Raven Gallery, the Café York in Denver, the Troubadour of southern California, and Nashville's Exit Inn were fabulous places to play. But the meat and potatoes of our touring was making the college scene. The coffee house and small concert circuit filled our itineraries, but on each tour we'd open larger concerts for acts booked by our agency, Stone County. It was amazing to share the bill with The Earl Scruggs Review, John Hartford, Steve Martin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Randy Newman, Pure Prairie League, Leo Kottke, Dan Fogleberg, Doc Watson, Doug Kershaw and the Dirt Band. We hooked up with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band more often than any other. We did dozens of shows with them, and they'd always draw about 3,000 kids that seemed to understand what Colours was about. Getting to really know and play with John McEuen wasn't in the cards for another decade and a half, but the Dirt Band's Jimmy Ibbotson took an early interest in Colours and tried to get us a record deal with Vanguard. Through the years, it was this Dirt Band connection that proved valuable in so many ways. Those days of touring were as hard as they were exciting, but they were a perfectly timed blessing for a Texas Tech psychology major with no idea of what to do with the real world.
LM: What was one of your best venues with Colours and one that you would like to forget? In addition, did your group have a manager that gave his all to Colours?
JR: It would be easy for me to say that any of the triple-billed-Colours-Steve Martin-Dirt Band shows would be at the top of the list, but let's talk about great and odd: One of our performances at New York's Max's Kansas City really stands out. Andy Warhol used to hang out at this place. Colorado country-rock must have sounded like music from another planet to those jaded Big Apple ears, but it's difficult to get too far out for a New York audience. We kinda filled the joint with rarefied Rocky Mountain air and couldn't have paid that woman in the first row enough money to have created a greater theater-of-the-real extravaganza. She might have been high on other things besides us, but we didn't care.
There was hope for “down-home,” even in the big city. A bad gig? Hey, I'm tryin' to forget that stuff, but let's drag out the pain once more. We were two years gone from Lubbock when we were hired back to our alma mater to do a show with Asleep At The Wheel. They offered to open for us 'cause we were the home-school band and all. That night we were the ones that were “asleep” and Ray and the gang smoked us! I demand a rematch. A manager?
We had a guy who believed in us more than we believed in ourselves. Lance Smith had a dream of Colours success, and in the process of his pursuing that dream he gave me the greatest musical experiences of my life. When we met, the list of acts he was booking (like the Dirt Band and Steve Martin) blew our minds. He said he'd put us on stage with those guys and we'd go shopping for the Big Time. He delivered on all of his promises except fame and fortune, but what he delivered was priceless: a five-year odyssey of great gigs and golden opportunities.
LM: Did Colours release any material to the public?
JR: We did three records in college. When we hit the road, our manager, Lance had a plan. His idea was to hold out for a record deal that included a big advance and a fat promotional budget. We were courted by various major labels during those five years and were close to a deal at times as label executives played the age-old game of musical chairs and odd man out. The big offer came just months after we broke up. A fellow at Capricorn in Macon had just gotten promoted to A&R and was ready to sign Colours. (The deal would have probably fallen through, but I like to tell the story anyway.)
LM: Why did Colours split up or did you just leave the group for new horizons?
JR: Once again, the Dirt Band factored into our final days. Jimmy Ibbotson, my favorite Colorado songwriter, got off the Dirt bus in '76 and refused to get back on. John Cable of Colours was hired to replace him and be the Nitty Gritty bass player. Since Colours had a van, a sound system and gigs, I invited Ibbotson to fill the hole left by Cable. His powerful charismatic stage presence, songwriting talents and Dirt Band-vocal sound lifted Colours to a new level.
Fans followed us on tour and guys would roadie for us for free (they bought their own gas!). In Nashville we picked up David Carter Jones (Mama Maybelle Carter's grandson) to be our hotshot guitarslinger. As they say, "It was like the big time, only smaller!" However, in a few months Ibby had to honor a previously made promise to former Byrd Chris Hillman to work in his band. Colours had an eight-year run and we ended at the top of our game.
LM: Of all the high-profile artists and bands with which you toured during Colours’ reign, who, in your opinion, were at the top of your list as being all-around cool people, and were there others that put on airs and kept to themselves?
JR: In answering the last part first, I'd like to comment on something I've noticed about celebrities, and the nature of celebrity in general that famous people both love and despise. Each handles his or her degree of success in a different way and fame is not always a blessing. Randy Newman and Steve Martin, both in the early stages of extreme fame, were polite but kept to themselves.
By no means did they “put on airs,” but I saw them as gifted, complicated, and private (maybe a bit shy?) men, who were more comfortable on stage or with close friends. Steve, before and after the craziest of shows, was quiet, elegant and reserved off stage. On the other hand, Pure Prairie League would burst through our dressing room door with beer and other gifts and welcome us as if we had just moved into the neighborhood. They seemed to realize that we would have control of their audience for the first 45 minutes of the show. It was to their advantage to have a happy opening act.
Earl Scruggs was always the 'father-figure' gentleman. Our very first professional concert was with Mason Williams of "Classical Gas" fame, and through the years I've not met a kinder or more approachable genius. We enjoyed joining up with the Dirt Band, and they seemed genuinely happy to see us, always inviting us onstage for the encore singing of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." John Hartford (the writer of "Gentle On My Mind" and another alumnus of the Smothers Brothers TV show along with Mason and Steve Martin) normally traveled alone, and so I believe he appreciated seeing us pull up to the loading dock.
He played on our demo of "Jaded Lover," written by our bass player Chuck Pyle, a tune that Jerry Jeff Walker released as a single. We did a bunch of shows with Hartford, and he always jammed with us during the finale of our set. He was a pickin' fool. After-hours gatherings with John were the best. He was yet another brilliant mind with amazingly poetic and insightful perspectives of our strange world.
LM: So what was next after Colours, Runaway Express? Or did you go through a burnout period, which seems to be a very common response for an artist after experiencing the breakup of a group that showed great promise?
JR: After Colours I stashed my driving gloves and moved home to get to know my wife Carolyn. We'd been married during much of my touring days and each homecoming was like yet another honeymoon. Day-to-day reality wasn't quite as romantic as the musicman/lady-at-home combination, and divorce gave me some good emotional reasons to write a batch of songs. I found the opportunity to sing them in '79 when I joined forces with Jimmy Ibbotson, who'd recently written the best tunes of his career.
He had not yet re-boarded the Dirt Band bus (that happened in '82), and he and I, both wifeless and free, spent two years celebrating songs and camaraderie across Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. This was the beginning of our career as fellow Wild Jimbos and the high point of my major musical calling—that of being a harmony singer. For me it was a dream come true, and Ibby got a “brother in music” that he needed. On a good night Jimmy had the artistic grace and intensity of Bruce Springsteen and, standing next to him on stage, I had the best seat in the house.
LM: When did your lovely wife, Salli enter the picture?
JR: Ah, a new love song! In 1980 I was running the only open stage in the Denver-Boulder region (now there are dozens). It was not amateur night, but a Monday evening gathering of folkies, pickers and songwriters, both pro and semi, who needed a place to play. Salli walked in after I'd already booked the entire evening. It would be an understatement to suggest that I didn't want her to leave my “Hoot-Night” disappointed. I wanted this one to return next week! I found her a spot on the show and remember exclaiming to a friend as she started her set, "Holy Mackerel! She can sing, too!" That was the beginning of our two-decade Runaway Express journey, still in progress, as we've assembled a tight group of friends who share our common love of songs. The guys are the best bunch of players you could find anywhere. John McEuen climbed aboard the Runaway Express shortly after he left the Nitty Gritty in 1986, and gave us two years of great shows, TV appearances, and experiences that can only be provided by someone who knows the password or has the magic key. Thanks, John. Runaway Express currently claims an honest 2,000-song repertoire. Honestly! And Salli and I claim the amazing feat of remaining happily married after 24 years of performing. Thanks, Sal.
LM: Were you ever an instrumental guitar fan of the early ‘60s bands such as The Ventures, Fireballs, String-A-Longs, etc.?
JR: I have to admit that I remember songs better than I remember licks, so I lean on the boys in the band to play the leads. We do "Pipeline," "Wipeout," "Sleepwalk," "Penetration," "Walk, Don't Run," and have recently been going to power-chordland with Link Wray's threatening mood-piece "Rumble," featuring the most menacing guitar chords in the world. (Sometimes I can't ignore the groove and plow into "One Night With You" by Elvis and "The Stroll," but then we go strolling back to Rumbleland.) I've always flipped for a great instrumental, guitar-based or not, with "Raunchy" and Bill Doggett's 1956 hit "Honky Tonk" being the first. "Last Date" and "Wild Weekend" killed me.
Johnny and the Hurricanes rocked (the Beatles opened for them in Hamburg) and Seattle's Ventures ruled. Duane Eddy and Sandy Nelson never had to apologize for the lack of vocals. Dick Dale found a sound that matched a lifestyle. Vince Guaraldi's piano piece "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" was one of my favorite records of the '60s, as was the unbelievable Joe Meek-produced "Telstar." I shouldn't even have to mention "Last Night" or "Green Onions." Who needs a singer? Ba Da dada da duh Da - Tequila!
LM: Did you ever meet Norman Petty or record at his studio?
JR: Kenneth Broad, the current owner of the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, called last night and told me that when Norman Petty really liked something, he'd say "that's neat!" He said that Norman's reaction to our new "Oh, Boy!" Buddy tribute would have been just that. I never met Norman Petty. I've never been to the studio, but Kenneth has been playing selections from our 2000 release "Yeah, Buddy!" through Norman's speakers during his tours. I've gotten emails from the far side of the globe telling me they heard us sing Holly songs in Petty's studio.
Back sometime in the '80s I wrote a sentimental reflection called "West Texas Winds" that a mutual friend sent down to Clovis for Norman to hear. Six months later, when he called to see if Petty had heard the song, we learned that Norman had just passed away. Norman Petty was a visionary and the very best of studio engineers.
And aside from the expert instrumental backgrounds, the harmonies are exceptional! I’m also very impressed with the packaging and the 3-D pop-up Stratocaster, which must have cost a pretty penny. Whose idea was that and was each CD individually assembled by hand in China where much of this type of packaging is done?
JR: Salli and I are blessed to have such an assemblage of wonderful and gifted members of the Runaway Express family. Butch Hause, Scott Bennett, Ted Cole, Ernie Martinez, Daniel Jones, Bill Brennan, and Chris Stongle are the best!
Aside from all the great players, we have an amazing artist in the clan. He is an “idea man” of the first order. Greg Carr is on a divine mission to eliminate the ordinary album cover. He, like the rest of us, laments the passing of the 12-inch LP, the perfect format for art display. Our 2000 Holly tribute release featured Buddy glasses with a plastic see-through lens. This year's follow-up had to be in the same league with "Yeah, Buddy!" The complicated assembly of the "Oh, Boy!" package is done here in town with a crew that understands and welcomes the complicated nature of Greg's “projects.” They're good Americans trying to compete in a global market.
LM: What enticed you to move to Colorado other than it being one of the most beautiful states in the Union (next to New Mexico, of course)?
JR: Hey, Dick, we live in the same state, and it's the finest state in the Union. It's called the Great American West. Often too arid, barren orconvoluted to plow, these wide open spaces, towering peaks and profoundly entrenched river canyons give hope to the rest of the Country that Wendy's and Wal-Mart won't be moving in soon. America breathes better just knowing it's there. I'm a fanatic for wild-lands. When fate plucked me from West Texas and planted me in Colorado it didn't take long to find reasons to stay.
Some of my
LM: The CD, “Those Fabulous Sixties” that you sent me is quite a production and an exceptional historic summary of the unforgettable music during those times. Boy did it bring back some great memories and make me realize how golden that age was. I can’t help from thinking that the tasteless mainstream music of today could never be remembered in such a manner. Obviously you produced it as a labor of love as it’s not for sale. Nevertheless, I think everyone should have a copy of it. Did you do it by yourself?
JR: For anyone who's had the stamina to make it this far in the interview, I'd like to offer a "Fab '60s" disc for the price of postage. During the last twelve years, I've spent more than two thousand hours in my studio editing together what I feel is the ultimate sixties audio collage. On two 80-minute discs I've spliced, diced and layered nine hundred song bits and bites in thematic and chronological sequence. Original songs by the original artists! The assemblage is mine, but I've stolen shamelessly from any sound source that could help to propel the project.
That's why it could never be marketed, and remains an underground labor of love. I'm sure that somebody could put together "Those Fabulous Eighties," but it ain't me, babe! "Those Fabulous Sixties" is a memory waterfall that's not for sale, but for your loyal Lance Monthly readers Dick, they can get one of these discs for two bucks (the postage) as a gift from you and me. All they have to do is e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and beg politely. Heck-uva-deal! Order today! It's a thank-you for reading this self-indulgent idiot's essays! [Reviewer’s note: This is indeed an incredible piece of work and Jim’s offer should in no way be passed up!]
LM: What plans do you have for the future, Jim and is there a tour in the horizon?
JR: I believe that as folks cruise through their mid-fifties, they begin to spell the word “Career” differently. Politicians tend to capitalize all the letters by that time. Musicians are more likely to drop the capital “c” or stop using the term altogether. Music is so much a part of who we are that it seems trivial to use the word to describe “what we do.” Runaway Express gave up bars years ago (except for the Little Bear in Evergreen) and touring rarely factors into our playing schedule. Summers are filled with regional outdoor concerts. Private functions and weddings can happen anytime, and we're fools for playing the party-band role. We eat theme shows for breakfast and “Request Time” is our specialty. We'll be doing some work with John McEuen this year and our amplifiers shouldn't get too dusty. The clients in my studio, Raven Recording, keep me constantly busy.
I love helping others make their dream record, but I'm working on three different projects of my own right now, including a “Songs from the Heart” collection and a tribute disc to the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Last August, Runaway Express did a five-hour, non-stop Woodstock show and still didn't have time for fourteen of the tunes we'd prepared. We need six hours this coming summer. We'll keep learning songs 'cause we can't help ourselves. We'll keep playing and singing because that's what we were built to do. Every year these songs take on new meaning. Salli and I will continue to explore the West because that's what it's there for. It's amazing the mileage you can get by just stuffing a few tunes in thegas tank.
LM: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our readers. What are your final thoughts?
JR: I'd just like to tip my hat to those with artistic or musical passion, to those who play passionately and to those who listen with passion. I commend those who labor at monthly Internet magazines because of passionate commitment. I celebrate our amazing sixty-year musical heritage and feel bonded to those who do the same. I salute and toast a religious passion for life. We're just surrounded by too much cool stuff to ever have an excuse for being bored.
"I made this album 'cause I've been in the process of making this album for 40 years and figured I had to finish it sometime.
"Our friend Carol Jean Schoenrock in Lubbock asked me a couple of questions about "Yeah, Buddy!" in preparation for an article she was writing for Lubbock Magazine.
Jim, why did you record "Yeah, Buddy!"
Simply put, I had to. I've been uncontrollably motivated to emulate buddy rhythms, chord progressions and melody lines in my music since I began playing in the early '60s. The timing was perfect for his music to reach my ears at the exact time when I was forming my own sense of musical expression. I was 7 when rock was born to the masses (1955), and those early sounds resonated with incredible vitality and unimaginable possibilities. And the romantic stuff!! The implications of "to know the magic of her charms" in Darin's "Dream Lover" made my head spin. The fantasy of one day becoming a teenager and finding a girl who wanted to kiss me on the lips was almost too much to comprehend, but I wanted to try. Sure, I was a fan of "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" when they were hot hits on the Top 40, but even more important to me was the way those songs refused to sound dated when I was really old enough to get my fingers around the neck of a guitar and my arms around the waist of a teenage girl.
The echoes of Buddy's music refused to fade, and were even amplified by those mop tops and everybody else in the known universe of rock. Of course Buddy wasn't the first or even the most influential rocker (he proudly copied his idols and borrowed without shame). But it was the combination of his brilliant gift, his very specific influences (early country and later riddum'nblues), and the unpretentious nature of the lad himself that made his music so compelling to so many. Those glasses! He refused to give them up just for image sake, and it became his image. Johnny Ray wore a hearing aid on stage. Buddy wore glasses. John Lennon said "I was Buddy Holly" because John Lennon wore glasses. These guys wanted their audience to see beyond their eye wear and into their music, and they also wanted to be able to see their audience. But this stuff was all icing and attitude. The real essence of what they did poured out of a radio speaker and expected us to make it into our own personal movie soundtrack. A movie in which we all had starring roles.
We made a Buddy Holly album this year in a totally spontaneous way. Because we really do have a repertoire of over 1200 songs, we find ourselves qualified and desirous of doing 'theme shows' (four hours of Woodstock in August!) We prepared a 4 hour Buddy/Ritchie/Bopper tribute on Feb. 5th and did 38 Buddy Holly songs (is that a record?). Coming home from that gig, I suddenly realized that I had to make a new Holly album. I had no choice. And it had to be new and it had to be fresh. And, it had to be passionate.
Why would someone in Lubbock be interested in hearing another Buddy Holly record?
Hey, Carol Jean, tell me about Peggy Sue? Buddy didn't even mention the color of her hair.
I'm asking the questions here. Why another Buddy Holly record?
Because we're all seasoned veterans of this amazing rock culture and we've been taking notes and playing notes every inch of the way. We're all musicologists. There are deep reservoirs of musical styles from which we draw, since we survived the great folk scare of the early 60’s. Then it was folk rock and country rock and acid rock and the singer/songwriter deal and bluegrass and progressive bluegrass and all the while there was a blending of the acoustic elements of country with the electric elements of rock and roll. It’s astounding how open to interpretation these simple Holly tunes seem to be. Runaway Express has made a album of teenage music, interpreted by aging children of the Rocky Mountain music scene, and envisioned through the multi-colored lenses of four decades of popular music since his death. To me, it's important that I saw Buddy's music from the other side of thirteen. Perspective!
When he was a kid, Buddy's world was Hank Williams and bluegrass, and playing that music gave him his own unique approach to rock. We've called upon the instruments of those styles to provide an omnipresent backdrop for our arrangements. Those arrangements began by adding BANJO to the Holly rhythms played on acoustic guitar and mandolin. Next, we added the components of the basic rock and roll ensemble which Keith Richards said Buddy innovated. On top, we added pedal steel, dobro and fiddle - all elements of Buddy’s early country/bluegrass roots. All instruments that he played. What results is NOT a bluegrass or country album, but a multidimensional, rockabilly flavored folk/rock record. Oh, and did I mention that these are the best players I could find anywhere?
I made this album 'cause I've been in the process of making this album for 40 years and figured I had to finish it sometime.
Are you really going to pretend that this was an actual interview?