"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.
Carol Jean: Jim, why did you record "Yeah, Buddy!"
Jim: 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.
Carol Jean: Why would someone in Lubbock be interested in hearing another Buddy Holly record?
Jim: Hey, Carol Jean, tell me about Peggy Sue? Buddy didn't even mention the color of her hair.
Carol Jean: I'm asking the questions here. Why another Buddy Holly record?
Jim: 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 60s. 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. Its 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 Buddys 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.
Carol Jean: Are you really going to pretend that this was an actual interview?
Jim: Rave On.