1) What advice would you give to somebody who wants to write songs?
It would depend on what that person had in mind. If they wanted to write strictly for their own enjoyment, I’d say pick an idea, put together a chord structure on guitar or keyboard, and go for it. But if they have dreams of writing songs commercially, then I would suggest that, first, they listen to current music as much as possible to see what the trends are and the types of songs that are successful. Print out lyrics and study how hit songs are constructed. Search through some of the many books and videos that address songwriting. And consider joining the Nashville Songwriters Association, International (www.nashvillesongwriters.com)
. They have some amazing materials and programs for aspiring writers. And I would wish this person good luck….because we can all never have too much of that!
2) Do you have contact with any of the people in your high school graduating class? Did you participate in the choir or the band?
My graduating class was an extremely close-knit group, and we have had well over a dozen class reunions since 1955. I have attended most of them. One of my classmates, Shirley Bettis, for years forwarded all our fan club newsletters to our group, and that helped me stay connected to many of them as well. Like the song says, “You can’t make old friends,” and those are some of the best friends I ever had. No, I was not in the choir or the band in school.
3) I have heard about Jimmy Gateley all of my life. I will someday be buried in the same cemetery as him. I would like to know how he passed, and if you have any stories that you’d like to share of your time working with him.
Jimmy, from the little community of Pleasant Hope, Missouri, was the bass player, fiddle player, singer and emcee for my Po’ Boys band for 13-years…from its inception in 1964 until 1977. He died of a heart condition in 1985. Jimmy was the only band member I ever hired who was older than me, and I learned so much from him. He had been a cast member on the Red Foley Ozark Jubilee TV shows before moving to Nashville, and he was so much wiser about the ins-and-outs of the music business than I was. I wore him out asking questions, but in his calm, understated way he graciously (and often humorously) answered them all. He was a great guy, extremely talented, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember something he said or did and it always makes me smile. I wrote a lot about him in my first autobiography, “Whisperin’ Bill,” which you might be able to find at a garage sale somewhere.
Quickies: I was so sad to read of the recent passing of B.J. Thomas. Did he ever record any of your songs? And did Elvis ever record any? Yes…back in the sixties B.J. recorded “I May Never Get To Heaven.” Elvis never did any of mine, though. I wish he had!
You recorded a song in the 50’s called “Take Me.” Have you ever thought about re-recording it for a current album? No I haven’t. That wasn’t a very good song back then, and it hasn’t gotten any better over the years. Did you ever smoke? I tried it like most teenagers, but I didn’t like it. I’ve got plenty of bad habits, but smoking is not one of them. How did you come up with the song, “If Anything Ever Happened To You?” It’s a great song. Thank you. I wrote it thinking about my mom and dad They were married for 68-years, and I’d often wondered which one would go first and how the other one would be able to survive on their own. Have you ever written a song for one of your children or grandchildren? The day my first child, Terri, was born I wrote a song for her, but that’s the only one. It was not intended to be commercial, and I never tried to do anything with it other than giving it to her. Were the two great guitar players, Sammy Pruitt and Jack Pruitt, related? Yes. Sammy, who played with Hank Williams, was the older brother of Jack, who played with Marty Robbins and others. A fan of yours noted a wish for a Bill Anderson-Lionel Richie writing session. Any thoughts? I have never met Lionel Richie, but I’m a big fan of his. I’d love to write with him, but we should probably meet one another first.
Thanks for a large supply of good questions this month. Sorry I couldn’t get to them all. I’ll hang onto as many as I can for August. Meantime, you can always send yours to me at email@example.com or at P.O.Box 888, Hermitage, TN. 37076. See you back here next month.