The other day I read somewhere that they’re going to turn Johnny Cash’s home into a Graceland-style museum. Here’s a picture I took from outside Cash’s front gate in Hendersonville one day in 1970, during a visit to Nashville.
The purpose of the trip was to interview the members of Area Code 615, the Nashville session musicians whose “Stone Fox Chase” later became the theme tune of a TV programme with which I was associated. I talked to the bass player, Norbert Putnam, and the drummer, Kenny Buttrey, at the then-new Quadrafonic Studios, which Putnam had started with the pianist David Briggs and the producer Elliot Mazer. Neil Young recorded “Heart of Gold” there. Here it is, at 1802 Grand Avenue.
I was shown round town by a friend of theirs, Troy Seals, a singer and songwriter who would later share the composing credit on Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” with Mentor Williams. Troy is a distant cousin of Dan Seals (of England Dan and John Ford Coley) and Jim Seals (of Seals and Crofts). He never managed to match their fame as a singer, which is a shame; he gave me an acetate of his version of “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” that puts him close to the class of Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Rich. But he’s had plenty of songs recorded by some of the big country stars, and he’s a member of the Nashville Hall of Fame, so I guess he’s done all right.
It was Troy who took me to shake the hand of Scotty Moore at Moore’s own studio and then drove me out to Hendersonville. There was no sign of Cash that day, so after I took a couple of pictures we drove back to town and he dropped me at the place where I was staying, Roger Miller’s King of the Road Motel. Here’s a picture of my room, too, with its ultra-modern (for 1970) decor.
I remember going down to the bar late one night and hearing a young man with a guitar singing Kris Kristofferson’s great “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” as though he meant it. As John Sebastian had written a year or two earlier, “There’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville / And they can pick more notes than the number of ants in a Tennessee ant hill.” I’ve often wondered what happened to that guy.
* This post has been corrected in the light of a reply from Troy Seals’ great-niece, who tells me that Troy is not the brother of Jim and Dan Seals, as I had believed, but their distant cousin.