Reports of the Past

REPORT From The Field


When the time came for our 2nd trip to Nashville, we were dead broke. I had even just filed a bancruptcy to stall off the foreclosure of my home. Roger and I had taken $600 from our share of the last several gigs, and Marlo had $200, but we were still $500 short of our expected needs and expenses.

This column dedicated with THANKS to all of our friends and supporters who helped underwrite the trip to Nashville last week! Thanks to Gloria, Dan & Carol, Tere, Emily, Shane, Sandy, Pam, Pamela and Anna.


I've promised to write about the New Jack Hippies attempts to make massive amounts of music with as many of the great musicians in Houston (and from elsewhere) as I go, so here's today's installment. If the words sound queer, and funny to your ear (a little bit jumbled and jivey) it's because I'm at home in my own office with my bags still packed and the feeling that I'm still on the road. That's because we arrived home just in time to play a New Jack Hippies gig at the Thirsty Turtle and then catch five hours sleep before Roger and I played acoustically at Starbuck's on Westheimer for the Houston Press' Best of Houston Music Series. Next, The Hippies will play at EinStein's Pub tonight, and then we head off to Dallas to represent at The Texas State Fair on Friday and Saturday.

We went to music city to begin establishing
ourselves within the music community and the
music business. The music community was open
to what we had to contribute, but the business
was full of people who had either forgotten the
music, or had become scared to death of it!
-Guy Schwartz

But, let me digress...

On Sunday, September 24th, We gathered in my driveway to load the rented white astro van and make our way through the South to Nashville, Tennessee. This was to be the New Jack Hippies second trip to Nashville, and we looked forward to a trip that would be even more productive than our first.

We had never expected Nashville to be the place for us. Roger and I believe that our band and our material was more suited for London or New York to be our second home base and stepping stone to the world of international music, but meeting Marlo changed all that. Marlo's experience in the music publishing business in Nashville, combined with her having lived in New York and London as well gave her a platform of experience that we could not deny. She suggested that if one strips away the rocking band, Roger and I are singer/songwriters with a catalogue that Nashville should be receptive to. When she offered to become part of the team (lending her musical ear, experience, and contacts), we decided that a 12-24 month assault on Music City would commence.

Our plan was, and is, to make 3-10 trips to Nashville in order to establish a familiarity in the eyes of the Nashville establishment, as well as an acceptance by the musicians who work there.

The first trip to Nashville in May, 2000 carried several set goals. They were all accomplished. Marlo met with a couple of publishers and phoned several more, introducing them to our names if not yet our music. Roger and I performed live at the Xit/In, on a simulcast that went out on radio and the world wide web, at the Western Beat Roots Reunion Show hosted by our friend and former drummer Billy Block. We were also able to spend some friendly time with Billy, who has worked hard to make himself and important part of the Nashville scene. Our show in May was geared towards the singer/songwriter thing. We performed three ballads, a New Orleans style funk song and a rocking blues song. Billy's musicians backed us up as if they had played with us their whole lives. It was a good trip.... ...for starters.

This time everything about the trip had taken on a slightly larger scope. Besides the three of us, we decided to bring Heath Spencer Philip, one of the featured vocalist who make any New Jack Hippies performance something a little different and special. The day we left was my daughter Chelsea's eighteenth birthday, and the only present she had ever asked for was to go along on this trip. Thrilled that Chelsea had finally asked for a birthday present that I could afford to give her, the five of us headed east on I-10 as the autumn sun set behind us.

This time, Marlo had set up a half dozen confirmed appointments for meetings with publishers which would include Roger and I.

We would spend time with songwriting friends, and jam with musicians. This time, we would make all the music we could, because that's what we do.

We drove 14 hours with hardly a break except for gas and meals. We routed ourselves through Southern Louisiana before cutting up to the northeast through Meridian, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. Before we hit Nashville proper, we checked into a single room at a Motel 6 which was located far enough from the center of town to be cheap enough for our budget.

We immediatly began making phone calls. Marlo talked to Lawson Little, the photographer who had taken live shots of us at Western Beat in May, as well as having taken the only portrait shots ever of just Roger and I together. "Guy Schwartz!", replied Lawson, "I remember him. You guys are friends with Billy Block. Are you guys back in town?". Marlo called several of the people at publishing houses with whom she had already made appointments for us during the week, just to check in and let them know we were in Nashville. She invited everyone out to Tuesday nights show at the Xit/In. I called Billy Block, who told us of a couple of cool things to do that evening. Lastly, I put in a call to Vince Bell, and before we knew it, we were all back in the Astro van and headed for Vinceland.

The drive to Vince's was scenic as hell. Leaves on the trees were beginning to turn colours. There were no reds or oranges yet, but the various tones of green and gold made me optimistic that we might get to some of the warm colours before we left town. The rolling hills put us in a state of awe that was only rivaled by our amazement at the smoothness of the pothole-free roads.

Vince's cabin is located at the bottom of a hill, in a 'holler'. It used to belong to john Prine! Vince was outside of his door faster than we could get out of the van and gave us an enthusiastic greeting. We hung up our jackets inside the cabin, but soon made it to the back porch where we talked about everything musical as well as the marvelous weather, which had turned cool the very day of our arrival. After a phone call to Sarah Wrightson, it was determined that Wednesday night would be our night to get together for an evening of friends and fun with Vince and Sarah.

Leaving Vince's, we headed to the Radio Cafe in East Nashville where Billy Block had suggested we meet at an 'Eat and Greet' for Rick Shea, a southern California songwriter who's day job is playing guitar for Dave Alvin. At the Radio Cafe, we ran into a couple of musicians we had met on the last time out, and were introduced to a few more. We greeted Billy and Jill, as they arrived with sons Rocky and Grady in tow. We were introduced to Billy's in-laws, great people for whom Billy was obviously quite fond. The food was free, which was just fine for our budget and therefore delicious. In fact, the black beans would have been great even if I had paid for them.

Rick Shea performed a 30 minute set full of original compositions. By the time he was done, Marlo had earmarked one of his songs for Heath, and Heath had picked a second. I enjoyed the music and the food, but my favorite part of the evening was walking up and down the street holding hands with Billy's 1-year old son Grady who just that week had begun walking for the first time. Rarely have you seen anyone as proud of themselves as when a child takes those first steps, and Grady was no exception. The smile on that kid was worth the price of the trip.

In many towns, musicians and people in the music related business' seem to do a lot of jockeying to get their name placed on the guest list at musical venues so they don't have to pay. Not so in Nashville, where every self respecting music person will insist on paying the cover - even when being told to walk in free at the door. I suppose its' a sign of support or professional respect, and I like it. Billy told us of a great Monday night blues show at the Bluebird Cafe, featuring Mike Henderson and the Bluebloods. Knowing that we had limited funds to carry us through the next five days, we decided to go in some other directions that did not carry a cover charge for the five of us.

As we were headed across town, I realized that we were in the same neighborhood in which Marlo's friend Rosalie Blagaich lives. Rosalie is a great seamstress and wardrobe designer to the stars (Amy Grant, Wynonna, Ryman Auditorium, etc.), and had also allowed us the use of her apartment for a couple of days on our last trip. I suggested a suprise visit to Rosalie.

When Marlo and I knocked on the door, we did catch Rosalie off-guard, but she was thrilled to see us and insisted that we invite everyone in for a few minutes. She introduced us to her friend Mandy, and we all had a nice visit. Rosalie said that she probably would make it to our show the next night and we headed towards the Motel 6 for some much-needed rest.

On the way to the motel, Marlo explained to us the significance of our visit with Rosalie and Mandy. It turns out that Mandy Barnett is a vocalizing prodigy, who just finished a two year run at the Ryman Auditorium (the Grand Ole' Opry) , starring as Patsy Cline in the production "Always, Patsy Cline". It was generally excepted knowledge that Mandy IS going to be a major star, sooner or later. People disagree about what's coming out of Nashville now - but no one seems to disagree about Mandy Barnett. Her Bradley Barn session LP were top notch, with the record company and producers expressing no fear to lose money at this stage. They know they'll be getting it back... sooner or later. Marlo told us that Mandy was the female vocalist that she and Rosalie had talked to us about in the spring, with high hopes that Mandy might be one of the first Nashville artists to record one of our songs.

A good start, but sleep was now in order. Tuesday was going to be a big day!

More to come....

-Guy Schwartz
The New Jack Hippies
Houston, Texas, USA - Live Jams


Reports of the Past