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Jimmie, Lefty, Merle, and Me...

 

The Singing Brakeman's Saga runs through 39 years of my life, and 12 of those were

down the track with Merle Haggard. Talking to Hag about Jimmie Rodgers we began

to lay the Lefty Frizzell main line track from Jimmie to Merle, and I saw a music

trilogy unfold on paper and film.

 

Jimmie Rodgers and his life and how that influenced Lefty, who then passed the ole

JR lantern to Merle Haggard, joining the main track that I was laying since 1978

called Kickin' Up Dust where I was cutting a trail of music history that I want to tell

now with this book, and maybe take my-story to film.  From Jimmie to the singing

cowboys like Gene Autry, and ole Buck Page of the Riders of the Purple Sage... from

Medicine Shows to Minstrel acts like Emmett Miller and the days of tent shows and

on to vaudeville.

 

With side tracks down country music history with Earnest Tubb, Hank Snow, Lefty

Frizzell and Hank Williams, to Bob Willis and back to Haggard and Dylan, Waylon,

Johnny Cash, Kristofferson and Willie, always going back to stories with the the

friend, partner, saddle pal and mentor on the road in the bus with MERLE HAGGARD.

 

 

Wish Merle was hear to have heard this news...

Pic taken by Chris Felver

 

As mentioned in the beginning of this Treatment for the book my quest to find Merle Haggard began with a talk with Willie Nelson,

and telling Willie about the Jimmie Rodgers documentary that I was producing, and Willie told me, "If you want to know something

about Jimmie Rodgers, you need to talk to Merle Haggard."  Years later I got to Merle, and the friendship began...

 

The thread of my story hangin' and rollin' with Haggard was music history from Emmett Miller to Jimmie Rodgers to Earnest Tubb

to Bob Willis to Lefty Frizzell to Ray Price, Les Paul, Johnny Cash, Waylon, Kristofferson, and back to his story.  Merle on the drop

of a dime, would rather talk about the old boys he knew and were influenced about than himself.

 

A main line in his story will be the Merle Haggard, Jimmie Rodgers and me... a continues track in the dozen years with the Hag

was based on Jimmie Rodgers.  I had been researching county music history since 1970-something.  Named the research

Kickin' Up Dust and twas to be a tale about music history going down the tracks of Blues, Folk, Western, Country and Rock

and Roll and where they crossed tracks each began to mainline on their own steam. 

 

Fate and Destiny had given me this Saga to create by connecting the dots and/or tracks along the evolution of music in America.

Then I started noticing that this Jimmie Rodgers dot kept showing up on the track.  So I started to dig into the Singing Brakeman,

and found a relative unknown story by the masses at large, especially the guys in Hollywood.  For in Hollywood if a big shot or if

two people in the room do not know what you are talking about...you are the stupid one.  For the fast moving young demographic

that most of Hollywood was trying to target it had to be off the hook, sex, girls and guns and violence.

 

Meanwhile I was discovering this incredible man who, was so influential that he showed up when going across names like Gene

Autry, Earnest Tubb, Bob Wills, Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzell, Les Paul, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard,  then from Kenneth

Threadgil to Janis Joplin, Dylan to Kacey Musgraves. and and on and own down the track that Jimmie Rodgers had laid.

 

Slim Bryant, Norm Stephens, Merle Haggard are playing the Bryant

penned "Mother Queen of my Heart", that was a hit for Jimmie Rodgers

and Merle Haggard, and became one of Merle's favorite Rodgers' songs

Merle was playing in Wheeling West Virginia and I flew there and

hired a camera crew to film a interview I set up with Merle and Slim.

My saddle pal Dan Sasu Weh Jones directed the historic shoot.

 

Thomas Hoyt Bryant was born December 7, 1908, and died May 29, 2010, known as Slim he died at 102 years old.  Through my

research I had found Slim and got him on the phone.  He was 96 at the time, and was sharp as a tack, funny as hell and very

humble man.  Slim came across my radar in that he was the only man living who had played and/or recorded with Jimmie.  Soon

as I told Merle that I had found him he said,  "Get me too him..."   It took Frank and I a year or so to put all the logistics together to

get these two legends together.  At Slim's age we could not take a chance putting him on a jet, and Haggard does not like to fly on

commercial jets so we waited till he was touring near where Slim lived in Pennsylvania.

 

I would call Slim from time to time to just tell him we were working on getting them together.  Both men were as excited to each

meet each other.  Then one day Frank called telling me that Merle was booked for a show in the old Capitol Theater in Wheeling

West Virginia.  It was only 4 hours from Slim.   After the call from Frank I called Slim and told him that the meeting with him and

Haggard was coming together.  I told him the show was going to be at the ole Capitol Theater in Wheeling West Virginia where

the WWVA Jamboree radio show was produced, and Slim said to me, "I played there before Radio.

 

Slim was a hog in slop in hog heaven being there as a guest with

Merle, who treated him like the legend that he was...

When Hag asked for his guitar and if Slim would sing "Mother Queen of

My Heart"... my heart stopped.  As a producer, how do you plan this...

 

 

 

I have two books worth of Merle Haggard stories and two books of Jimmie Rodgers.  I am going to take one of each of those

and put together to tell the story of Merle, Jimmie and me and the quest that I was on with Haggard that would leave me with

the feeling that I have now that all this time he was passing his legacy on to me, not unlike Woody Guthrie did with my pal

Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

Ramblin' Jack Ellitott, Frank Mull and Ralph Peer, Jr., who's dad

discovered Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family in 1927.

Ramblin' Jack, by the way, did a tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Gutherie in 1959.  Loved bringing Jack into the Haggard circle.  Made me proud to make the historical connect between these two great men and admirers of the ole Singing Brakeman.

 

I love ole Ramblin' Jack, have got to work with him, travel with him and hang with him, toke and drink with him, and produced some wonderful events with him, and we were just good friends... miss not seeing him the past couple of years.

 

It is the synergy with Jimmie Rodgers that ties me and Merle and me and Jack, and I brought Jack to a few shows to hang out so

he and Hag could spend time sharing stories.

 

NOW SIDE TRACK TO THE

PIONEER TROUBADOURS...

 

 

CLICK PIC TO GO DOWN SOME OF THE

KICKIN' UP DUST TRAIL I WAS BLAZIN'

WITH SOME PIONEER TROUBADOURS

 

There are so many great stories that I have to tell about over the

years ridding saddle with Merle Haggard on the road and his

SUPER CHIEF BUS...

 

 

 

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WAITIN' FOR A TRAIN SAGA

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