photo by : Larry Brixton
COWBOY AT HEART
It has been awhile since Dan Seals had crossed my mind. The last time before this week was in 2006, when I put up a page on here titled My Old Yellow Car, which was literally about my '33 Ford street rod,that I used to travel in high style to band gigs with back in 1965. I had used Dan's 1986 version of the Thom Schuyler song as an appropriate page capper. Before that was probably when his name would appear regularly on the pitch sheets here in Nashville, up through the early 1990's, that let people in the industry know when an artist was looking for songs for their next project. I was still working as a songwriter down on Music Row in the early '90's.
Friday morning, March 27th, it seemed a bit ironic that I was setting up a new and very scaled back ( from what I once had ) demo recording studio in my home after well over a decade of silence and semi - retirement to pursue writing books..... when the e mail light had come on. It was from my now old friend, Sgt. Phil up in Minneapolis. Sarge who often asks me about my music days in town here wanted to know ..." If I ever had any contact with Dan Seals. I see he passed in Nashville." and that is how I found out about it ... I had no idea Dan was ill and I'm probably not the only person in or out of the music biz alone there.
I picked up the phone and called the Sarge to find out more, and told him yes I had contact with Dan, but would you believe it was actually before I came to Nashville .......
It wasn't very long before though, in fact it will be exactly 22 years ago next week ,when I first met Dan at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park, Florida, He was there with his most excellent band. I remember it vividly. He came to play and play he did. I have never heard a better live outdoor concert as far as sound alone is concerned. It was like listening on your home stereo. Everything was in perfect balance and I wandered over to the sound board just to watch his lone sound man work magic at the controls. It was also the first time other than on TV I had seen a drummer caged in behind a Plexiglas sound booth to prevent leakage. The musicianship and the sound for me was really as good as it gets.
Dan was mighty laid back and didn't have too much to say to the crowd, other than he was real happy to be on stage that balmy April evening after telling us they had just barely got out of Nashville as it was buried under snow. Dan's weather report concerned me a bit as I was less than two weeks away from uprooting my family and moving lock stock and guitars to the music city, to pursue a new career as a songwriter. I had no idea it snowed in Nashville in April. When he went into "Bop" though he really cut loose ....It was a great night of music and inspiration for me.
Afterwards, Dan met his fans, and I got on the line to compliment him on the whole show and to engage in what is known around these parts as the "Nashville Handshake." Though I had no idea how prevalent the practice was in my soon to be new hometown. Yes I had a cassette in my hand of a song I had written called "Cowgirl At Heart", but had no idea if it was the time, place or protocol to give it to him. I was just eager to pass on a tune I thought might have a shot after being familiar for some time with the songs Dan had put out. He was a real gentleman, thanked me and took the tape. I didn't even know then that he didn't have to do that......
When I got to Nashville and started to hear the high quality of the demo recordings made here, I wasn't too disappointed that neither Dan nor anyone from his office ever called me to say We Want To Cut Your Song. In fact I would re write and re demo Cowgirl At Heart here in Nashville, about a year later, using the vocal talent of "Mister Demo" himself at the time Joe Diffie, and great players like Jim Hoke. I don't recall if my publisher (yes I soon found a professional home here on Music Row) ever pitched my new and greatly improved Cowgirl At Heart to Dan Seals or not.
I do know, I would pitch a song to Dan's manager Tony Gottlieb in 1996 up at Morningstar Studios in Hendersonville, but I'm not even sure if Dan was still at Capitol Records then. The other thing was, it wasn't even a song I wrote, but rather a friend's tune that I thought might work for Dan. Tony thought it was a wee bit too contrived, so our visit soon turned to other matters, mainly those of the mysteries of life. Tony also managed my friend and co writer the late Walter Hyatt, who had perished just a few months prior in the Valu - Jet disaster. I told him about my own Valu- Jet story from 1994 when I was about to fly to New York to begin my first book and upon hearing the airfare quote from them wrote down "Flirting With Disaster" alongside of it and decided to go with TWA. I still have it there in one of my old lyric notebooks. Well Tony topped it (way over the top I might add with his TWA story) It seems both he and Dan were booked to fly to Paris,France on the doomed TWA Flight 800 when days before,Tony's Dad, Lou (who was a founding member and bass player of the Limelighters) passed away and they cancelled their trip. Had Lou hung on a few more weeks, Tony and Dan Seals would of left the building more dramatically I suppose joining names in music history alongside of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Rick Nelson, Marcel Dadi and more....... It gives me pause.
The great songwriter Jimmy Webb, wrote in his book Tunesmith, about a theory that everything ever broadcast, is still floating around out there somewhere. Sounds real plausible to me, so Dan if you are still listening, thank you for all the great music made sir and this one's for you ...
............"FORTY COWBOYS COMBED THE DESERT ...... THIRTY NINE OF THEM RETURNED"