Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Cable Cowboy

The last time anyone counted* was 1987 and in England when over 30,000 demo tapes were being submitted to record companies every year. Back then, for every thousand records released only three ever got radio airplay. You can work out the chances of finding fame and fortune in the music business. But that was then.

Here below is Gene Dean (real name Eugene Noel) who has dreams of playing the Grand Ole Opry. To that end he made several appearances on public access television. He was also the subject of a photographic essay in 2004 (I borrowed this photo from the Fredricksburgh Free-Lance Star) on his campaign to get a recording contract and onto the Opry stage from his home studio. For probably quite understandable reasons - like a family and a job I'd guess - Gene didn't want to get there by touring night after night for years and years. If there is a blueprint for the career of a famous country singer, he probably saved himself a liver transplant and a few divorces. There's a book I couldn't trace put out by Goodway Publishing called 'Country songs and talk songs' by a certain Gene Dean as well.

I don't know if Gene ever made it but now that one of his old videotapes has surfaced on YouTube and after seeing it, I reckon the guy should get a break. Perhaps on a double bill with the Fendermen and their Mule Skinner Blues

Some bloggers who have picked up this video and are helping Gene gain viral fame seem to mock his 'freeze' posture at the end. Having worked on public access tv programmes, I'd guess poor Gene probably knew the video switcher was an inexperienced volunteer and thought a bit of room on the tail before the tape went black would be a good idea.

Many years ago I befriended a country and western singer called Fred Priddy while he held a residency at the Rusty Lantern bar in Beaumont CA. This cavernous inn was once John Wayne's favourite pit-stop when motoring to his ranch in Arizona. It could be the same Fred Priddy who now plays at a BBQ restaurant near Branson MO and gigs in the Ozarks sometimes, according to Facebook. I'll never forget Fred's kindness at inviting me into his trailer home and sharing a good few beers over several months that I was working in California's agricultural hinterland rebuilding a derelict ranchhouse on the San Timoteo Canyon road for the AFI short film 'Sweetwater'. This gave me an insight into the life of the itinerant musician and American lives in general and it was an interesting cultural exchange for both of us.

Fred once had dreams of stardom too and I hope it's still not too late for fame to find him either. A Fred Priddy is credited with the song; 'Love's no good 'til you give it away' Lyrics & music by Fred Priddy 1979.

So if it hasn't happened and if Gene's still playing, please, somebody, make his dream come true. It's the American way.

The Opry website says about "Becoming a Grand Ole Opry Member...
There's no magic formula, no secret code that grants access to one of the most coveted invitations in all of music.

The decision to increase the
Opry’s ranks is, and always has been, made exclusively by the show’s management. The people who’ve been entrusted with the Opry’s tradition and future direction take into account all the standards of success in country music—radio airplay, album and ticket sales, industry recognition—when considering an act for membership. The Opry considers career accomplishment, as well as the potential for continued success.

But the
Opry doesn’t simply pass out invitations to the biggest stars with the most hits. Opry management looks for a musical and a generational balance. Opry membership requires a passion for country music's fans, a connection to the music’s history. And it requires commitment – even a willingness to make significant sacrifices to uphold that commitment. Often, the Opry seeks out those who seek out the Opry, though decisions aren’t based on which artists appear most on the show, either.

The decision to bring a new act into the
Opry fold is a two-pronged one, based on a combination of career accomplishment and commitment. But, really, it comes down to just one word: relationships. The relationships between performers and fans. The relationships Opry members have with each other, relationships that may last for decades. And, perhaps most importantly, the relationship between each artist and the ideal of the Grand Ole Opry."

Well, I guess by now Gene has all that in spades. Please write to the
Opry and tell them to give this guy his break.

Gene Dean, The Cable Cowboy

Wilson, M. (1987) How to make it in the Rock Business. London: Columbus Books

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