Kill Nashville Pop/Mr. Larry Shell

        I started a FaceBook page a couple months ago, and it has been a bunch of fun.  I’ve found old friends I used to pick with that I haven’t seen in years.  

        There have been a number of new folks, too.  One of them is a gentleman named Larry Shell.  I knew of Mr. Shell before FaceBook; he has a list of songwriter credits longer than my leg, and I’m a right lanky fellow.  I became his FaceBook friend through my young country music friend Megan Peeler.  She’s a wonderful singer who won the National Colgate Country Showdown.  Mr. Shell is introducing her to Nashville, and they have written some songs together.

          Folks, Mr. Shell is the real McCoy, and might well know more about traditional country music than anyone on the planet.  Just get on FaceBook and check out his video collection of country music performances.  It’s more fun than going to the picture show on a summer day when it’s the only place in town with air-conditioning.

        Mr. Shell started a movement called ‘Kill Nashville Pop.’  The tag line to it might well be  ‘and save real Country Music.’  He has bumper stickers with the ‘Kill Nashville Pop’ logo, and I ordered several.  I put one on my work briefcase right next to the ‘I Love my Martin Guitar’ sticker.  (Docs carry briefcases with a lot of important papers like band set lists, so it gets a lot of exposure)  One went on my banjo case, and the third one is displayed on my Calton mandolin case I carry when I travel.  It’s beside the one that says, “What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about?”

       I want you to know I have no personal animosity towards the folks who sing pop country.  It’s just to me it isn’t real country music.  A record executive once told me, (paraphrased) “Doc, you’re too hung up on this art thing.  You gotta realize the real purpose of a country song is to keep someone on the radio until the commercial comes on.”  I am sure I am hopelessly old fashioned but to me the real purpose of of country song is to touch me and help me carry my burdens.  When one of my favorite patients  turns up with some God awful cancer no one in the Tobacco Triangle can fix, sometimes all that gets me by is my God and my music.  Maybe I’m just old, but fluff doesn’t cut my gig, and a daily minefield of pain and suffering is a tough one at times. 

        I suppose one could say “Well, Doc.  That’s all nice, but what do you know about the music business?  You’re just a Doctor.”  That is true.  And I am not so naive that I don’t realize the bills have to be paid.  I ran a small Doctor’s office for many years.  Some months were tight, and I understand the phrase  ‘no margin no mission.’  I do know this though.  To me the purpose of a country song is not to satisfy the quarterly earnings report of an executive, but to satisfy the souls of folks like me in the work a day world.  To speak to me, it has to be honest words sung by honest people with real everyday human problems.  To me if it ain’t that it ain’t country.

         I’m the same way in the Doctor gig.  I am what they call a ‘low end provider,’ ie in the 25th percentile as an earner.  One time one of those hard bitten consultants said, “Doctor, your problem is you spend too much time talking to your patients.  You need to spend more time ordering tests.”  Privately he admitted if he got in jam he’d want me to try to help him out, though.  I took it as a high compliment.  Who’d want a Doc who saw his patient as a financial opportunity?  I’m prouder of my good board scores and even more of the fact I care about my patients and most of them seem to like me O.K.  Call me a Pollyanna if you want, but I say the definition of a good Doctor is one who tries to help his people, not one who wants a bonus and an award for being a ‘high end provider.’   And most of the Docs I know see it the same way.

        And a good song is one that sells well because it touches people and is a good song, and is not a good song because of careful marketing and the commercial success it shows on the balance sheet for the last quarter.  The good ones will stand the test of time and still are relevant years later, because they speak to human truths that have not changed.  That is sure true for the material Mr. Shell posts every day on FaceBook.

        One time I went to a song writer seminar and a fellow named Paul Craft was on the panel.  Someone asked him how he knew when he’d written a good song.  He said something like when he got to where he could sleep because he believed he had reached deep down inside and got the best out of himself  he could do, then he felt it was a good song.  I like that definition.  For my money, I want someone to tell me a story about Clayton Delaney.  There is a reason a legend like Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie write bluegrass tunes these days, and I guarantee you it has nothing to do with money.

        Oh, one last thing.  Mr. Shell is working on a book.  Mine is due out in 2010.  Some old day me and Megan are gonna play a song at a book store gig and my wife and I are gonna take her out for a plate of chicken that reminds her of home.  I hope Mr. Shell will join us.  I’d love to trade books with him professional courtesy, and get him to sign his.  I believe if country music is saved, Mr. Shell will go down in the history books as one of the folks who threw out the life preserver.  I’d pass the book on down to my kids as a reminder that their people knew the cat  who helped saved it.

        Well enough preaching from old Doc.  Y’all can get preached at from the pulpit on Sunday, so I better get off my high horse and go to work.  Good luck Mr. Shell, and keep on pushing the real country music.

Dr. B

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14 Comments on “Kill Nashville Pop/Mr. Larry Shell”

  1. Danny Fulks Says:

    Tom, exactly. A student needs extra help? I don’t refer her to a counselor and, in return, get a letter of thanks from the counselor’s office or a $100 rebate. I help her if I can, I spend time with her, ask her to come back anytime. Many times, they just need to talk, other times, the kid needs me to walk up to the dean’s office with her to ask him to let her in a class that’s closed. Surprising, how much better it works if I walk over to the dean’s office with her instead of having a secretary call and make her an appointment.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Dr. Fulks (Dan),

    To me you are are real Country Professor, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment for an educator. I wish I was a young’un and could take one of your classes.

    Dr. B

  3. Larry Says:

    Dr. B

    First of all, you sir.. as far as I’m concerned, stated your opinions about country music in a much more eloquent manner than I ever could. I read each line you wrote with a smile upon my face because I knew you knew. You were right on with your comments about what a country song really should do to the listener.
    By the way, it was so refreshing and reassuring to hear your comments about your own profession and the way you care for the sick. I commend you highly for the position you take on that. I think you are way too kind to me to say that I might help save country music, but I will say this, I do take much pleasure in sharing my joy about country music with others, including Ms. Peeler from Shelby, N.C. whom I have very high hopes for and I pray that I can make her own walk down the rocky path of success in country music a little bit smoother than my own. I, like you Dr. B hold no animosity in truth, towards those who choose their own musical direction… but I sir, will always stand up and stand tall for the real thing… Larry Shell

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Mr. Shell,

    Man I am honored you visited my blog and commented, ’cause if there is anyone who is real country music it is you.

    Tell all the pop folks we ain’t got nothing against them, but the calvary is coming and Larry Shell is leading the charge.

    And the country people know horses too, so they should not be taken lightly.

    Dr. B

  5. pandemonic Says:

    I don’t really like pop country either. But on the other hand, I like rock and rollers who do the country thing, like the Stones, Elvis Costello and the like. I guess I’m looking for a sound, and I don’t care who sings it as long as it’s there.

  6. maliaann Says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the comment on my blog, thought I’d pop over to yours. I love country music and I have to admit that I enjoy the more country sounding tunes to the pop ones. My sister and I used to write country songs. I thought you’d enjoy some lyrics that I wrote from one of them. Here’s the link: http://maliaannhaberman.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/35/
    Have a lovely day,
    Malia :)

    • drtombibey Says:

      Hey Malia,

      Thanks for the visit. To me the old country is the best country but the new can be good, too.

      Dr. B

  7. drtombibey Says:

    Pande,

    I agree 100%. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It matters if it is an honest song. Good to hear from you. Hope all of you and yours are well.

    Dr. B

  8. Megan Peeler Says:

    Dr. B,
    So good to talk with you this morning. I do believe in a past life you were a music therapist! You genuinely care about people’s feelings and mental/physical health and you know how to recognize real music that can stir up people’s souls towards a Higher Good.
    Mr. Shell (I almost typed Dr. Shell),
    On every occasion and in every conversation, you have indeed thrown out a life preserver to me as I wade the sometimes rough waters in Nashvegas. I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
    Both you guys mean a lot to me and I hope we continue to enjoy these extraordinary times!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Megan,

      I do believe music has healing powers. I know when I listen to folks like you or Darin and Brooke sing it sure makes me feel better.

      You keep lighting up Nashville; a young’un who sings old country. Might get you to do a bluegrass tune with us one day too.

      Gotta split. Have a date with the same lady I’ve been going out with for more decades than she’ll let me tell.

      See ya,

      Dr. B

  9. Karen Says:

    Dr B. you seriously know a lot of people!! And as for country music, my dad raised me on the old stuff from the 50s and earlier. Some of it is a little ‘twangy’ for my liking (and totally politically incorrect!! He’s got some DVD that talks about people going to Hollywood ‘fightin’ injuns’) however the quality of the talent just can’t be dismissed. These guys and girls sound so good with no amplification, no mixing and no tweaking – and yet I’m pretty much convinced that any of the big studios could make anyone sounds like a star. I suppose that why you bluegrass/country diehards are so into live gigs! You can’t fudge it then I’m sure :) Personally, I’m a big fan of Loretta Lyn and Patsy Cline. And I hope you had fun on your date. You and Marfar are the poster couple for long and happy marriages!!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Karen,

      I know Larry Shell is gonna smile when he hears Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn are still rocking in Australia. In the modern studio nowadays the engineer often uses a computer device called ProTools to tweak voices and get them back on pitch. I’m certain those two never needed ProTools!

      As a matter of fact on our last record we didn’t use it either. (Although old Doc probably could stand some tweaking) Somehow it seems like cheating.

      The ticket for me and Marfar has been God and music. Maybe our slogan should be the family that prays and plays together stays together.

      Dr. B

  10. Andrea Crimmins-Renfree Says:

    Doc…truer words cannot be spoken. God honors our honoring others…plain and simple! Yes, Larry is a great guy and a huge advocate of traditional Country music, which, to me, is a dying breed. We lost Chris LeDoux a few years back, March 9, 2005, and I was blessed to have had him cut one of my songs, ‘The Buffalo Grass’ (lyrics by me, music by Willie McCulloch & Clay Canfield) on his last studio CD, “Horsepower”. He told me that a song has to speak to him and all the folks who are listening to what he has to say. It means a lot that he would say that about our little song…that is what it’s ALL about, to me.

    God Bless you Sir!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Andrea,

      To me getting a song cut, like a book written, is never a little thing. Thanks for dropping by and your kind comment. Will keep an eye out for your work.

      Dr. B


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