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.
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