HOT DISH: The Home of the Outlaws

Revisiting Old Memories of Waylon and the Boys at Glaser Sound Studio

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and those who march to the tune of MuzikMafia would not be if not for Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser, Willie Nelson and, yes, Roger “Captain Midnight” Schutt and the hangers-on who survived the Outlaw era of the ’70s in Music City. They broke the ice that provided freedom to those who followed.

When Corrina Greenberg from Compass Records called and asked me to visit 916 19th Ave. South, the place where Outlaw music first saw the light, both Merle Kilgore and Captain Midnight were still alive. When the day of the visit finally arrived, they were no longer with us. The hurt of losing two heroes who told great road stories almost made me cancel the appointment. But I went to see my old digs and their new digs. With all the craziness that went on in that building, I couldn’t believe how normal Compass Records is.

In the ’70s, the doors of Glaser Sound Studio were hardly ever locked. The place was buzzing 24/7 with music, excitement, stars and whatever else was hot at the time. It not only housed the offices of Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, it housed the upstairs recording studio and the downstairs sofa where Captain Midnight slept. It was his home. But that was 30-some years ago. Locks and Midnight could be a nuisance.

I met Tompall through Kinky Friedman, met Waylon hanging out on Music Row and first met Shel Silverstein at the all-night Pancake Man inside the Holiday Inn that’s now the Days Inn on West End Avenue. By the time I was working at Glaser, all these people swarmed into the place like it was their home away from home. Shel would sit on the sofa in the foyer and sing his self-penned songs outside Marie Barrett’s office, and so would Billy Joe Shaver, John Hartford, occasionally Harlan Howard or Billy Swan and even Mickey Newbury when he came to town. I am convinced it was in that foyer where Hartford fell in love with Marie, his “Gentle on My Mind.” They eventually married and lived on the Cumberland River for more than 20 years until John passed away.

Going back, the building was so different yet so familiar. Captain’s sofa is long gone, but the prints remain on the back of the building where he’d throw knives with Kris Kristofferson’s piano player, songwriter Donnie Fritts. The very spot where I’d photo-copied Silverstein’s artwork of his marvelous children’s book, The Missing Piece, was the same. The old blue dictionary where I found the word outlaw to mean “living on the outside of the written law” was nowhere in sight. (This led to my naming Outlaw music in ’73.) The non-electric typewriter I used to type Shel’s handwritten lyrics of “Big Four Poster Bed” from a brown grocery bag was missing. The chair in the recording studio where Waylon sat and recorded his Dreaming My Dreams album had another in its place, and Cowboy Jack Clement and his ukulele were gone like a knock on the door. The big old microphone Tompall used to record “Put Another Log on the Fire” was not to be seen.

RCA Records Big Kahuna Joe Galante was a minor league bean counter in those days when he began his affair with country music at the altar of Waylon Jennings in that studio, and he learned to love country music in the same manner he does until this day. No sign of the drum booth where Larrie Londin applied his trade. Today, the studio engineer looked as baby-faced and young as Kyle Lehning did when I first met him there 30 years and four kids ago. The office where Tompall would hold court is now a busy mailroom for Compass Records owners Gary West and his banjoist wife Alison Brown. Waylon’s old office now serves as a daytime playroom for their 2-year-old, Hannah West, and her nanny while her parents work.

I remembered Waylon in that office, playing his recording of “Precious Memories” for me and the great Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble. All three got teary-eyed. I recalled racing down the hall to find Waylon. “Grab the phone, honey,” I shouted. “Johnny Cash is calling from Germany.” During that conversation, they agreed to record a duet of “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang.” They did — and it was a hit.

What happened to the door Waylon kept running into? He just took it off the hinges
with a screwdriver and left it propped against the back of the building near his big orange Cadillac. Pretty soon, Tompall drove in with his big green Lincoln Continental, looked at the door and never said a word. But the day he backed into Waylon’s new Caddy, you could hear Waylon all the way to 16th Avenue. Then, there was the morning I got to work and saw all four tires on Tompall’s car tires were flat. Some girl slashed his tires and left him a dirty note while he was singing in the studio. The rest of that story remains unprintable.

One day, actor Jon Voight walked down the hall unannounced with his brother, singer-songwriter Chip Taylor. Chet Atkins walked in and out. So did Bobby Bare, even Bill Monroe, Carlene Carter, Larry Gatlin, Dr. Hook, Chubby Checker, Johnny Darrell, Dave Hickey, David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck and, of course, the ever lovely Mrs. Jennings, Jessi Colter, best known for her hit, “I’m Not Lisa.” By the way, both Tompall and Waylon accompanied Jessi to Los Angeles when she appeared on Dean Martin’s TV show. Was she stunning.

The street to the side of the building, hidden now by a high rise, is renamed Chet Atkins Place. It’s where I used to see Chet, Shel and Jerry Reed or Ray Stevens walking to lunch. I’d smile and wave. Decades later, I can close my eyes and see them smiling and waving at me. Today, Waylon’s gone. Captain Midnight’s gone. Tompall is not well. Marie and John and Shel are gone. Chet is gone. Bill Monroe, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Darrell and Larry Londin are gone.

The Compass Records staff is happy to be in the historic building. There’s tons of acoustic music — Irish fiddle tunes, bluegrass and more eclectic sounds — filling the hallways of Compass Records. CDs by the hundreds and thousands are flying out the door of 916 19th Ave. South. You just wouldn’t believe it.

Playing Catch-Up With the Grammys
Flu is bad. Pneumonia is bad. A double dose laid me up in the hospital, so I got behind in my work. Let’s play catch-up. Better late than never, here’s my Grammy Awards show opinions and update:

The person who came out of the Southern rock tribute standing on his own two feet and staring superstardom eyeball-to-eyeball is Keith Urban. He played his guitar like a saint and outsang everybody onstage. Guitarists Elvin Bishop and Dickey Betts were blown away by Urban. Backstage, Grammy winner Earl Scruggs asked to meet Urban. So Capitol Records’ Fletcher Foster escorted Earl and Louise Scruggs to the backstage area. As they walked into the door, Foster spied Keith with a plate of food in his hands. When Keith saw Earl, he sat the plate down and made a beeline for the master picker. And the two talked and talked and talked music like all pros do.

To those who asked, “Why did that woman shave her head?” For the life of me, I cannot imagine a music fan not knowing that Melissa Etheridge is a breast cancer survivor. Why, she’d completed chemotherapy a day earlier. What a tribute to womanhood. I thought she was giving all of us a big piece of her heart — slinging her guitar and singing her heart out in tribute to Janis Joplin. Etheridge gave one of the all-time great Grammy performances. When Tammy Wynette died, Melissa was seated across the aisle from me during the memorial service at the Ryman Auditorium, and she sobbed and cried and gnawed her fingernails like her mother had died. This is a woman of music — a brave woman of music — who did women proud.

Let’s talk about Joan Rivers and her “fashion police” senselessness. Following the awards, Joan (of Botox face, peep-out eyes and rolled lips) and her daughter Melissa were critiquing clothing. For the life of me, I cannot understand TV Guide giving those gals that gig. When they showed a shot of Loretta Lynn in her Southern belle gown, Melissa did have the good taste and good sense to show a little respect for an icon. But Joan actually said Loretta Lynn looked stupid. Nashville, how can we allow this to happen to a national treasure like Loretta Lynn and not speak up?

In my opinion, the only item of clothing Joan hit a home run with was with John Rich of Big & Rich. John’s grandmother sews his jeans exclusively, he calls ‘em “Grandma Jeans,” and they look hot. Rivers said, “I like those.”

Tim and Faith’s Move
What’s this? Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are preparing for a move from trendy Brentwood to the historic Belle Meade area of Nashville. I understand the beautiful Faith is furnishing accordingly, carefully choosing this and that to match the elegant surroundings. Lord, there ain’t nothing like a hillbilly with money.

Garth and Kids
I believed Garth Brooks when he said his former wife, Sandy Brooks, told him she’d raised their three daughters thus far and it was his turn. Yes, it was his children that took him from mainstream country to Oklahoma where he resides as daddy. As much as Garth loved performing, this must have been difficult for him.

What brought Garth out of Oklahoma to a stage in Fort Worth, Texas, for one day? A child.

Singer-songwriter Dan Roberts has opened shows and co-written the Garth hits “Beaches of Cheyenne” and “The Fever.” In the fall of 2000, Dan’s daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After several surgeries, the equipment and procedure needed for recovery were found at UCLA. Dan hopes the recent fundraiser that raised $2 million for Cook Children’s Medical Center will allow the same equipment to be available for patients in Fort Worth.

One of the musicians told me that after Garth performed, he dried tears and said, “I sure miss this.” Also performing were Steve Wariner and Garth’s lady, Trisha Yearwood. Garth mistakenly introduced Trisha as “my wife,” but quickly corrected himself. But they kissed!

Now Let’s See
Neal McCoy has formed 903 Music, his very own record label.

Billy Gilman is set to release his new album, Everything and More.

Shania’s got a new scent! The diva partnered with Stetson Fragrances to develop her own fragrance line. Says Shania, “Like a favorite song, a scent evokes a memory, creates a mood, inspires a feeling.” And in this case, I’d wager it maketh the money for the girl singer.

Reba McEntire is one of 13 recipients of the Ladies Home Journal‘s Funny Ladies awards.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Pie.