Silver White Love Affair

‘Silver White Love Affair’ was written about Ken’s Aunt and Uncle. Ken started writing the song after a trip he took to Connecticut when his Aunt and Uncle were visiting the area. Ken has always loved them dearly and all through his childhood years, his Aunt and Uncle served as another set of parents to him. Visiting with them later in life, Ken always learned more and more about his ancestors and especially his father. (Ken’s Uncle and father were brothers – Ken’s father passed away in 2003.)

“There was a picture I took of them in Connecticut. It showed the love in each other’s eyes and it was hard to believe they have been together so long”.

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Ken wanted to write a waltz after being inspired by a friend, Ryan Scarberry. Ken tried and tried until he was able to get all his inspiration from this single picture. He also referenced moments throughout his life that pertained to his Aunt and Uncle.

Finally, after an inspiration that came to him on June 8th, 2014, Ken was able to make his final changes and recorded the song in the morning right after breakfast.

“I think there was a God inspiration for this song this morning”. Not too long after Ken emailed the song to his Uncle, he got up to get ready for his afternoon events. His Uncle called him on the phone, but it went to voice-mail. When Ken noticed there was a call, a quietness came over him with his Uncle’s message. It left his Uncle at a loss of words. Ken saved the voice-mail…and it will be a part of this song’s history.

“On my way out of the house, I was able to call them from the car. We chatted for a little bit and told them how much they have meant to me over the years. It was a real nice conversation”.

On October 2, 2014, John and Arline will celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary. John is 88 and Arline is 85 years old.

-Admin

Home And All Alone

This song was written in about 2 hours during a time when Ken was in a homesick and lonely mood.

The verses were the easiest part…the chorus was a little more challenging. Ken started to remember his time in Palm Beach, Florida when he owned that computer store and did work for many very wealthy customers. This one couple (Keith and Gerri) lived in Palm Beach and were married for 42 years. Gerri had a little bit of a drinking problem and Keith finally just got tied of all the nonsense. He filed for divorce and they went their separate ways. Some of the crazy things Gerri would do was throw a glass of scotch at the wall…and one time she even fired a gun in the house to get Keith’s attention. It is kind of sad that things escalated that far with the two of them. They had a few children which were all grown up now, and many times Gerri would just be left ‘home and all alone’. I am glad I got to know the two of them during my life in Florida…they were once a really nice couple.

Ken got the idea for the chorus and a few pieces of the verses from events that took place between Keith and Gerri. They were multi millionaires and had many homes around the country. Keith was always away on business (not really sure what he did for a living) and Gerri would just stay in the Palm Beach Mansion. She had friends she would meet at the Palm Beach Country Club for lunch and go shopping on Worth Avenue. Her favorite place…Tiffanys. Gerri was very generous with her payments and normally rounded everything to the nearest hundred when settling up her invoice.

So the song goes…as a tribute to Keith and Gerri from New York and Palm Beach. :)

Life Doesn’t Stop There Anymore

This song used to be called ‘I Don’t Recognize This World I’m In’. During my Nashville Song Camp, Steve Leslie did a little critiquing. He said it sounded like an old Merle Haggard song…but never got to the good part.

When he heard the words ‘Life don’t stop there no more’, he had to stop and comment. He had never really heard that type of description in a song before. He also heard the part about the little white farmhouse just east of the tracks…and told me this song wanted to go somewhere else than how I wrote out the story. He suggested that I change the title of the song to ‘Life Doesn’t Stop There Anymore’ and use the near rhymes with that ‘OR’ sound to tell my story.

I envisioned an old farmhouse just east of the railroad tracks. Something that is now all worn out, chipped, and with a big front porch. I imagined sitting on that porch in a rocking chair listening to my Grandmother’s stories from my childhood. I also imagined how my Mom would wave goodbye when I had to leave every time I would go to her house to visit. Most of the time, I lived far away and only got to visit with her every few years. When it was time to go home, she would start to cry…then make me cry…as we said our goodbyes. I also remember thinking this may be the last time I ever see her again. Those memories were in the original version of this song, but it made it sound too sad…and almost as if she passed away. Well, she hasn’t…my Mom is in good health and very active.

I eventually changed the song to reflect how she used to sing when I was a kid. She didn’t sing from the front porch, but many times we would all sing along and even harmonize to her singing. I just loved the word ‘harmonize’, so I made sure it fit into the song.

Steve Leslie basically wrote the chorus of this song. When he critiqued it during one of the breakdown sessions in Nashville, he gave me this:

THE YEARS JUST ROLL BY LIKE AN OLD _____ TRAIN
WELL __________ I WON’T EVER SEE AGAIN
__________________ I’LL BE BACK
____________________ ON THOSE TRACKS
BUT LIFE DOESN’T STOP THERE ANYMORE

After he kind of sang this chorus…my mind started going wild. (the blanks he just sang as ‘dada-da-da-da’). The chorus I finally came up with was a little from the original song and the rest of his suggestions.

YEARS KEEP ROLLING BY LIKE THE SOUND OF THAT OLE TRAIN
DAYS OF UNLOCKED DOORS I WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN
LOOKING AT THOSE TRACKS WELL IT ALWAYS TAKES ME BACK
TO ROCKING WITH GRANDMA ON THAT PORCH
AND LISTENING TO HER STORIES LIKE BEFORE
YEAH LIFE DOESN’T STOP THERE ANYMORE

I have yet to send a somewhat finished version back to Steve Leslie yet, but when I do, I will offer him a co-write on this song…and hopes that he will say yes.

Watching Time Go By – By Ken Menard

This song was kind of a re-write of an older song. Once I got back from Nashville, I wanted to apply some of the things I learned to older songs to make them better. Re-writing a song that was ‘not-so-good’ into a great song is not an easy thing. By trying, I came out with a totally new song all together.

This song was inspired about an old mirror that has been in our family a long time. If one could somehow play back all the things a mirror must have seen over the years, it would be a wonderful memory of the past. I tried to capture that and put it in a song. I also wanted to use some of those different chord progressions that I learned from the Nashville instructor Steve Leslie. I have many songs that use the ‘BM’ chord…but Steve Leslie would also invoke an ‘F#’ to give it a little unexpected contrast. When I was writing this song, I purposely did the same chord progressions Steve Leslie would have used.

This is also the very first song I have ever written that has a ‘Bridge’ after the chorus. A bridge is a contrasted partial verse or highlight to get across more information in a short time. It usually off-sets the song when it is sounding too ‘blah’. This bridge was actually a verse in the first writings.

Some say this song is a little creepy…but I think it is very common for people to kind of fear a mirror and everything it must have seen over the years.

Nashville Song Camp

July 24th – July 29th of this year was a special time. I signed up for NSAI’s Song Camp (Nashville Songwriters Association, Inc) where I would be in the midst of many very popular song writers for some of the best Country Songs. They would be the instructors for the week, teaching a class of things that they have experienced over the years.

The instructors were Rick Beresford, Ralph Murphy, Angela Kaset, James Dean Hicks, Don Henry, Jason Blume, Steve Leslie, and Liz Hengber.

Attending every event, I was most taken back by only two people…Steve Leslie and Don Henry.

Steve Leslie (www.steveleslie.com) has a type of old country in his soul and best describes every facet of life in his songs. He paints a perfect picture that you can envision and puts it to music unlike what you would normally hear. It is kind of that Blues thing meeting Country. He uses some great chords in his songs that would normally be unexpected which makes you want to hear it again. In my talks with Steve Leslie, I found him to be a huge inspiration for my music.

Don Henry (www.donhenry.com) has a type of old country too, but it can also be redone for new country. A good example of this would be his song “All Kinds Of Kinds” that Miranda Lambert has recorded. Don’s version is not like Miranda’s version…but it works well. Don Henry is also famous for Kathy Matteas song “Where Have You Been”. He gave the whole story of how the song came to be and wrote it with Kathy Matteas husband about his grand-parents. It is a touching story and when you hear him tell it, you get all choked up inside.

While in Nashville, I had the pleasure to be with my previous girlfriend Lisa. (now current girlfriend again after 24 years). We drove around to where Larry Lee used to have his offices on Music Row. I hired Larry Lee back in the 90′s to represent me as a Song Plugger to the various artists at that time. Larry passed away in 2001. Just seeing Larry Lee’s old offices and the BMI building were such an inspiration to me. It kept me in the right frame of mind to make this songwriting thing work this time. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I would have the time of my life trying.

There are so many stories from that week…that I cannot possibly write all of them down here. In future posts, I may make reference back to this week and tell a little more.

May 9, 2013

May 9th will always be a special day for me. Back in 1989, it is when Country Music lost Keith Whitley around 9:00-9:30 AM. He had just talked to his mother around 8:30AM and was going golfing with his brother; who was going to pick him up around 10:00 AM. That is about all we know of that tragic morning. Keith was found face down lying on his bed, fully clothed with the equivalent of 20 shots of Whiskey in his system. My life changed forever that day.

Last night, I listened to the Grand Ole Opry for the first time on my smartphone. Larry Gatlin was the host and several others played before my favorite Country Female Singer took the stage. I was able to see a video posting she tweeted with her, her son Jesse, Jesse’s wife, and Lorrie current husband all in the car on their way to the Opry. Another picture was posted of Jesse holding a pair of cowboy boots. I later found out that they were his father’s boots; which I expected Jesse to wear. For whatever reason, I caught a picture of Jesse on stage with the empty boots standing beside him…as to say, this is where his father was standing, watching from above.

Lorrie came on stage around 9:45 PM EST. She sang ‘Candy Kisses’ and eventually introduced her son Jesse Keith Whitley. Jesse must have been nervous, but didn’t show any signs. He sung his father’s classic “Don’t Close Your Eyes’. As he sung this song, my floodgates of tears started to fall. It brought me back to a point in time when we lost Keith on that tragic morning 24 years ago. Lorrie mentioned that Keith Whitley was 3 weeks away from being inducted into the Opry, but he never knew about it. I think Jesse did a great job and I am sure his mother, (Lorrie), was very proud of him.

Jesse is now married to Ashlee Hewitt, who was a backup singer for Lorrie Morgan. Jesse dedicated the song to his new son Jackie Keith Whitley, II. (His father’s real name).

In the previous article, Lorrie mentions the following about Country Music:
“It’s gotten really very technical,” she says when I ask her how the business has changed. “Years ago, when I first fell in love with country music, part of the reason was that it was so much from the heart. It was so simple, lyrically, everything. It was just the simplicity. Every seven to ten years, this business has gone through a severe change. And now, it’s a little bit hard because to me it’s kind of gotten away from the heart, if that makes sense. It’s more technology. And the music business has really become more of a business than what it was originally meant to be. I think a lot of us, we’re kind of trying to go with the flow and trying to do what we’re supposed to do to get on radio, and blah, blah, blah. But you know, I certainly hope that the next seven to ten years brings back the simpler side of country music.”

For now, Morgan sounds unwilling to make the necessary concessions to adapt to the new country landscape. “I’m not willing to sacrifice what I’ve learned and what I’m about just to get played on radio,” she says. “And that’s probably been a big downfall for me, and a big argument with me and my record label through the past few years. I just can’t go in and record stuff just to get on radio. I can’t do it. I think there’s the element of the heart and the simplicity that’s missing in country music, what turned everybody on to it in the beginning. And it’s gotten really far away from that. And I know for a lot of us, it’s scary.

To me, she gets it. This is exactly how I feel about today’s modern day Country Music. There are so many songs being played that have no business being on the radio, disguised as Country Music. I really do not care for the modern day stuff…which is sad because I have yet to break into the Country Music Industry. If I have to play by those rules, I don’t think I will ever make it as a Country Music Songwriter / Singer.

…more to come soon.

Lorrie Morgan (February 15, 2000; Written by Chris Dickinson)

With musical roots that stretch back to her idols Loretta Lynn and the late Tammy Wynette, Lorrie Morgan remains one of the most gifted and resilient figures in contemporary country. In a wide-ranging interview with Journal of Country Music editor Chris Dickinson, Morgan speaks with candor, humor, and a resolve born of tragedy and triumph, proving she is indeed a woman who has come to know her own strength. The complete version of this article is available in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Country Music, available on newsstands in mid-March or by subscription.

It is the fall afternoon after the CMA awards, here at the governor’s mansion in Nashville. On the patio, beneath a tent, there is a luncheon to honor the new Country Music Hall of Fame inductees: Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, and Johnny Bond. In the small crowd spread out across the patio, the current living Hall of Famers mingle: Little Jimmy Dickens, Earl Scruggs, Roy Horton, Bud Wendell, Brenda Lee, and Jo Walker-Meador. Their medallions are strung around their necks like badges of endurance.

The gifted songwriter Cindy Walker sits at a table among friends. The woman who penned such classic country songs as “Cherokee Maiden” and “You Don’t Know Me” is smartly turned out in her fall colors, obliging a classic custom from another time by wearing dress gloves on her fragile hands. Her own Hall of Fame medal — nestled like a big locket in the scarf around her neck — looks to weigh more than all her delicate features combined. Walker is still striking, the epitome of what the greatest generation would call a great beauty of her day.

I ache for a cigarette and finally locate the de facto smoking lounge: three women firing up out on the edge of the manicured stretch of lawn. Among them I spot one of the great beauties of my day. I walk toward her and light up, secure in the knowledge that not even the governor of the state of Tennessee will tell Lorrie Morgan to snuff out her butt.

Morgan is here to represent her late father, the Hall of Famer George Morgan. We have never met before, but a cigarette habit is all you need to gain entry into this tight group hugging the fringe of the party. She opens up the smoking clutch to me, introduces her friends. She is a petite woman in a tailored skirt-suit and high-heeled slingbacks, the sort of knock-out power outfit Nicole Sheridan used to wear on Knot’s Landing. Up close, Morgan’s platinum beauty is nothing less than stunning, her delicate bones so perfectly wrought it’s hard to tear your eyes from them.

But oddly enough her beauty is not what she leads with in person. She smokes and laughs her raspy laugh, gestures with her hands, bores down physically close to make an adamant point, jokes and lets fly with a few four-letter words. There is a warmth and immediacy to her, an agile mind and a palpable heart that have seldom been captured in the writing about her. She has often been portrayed in the press as something of an ice queen, an impenetrable beauty whose boyfriends get more ink than her unique voice. It’s a public image at odds with this open, nervy woman on the lawn.

In a town where both its Music Row and alternative music scenes have refined the art of empty social chit-chat, Lorrie Morgan emerges as that most singular of individuals: Intense in conversation, she is a woman who seems to have no time to waste on small talk. I mention a show of hers I had seen a few years before, in which she had included an unplugged segment. Sitting on a stool that night, a guitar in her lap and leaning quietly into the microphone, Morgan had brought the house down with spare interpretations of a number of classic country hits, among them a haunted, broken reading of “Apartment #9,” Tammy Wynette’s first single.

When I mention this to Morgan she seizes on it, the conversation no longer about her but instead about Tammy Wynette. She speaks of Tammy and her intensity deepens, her love of the late star a genuine thing. Morgan also speaks of the day she turned forty, the depression it originally caused and the empowerment in it that she has since found. She is candid, by turns wickedly funny and ardently serious, and seems to trust in the fact that twenty years in a hard business have taught her she can only be herself.

She can’t stay for the luncheon; her son has a game this afternoon that she must attend. She slips through the crowd, cutting a gleaming swath of star power among the subdued suits. For a woman who long ago accepted that there are no road maps in life, she has made her zig-zag path look like a seamless trajectory.

A few weeks later we talk by phone, and Lorrie Morgan is making fudge. Behind her raw, husky twang I hear the metallic clang of pots and pans. She apologizes in advance. “Soon as it starts losin’ its shine,” she says, “I’m gonna have to put you on hold and pour it.”

Morgan inhabits a strange space in country music: She stands with one foot in an earlier time, the other on the increasingly shaky ground of contemporary country. She was signed to RCA in 1989 by label honcho Joe Galante, and later switched to BNA, a separate label under the RCA Label Group. Ten weeks after this interview Morgan will leave her label home of ten years. Through a publicist, the parting will be described as an amicable one.

Although on this day she makes no specific mention of any plans to part with her label, her frustration with the music business drenches her words. As she makes fudge in her Tennessee kitchen and talks on the phone, neither does she mention her upcoming release, To Get to You, a second greatest hits collection that also contains five newly recorded tracks. As it will turn out, it will also be her last release for BNA.

With a singing career that stretches back to her early teen years, she has nearly three decades invested in the music business. She has been a bona fide mainstream star for the last ten. But somewhere along the way the rules of the game changed on her. Today’s commercial country is a land ruled by market research, and standing guard at the narrow entrance to country radio is the radio consultant. It is a world that Morgan no longer understands.

“It’s gotten really very technical,” she says when I ask her how the business has changed. “Years ago, when I first fell in love with country music, part of the reason was that it was so much from the heart. It was so simple, lyrically, everything. It was just the simplicity. Every seven to ten years, this business has gone through a severe change. And now, it’s a little bit hard because to me it’s kind of gotten away from the heart, if that makes sense. It’s more technology. And the music business has really become more of a business than what it was originally meant to be. I think a lot of us, we’re kind of trying to go with the flow and trying to do what we’re supposed to do to get on radio, and blah, blah, blah. But you know, I certainly hope that the next seven to ten years brings back the simpler side of country music.”

For now, Morgan sounds unwilling to make the necessary concessions to adapt to the new country landscape. “I’m not willing to sacrifice what I’ve learned and what I’m about just to get played on radio,” she says. “And that’s probably been a big downfall for me, and a big argument with me and my record label through the past few years. I just can’t go in and record stuff just to get on radio. I can’t do it. I think there’s the element of the heart and the simplicity that’s missing in country music, what turned everybody on to it in the beginning. And it’s gotten really far away from that. And I know for a lot of us, it’s scary.

“I hate to walk into a record label and them pull out a piece of paper and say, ‘Okay, here’s the statistics,’” she continues. “Oh, what’s that big word Joe [Galante] uses all the time — research. ‘Here’s our research statistics.’ And I’m like, ‘Who the hell is researchin’ this s—? Who are these people that you are trusting to research?’”

We talk about the state of radio today, the power of consultants and the cold call research where telemarketer-types play snips of songs over the phone to demographically correct listeners. On the subject of radio consultants and the narrow research they use to determine a song’s hit potential, Morgan is adamant in her feelings. “How can you call somebody on the phone at home when a woman’s cookin’ dinner for three or four kids, and say, ‘I’m with such-and-such radio station, can you give me eight seconds to tell me what you think of this song?’ I’m gonna say, ‘I hate the son-of-a-b—-, good-bye!’”

Beyond an industry besotted with demographics, Morgan sees no mystery in determining a song’s worth. For her, it has always been a simple and organic procedure. “Nine times out of ten a person’s gotta be riding in the car, by themselves, radio full-blast,” she says. “That’s when you find out if a song fits ya’ — if you can drive to it.”

Her voice gets quiet, almost pained. “What’s sad is all these people that I’ve looked up to for the last ten years, I’m seeing them be suckered into this paper business . . .” she says softly. The only research Morgan has to go on is what she’s seen and heard out there on the road for the last ten years. “That’s what the country artists have always had that they can’t get across to the label heads and to the radio programmers,” she says, intense again. “[The fans] are real people. They’re in my meet-and-greet every night. This is the lady who walks up to me and cries and says, ‘I just want to tell you thanks for putting out that song. I just want to tell you thanks for throwing my little girl a flower from the stage. I just want to say thanks.’ These are real people, real faces, that want to hear real music.” She pauses. “You can’t statistic through your whole life.”

I ask Morgan how she feels about her record label now, if that’s something she specifically wants to talk about. “Yeah, I better shut up on that particular . . . ” she says, momentarily drifting back. “Let me say this about that. I love Joe Galante. He gave me the shot in this business that no one else would give me. And I will always love Joe Galante. Always. Regardless of what comes tomorrow, a year from now, ten years from now. He, along with God, allowed me to make a lot of my dreams come true. And I’ll always love Joe Galante for that.”

She is far less diplomatic when it comes to an assessment of the state of today’s Top Forty. “It’s bubblegum,” she says about many of the songs on country radio today. “That ain’t what life’s about. Country music is therapy — it’s therapy for the rural world. And it’s gotten so far away from it that nobody knows what’s real anymore. You know, people aren’t what they appear to be in their pictures anymore. That concerns me, that we’re reaching out for perfection, when country music has always been about imperfection.”

Expressing the ups and downs of the imperfect life has always been Morgan’s strong suit. There is a dark grain to her voice, a fine, sandpaper edge that imbues her strong, clear pipes with a subtle grit. She is one of the most distinctive singers of contemporary country, a subtle interpreter who is at her best when explicating sorrows large and small.

Within her strongest cuts she has explored an adult view of things; at her best, she has chosen to record songs that capture the intrinsic confusion of the thing called love. While some of her oeuvre is riddled with stiff missteps — the brittle, forced bravado of “My Night to Howl” comes to mind — she has beneath her belt a passel of remarkable interpretations that stand as antidotes to the current glorification of gooey sentiment. In a current country radio world where emphasis is placed on the flimsy highs of romance, Morgan’s sharpest material addresses not the skyward trajectory of love but the skidding stop: the moonlit romance that withers in the glare of the morning after, the blunt realities of in sickness and in health, the exits taken long before ’til death us do part.

She is an oddity of sorts, a rarity in the business, an artist who is able to infuse a traditional country sensibility into even her most pop-leaning tunes. Morgan’s pop vernacular is a decidedly pre-rock one; she paid homage to it, in fact, with her 1998 release Secret Love, which included a batch of pop standards by the likes of George and Ira Gershwin and Jimmy Van Heusen. (“I wanted to do the ones that meant something in my life,” she says about the album. “From bein’ a little girl believin’ that romance really existed, pretending like I was Doris Day on the back of my horse singing ‘Secret Love.’”)

Her career song remains the Angela Kaset-penned “Something In Red,” where Morgan brought to bear a world-weary delivery against a lush setting, her voice alternating through the verses, lightening to convey fragile hope, darkening to reveal layers of regret and nostalgia. The lushly orchestrated 1991 hit did what few current country power ballads are capable of doing: It told an actual, imperfect story. Tracing a woman’s life through the colors of the outfits that she dons, the song was a haunting walk through the disintegration of a marriage: the desperate attempt to recapture initial passion (“I’m looking for something in red / Just like what I wore when I first turned his head”); the fear of infidelity; the death of romance that accompanies monogamy and children; and the insecurity that comes with aging (“Strapless and sequined and cut down to there / Just a size larger than I wore last year”).

With “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” Morgan’s voice rose and fell through the wounded, wiser lyrics, the careening guitars and assertive drum whaps mirroring the sound of a knocked-down woman standing back up again. Against the weepy steel of “Good As I Was to You,” she nailed the disillusionment of another love gone bad. “I Guess You Had to Be There” chronicled a woman torn by her husband’s infidelity; Morgan avoided the maudlin for the bitter burn, bearing down into the syllables as she conveyed the death of a marriage in all its pain and humiliation.

It has been these songs, sprinkled throughout ’90s radio, that have emphasized the imperfect nature of love, the fact that no matter how hard you try to get it right, it so often goes wrong.

Lorrie Morgan has lived the imperfect life as well, often under the harsh scrutiny of the tabloids. She has been widowed once, divorced three times. She has survived a hysterectomy and financial difficulties. She has watched as her personal life has been dissected in the media, watched as every date and relationship has been bluntly reduced to a screaming, one-dimensional headline. Beneath her public life she has grappled with the private demands of being a working mother: Her daughter Morgan — by her first husband, George Jones’s bassist Ron Gaddis — is on the verge of being a college student. Her son, Jesse — by her second husband, the late Keith Whitley — is in seventh grade.

Born Loretta Lynn Morgan in Nashville (the full name was just a coincidence, a prescient tribute to the woman who would become one of her idols and mentors), Morgan was the fifth child of country star and Grand Ole Opry member George Morgan. She attended Catholic schools in Music City and grew up with a backstage view of show business. She made her own Opry debut at thirteen, an adolescent with knocking knees singing “Paper Roses” while her father bawled in the wings. That would all turn out to be the easy part.

She worked nightclubs in town and toured with her father while still in high school, but when George Morgan died in 1975, the teenager lost not just a dad but her most trusted advisor. She hit the road on a long series of lonely tour dates, trying to establish herself. She recorded, with minor success, for a number of labels: Columbia, ABC/Hickory, and MCA. In 1979, she even cut an electronic duet with her late father on his ballad “I’m Completely Satisfied with You” for the Four Star label.

As hard and uncertain as that time seemed, it paled in comparison to what came when she joined George Jones’ road show as a support act, back-up singer, and duet partner. If her father had given Morgan her first break, he had also shielded her from the ugly realities of the business. It was on the road with Jones that Morgan came to understand the dark side of fame.

“It was a very emotional time,” she says. “I was twenty, twenty-one years old, and got into a world that I’d never been involved with before. Yeah, I’d been in the music business all my life, Grand Ole Opry, workin’ with Dad. But this was a new kinda guy. This was something that was very . . . whew . . . scary to me as a young girl.”

It was the dawn of the 1980s, and that “new kinda guy” was then in the throes of brain-bending alcoholism and drug addiction. Although “No Show Jones” has long been flung around as a comic moniker, the grim reality that inspired George Jones’s nickname was no joke to those who experienced the repercussions firsthand. Jones would go missing in action, disappearing completely before shows, and Morgan and the band were left holding the bag. Standing in the turbulent wake of those missed dates, the green entertainer saw how quickly the spotlight can go black. She saw how a loving audience can transform into an ugly rabble.

“The reality of it was that it was scarier than hell,” she says. “Oh man, they threw bottles, tomatoes, apples — anything they could find when we had to announce that [George] wasn’t going to be there. One night they almost tipped the bus over. And you know, I thought, ‘Why would he put us through this? He must not care at all.’ Of course, [me] being young and naive . . . hell, he cared. He was dealin’ with his own damn demons, you know? Lookin’ back, he was just as scared as I am and everybody else is now. But he just kind of showed his fright in another way.”

Although she occasionally seems weary recounting her history one more time (“I started workin’ on Ralph [Emery's] morning show again, and then got back into Nashville Now, and you know, blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah”), the George Jones tour still evokes genuine emotion twenty years on. “Whewwssh,” she breathes with a shuddering air. “That was a weird part of my life.”

But it was also part of the dues-paying that has made Morgan the real deal. Seeing the price of fame early on stripped away any illusions she had about what a life in music could really cost. “I love George,” she says quietly. “I wouldn’t trade those days for anything because it taught me a lot, and it definitely taught me what I didn’t want to have in my life. I can’t say that I’d go through it all again, not that particular part. But I’m glad that I did it.”

In the song “Between Midnight and Tomorrow,” Morgan’s voice captures the grief of a woman sitting up ’til dawn, watching her drunken lover sleep. What sets the song apart is that it doesn’t reduce the equation to a simplistic Good Women, Bad Choices scenario. Like Tammy Wynette in “Stand By Your Man,” or Patty Loveless in “Here I Am,” Morgan evokes the subtler issues involved with loving the sinner but hating the sin. The man Morgan sings about is an alcoholic, but underneath the disease is the actual man. The woman is grappling not with a one-dimensional monster but rather, as the playwright Eugene O’Neill once put it, a good man’s failing.

It has been a decade since the death of Morgan’s second husband, Keith Whitley. A Kentucky bluegrass prodigy who’d apprenticed with Ralph Stanley, Whitley was a rising hard-country singer and a binge alcoholic when he met Morgan in the mid-’80s. At the time, she was cutting demos and working as a receptionist at Acuff-Rose. Her own music career had yet to catch fire. They married and the union produced son Jesse. In 1989, just as Morgan’s breakthrough RCA hit, “Dear Me,” was rising on the charts, Whitley died of an alcohol overdose in their Nashville home while Morgan was touring Alaska.

His death came doubly hard; at thirty-three, Whitley’s bruised baritone was just coming into its own. In Garth Fundis he had finally found a producer sympathetic and sensitive enough to understand his hardcore, traditional heartbreak. It seemed, for a time, as if Whitley and Morgan might fill the spotlight vacated by George and Tammy. It was not to be.

Ten years on, Morgan still thinks of this good man, and his fatal failing. “I don’t think you ever quite get over losing somebody that special,” she says. “I wonder from time to time, where would we be now, what would we be doing. Would he be proud of Jesse? Would we be as happy as I always thought we were going to be? There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about Keith, ever. You never get over losing somebody who was — hell — the love of your life.”

The tough part, she says, was the guilt beneath the grief that came in the wake of his death. “The ‘ifs’ are the big wonderment of being married to an alcoholic, or involved with anybody with a drug addiction,” she says. “‘If I’d a just done this, if I’d a just done that.’ You get in your mind that if you would have done something different it would have helped them, when the truth of the matter is they are the only ones who can help themselves, ever. I wish I would have gone to a few [Al-Anon] meetings just to help me deal with the aftershock, because it devastates a person who thinks that they were a part of it. ‘If I just wouldn’t have gone out of town, and I would have stayed, and Keith would be alive today, and . . .’ For a long time, I lived with that thinking. And that’s not the case. It would have happened the next time, or the next time, or the time after that. You can’t stop a person who’s on the road to destruction, because they have to say ‘I don’t want to self-destruct. I want to get better.’”

The subject of Tammy Wynette resurfaces several times as Morgan speaks. “Tammy,” she says emphatically. “Man, you talk about a lady who had her knocks with love and life. That’s the kind of person I can relate to. That’s the kind of person I want to sit back and listen to, because that’s the inspiration.” It’s no accident that the standout track on her new release To Get to You is “Another Lonely Song,” the 1973 Tammy hit that Wynette co-wrote with legendary countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill and songwriting powerhouse Norro Wilson. Morgan’s decision to cover the song lured the reclusive Sherrill back into the studio to produce the track.

The song is a classic, Wynette-ian epic of longing and heartbreak. When Morgan speaks of it, her voice intensifies as she remembers a time when Tammy’s voice would come over the radio, throbbing with complex pain, acting as therapy for the rural world. “It’s like going in and sitting down to a therapist,” she says. “You go in and sit down to a therapist and he helps you by his words, you feel better. So you turn on a radio and you listen to Tammy sing, ‘Time won’t heal my memory / God, it’s killin’ me.’”

Morgan stops. “Hold on a minute.” I hear her whispering the words to herself, searching for the rest of the lyric. She finds it and recites the rest, her voice bearing down on each word: “Lord how I need him here / Just to feel him near and hear him breathin’ / But still the night goes on and on / Another lonely song I’m singin’.” She pauses, pondering the words. “God-dang!” she cries. “That’s what I’d rather turn on!

“You knew she went through it,” she says about Wynette. “And that’s what my music has always meant to me, to be able to go in and sing a song that Jane next door with five kids is dealin’ with. Because if I’m dealin’ with it, I know she’s gotta be dealin’ with it. I know she does. She’s a woman.” Morgan pauses. “And all women go through the same crap.”

I ask her if she has devised a way to let the things go that would have bothered her when she was younger. She is quick and adamant. “Media,” she says bluntly. “Media. The rag mags. What the Globe, what the Enquirer have to print. I let it go. I don’t care anymore. And my children are old enough, and they’ve been conditioned by me very well. I’ve always been very open and honest with ‘em about what I’m doing, what my life’s about, who I’m seein’. So they know when they read this stuff that it’s just bulls—. And that was always my big concern — what are my children gonna think when they read this? They know not to believe what they read, unless I tell ‘em to believe it.

“These are heartless people that write that crap,” she continues, regarding the tabloid reporters who have dogged her in life. “And they don’t deserve my thoughts or my time. Or my despair. It took me a long time to realize that. That they don’t deserve not even an inkling of thought. I shall think on them no more.”

A few weeks later I sit transcribing the interview tapes late into the night. I listen in that odd way you listen when you hear your own voice rambling, rising, falling, stumbling, reaching for the right word, picking up steam. I listen to myself eating up a minute of tape time, rambling on about the state of radio, the state of music, the state of America. I hear myself wrap up a long, digressive diatribe with the crescendo, “We’re going to hell in this culture.”

I hear Lorrie Morgan respond, “That’s exactly right.” I smile at her patience with me. I hear a pause, the clang of a pan. “I’m going to hell with this fudge, I’m gonna tell you that,” she says. I wish her well with her fudge, and Morgan laughs her smoky laugh. “Oh, I gotta start all over,” says the woman who is no stranger to beginning again, the woman who long ago embraced the importance of the journey over the destination.

Chris Dickinson is on staff at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where she is the editor of the Journal of Country Music.

April Update

I have been very bad about my posts here. I am going to try and do more…at least once a month. Since my last post, so much has happened. I guess the most important things were the release of my single CD on iTunes (I SURVIVE) and the formation of my little band (well kind of).

The person who runs the Open Mic Nights at Pucketts Farm Equipment in Charlotte (Derita) every Monday night at 7:00PM; has been not only teaching me more about the guitar, but has become the coordinator of our practice groups. His name is Al Lemmond who already has a band (3 Piece Bucket). He found Larry Gray and Cindy Garris. It seems that everyone plays guitar…but for now, it is fine. Eventually, I would like to find some others who play a different instrument.

After practice, I bring the recordings home and add my piano playing abilities to the songs. So far, they sound good, but no one in the group ever gets to hear the full sound. On my ReverbNation site, I have put up two practice songs (PRINTED IN BLACK AND WHITE) and (I DON’T RECOGNIZE THIS WORLD I’M IN) with the piano added. I desperately need to find someone who plays the drums and bass guitar.

I also joined NSAI (NASHVILLE SONGWRITERS ASSOCIATION INC). We currently meet once a month and this July, I will be attending a summer camp in Nashville. Hopefully, I will be able to have a good quality recording of my PRINTED IN BLACK AND WHITE song on CD to pass out. It is very important that I get this done in time. Although my budget for doing so is not very good, I was hoping to get a recording done without getting into a studio.

I am still working for the Chevrolet Dealership in Charlotte, NC. Although things are not going as I would like, I am sticking around until something better comes along. At least it is a paycheck where I can put in an honest day’s work to support myself.

I have been improving my yodeling techniques and started writing a song where I can do a little yodel. When I was a child, my mother (who also yodels) used to play the song CATTLE CALL by EDDY ARNOLD. Also, Leann Rimes did that remake ‘BLUE’ made famous by Patsy Cline. I have started a song (not yet completed) that puts in a yodel very similar to both of those songs.

I have been researching some older songs that I would like to sing, and tonight I will get to try them out with the group. John Denver’s song BACK HOME AGAIN has been playing over and over in my car whenever I drive to or from work. I wanted to really get to know the song before I try to sing it at an Open Mic. Of course like most of you, I first heard this song when John Denver sang it on the radio. I have always liked some of John Denver’s songs…and recently heard it from the Avett Brothers on You Tube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStdY-4Am8&feature=youtu.be&a). I decided (after singing it like 100 or so times) that I would like to add this to my list of songs to perform.

So for now, I will continue to do what I can to further my music quest. I am also learning a song from MO PITNEY who has become my most recent favorite singer in Nashville. Look for more coming from this guy in the next few months. Rumor is that Keith Whitley’s son JESSE contacted him about doing a number together. Only good things can come from that…and the way MO PITNEY does Keith’s song MIAMI MY AMY, sends a chill down my spine.

More coming soon…until then, be safe and God speed.

Music CD Update

It has been a while since my last post.

As some of you may know, I have been working on a new CD that was supposed to be released on July 4th, 2012. Due to some complications, it has been delayed. The new release date has been set for October 31, 2012. It will be available in regular CD Format and through iTunes.

Part of the problem was the recording of three songs…(I Won’t Give It Another Try, Printed In Black And White, and Understanding You. or as some like to call it…Breakdown). I have not finalized a name on that last song, but my original intent was Understanding You.

I have done several version of these songs and have not been totally ‘thrilled’ with any of them. The last one ‘Understanding You’ is basically there now…I have been feeling better about that song and I think I will keep this latest edition of how it is played. As far as the other two songs, I have tried them very country sounding, pop sounding, and classic folk sounding. Still have not decided which style to go with.

Basically all the other songs have been completed. I have the final tracks completed on the following songs: I may re-record ‘You Don’t Love Me’ one more time before release.
I Survive
Moment In Time
A Loved One
Starting Over
I’m Falling In Love
The Mirror
You Don’t Love Me

That is about it here…if you find yourself in the Charlotte area, stop by and heard me play at Harvey’s Bar & Grill every Monday night. I usually go on around 9:00 PM.

NEW CD UPDATE…

Due to my inability to get all the final tracks completed by my deadline, iTunes has informed me that I will need to wait another cycle. That means, once I upload the final tracks, I will need to wait another two weeks before I will see them on iTunes. At least this gives me the entire month of July 2012 to finalize everything.

When everything has been finalized, this is what the back of the CD will look like and the song order.

I apologize to everyone for the delays with this CD, but I guess it hasn’t been as easy as I previously thought.

May 2012 Comes To An End

Had a great time while in Connecticut & Rhode Island celebrating my 46th birthday on May 18th. Thanks to everyone who participated in making my trip great.

I also caught a pretty nasty cold the 2nd day I arrived. I was not able to get any recording in while I was up there…I just couldn’t sing. My voice was pretty bad.

I visited with friends, stayed with my folks and siblings, and went on the Newport Dinner Train with my ex-fiance Lisa who I have not seen in over 22 years. Needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do…but we picked it right up where we left it so long ago.

By Sunday night, (May 20th), I was ready to go home…my cold was getting worse and the DayQuil I was taking was no longer doing any good. I stopped into my favorite hotel (Marriott at the end of West Street in Rocky Hill, CT) and got a great night’s sleep before departing the next morning. (Their beds are incredible!)

The 13 hour drive back to Charlotte was bad enough – me being sick and all…but it rained the entire way. A few times I looked up at the sky and said to God…”really…it needs to rain non-stop today?”

I arrived back home around 10:30 PM Monday night the 21st of May. Took some cold medicine and went right to bed. Slept pretty late the next morning, then eventually ventured out to do a few errands.

Finally went to the doctor on Thursday, the 24th. They ran a bunch of tests…even went to the hospital for more tests and X-Rays. They wanted to keep me overnight. It seems I have developed a very bad case of walking pneumonia which was boarding on regular pneumonia. It was also determined that there is something in my lung but it could be just really inflamed. They want to see me again next week to see if it goes away after I finish the 7 medications they gave me to take. I blame it on my visit to Connecticut because I rarely ever get sick.

Friday turned into a vomiting haven…I could no longer keep any food down and I was feeling worse. Back to the doctor’s I went with a whole new set of medication to take. Seems something the doctor gave me did not agree with my body and was making my sicker. After several more days of resting, sleeping, and taking medicines, I was finally getting better.

Although I still cannot sing right now, I have been improving a little every day. I still need to cut a few more tracks for the release of my new Album on June 15th titled “Starting Over”.

Look for it on iTunes starting June 15th, 2012.

-Ken Menard

Ken Plays w/3 Piece Bucket Band

On March 19, 2012, Ken played at Harvey’s Bar and Grill in Huntersville, NC like he does every Monday night. This particular evening was different…two of his songs were being recorded with the 3 Piece Bucket Band playing along. Although they only had 2 hours to learn this song over the course of two days, they did a pretty good job.

Ken’s first posting seemed to be cut off when he posted it on ReverbNation. He contacted Louis (the recording genius of the group) and was sent the raw unedited MP3. It is now re-posted on ReverbNation in it’s original form. http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/song_details/12658108

“…Recorded a new version of my song ‘I Won’t Give It Another Try’ last night at Harvey’s. The 3 Piece Bucket Band played with me, so we had a bass player, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and drums…and Jeff and Al sang harmony. I can’t wait to hear the recording which should be out soon. We had several people in the audience singing along. Lot’s of great talent last night at Harvey’s Bar & Grill.”

This was the first time this song was played with a band in public, so it was pretty exciting for Ken. Ken hired Larry Lee from Nashville in October 1989 to help promote his songs. Many people including Gene Watson, Billy Joe Royal, Joe Diffee, Vince Gill, Doug Stone, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, George Strait, George Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Oakridge Boys, Mark Chestnut, and Garth Brooks have all had exposure to Ken’s songs. This song was not been written until sometime late in 1990-91. Gene Watson once showed interest in this particular song, but wanted a better recording with a full band.

Join Ken on Monday nights at Harvey’s Bar & Grill located at 13812 Cinnabar Pl, Huntersville, NC.
704-947-5080

-Admin

Songs On ReverbNation

Last week, Ken, (an active member of BMI), decided to record some of his favorite songs (not written by him) and post them on ReverbNation. http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/2015319

You can hear the calmness in Ken’s voice as he sings the old Keith Whitley songs “A Day In The Life Of A Fool”, “Would These Arms Be In Your Way”, and “Charlotte’s In North Carolina”. Ken has always been inspired by Keith Whitley and recently sent a message to Keith’s son Jesse concerning these songs.

Ken also does some other songs by Anne Murray, Vern Gosdin, Rod Stewart, The Judds, Hank Williams, Linda Ronstadt, Gene Watson, The Monkees, Jackson Browne, and Kris Kristofferson.

Look for more songs to be posted in the near future.

-Admin

Happy New Year

Image

Happy New Year to all.

2011 was a year filled with a lot of turmoil and it is nice to see it go away. 2012 is going to be a year filled with happiness, good health, financial sound and stability, and exciting times.

May the New Year bring all your wishes and dreams to realization.

-Ken

Merry Christmas

Christmas is the time for not only giving and being thankful, but for family. It is nice to spend quality time with the ones you love during the holidays.

There are so many things to be thankful for and many of us take them for granted. Just being healthy, having enough food to eat, a roof over your head, and surrounded by the ones you love is more than enough.

This year, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and safe holiday season.

-Ken

You Tube Videos

Ken now plays and sings two nights a week…one location in Huntersville and the other in Concord. He has been experimenting with recording videos and uploading them to You Tube.

On December 16th, 2011, Ken uploaded his first attempt for a You Tube video under the ID Name ‘Itsgr82bMax’. Ken used to have a dog called Max, so this is where the phrase, “It’s Great To Be Max” comes from.

Ken uploaded the old Buck Owens song, ‘Arms Full of Empty’ and his song ‘I Won’t Give it Another Try’ as a test. Both songs were in very poor quality due to the old camera he had to work with. He will redo these videos in the next week or so with a better camera he found in the garage. Hopefully it will produce a better quality than what is already out there. He will also figure out how to deal with his dark beard under his nose compared to his gray beard everywhere else! :)

Video # 1 – Arms Full of Empty – (http://youtu.be/5OH93OCYePw)
Video # 2 – I Won’t Give It Another Try – (http://youtu.be/bM8L5BgYza8)

Look to You Tube either by searching for ‘Ken Menard’ or by his ID Name ‘Itsgr82bMax’ for all future videos coming soon.

You can also find Ken’s You Tube videos on ReverbNation – (http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_videos/2015319) for your viewing pleasure.

-Admin

Charlotte Live Open Mic

This evening, Monday, December 5th, 2011, Ken played at Harvey’s Bar & Grill in Huntersville, NC. It seems that the crowd really enjoyed his music.

Ken played 7 songs: The first 5 were: ‘I Won’t Give It Another Try’, ‘I Survive’, ‘Learning To Live Again’, ‘Moment In Time’ and ‘Fourteen Carat Mind’. After the 5th song, the crowd was looking at Ken with anticipation of what the next song would be, so Ken played ‘Arms Full Of Empty, by Buck Owens’. After that song was finished, Ken was getting ready to wrap it up and had already unplugged his guitar from the speakers, when the crowd said…’Do One More’. Ken quickly thought of another song that he could do and came up with ‘Bad Bad Leroy Brown’ by Jim Croce.

The crowd seemed to really enjoy the music. Several people specifically came up to Ken and told him how good he was and asked if he would play again next week. One old guy with a beard came up to Ken and said that his song ‘I Survive’ really got to him. He was so moved he asked if Ken would do it again next week.

After a little time had passed…Ken was sitting down and several other people came up to him to say that he was really good and would he be back next week. Ken assured them he would return.

The guy that basically runs the place sat down with Ken and said that he really appreciated the songs and asked if he could return next week to do ‘Learning To Live Again’ along with ‘Fourteen Carat Mind’. Ken agreed and said he will also have a few new songs that would really show his voice off for the crowd.

So, it looks like Ken will be playing this venue every Monday night for a while. If you find yourself in Huntersville, NC anytime soon on a Monday night, stop by at Harvey’s Bar & Grill to hear Ken play around 8:00pm.

-Admin

Charlotte – Live Open Mic Performance

On December 5th, around 8:00PM, Ken will be playing his first live performance in 17 years at Harvey’s Bar & Grill in Huntersville, NC.

Last time he played publicly, it was in Collinsville, Connecticut at Gertrude & Alice’s Coffeehouse. Ken was living in Unionville at the time and decided to play there several times.

So if anyone is around the Lake Norman area and would like to hear him perform live, stop by and visit Harvey’s Bar & Grill at 13812 Cinnabar Place, just off I-77 in Huntersville, approaching Cornelius.

Sneak peak of songs will included Ken’s song ‘I Survive’, Garth Brooks’ song ‘Learning To Live Again’, Dwight Yoakam’s song ‘Ain’t That Lonely Yet’, and possibly some other original songs. Hope to see you there!

-Admin

http://www.harveysinhuntersville.com/