SONGS FROM THE ROCK
A chance encounter in my hometown in the late summer of 1971 proved to be the watershed moment of my young life as a songwriter. Introduced to Larry Mercey of The Mercey Brothers after a Saturday matinee the band performed at a popular bar, I asked if I could strum a chord on his vintage Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. He said I could. So, I picked it up and played some chords and sang a few lines of 2 new songs I'd just written.
When he asked me whose songs they were, I told him that I had written them both. He immediately produced his busines card and looking at me intently said, "my name is Larry Mercey and I think you're going to write something someday that's going to sell big". By 1973 The Mercey Brothers were topping the charts with one of my new songs and my pro songwriting career was born. The Mercey Brothers recorded several of my songs in the 70's. "Our Lovin’ Times" became one of the group’s most popular hits. My own first single as an artist was recorded and published through The Mercey Brothers studio. It was "Thursday Morning 5 O'Clock Rain".
Songs From The Rock is a compilation of 20 of my early acoustic guitar/vocal songs from this period recorded live to tape with overdubs on some tracks. It includes an acoustic version of Thursday Morning 5 O'Clock Rain.
Listen to the produced record version of "Thursday Morning 5 O'Clock Rain" in the audio player under the disc.
The Mercey Brothers were very influential and important to my early development teaching me many things about the music publishing business and about being a true professional. I have great personal memories of Larry, Lloyd & Ray from their studio, The Grenada, The George Hamilton IV Show & The Tommy Hunter Show.
In 1973 The Mercey Brothers single of my song "Our Lovin' Times" was a national top 10 hit at country music radio. The first 6 months of '73 I had lived and worked in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a side trip by Greyhound one week-end to Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon returning back to Ontario and catching up with The Mercey Brothers in Elmira, I quickly settled in to a job and an apartment in nearby Kitchener so as to be able to spend time with them in the studio writing and recording. After a few months and time in Ottawa, I returned to my hometown in '74 to set to work preparing for my eventual big move to Toronto at the end of '75. I'm glad I waited because on May 19, 1975 Johnny Cash, June Carter and Carl Perkins performed a show in my town and I not only went to their show, I tried racing their bus back to their hotel after the show so I could meet Johnny Cash and personally present him with a copy of The Mercey Brothers RCA Victor hit single of my song.
Despite running flat out beside the bus for blocks, it soon sped ahead and made it back to their hotel several minutes before I caught up to it parked in front of a hotel I knew well. I had worked there as a busboy in the dining room when I was 15. I walked into the lobby and stood at the front desk area across from the dining room which was closed for the night. I noticed the door wasn't shut tight, but slightly ajar, which suggested it had been open but not shut completely. As I stood there, a guy who looked like a musician emerged from the dining room and paid his coffee bill at the front desk. I asked him if he was with the Cash show. He said that he was. I then asked him if Johnny Cash was in the dining room and if so, if it might be ok to give him my record.
He said, "son...you go right over to that door and walk right in...Johnny Cash is in there with June and Carl".
June Carter Cash and Carl Perkins were facing me at the door as I walked in and they both looked at me and smiled warmly, waving me to "come in, come in". Johnny had his back to the door facing them and he turned around as I approached their table to see who it was they were welcoming so warmly. I swear I heard him say, "Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. This is my wife June and my friend, the legendary rockabilly cat, Carl Perkins".
Just the four of us seated around a big circular table in the dining room at the Charlottetown Hotel. Accorded the privacy of enjoying their post show coffee time in the dining room alone since it was closed for the night. But they included me in that circle that will be unbroken as long as I draw breath. We talked for over an hour on songwriting, Nashville and much more. It's the greatest music memory of my life meeting and enjoying the company of these three towering rockabilly/country music legends so beloved and revered by all the world.
Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan would be impressed. Kris Kristofferson, whose impact as a writer raised the bar for an entire generation of songwriters in Nashville, would also be impressed.
Kris idolized Johnny Cash.
Years later, as a staff songwriter with the very same Nashville music publishing company that Kristofferson had made famous, I came to appreciate this precious music memory even more. Destiny. It helped me keep the chilly wind off my guitar down on music city row.