Dixie Rock

The first Capricorn Records album I purchased was "Livingston Taylor".

My older sister bought me James Taylor’s debut for my birthday, it was the rage at BU.  That Apple album finally came out on CD, and unfortunately its production has not worn well.  But, at the time, it was my absolute favorite.  With the interludes, the way one song slid into another.  And my favorite track was "Carolina In My Mind".  It’s not the version you’re familiar with.  It’s played faster, with optimism.  Every morning I woke up and immediately cued up the record on my turntable.  To the point where my father even started to sing along.

And not long thereafter, I journeyed to Boston and saw JT at Harvard.  You know how you see an act and you get goosebumps, know you’re experiencing something special?  That’s what it was like.  Just James sitting on a stool, even playing "For Free", the soon to be released song from his girlfriend Joni Mitchell’s album, "Ladies Of The Canyon".

JT mania really didn’t hit until the fall.  He wasn’t on the cover of "Time" magazine yet.  Every Taylor hadn’t released an album.  Now, we only had Livingston, who was legit.  I needed more of that touch your soul sound.  I bought the record.  And immediately became enraptured with "Carolina Day".  Which still tickles my fancy decades later.  As for the label?  Wasn’t it just another Atlantic Records imprint?  Akin to Cotillion, which was the label of record for the "Woodstock" three disc set?

No.

But we didn’t know that yet.  We had to wait until the following winter.  When the Allman Brothers Band finally got traction.

I heard "Midnight Rider" on the radio this morning.

I’m very rarely up in the morning.  But even scheduling two months in advance, I could get an appointment with Dr. Brackmann no later than 10 a.m.  And elated that my hearing hadn’t deteriorated, I cranked the radio on the way home. And at the intersection of Alvarado and Hoover, the southern rock sound started pouring out of the speakers.

It took me years, but I finally realized "Midnight Rider"’s got the beat of a horse’s gallop.  It sets you in a groove akin to riding on the back of a palomino.  You know how riding is, you’re lolled into a trance, your mind is set free. "Midnight Rider" has the same effect.  That’s why we were all closed on the Allmans.  It was like they snuck up on us and became our best friends while we were unaware.  It just felt natural.

And by August, when "Fillmore East" finally hit the racks, the Allmans were suddenly the hottest, the hippest band on the planet.  Even though they’d had nary a single, never mind a hit.

Maybe it was Bill Graham’s anointment.  They’d closed the venerable East Village emporium.  The final act on the final night.  The Allmans were for driving, for relaxing, for getting high and contemplating your life.  They weren’t mindless.  Our music wasn’t mindless.

And the Allman Brothers were on Capricorn Records.

At this point, we knew the label was masterminded by Phil Walden.  In an era when music news was scarce, we scraped for every bit of information.  This guy who was Otis Redding’s manager, his best friend, he was the king of a new sound, southern rock.  If it was on Capricorn, you paid attention.  Until Captain Beyond.

I’ve heard Captain Beyond on Deep Tracks.  All these years later, they were pretty good.  But what were they doing on Capricorn?  Was Phil Walden getting too big for his britches, thinking he could conquer every genre of music?

But then came the Marshall Tucker Band.

Gonna take a freight train
Down at the station, lord
I don’t care where it goes
Gonna climb a mountain
The highest mountain
And gonna jump off
Nobody gonna know

Can’t you see
Oh, can’t you see
What that woman, lord
She been doin’ to me
Can’t you see
Can’t you see
What that woman
Been doin’ to me

The opening track on Marshall Tucker’s debut was "Take The Highway".  It took off like a shot.  That’s what we learned from the Stones, your opening track had to be aggressive, and utterly fantastic.  And "Take The Highway" qualified.  The band fired on all cylinders.  And this guy, he had a voice akin to smoked honey.  It had brawn, but smoothness.  You were enraptured, whether you were a girl or a boy.

And then came "Can’t You See".

Somehow, all these years later, Marshall Tucker is seen as a COWBOY band.  With hats, singing shitkicker music, like "Heard It In A Love Song".

Forget all that, forget everything after the first album.  Actually, you only need the first two cuts on that very first album.  "Take The Highway" and "Can’t You See".

Neither of them were singles.  But within a few years, there wasn’t a baby boomer who hadn’t heard them.  Sure, there was radio play.  But someone always had the record.  You’d hear the tracks at parties, in dorm rooms, apartments.  When you were toking up, when you were kicking back and having an afternoon beer.

It was all about how the music made you feel.  And "Can’t You See" made you stop everything you were doing and relax, and get into the music.  There’s the acoustic guitar intro, the flute, and the GROOVE!  Actually, it takes almost thirty seconds for the band to settle into said groove, and another thirty before the vocal begins.  There’s electric guitar picking.  Bending of notes.  My girlfriend would like foreplay this good.  And when the singing begins, you’re SOLD!

But the song isn’t compartmentalized, it’s not a ditty, out in a little over three minutes.  It stretches.  On for over six.  You REVEL IN IT!

But that was my last Capricorn hurrah.

Maybe it was the death of Berry Oakley.  Or Gregg Allman testifying against that roadie.  Or maybe I just graduated from college.  I loved those Lynyrd Skynyrd tracks, but I fell off the Capricorn bandwagon.  And soon, so did everybody else.

Phil Walden helped Jimmy Carter get elected President, but his musical empire started to fail.

And now not only are Duane and Berry gone, but the Caldwell brothers too.  And Phil himself.  The king of southern rock is history.

Southern rock was everything the Grateful Dead were supposed to be.  The Dead were sloppy, their voices were substandard.  Whereas the Allmans and the other Capricorn bands were rehearsed.  It’s as if Phil had never forgotten his roots with Otis Redding.  You had to be able to play, you had to be able to slay the public, you had to convert them with one listen.

And I was converted to another one of Phil’s charges the other night.  Wet Willie.

Oh, I knew "Keep On Smilin’".  A good-timey track, the only time the band got it right.  Wrong!

There was Grinderswitch.  Sea Level.  Too many substandard southern rockers.  At least that’s what I thought.  You see we couldn’t hear too much of this stuff.  You had to buy it to truly hear it.

But through the miracle of satellite radio, three decades on, I was finally introduced to Wet Willie’s "Dixie Rock".

Come on play some good time music
Just the way we used to do

Maybe I underestimated Phil, maybe I had it all wrong, maybe he truly was on the pulse.  Maybe I gave up on Capricorn TOO EARLY!

There’s a studio take of "Dixie Rock", but in classic southern rock tradition, you’ve got to hear the live rendition.

Fire up the doobie, buy a case of Boone’s Farm.  Grow your hair out, and get ready for that Les Paul, it’s gonna pick you up off the couch and make you COME ALIVE!

I pull up in front of Felice’s house around midnight, and I can’t get out of the car.  I’m shimmying and shaking in my seat.  Nobody’s watching, it’s just me and the music.  I can relax and be myself.  The music has set me FREE!

These rockers were southerners, but they were our brothers.  They marched to the beat of their own drummer.  They took no bullshit.  And they wanted to impress us, by showing us how great they could play!

If you’re getting tired of trouble
If you’re feeling down and out
Listen to the funky shuffle
Way they play it way down south

19 Responses to Dixie Rock »»


Comments

  1. Comment by Mike Lane | 2007/11/08 at 12:02:36

    Hey Bob:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My dad (Tim Lane) opened the west coast office for Capricorn around 1971-2, and was the #3 exec for about 3 years. In that short time, he had many great stories (e.g. being on the road with the Allman Bros., a White Witch promotion disaster, and other "Almost Famous" incidents). He was previously head of Album Sales for Atlantic from 1966-70, and seemed to have a knack for being where the great music was happening, and getting it to the fans.

    My dad used to bring home lots of albums and promotional material from Capricorn, which I shared with my friends. At home, he would play the albums over & over again, enjoying every note as much as any fan could. He had band members over to the house and took our family to their concerts. Working at Capricorn was not a job to him — it was fun… a passionate hobby. He thought it was a privilege to promote the music!

    Although he saw great sales on his watch at Atlantic and Capricorn, his main thought was not about how much money was being made, but how he was going to get the music to the people. The music was his religion and he was determined to convert the masses.

    When my dad passed away 2 1/2 years ago, I went through his album collection, reminiscing on the familiar album covers & promo materials of Livingston Taylor, the Allman Bros., Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker Band, White Witch, and Captain Beyond. They were old friends, hanging around to remind me of those magical days with my dad.

    I’ve since sold my dad’s albums to an avid collector because I don’t own a record player & would probably not get a chance to play the vinyl again. It was tough to say goodbye to my childhood friends & a big chunk of my dad’s soul. But I no longer needed the physical albums. The music had already made a lifetime impact on me, constantly reminding me of a special time — a time when the music mattered.

    Regards,

    Mike Lane
    4 Entertainment

  2. Comment by Philip Walden | 2007/11/08 at 12:02:52

    Very cool. Jimmy Hall remains one of the nicest guys in the music biz, lives in Nashville, and for years toured with Hank Jr as his music director. Normal, nice guy, kids in private school. He was Macon’s version of Mick Jagger! We did a fantastic blues/boogie lp with him 10 or so yrs ago, "rendevous with the blues."_As for Captain Beyond, did you know. that the lead singer, Rod Evans, was the original lead singer from DeepPurple and the guitar player, Larry "Rhino" Rhinerhardt was in Iron Butterfly? On the first lp they had to put the 3d sticker on by hand. Still a weird album, no doubt, surpassed only by White Witch and Billy Thorpe (or Martin Mull!).

  3. Comment by Don Bartenstein | 2007/11/08 at 12:03:11

    Thanks for shining a little light on Capricorn! I’m a northern boy like yourself, but spent 6 years in Montgomery AL in the mid-70′s and got to hear most of those bands bellied up to the stage. They were incredible then and are still in heavy rotation in my personal playlists.

    If I might, I’d like to send a nod to my two personal faves, Sea Level and The Dixie Dregs, who combined southern rock with jazz fusion and pop sensibilities into an addictive stew….. I’ve long given up the doobs and Boones Farm, but not those sounds!

    Don Bartenstein

  4. Comment by Mike Brown | 2007/11/08 at 12:03:39

    Just to let you know Jimmy Hall, the singer for Wet Willie, is still at it and in my opinion better than ever. I see him every year on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise. (90 days until the next one)

    His voice is like a fucking horn section. Last year he did a version of Jumping Jack Flash that Mick Jagger wouldn’t have followed.

    Some of those Southern Boys hung in there and they’re still kickin ass.

    Mike Brown

  5. Comment by Bob LeDrew | 2007/11/08 at 12:04:00

    Dear Bob:

    RE: Dixie Rock, Marshall Tucker, and "Can’t You See"

    Way back in the 70s when I was a kid, there were twin musical legends on the little East Coast island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — Sam Moon and Matt Minglewood, who performed together for a while, then split up and did their own thing.

    And when Matt Minglewood, a 335-slinging guy who was as far from fiddle music and step-dancing as you could get, finally got signed to RCA, his first album had a KILLER version of "Can’t You See" with a spoken word intro and a searing vocal and harmonica track.

    Change my life? Probably not. Change my ears? Oh yeah.

    Bob LeDrew,
    BobCat House Concerts,
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

  6. Comment by Shawn Fahy | 2007/11/08 at 12:04:18

    Capricorn was a great label. Not only Liv, who I am a big fan of, but home to Alex Taylor, James Montgomery, Jonathan Edwards, Elvin Bishop among other greats.

    However I wanted to let you know I think it is great you mentioned Liv Taylor. I believe that Liv is (and trust me I usually get blasted for this) the best musician in that family. I know Liv was not the focus of your email, but I love the fact you mentioned him. Not only is he a great musician, but a great person, professor, humanitarian and I believe author.

    Your note actually prompted me to reach out to Liv after meeting him almost 20 years ago. In the note, trying to explain your letter made me come up with the following description:

    Bob Lefsetz, hated by some, despised by others but read by all.

    Well anyway, great mention for Liv. Look forward to your emails.

    Take care.

    Shawn Fahy

  7. Comment by Al Kooper | 2007/11/08 at 12:04:34

    Maybe it’s time to hear "Canine Man" by Sea Level/Capricorn.

  8. Comment by Mitch Myers | 2007/11/08 at 12:04:50

    Hi Bob,

    I too have an affection for all that old Capricorn stuff.

    In answer to your question about Captain Beyond, the guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt was a southern guy who had actually played with Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley in the band Second Coming, before Dickey and Berry helped form the Allman Brothers Band. Captain Beyond’s fantastic drummer, Bobby Caldwell, was a veteran of Johnny Winter’s band and had shared a fair amount of gigs with the ABB.

    More important, your interest in Wet Willie. The lead singer, Jimmy Hall has a new, quality CD out called ‘Build Your Own Fire’ which is a tribute to another Capricorn recording artist, the late Eddie Hinton.

    Hinton had two albums on Capricorn, and most folks just commented on how black he sounded when he sang. He was white, of course, played some good guitar and wrote great songs and did indeed sound like a junior version of Otis Redding. Sadly, Hinton was psychologically disturbed and came to an early demise, his great promise unrealized.

    Those Hinton albums on Capricorn are still good, but the new Jimmy Hall might be right up your alley.

    Your pal,

    Mitch Myers

  9. Comment by harris | 2007/11/08 at 12:05:08

    until dating a –no offense–yankee last year, i had NO IDEA that marshall tucker band enjoyed anything beyond regional success. i did a little research, and had my mind BLOWN.

    harris, south carolina

  10. Comment by Richard Pachter | 2007/11/08 at 12:05:23

    Captain Beyond: "Sufficiently Breathless"

  11. Comment by Mike Lawson | 2007/11/08 at 12:05:39

    Bob, have you heard Livingston Taylor’s "cover album" called Ink? His rendition of "Isn’t She Lovely" will put goosebumps on goosebumps. Its a great record. David Chesky did him right with this production for audiophiles.

  12. Comment by Leslie Fram | 2007/11/08 at 12:05:58

    Bob,

    I had the chance to see Wet Willie ‘live’ many times working in radio in Mobile, Alabama. Jimmy Hall should have been more noticed as one of ‘the’ best (soulful) vocalists of our time. ‘Gits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry and Mona Lisa was a man’! Also, Chuck Leavell, who is a well known Georgia tree farmer and keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, was in Sea Level. I remember during an interview a few years ago telling him how much I enjoyed their "Sea Level" album and he seemed surprised that anyone remembered them! The people I associated with at Capricorn in the 90′s were true music lovers and kept their heritage alive including Nan Fisher, Rooth Blackman, Phil and Philip Walden.

    Thanks-your email brought back some fond memories!

    Leslie

    Leslie Fram
    99X Program Director
    Co-Host of The New Morning X

  13. Comment by Dave Chesney | 2007/11/08 at 12:06:17

    Bob;

    Capricorn? Marshall Tucker Band? The first time I heard the Marshall Tucker Band I had touched down in Nashville for the first time in my life, slumped in the back of a cab on the way into town, all of a sudden I heard THE LINE "Ain’t gonna be the first night this ole cowboy spent alone." Been a fan of the band ever since.

    Peace

    Dave Chesney

  14. Comment by Barry McCabe | 2007/11/08 at 12:06:34

    Hi Bob,

    Wow, you managed to mention all in one mail a whole bunch of albums I have in my vinyl collection. I thought I was the only one who had all these records or knew about these bands. In fact I was so in love with the Capricorn bands at one time that while I was in the US I made sure we swung through Macon, Georgia to pay tribute to this great label and piece of land.

    Imagine my surprise and slight disappointment when just about nobody seemed to know who or what I was talking about. Maybe it was my accent – and I say that as a joke because of the following funny story:

    We stopped off at a fast food place to get something to eat. We ordered and went to sit at a table. Very shortly after that we noticed two of the girls who’d served us were sitting at the table next to us. They seemed to be very interested in us, so we politely said ‘hello’ or something (at least acknowledged them). They replied – "y’all talk so cute". We mumbled something like ‘thanks’ back to them (as we were kinda shy Irish boys). They replied – "where are y’all from?" to which we replied "Ireland" to which they replied – "did it take y’all long to drive down?" :-)

    True story!
    Peace
    Barry McCabe

  15. Comment by Rocky Del Balzo | 2007/11/08 at 12:06:52

    I grew up and went to college on Long Island. Southern rock was practically all you heard on WLIR. It was a great radio station back then. WNEW would play some of the stuff, but not the way WLIR did. The Allman Brothers were essentially the soundtrack of my youth. Capricorn was a very special label to me. At that time, I knew nothing about the music business. But everytime I saw a band was on Capricorn, I looked at it differently. Sure, Wet Willie didn’t do anything for me, but just about everything else was special. Let’s also take Billy Thorpe out of that equation.

    But, Phil Walden made the consumer feel that there was this little studio in Macon, Georgia and all his bands hung out there and lived there and there was music everywhere. Whether that was fact or fiction, it definitely felt that way to me. Great imaging…intentional or otherwise.

    The great thing about the Allman Brothers, that despite all the changes in personnel they are STILL AMAZING. I am pretty jaded. After about 20 minutes at a live show I am looking at my watch to see when the show will end. There are a few exceptions like Bruce, Mellencamp, JT, Elvis and a few others, but not many. I saw the Allman Brothers at the Beacon and was totally enthralled for three hours. They were phenomenal. I was not prepared for that. I also had the pleasure of standing on the side of the stage at Farm Aid and saw them up close and it was an amazing experience. These guys who are not spring chickens played their asses off. They did not even break a sweat either. They are just phenomenal musicians. No posing, no flipping their hair, windmilling their guitars. They just stood their and played and blew the entire stadium away.

    I too am a Liv Tayor fan, but nowhere near as passionate as I still am about James. If you didn’t see James’ solo tour last year, you missed something very special.

  16. Comment by LeonT | 2007/11/08 at 12:07:08

    Hey Bob, You forgot to mention one of the best bands on the Capricorn label, Stillwater. A great band that never got their due. Fantasy Park, Mind Bender and I Reserve the Right were staples on just about every AOR Station in the south.

    LeonT

  17. Comment by anon | 2007/11/08 at 12:07:24

    Bob -

    I read your column today with some nostalgia. When my opinion was asked by Irwin Steinberg, then President of PolyGram (in ’78 or ’79) whether we should bail Phil’s label out of it’s deal with Warner; I answered a firm DEFINITELY. Although I was it’s Controller at the time (a young gun of 32 or so), I’d previously played my way through High School and College as a lead guitarist and was a big fan of Capricorn’s guitar laden roster of great players.

    Anyway, after a couple of weeks of to and fro and several visits to and from Macon, we negotiated the buyout and my staff produced and I signed a check for somewhere north of $1.5 million. I even got to deliver the check to Bert Wasserman at Warners headquarters at 75 Rock, and while waiting for the necessary signatures on the Releases, I was amazed to see white gloved waiters take and then deliver lunch to Bert.

    I have fond memories of my business and personal dealings with Phil during this period of transition and believed him to be a true genius – music and otherwise.

  18. Comment by Bill Hall | 2007/11/08 at 12:07:42

    Bob,

    Too little recognition for labels like Capricorn and visionaries like Phil Walden. Phil and Otis Redding were the people who started me in the business. Two white guys and Otis in Macon, Georgia, in the ’60s. After Otis’ tragic death, Phil met with Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic and asked "what do I do now?" Jerry suggested a label. Phil asked "what do we name it?" Jerry asked "what’s your sign?" Capricorn was born. Later, Phil called me in NY and asked if I was interested in booking his new band, The Allman Brothers.

    The final weekend of Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers closed the show each night with a jam of such free-form artistry that went on for several hours that no one left the theater until the last note was played.

    So many artists on Capricorn, many you have noted: Capt. Beyond, Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, Dixie Dreggs, Cowboy.

    Maybe a year before Phil’s cancer reappeared, I was a guest of Phil and his wife Peggy at their home in Atlanta. I had already started lobbying several Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board members about putting Phil’s name into nomination in the non-performers category. His name should be re-considered. Many of us were fortunate enough to be around in the early years of Capricorn, Island, Chrysalis, and Casablanca, just to name a few…

    Bill Hall

  19. Comment by Earl Dow | 2007/11/08 at 12:08:46

    Hey Bob, just wanted you to know when I first heard MTB it was at a friend’s house and it became like, "the weed that was the best", years later after being married for a while I found the live album of those songs at a yard sale, and it was like finding a gold mine all over. If I had a time capsule it would be included to share what we enjoyed to the max. Like you say it’s part of the chemistry.


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