Sign up for newsletter

Jim Lauderdale reaches a new plateau

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2001

Page 2...

"I was writing with him in his office, and we were talking relationships, stuff like that. He said 'you'll know when it's right.' When he said that, I just got these chills, and all of a sudden this melody came out. I always have my recorder with me. He was talking, and I said, 'Wait a second.'"

"He took out his pad and started pontificating. This stuff kept pouring out of us - these lyrics. He's writing it down. We had that song in one sitting."

Lauderdale and Montgomery penned two songs together "Just to Get to You" and "I'd Follow You Anywhere."

Lauderdale hooked up with Montgomery through his publisher. "I had been a big fan of hers for a long time, and I asked them if they could set it up," he says, referring to a writing session.

"I was a little nervous at first, but Melba is just so so sweet. She's really gracious and patient and very kind. I relaxed a lot. We wrote a tune together 'What Do You Say to That.'"

A guy by the name of Strait recorded it and had a hit with that. "So, we got lucky," says Lauderdale.

The oldest song of the batch is "Honky Tonk Haze," which Lauderdale wrote about 19 years ago with John Nessler, a friend from John Nessler. The two met in Nashville and shared the same passion for Gram Parsons and Clarence White.

Lauderdale recorded the song about five years ago with the late Huskey and Bucky Baxter, who has played with Steve Earle and Bob Dylan.

Perhaps the most unusual song for Lauderdale is "Diesel, Diesel, Diesel," written with Del Reeves and Jeremy Tepper, a Brooklyn resident, who's an expert on the trucking song genre.

About five years ago, Tepper, who also runs the Diesel Only label, contacted Lauderdale about producing Reeves for a compilation record.

According to Lauderdale, Tepper told him, "'You can write it if you want it or do some kind of cover.' I thought 'hey it would be easier to write something.' I had a bluegrass song I thought maybe we could (record), but then I got this melody and title. I had all the guys booked."

But no song.

"A lot of times, I write under pressure. It's really nerve-wracking. Sometimes to force myself, I'll book studio time. A lot of the Ralph Stanley stuff, I might work and work and work and come up with blanks. Then, I go into the studio and come early and stay late and send out for lunch, I'll able to finish a lot of the stuff. It happened on several of the songs for the first album with Ralph."

With the "Diesel" song, "We get in the studio. I had the title and the concept. Del was supposed to come in at 12. I was outside trying to get the lyrics. Jeremy came in, and I was trying to stall and get everybody to talk. I finally said, 'I'm having a hard time with this. How about you coming and helping me out?' Jeremy and Del came up with the rest of the lyrics."

Lauderdale, 44, was born in Statesville, N.C. and grew up in the small town of Troutman, population 1,200.

"It was very much like Mayberry. When I'd see Andy Griffith on TV, I'd think this is just like Troutman, and I still think so when I see Andy Griffith."

The Lauderdales moved to Charlotte when he was five because of a new job for his father, a Presbyterian minister.

His mother, Barbara, was a high school chorus teacher and church choir director. Music was a fixture in the house.

"I remember when The Beatles first came on Ed Sullivan, which was a life changing experience for millions of people. That really excited me."

Growing up in North Carolina and later South Carolina, Lauderdale says he was exposed to "an eclectic mix of music...You hear bluegrass and country."

But thanks to his sister, he also listened to Hendrix and Cream. Later the Allmans and blues masters like Muddy Waters entered his world.

Bluegrass, though, was his love. "When I was 15, I got blown away by bluegrass music. It really just hit me hard. When I first heard 'Rank Stranger,' when I first heard Ralph (Stanley's) voice, it really did something for me. It was as strong as when I saw The Beatles on TV. When I saw Flatt & Scruggs, it was the same thing."

His love of country soon followed thanks to George Jones, Hank Sr., Bob Wills and Buck Owens. He also got into "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead," Grateful Dead albums.

"So, I've always had an open mind to lots of different stuff, but I've missed a lot of the trends in music because I got into the older stuff."

Lauderdale left Due West, S.C. to finish his high school years in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area before heading to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem where he played bluegrass and country.

Next stop was Nashville where he recorded a never-released album with Roland White in Scruggs' basement. Marty Stuart played on it. "This is the sad thing. We can't find the masters...I don't know what happened to it. Hopefully, some day, it's going to turn up because I just have cassettes."

« PREVIOUS PAGE 1   |   2   |   3 NEXT PAGE »