Recently, Sturgill Simpson brought out a horn section for his performance at Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Fortunately, rialto1961 did a great job of recording a large portion of the show in black and white before posting it on YouTube.
In this segment of the show from September 26, 2016, Simpson performs a number of originals and covers. The video includes: “Water in a Well,” “Long White Line,” “When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin cover), “I Never Go Around Mirrors” (Keith Whitley cover), “The Promise” (When in Rome cover), “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (William Bell cover), “Sea Stories,” and “In Bloom: (Nirvana cover).
Check out the video below.
What is your favorite Sturgill Simpson song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
On October 22, 1903, Tom Horn was hanged in Wyoming, one day short of his forty-third birthday. Historians generally do not dispute that Horn had killed a number of men. But most believe Horn was innocent of the killing for which he was hanged. Many are familiar with Horn’s later life through one of Steve McQueen’s final films.
Tom Horn’s Life
Horn was born on November 21, 1860 at a family farm in Scotland County, Missouri. Young Tom had a troubled early life, growing up in a large family with an abusive father. In one of his early fights, he was beat up by two boys who then killed his dog.
At the age of sixteen, Horn moved West. There, he worked a number of different jobs, including acting as a scout for the Army. Horn acted as an interpreter when Geronimo surrendered to the Army. After the Apache Wars, Horn bought his own ranch. But cattle thieves overran his ranch, again causing him to wander.
Horn found other work, such as as a prospector, a ranch hand, a deputy sheriff in Arizona, and an agent for the Pinkerton Detective agency. But it was his work for cattle companies that eventually led to his demise.
During the Johnson County War in Wyoming, Horn worked for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Reportedly, Horn killed a number of men in this role. He then worked in Colorado for the Swan Land and Cattle Company, where he again killed more men who were suspected of rustling.
Horn then served in the Army in Cuba during the Spanish American War. Eventually, though, he ended up back West working for cattle owners, this time working for cattle baron John C. Coble in Wyoming.
The Murder and Trial
On July 18, 1901, the body of a 14-year-old son of sheep ranchers was found murdered. Authorities began investigating the killing of the young Willie Nickell, soon focusing on Tom Horn.
The government put Horn on trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The trial featured as a key piece of evidence a statement Horn made. He had claimed, apparently while still drunk, that if he did the killing, it was the “best shot that I ever made and the dirtiest trick that I ever done.”
On October 24, 1902, the jury found Horn guilty of the murder. A few days later, the court sentenced him to death by hanging.
The governor refused to stop the hanging. And Horn was hanged in Cheyenne by means of a “Julian Gallows” that used water as a means of releasing the trap door.
Many historians believe Horn was innocent of the killing of Willie Nickell, while noting that he did do a number of other killings. Still, his case is a reminder of how innocent people may be convicted of capital crimes. Still today, we discover innocent people on death rows across America.
Tom Horn on TV and Film
Tom Horn’s story has resonated in popular culture. The 1954 television series Stories of the Century, took an unflattering look at Tom Horn and his crimes.
The episode portrays Horn as someone who worked for the law but “then for some reason turned criminal.” In the episode, actor Louis Jean Heydt portays Horn.
Steve McQueen provided the most famous portrayal of Horn in the 1980 movie Tom Horn. The film was based on Horn’s writings, and McQueen gives a largely sympathetic portrayal of Horn, while not shying away from his violence.
McQueen was notorious for clashing with his directors, and Tom Horn went through several directors before TV director William Wiard came on board to finish the film. McQueen also requested several rewrites of the script, which included work by the great Western writer Thomas McGuane. Tom Horn — which was released on March 28, 1980 — was the next-to-last film released that starred McQueen. During the filming of the movie, McQueen had trouble breathing, and he was later diagnosed with a form of lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma. On August 1 of that year, his final film, The Hunter, was released. McQueen died on November 1, 1980 at the age of 50.
The movie Tom Horn received mixed reviews and did a disappointing $12 million at the box office. At the time, Variety claimed that McQueen appeared to be walking through the lead role. But actor James Coburn claimed Tom Horn was McQueen’s best film. Currently, it has a 68% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie seems to have aged well over time, as has Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, which was released the same year. Empire calls Tom Horn an “underrated, gloomy Western.”
In subsequent years, viewers were more tolerant of Westerns that focused on something besides action. In 2014, True West explained that the movie and McQueen’s acting in the film were ahead of their time: “Audiences were used to action-packed Westerns with gunfights and brawls. McQueen offered them something different—a meditation of the West and a character study of one of America’s best-known figures of the era.”
Below is the trailer for Tom Horn. Check it out.
Photo via public domain. What did you think of the movie “Tom Horn”? Leave your two cents in the comments.
Randy Newman recently gave listeners a sneak peek at his next album with the release of the song “Putin.” Newman, who has always been skilled at finding the humor in the powerful, came up with the idea of the song when he saw a photo of a shirtless Vladimir Putin riding a horse or a tractor.
Newman explained to the Washington Post, “A person with that much extraordinary amount of power, doing things like that is disturbing but also kind of amusing.” Newman also noted that the song has nothing to do with current presidential candidate Donald Trump’s apparent fondness for the Russian leader.
Newman attempts to humanize Putin the song to some extent, revealing that the leader may have some doubt about his abilities. The songwriter realizes that the world is not black and white and that Putin is still a human being. Check it out.
The photo of the shirtless Putin was not the only thing that helped inspire the song. Newman explained to the post how he loves the song “Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’,” which is a 1943 Willie Johnson song recorded by the gospel group The Golden Gate Quartet.
The World War II song praises Joseph Stalin and the Russian people for their stand against Adolf Hitler and his army. Check out “Stalin Wasn’t Stallin'” below.
Randy Newman’s upcoming album is in the mixing stage. Newman explained that some of the songs feature more than one character and that he tries to bring in everything he has learned into the new album. We can’t wait. What do you think of “Putin”? Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo via www.kremlin.ru
Charlie Rich, who had a long career of making great music, suddenly found himself with a huge hit album with the 1973 release of Behind Closed Doors. The title track was one of the most popular songs of the time. And it was followed by the equally popular hit, “The Most Beautiful Girl.” The Country Music Association named him Entertainer of the Year in 1974. But it would be his return to the CMA Awards stage the following year that many would most remember.
The following year on October 13, 1975, Rich returned to the Country Music Association Awards show to pass the torch to the new “Entertainer of the Year.” After Rich announced the nominees, which included a bit of rambling, he opened the envelope. After picking up the dropped announcement of the winner, he set it on fire. After a brief pause, he said the winner’s name, “My friend, Mr. John Denver.”
Then, John Denver appeared via satellite, apparently unaware of what just happened. But when the camera returned to the stage, host Glen Campbell looked a little confused. (Feel free to disregard the uploader’s message at the beginning of this video, but it is currently the only available video of Rich’s award presentation.)
Below, you may listen to CMA Executive Director Jo Walker-Meador remember that night in the video below.
Why Did Rich Do It?
Many regarded Rich’s actions as a protest against giving the award to Denver. Some speculated that Rich thought Denver was not “country” enough.
That reasoning does not seem quite right, as Rich himself was not a traditionalist, having started out with rock music at Sun Records. Further, his previous year’s success came from an album with a non-traditional country “Countrypolitan” sound based on a suggestion from producer Billy Sherill.
Rich himself never made a statement that the act was one of protest. If one watches the video, one sees the more logical explanation: Rich was drunk and/or on drugs. His speech sounds slurred, he rambles at times, and he struggles to open the envelope. Further, there does not seem to be much time for reflection between clumsily opening the envelope and pulling out his lighter, as if he planned to do it all along (although maybe he knew the winner ahead of time).
Rich’s son has offered a similar explanation of the night. On his website, Charlie Rich Jr. explains how his dad was not one to judge other musicians and he also was friends with John Denver. He believes his father lit the announcement on fire out of a combination of bad judgment and believing it would be funny. Charlie Rich Jr. explains that his father was on pain medication for a foot injury and was also drinking gin and tonics that night.
He continues: “I know the last thing my father would have wanted to do was set himself up as judge of another musician. He felt badly that people thought it was a statement against John Denver.” Additionally, Charlie Rich Jr. remembers his father later unsuccessfully trying to meet up with John Denver while on a trip to Colorado. He does not know if his father ever got to explain things to Denver.
Viewers still debate the meaning of Rich’s act. One commentator has speculated maybe it was a combination of all of the theories, thinking “the gesture was partly a joke, partly the result of mixing meds and booze, and partly a sincere expression of annoyance at the notion of John Denver as a country music legend.”
Rich’s Later Career
Unfortunately, Rich’s fire-lighting act before a large audience and the country music industry helped send his career into another slump. And the CMA banned him from future shows.
Rich eventually did record some great songs again. But he never again reached the level of the hits from Behind Closed Doors. Additionally, he had some bit parts in movies.
Rich’s last record was a wonderful jazz-influenced album released in 1992, Pictures and Paintings. He died in his sleep in 1995 of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 62.
Charlie Rich is one of my favorite artists of all time. If you only know him from his hit country songs in the 1970s, you should check out other parts of his catalog.
One of my favorite songs of his is “I Feel Like Going Home,” which appears in a jazzy version on Pictures and Paintings. But I especially love the demo version that features only the piano and that voice. The first time I heard this song, I was driving in my car and I had to pull over to listen to it. Here, it is a perfect bookend to the discussion of his fire at the CMAs.
Surprisingly, Charlie Rich is not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. For more information about lending your voice to supporting his membership, check out the Charlie Rich website. He also deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
On October 14, 2016, Memphis International Records is releasing Feel Like Going Home (The Songs of Charlie Rich), a tribute album of Charlie Rich songs recorded by artists such as Jim Lauderdale, Will Kimbrough, Susan Marshall, Shooter Jennings, and Charlie Rich, Jr.
What is your favorite Charlie Rich song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
American Band, the new album by Drive-By Truckers, immediately signals the songs are about to tackle issues in contemporary America with the first words of the first song. In the opening track, “Ramon Casiano,” the first lines proclaim, “It all started with the border,/ And that’s still where it is today.”
The Killing of Ramón Casiano
Casiano was a 15-year-old Mexican teen killed in 1931 in Laredo, Texas. The killing occurred after the 17-year-old Harlon Carter returned home from school and his mother told him about three Latinos hanging around the family’s property.
Carter took his shotgun and found Casiano and two friends at a nearby swimming hole. Carter insisted the three go with him to his home to answer questions, but Casiano refused and pulled out a knife. Reportedly, after Casiano laughed off Carter’s attempts to take the young men, Carter shot Casiano in the chest and killed him.
Harlon Carter’s Career
The incident would have long been forgotten except for Carter’s career after his trial and appeal. Initially, a court convicted Carter of the homicide and sentenced to three years in prison. But later, an appeals court reversed the conviction because of an incorrect jury instruction on self defense.
After the prosecution was eventually dropped, Carter went to work for the U.S. Border Patrol starting in 1936. Eventually, he rose to leadership positions within the National Rifle Association.
In 1977, Carter led a revolt within the NRA that led to his election as NRA Executive Vice President. Under his leadership, the NRA moved from its focus on issues like hunting to take a more hard-line stance against any laws limiting ownership of guns.
Carter’s killing of Ramón Casiano, however, laid buried in his past for a long time. After denying his involvement in the killing for some time, Carter finally admitted it in 1981.
The killing of Casiano echoes in our time, with links to the killing of Trayvon Martin, who is more explicitly referenced in another song on the album, “What It Means.” “Ramon Casiano” also connects to the current presidential election’s focus on immigration.
Songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley of Drive-By Truckers tackle a number of issues making the album relevant today while also making great music. In “Ramon Casiano,” which was written by Cooley, the chorus indicts Casiano’s killer and several of today’s leaders.
He had the makings of a leader, Of a certain kind of men, Who need to feel the world’s against him, Out to get ’em if it can.
Men whose trigger pull their fingers; Of men who’d rather fight than win, United in a revolution, Like in mind and like in skin.
“Ramon Casiano” is biting commentary, all the more relevant because it comes from a southern band. The Houston Press asserts that the band’s new album American Band “reclaim[s] Southern rock for the good guys.” Meanwhile, Slateaffirms that on the album, “[w]ith songs about racism, police shootings, and immigration, the Southern group is making rock great again.” NPR concludes, “American Band lives up to its name in how it digests, understands and challenges the notions of what it means to be American.”
The praise being heaped on American Band is a heavy weight for it to carry. One album cannot atone for the sins of a country or lift up everyone. The new songs did not have to reside on YouTube long before angry comments appeared.
But even if one song cannot change things, it can reach some people and educate a little bit. If nothing else, the song makes one wonder what kind of man Ramon Casiano might have grown into had he been given a chance, even if we already know how things turned out for his killer. “It all started with the border,/ And that’s still where it is today.”