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Billy Strange Birthday Bash
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« on: May 02, 2008, 04:03:27 PM »

October 2nd, 2005

It was a magic night, that Sunday, certainly one of the best in my life and a wonderful display of love; one of the evenings you really don't want to end. You linger and savor these precious moments because they are so few and far between. The love for Billy Strange and his music motivated people from all over to make a long journey for this single evening of celebration. Whatever I was expecting, it was a whole lot more.

Mickey Newbury put me in touch with Jonmark and Bree Stone who became part of me and they, in turn, connected me with Billy Strange about 5 years ago. His web site is a repository of knowledge about the music industry when it was so much a part of our lives.

As Billy and Jeanne arrived, the sinking Tennessee sun briefly highlighted that beautiful red hair and what a striking couple they make. Billy was resplendent and regal towering above us all with Stetson, suit, suspenders, tie, and boots. He took off the hat and gave Lana and me a hug. This was the first time I had ever met Billy Strange.

Bree had selected the Union Hotel in Nashville and it was the perfect combination of grandeur and history with deep, dark wood and marble floors. As Billy and Jeanne entered "The Majors Room", there was the quiet roar of 140 people and it took them quite a few minutes just to make their way to the front table. Elsewhere here, Billy has written of all who were there. I only got to meet a few.

As my friend Mickey Newbury would say, Billy Strange is the real deal. Off came the hat, the tie was loosened, and he made himself at home. Lana and I were honored to be seated at his table with his son Rusty(genetics all over his face), Chuck, one of Billy's oldest friends and recording allies, Jan from Switzerland, and of course, Billy and Jeanne.

I was in Broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 50 years and am pretty much over being awed by celebrity but I wanted Billy to really like our presentation. I knew in my heart that "Billy Strange: A Man For All Sessions" was the best thing I have ever done professionally. Kurt Milliken took those words, music, and pictures, and made it really work. There were 365 pictures and God knows how many edits, supers, wipes, and everything else that went into it. In an amazing short 3 months, our respective passions created the story of one man's highly remarkable and unusual life.

We opened with Jennifer Warnes and her wonderful audio description of being a little girl on her father's shoulder around 1954 and watching Billy during "Hometown Jamboree" and somehow knowing she would someday be going down that same path.

"So there you were Billy....tall and commanding whether you sang alone or with the other performers...In the last few years, it has occurred to me that you were presenting the last innocent music of America; music that I have always loved and will continue to love".

Jennifer had the room.....quite an accomplishment for a 6 minute audio with pictures. There was thundering applause and it certainly set the tone for "A Man For All Sessions". It's an hour long and by the time it was over, I was totally drained. Kurt was sitting next to me and i think he was vibrating.

Billy Strange, a man I had only met 2 hours ago, put his arms around both of us and said some very kind things...enough to know we had accomplished what we wanted.

It is one thing to have lived your own life and know inwardly everything you have done.

It is quite another to see and hear it all at one time surrounded by the people who love you the most.

Billy's daughter, Kelly, and his granddaughter, Bailee sang to Dad and Grandad.

25 years ago, Jonmark Stone was living in his car and Billy Strange took him in and he worked for and with Billy till the end of the 80's. During that period, he wrote a song about Billy called: "Mr. Music"

He sang it that night and the love between these two hung in the air like magic smoke.

He still calls him "Papa".

You spend all your life wondering where it's going to go and I never figured it would lead to this Sunday night and that other people's passion will make you a better person and performer.

Even with all this, you never can quite get it all down. You can't even really imagine the literal millions of people who have been or will be touched by the music of Billy Strange. The smiles that go with the joy of music and the opening of arteries that goes with that.

Whether it's the open-throated vocals that Jennifer mentions, a guitar lick, like the opening of "Surfin' USA", or one of those arrangements that it is really the edge of a symphony, they have all been preserved one way or another. From old acetates and 78's, to tapes, LP's and 45's, to CD's, DVD's, and minidiscs, they will always be around.

Somewhere echoing is an AM radio station. Hear it? It's the one you listened to where hours of producing, mixing, and tweaking were boiled down to this 45 coming over the radio. And what always cut through the AM mud? A Billy Strange guitar riff or someone playing like him.

He could rock you with the Bond and Ventures stuff and then move you to the top of another mountain with the strings of "Younger Than Springtime" with Sinatra and the musical depths of "Some Velvet Morning". And you can ask Nancy Sinatra just how really good he is.

So we stood beneath the tall clock tower at the Union Station Hotel. The night was warm and so were we. We were brought together by Bree Wilson Stone and joined at the soul by Billy Strange and his undeniable generosity of spirit.

Yes, there were many rewards but the best one is knowing for sure that Billy Strange calls me his friend.(me and thousands of others).

Thank you,

« Last Edit: May 02, 2008, 08:04:19 PM by Jm » Logged
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