The Journey To Nashville, Tennessee

&

The ``Jim Reeves创 Tribute Album

Do you believe in magic?

I mean real magic... not the magic that comes from magicians fingers or white rabbits out of a hat.

 I mean... the magic that can be created within one's self... the inner belief that you can accompilsh something , a dream of a lifetime???

I did just that, in Nashville, TN, USA.

 In the June time of the year 2005 ....

My quest for this dream of being a recording artist began many years ago in Kingston upon Hull, in England, my home town of which you can check out on other parts of this website. The Jim Reeves tribute album though began last year in the June of 2004 in Finland my adopted country of residence now. I got the idea to make several demo recordings of Jim Reeves' covers to send to the fan clubs around the world in commemoration of his fortieth memoriam. The demos were made with my old band ``Finnbeat创 at Bitsound studios in Finland. I recorded five demo songs altogether and the thing was, it took seven months for the musicians in the Bitsound studio to do the instrumental overdubs because of work commitments etc. I personally, did the vocal overdubs of the covers on the day of the recording in two hours...so, you can imagine the frustration I felt when it took so much time to receive the final mixes. So, eventually after seven months, I got the songs and decided that the chance for the 40th. Memoriam opportunity had passed.

I then decided to use the power of the internet to help me in my quest to see my dream come true. I loaded down the tracks that I had recorded with my band to the computer in MP3 format and sent them out to people. One of these people, to my great luck, was Jim Pierce. Now, Jim Pierce is a very prestigious music producer in Nashville, Tennessee and has his own music publishing company and record label, (Round Robin Records). He invited me to come to Nashville and record ``First Class创. I could not believe that this man had endorsed my voice and offered me the chance to record in ``Music City, Nashville, USA创. Now of course, one does not look a gift horse in the mouth and I immediately began to check this man out that had made the offer. He was also connected to none other than Leo Jackson. Yes, the last surviving member of ``The Blue Boys创, Jim Reeves' road band and RCA session band.

 Yes, Jim Pierce, music producer was who he said he was and so began the road to Nashville, TN.

Now I must tell you all that I am a normal working man now, at the moment anyway. I work for a mentally handicapped hospital in Finland called ``K錼kulla Samkommun创 as a serviceman. I used to be a fully professional singer but I went semi-pro as from 1999. So to be offered a chance like this can cause certain problems with employers. I had to organize all the dates and schedule everything around the June time and my holiday. I am lucky enough to have a good and understanding employer and they realized that recording in Nashville, Tennessee is a big chance for anyone. So, after I had secured my position with my employer I started on the long road to gaining a sponsor to help me fund the Tribute project. At first I tried certain businesses here in Finland but no one would take the chance to back this Englishman and his dream. I understood and hold nothing against these businesses for not taking up the gauntlet with me.

What to do? I then got in contact with ITV (Independent Television), in England to try and establish some kind of dialogue to help me in my quest. My sister Patricia, laid much of the ground work in England for the contact. I eventually got to correspond with Mark Witty a producer from YTV (Yorkshire Television) on the program called ``Calendar创. He told me via email that he was prepared to give me some airtime on the ``Calendar创 program broadcast from the Leeds studios in England if I came back to England. So, I flew to England and began preparations for the location TV shoot at the world famous ``Humber Bridge创 spanning the river Humber. The day we did the shoot 15/4/2005, the weather was sunny but still very cold. I arrived at the location with my Sister Patricia and my former manager from when I began Allan Copeman plus his lovely wife Anne and met for the first time with Mark Witty. The first thing he asked me was that I sing him, cameraman and the interviewer (Tina Gelder) a song. I took my guitar and went straight in to ``Lonely Music创 by Jim Reeves. They exchanged looks of surprise and the die was cast for the amount of time they would spend on the film shoot.

I got on TV and the three minutes that the opportunity gave me was to prove a turning point in the whole project. The result was I got my sponsor and from then on it was Nashville bound. I returned to Finland and my job to finalize the arrangements with Jim Pierce in the USA and schedule the session with Leo Jackson in Nashville, TN. I put together a great team of people in my home town of Hull in England to help me publicize the project: My sister Patricia and numerous very good friends of which I will credit at the end of this report. I began my holiday on the 27th May and flew directly to Manchester in The UK. It was while I was in the UK that I was again invited to re-appear on the ``Calendar创 program with my sponsor (Nationwide Diamond Group) to sing live to camera in a studio transmission from the Yorkshire TV studios in Leeds, England. The transmission went out live on 31/05/2005 to 400,000 viewers. I returned to Hull to a hero's welcome from the local folk that have supported me through the years. I then did some more PR work in Hull which include interviews for The Hull Daily Mail and several radio stations, notably Kingstown Radio in Hull. As the time approached to fly to The USA I received a phone call from The BBC in my home town of Hull. It was on the 7/6/2005 that I appeared with Peter Levy on BBC's ``The Look North创news and current affairs program. It was a fitting send off because I flew out of my home country of England and onto an historical recording session in Nashville, TN, USA the very next day. I guess if you add together the grand total of TV viewers for the three times I appeared on TV it comes to 1.2 million viewers.

The day had finally arrived though to fly to Nashville, Tennessee and live my dream. I took off from Manchester, England on the 8th. June at 12.35pm and flew to Philadelphia, USA and then on to Nashville, TN. I arrived at Nashville's international airport at 21.30 the same evening. I did not have to wait long at the airport for more surprises. Jim Pierce the executive producer appeared and we struck up a friendship immediately and he then escorted me to a waiting Cadillac to take me to my motel in Goodlettsville just outside of Nashville. The conversation was electric as he told me all about Jim Reeves and how he had interviewed him many times over the years. How Jim Reeves was a gracious man and had a fantastic sense of humor and wit. I had so many questions but they would have to wait until the following day. I checked in at my motel and he showed me to my room and said he would be by the next afternoon to take me to the Moonlight studio and introduce me to Dick Mcvey the owner. Although I was very, very tired I hardly slept at all...my mind was racing and trying to comprehend that I was in Music City USA to record a tribute album to one of the best singers the world had ever known; Gentleman Jim Reeves.

The next day Jim Pierce called to say that he would pick me up at 14.00 to take me to the studio. I agreed and settled down by the swimming pool at my motel to take in the 32C heat. My heart was racing big style and I really forgot about the fantastic weather in Nashville. To my disappointment though Jim called back to say that he had to cancel the studio introduction for that day because something had come up that needed his urgent attention. As I said, I was disappointed but not too much. At least I had time to rest some more before the ``scratch demo创 with the band. I explored around the area where I lived and also watched the beginnings of The CMA festival on TV down by the Columbia River down town Nashville. There were over 140,000 country fans in town for the festival this year 2005. It was great to see that country music is thriving and just gets better and better. The next day though came the moment that I had waited for the best part of my life! To meet the person that stood and played guitar with Jim Reeves on stage throughout his career, Mr. Leo Jackson. Jim picked me up and we arrived at The Moonlight Studio ten minutes later. All of the musicians were already inside as was the evidence of Cadillac抯 and huge cars that sat on the driveway. I entered the studio and the contrast with the 30 heat outside was immediately discernable with the air conditioning within. My mouth was dry but not because of thirst...because of nerves. We had to climb to the second level of the studio to come to the recording studio for real and every step was exciting beyond words. I finally entered the studio and heard many different American accents. I scanned the room full of musicians and sat in the far corner, on a stool holding a Fender Telecaster guitar was Mr. Leo Jackson. Jim Pierce made the introductions and Leo stretched out his hand and shook mine.

``Hello Mr. Kevin Stocks from England创 he said!

Wow, I tell you I was stuck for words but he soon put me at my ease and told me to calm myself because he was just a ``picker创!! Yeah, right of course. Just a picker...I had just shook the hand that gave us the riffs on ``Billy Bayou创, ``I won't forget you创etc,etc!!! The man that created the guitar sound of Jim Reeves' guitar tracks was before me. I was introduced to all of the other musicians in turn and I seemed to recognize the Bass player, Mr. Mike Leach. I remembered seeing him somewhere and my question was answered by Dick Mcvey in the control room. Dick just casually reminded me that Mike Leach was Elvis Presley's road band bass player in his time and maybe that was where I had seen him. So, by now I am lost in nostalgia and thanking my lucky stars. How lucky can one man get...Jim Reeves' guitar player and Elvis Presley's bass player...Phew!!! We all soon  got to know each other and then we were ready to roll on the ``scratch vocal创. We intended from the very beginning to make the songs in the very same keys as Jim Reeves recorded originally. That way, Leo Jackson could make and re-produce the same guitar runs and we would have the same guitar resonance caught on the recording. The first song that we did was ``Lonely Music创 and when I heard the steel guitar licks in my headphones all the 22 years of waiting in the music business were worth it. Now a scratch vocal is something the musicians use to get a feel for the phrasing and tightening up of the timing of a song around my voice. The vocal take is erased after the recording when they had got all their relevant parts correct to their liking. I would then sing the lead vocal overdub again in its place the next day. The time raced by and the atmosphere became much more relaxed in the studio. Leo was joking and cutting up all over the place and occasionally he would give me some advice on the pronunciation of a word. The overall sense that I got in the studio was one of absolute professionalism and men that know their art to the very extreme. 

Dick Mcvey, who was engineering called time out for lunch. We all piled out of the studio and Jim Pierce and I went to a restaurant not ten minutes away. Leo Jackson and the other guys took off in the other direction but Jim Pierce wanted to introduce me to the ``Good southern cooking of Tennessee创. We ate ourselves through too much southern fried chicken, pinto beans, onion rings soaked in vinegar and well... you get the idea? It was a memorable introduction to the culinary delight of Tennessee that was for sure. We got back to the studio and all the guys were outside hanging around. Some were smoking cigars and others finishing up their Coca Cola's and Dr. Pepper's. We all went back to the job in hand and got through all of the songs in the same day. The ``scratch vocal创 was complete and it was time to say goodbye to the session musicians. I sat down with Leo Jackson, Jim Pierce & Dick Mcvey and listened to the takes and music that was tailor made for my phrasing and voice. We decided it was good enough and called it a day. Leo would be co-producer on the album and told me he would pick me up from my motel the following day to record the lead vocal overdubs. Dick Mcvey advised me not to drink any alcohol or too much coffee before the actual vocal was laid down... but then I could celebrate all I wanted after that??

Leo Jackson was true to his word and punctual too. He came at 10.15 the following morning and almost kicked my motel door down. I opened the door expecting some crazy man but there stood Leo Jackson with a fishing hat on his head, summer shorts and a buttoned short sleeved summer shirt. A big smile across his face which seemed to suggest that he had been there, done that and got the tee-shirt!! He informed me in his southern dialect that I was late by five minutes and then patted me on the shoulder... I was forgiven. ``This is it boy创 Leo said, ``let抯 see if you can nail these songs today?创... He drove me to the studio in his Cadillac and talked about Jim Reeves and the fun he had had with the ``honey larynx singer创. I sat and listened with joy and awe at the stories he recanted. I was privy to the inner sanctum of Jim Reeves behind the scenes and it was fantastic to hear. We arrived at the studio and Dick Mcvey met us and led the way to the control room. Leo took a seat at the mixing desk next to Dick and so began the fulfillment of my dream...to record the songs of Jim Reeves for real with the discerning ear of Leo Jackson and Dick Mcvey to judge the result in the studio!!

Now usually it takes quite some time to get in to the songs in a studio situation but I seemed to feel comfortable right from the first notes of ``There's a heartache following me创. Leo Jackson was impressed with the accuracy and delivery of the lines behind the microphone. He came in the recording booth to coach me through some lines but over all he was happy with my delivery. I watched avidly for the all knowing thumbs up from Leo Jackson and the comforting beckoning from Dick Mcvey to come out of the recording booth and listen to the result in the control room. In one day or three hours of recording we got down 8 songs and they had to be pretty close because Leo Jackson endorsed everyone with that all knowing thumbs up of his!!! As he said,

``You're gonna have to be close boy, 'cause my name's going down on the credits too!!!创

In fact, I was close and one song in particular really got them excited...``Danny Boy创. I nailed that song in two takes and Leo Jackson considered it as one of the most difficult in the bunch that we chose. After coming out of the recording booth he exclaimed,

``You are hot boy and you nailed that song...even Jim himself had a little difficulty with this one, MAN OH MAN!!创

It was at this point after getting eight songs down in one day that Dick Mcvey called time out and ordered me to quit for the day. I guess he did not want me to push it too much. I felt good and could have carried on but he had made up his mind...Rest!! Leo drove me back to my motel room telling me more experiences on the road with Jim Reeves and The Blue Boys. It was at this point that I realized I had made a good friend and not just a colleague in the recording studio...I had earned my stripes in his presence within the studio and his openness and conversation proved this point. The next day Jim Pierce picked me up and took me to the Moonlight studio to conclude the recording of the album. Leo Jackson had already filled him in on the swiftness and accuracy of my performance behind the microphone the previous day. The executive producer Jim Pierce in Nashville, TN was happy! We concluded the album on the Sunday 12th.June 2005. It is almost a year to the day that I got the idea to make several demo recordings to send out to the fan clubs for Jim Reeves memoriam. The dream had come true and with flying colours because I was in good form again and got the final four songs down in two hours flat. Five hours to voice over the music and it was endorsed by the best people that could judge it; Leo Jackson, Dick Mcvey and Jim Pierce, as a job well done!

We went for dinner at a restaurant and celebrated. Jim drove me home to my motel and I broke open a few beers by myself and reflected on what I had just done. I will admit it; I shed a few tears that night. Not least for my late parents and the joy that they would have felt at knowing this Yorkshire lad from Kingston upon Hull in England and their son had recorded with Jim Reeves' guitarist Mr. Leo Jackson. My Mother always said that I should stick to the ballads and I would be OK in the business. She was also a very big fan as was my Father of ``Gentleman Jim Reeves创. I had accomplished my dream of a career spanning 22 years on and off in the music business.

I concluded my visit to Nashville by being given a personal tour of ``Music Row创 by Jim Pierce and his driver Bo. I got to see close up, the famous RCA studio B where Elvis Presley recorded his greatest hits, the publishing companies of BMI, Sony, Warner Brothers & Epic. The CMA headquarters and many other great sites down town Nashville. My recording dream of a lifetime ended as it had begun. I was chauffeured by Cadillac limousine back to Nashville's International Airport and dropped outside of the departure lounge. A porter from the airport opened the door to the limousine and asked if he could take my bags and asked which class I was flying...``economy class创, I said with a smile. I think he expected something else? It was at this point that Jim Pierce left me as he had met me...with a smile, a southern handshake and a comment that said it all,

``You're now a Nashville recording artist son!!!创

I got to record the music that I had always wanted to record...the music of Travis Jim Reeves, better know as;

``Gentleman Jim Reeves创

from Panola county

Texas

God Bless him!!!

My wish came true...I consider myself a very, very lucky man indeed today!!

Sincerely

Kevin Stocks

 

Credits:

Patricia Stocks for PR in Hull England, Graham Flanagan for loan of guitars for TV appearences, John Tranmer for photo session use of guitars, Joyce Borman for hospitality, good food and an understanding ear, Mark Witty and the ``Calendar team创 at Yorkshire TV for believing in me, numerous people for the use of vehicles while in Hull, England, Tom Robbinson and Kingstown Radio for the coverage that he so graciously gave to me. There are many more and you are not forgotten...believe me.

Jim Pierce, Leo Jackson & Dick Mcvey...for the chance of a lifetime!!!

God bless you all!!!

 

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