debbie bond enjoy the rideDebbie Bond going deep into Alabama Soul Blues Heritage on Enjoy The Ride

Debbie Bond shifts into Northern Alabama soul grooves on the semi-autobiographical Enjoy The Ride – The Muscle Shoals Sessions with increased depth and focus more than ever before with slide guitar, background vocals and deep production reminiscent of what put Muscle Shoals on the map.

`Working with legendary Recording Engineer Billy Lawson [FAME, Muscle Shoals Sound, Wishbone ] as well as Jerry Masters [FAME, Muscle Shoals Sound] and Charles Allen at Big Star Recording Studio, Debbie was able to deliver a timeless slice of Muscle Shoals Soul Blues from the true crossroads of all things true Southern American music.

Debbie Bond’s voice, playing and writing have developed like a fine wine so that with the addition of great horns and background vocals, Debbie continues to cut through everything to keep the focus on her unique style.

Debbie pays homage to Willie King with the best take of “I Am The Blues” that may have ever been recorded while paying tribute to other Alabama Blues mentors Eddie Kirkland and Jody Williams.

The addition of horns and strong background vocals only adds to the dynamics of Debbie Bond’s voice; it’s a revelation of grand proportions.

With guest spots by keyboardist Spooner Oldham, in addition to horn players Brad Guin and Will McFarlane [Bonnie Raitt], Enjoy The Ride – The Muscle Shoals Sessions proves to be a cohesive career defining work with a sound that pulls Alabama Blues and Alabama Soul into one forged weld molten edge of sound.

To be truthful, soul groove has always been a part of what has made Alabama Blues distinctive; music that warms the soul from the inside out like a good meat and three washed down with some sweet tea.

Debbie pulls together the diversity of sound that has put Alabama on the map and shapes it into a well—defined crown of jewels which justifies her calling card as the Ambassador of Alabama Blues to the world. By adding the Muscle Shoals sound and production, this really creates a new chapter much like when Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman jammed all night on “Hey Jude” and started a whole genre that became Southern Rock.

Enjoy The Ride – The Muscle Shoals Sessions ends with “Train Song” which everybody eventually has to write if they have anything to do with Blues or Rock and Roll. Debbie’s train song means it will be time to hit the road, especially in Europe where things are really taking off.

Enjoy The Ride sets a new bar after the Live album That Thing Called Love which put the spotlight on Debbie Bond on stages around the world. This is her finest work yet and delivers on the Alabama promise of pure bliss.

  • Brad Hardisty [The Nashville Bridge, Performer]
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Erin, Joey and Rory, Tin Pan South 2013, Station Inn, photo – Brad Hardisty

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Joey Martin Feek, Tin Pan South 2013, Station Inn, photo – Brad Hardisty

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Erin Enderlin tuning up “Jimmy Dickens”, Tin Pan South 2013, Station Inn, photo – Brad Hardisty

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Joey + Rory, Tin Pan South 2013, Station Inn, photo – Brad Hardisty

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Joey + Rory, Tin Pan South 2013, Station Inn, photo – Brad Hardisty

The Roots of Confidence in Craig Harline’s Way Below The Angels Compared

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Craig Harline, author and professor, courtesy Craig Harline

“Up there pounding in shingles on the bishop’s roof, I started having visions of missionary victory too, even more than of persecution. I saw myself converting whole crowds of grateful people who would – I could hear it – utter my name in reverential tones…” – Craig Harline, Way Below The Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary , pages 11 &12 on early thoughts prior to leaving for Belgium.

While looking at BYU football stats online for Jonny Harline known not only for the last minute play beating University of Utah in his senior year but also for his rock guitar prowess, I decided to check out and see if there was a Fresno, California connection. The Harline family was as synonymous as The Cleveland family through the many years I spent growing up with my Aunt Quevene, Uncle Clyde and baby sister after my parent’s mid-air collision death in 1966 in Livermore, California.

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With a little online research, I found that his father was the same Craig Harline I remembered from Fresno, California who was a few years older than me. Craig and his sister Vickie were well-liked and this was well-deserved as they were inclusive and always seemed to have a positive attitude. I found out that he was an author and had recently published Way Below The Angels (Eerdmans Publishing, 2014) which talked about his own missionary life experience. After seeing a few YouTube interviews about the book, I decided I needed to check it out for myself.

Growing up in the same Fifth Ward [local church unit] in Fresno that Craig Harline grew up in was always a challenge for a gangly, not that coordinated individual, like myself, who was so worried about damaging his hands and not being able to play guitar that I always was a little protective of my digits and held back in the youth Basketball pick-up games before the youth meeting.

The emphasis on sports was a little overwhelming because I could handle myself in gym class at school but playing with Craig or David Harline as well as Larry or Craig Cleveland [older brother, Steve Cleveland went on to coach Fresno City College, BYU and Fresno State]was like meeting up with some NBA players in a summer practice session. I knew they were running plays but I had no idea of the language since my afternoons were spent practicing guitar or going through my record collection for riffs or song ideas. I started working near full time at Senor Taco near Blackstone & Shaw in Tenth Grade in order to pay for gas and Levi’s jeans and that ended my participation.

There was no shortage of things to do growing up in my local church in Fresno, California. Although we had a great full size wood slat basketball court as well as a great softball field out back, we also were exposed to the arts and a lot of speaking engagements.

We had a first rate Boy Scout program spearheaded by Brother [adult reference in Mormon culture] Busby, who came off as kind of a post-military type and later, Brother Morgan who placed great emphasis on achieving merit badges. I even got my Music merit badge from Val Hicks, who was the one time vocal coach for The Osmonds and was now a Music Professor at Fresno State.

I got together one time a few years ago with Brian Hayes, Jeff Hayes and Brian Nolan who had all grown up at one time or another in the Fresno Fifth Ward and we got into a lot of Fresnan speak, very loud, connecting words and all fighting to get into the conversation. One of the wives spoke up and said, “Can you guys quiet it down? Do you have to talk so loud?” Jeff Hayes’ response was, “It’s Sister Bowen’s fault that we all learned to “PROJECT”!” We all laughed at that one because it was true. Sister Bowen was the Musical and Drama Director for the local church and she took it seriously. We put on some spectacular 24th of July productions where I even got to play electric guitar early on.

 I would rate knowing the Bowens right up there with other Fresnans Dennis Morrison [guitar player extraordinaire, whose mother, Voni Morrison co-wrote “Act Naturally”] and Gary Lomprey who was the first serious guitarist I ever knew personally.

My first attempt at a garage band was in Jason Bowen’s bedroom with Jason on drums, Todd Bowen on bass, Brian Nolan on guitar and me trying to fake lead guitar. It wasn’t at all great in any way other than the fact that one has to start somewhere and Sister Bowen must have somewhat approved at our attempt to make some noise or she would have shut it down.

Fresno was a serious music town. People from the outside might kind of chuckle, but I lived through it. I wanted so bad to be a serious musician but found that so many people I met were so far ahead of me that I couldn’t figure out where to fit in until I left Fresno when my Uncle Clyde got transferred right before my senior year in High School.

I remember the great Jazz drummer Louie Bellson playing with the Hoover High [Craig Harline’s alma mater as well as my Fresno experience] Jazz Band at a music store opening when I was in Ninth Grade. Music was so serious in the schools that getting into the music program at Fresno State seemed to be like playing in The Tonight Show Band at that time.

Craig Harline in Belgium

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I kind of wished I was a few years older because Craig Harline and his peers at church managed to pull off a pretty decent band. One of them was Tom Davis, who was playing drums ever since Elementary School. I knew Tom since I was in First Grade. My Uncle got along with his Dad and I wanted to be a drummer when I was a Cub Scout.

One time, Tom Davis talked me into ditching with him from a Cub Scout trip that was supposed to go to a museum or something. I was probably eight years old. We headed to his house because his parents were gone. I was hoping to play on his drum kit but we ended up racing around on his Go-Kart. Unluckily for me, my Uncle Clyde saw us walking along the road and when I got home, he tanned my rear and I was grounded for a while.

Anyway, at this church dance, Craig Harline was wailing away on the family’s Wurlitzer or Hammond organ, while Tom Davis played drums, Don Freeman played guitar and Steve Standing played bass through one of those tall Fender Cabinets. They jammed on Santana, Deep Purple and some other stuff. They sounded really good to this Ninth or Tenth Grader.  Craig was playing through a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet. That was the first time I had ever seen one of those. What a mind blowing experience for a kid like me who had been seeing bands jam since I was six years old in San Jose, California watching Count Five go through “Psychotic Reaction” in a neighborhood garage.

Craig makes mention of his “Scripture Chase” skills that came from showing up at 6 AM in the morning at the church and studying scriptures and Gospel concepts from 9th through 12th grade. It was one of those rights of passage I think even more so growing up in Mormon culture in the Seventies.  We actually had a lot of fun, especially prepping for “Scripture Chase” [finding a scripture with a clue in a hardbound copy as fast as you can, based on 40 or so scriptures given out to concentrate on for that school year] while listening to the church propaganda concept album Like Unto Us which was a vinyl-side long piece that was something in-between Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them” and The Moody Blues’ “Nights In White Satin.” It was some kind of a trip-hypnotic piece with the church’s okay that was distributed throughout the church to keep us quiet during study time.

Elvis Presley was impressed with this set up after barging into Ed Parker’s kids’ class in the early hours in the L.A. basin when Ed Parker [Body Guard, Father of American Karate] dropped off his kids. Elvis couldn’t believe that High School age kids were actually studying scriptures for fun before school. Elvis commented later to Ed Parker that he wanted to raise his daughter, Lisa Marie in the Mormon Church. That happened in 1977 and Ed Parker wrote his comments in a book  about his friendship with Elvis shortly after his death. The book was approved by his father Vernon before it was published.

If this was not enough of a balanced upbringing, we church going LDS Fresnans had our own Welfare Farm where we would prune in the dead of winter and later harvest with steak knives taken out of the kitchen drawer the precious Thompson Seedless grapes that would turn into raisins and sent worldwide through the church welfare program like a communal upstart version of Sun-maid Raisins.

Craig would come with his father, Brother Harline, once a month to my house for many years when I was a wee lad doing what they call home teaching. This visit was also used to back up what principles and doctrines my Uncle Clyde was trying to teach me while I was growing up.

It was a difficult situation because I was extremely mad about my parents passing away and having to grow up with my Aunt and Uncle, who never smiled at me, never hugged me or never told me I was a good looking kid. My Aunt Quevene continually stressed how mad she was that she had to raise my Dad who was her youngest brother while her sister got to go out and now she was stuck raising me.

I always felt uneasy at home and somehow I was supposed to understand the benefit of church rules without the joy. It was like, this is the rules of society and you are a second tier member of this Church and Society. I hated the vibe I got from the whole situation and spent many hours brooding and trying to figure out if my Aunt and Uncle were going to kick me out when I was sixteen or after I got out of high school.

My younger sister, who was only 2 ½ when our parents died was always looking for acceptance from my Aunt and Uncle and many times joined in on letting me know what a misfit I was.  My baby sister and I are now really close and look back on those times for what it’s worth

I wanted out as much as possible: Outdoors, maybe run away to L.A., travel to Berkeley for real on weekends, skateboarding in Capitola, anywhere besides “Home”.

One of the lines church members would use when they found out my parents died when I was young was “God must have had a special plan for them and needed both of them” which was somehow supposed to make me cheer up but it ended up making me upset. God decided we didn’t need parents that knew what we needed or who we were, he needed them instead, well fine; I think I’ll just do whatever the flip I feel like then. It took me many years to develop my own relationship with God.

Craig Harline, according to my young naive view, came from one of the perfect Mormon nuclear families where the parents are involved, encouraging and help to develop self-worth. I really wanted that but felt more empathy for the kids that ended up in a lot of trouble and often were roaming around on their own.

It was against this background that Craig and I had different starting points leaving on our missions. This is what led me to read and review a missionary memoir that was published almost two years ago. Knowing that Craig had that strong background of success in the home and at school, I wanted to know about his mission experience.

The great thing about Way Below The Angels is that it is not just a time line travel text but Craig opens up his thoughts, thirty years on, reflecting how he felt, both positive and negative about possibly the biggest paradigm shift he made in two years.

The first few chapters show how awkward learning the language and culture was in pre-online web search days. This was the Seventies and the most that could be learned about Belgium before actually breathing the air was a few pages in an Encyclopedia Britannica, playing a fake “Dutch” game and learning Flemish from returned church missionaries that were attending Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho looking for a wife.

Craig realized that he was going to stick out like a sore thumb with a strange (by Seventies standards) CIA-like haircut in a day and age when the Alpha Male was Joe Namath with his shoulder length hair and “Broadway” style. Not only that, but the plain white shirt worn every day “branding” would lead to such a recognizable sub-culture that the South Park creators would make a mint on Broadway lampooning missionaries in Book Of Mormon The Musical.

Craig Harline writes in such a way that you could see his own confusion in the differences between the perfect culture of the Fresno, California Fifth Ward with a bonus high scoring sports super star additive and the mainly Catholic, centuries old ways of the Belgian people. Craig throws in enough Flemish translated directly back to English, as well as handfuls of “Flip” and “Fetch” [Mormon missionary swear word replacements] to realize this is not going to be an easy ride. The early descriptive of travelling by bicycle through different shades of cold, damp and gray villages make the beginning of this pilgrim’s journey more like Chinese Water torture than the film The Best Two Years.

Craig’s beginning purposes were a balance of wanting to return the conquering hero, get taken serious by a Mormon girl to be marriageable material and thinking that there would be multitudes of Dutch people that would remember him somewhere between John the Baptist and Captain Moroni.

Expectations, whether real or imagined, were intense. It was enough to cause health issues.

As Craig goes back and forth between Seventies era Belgium and modern era reflection, he reserves the right to speak with plainness just the way he thought about things when he was a teenager. This makes for a truthful recollection rather than a filtered after thought and I found myself saying, “I totally get it, I was there myself.”

The developmental arc flows from the pre-mission “cool one” life to the bewilderment of becoming self-aware in Belgium to the summarization of a grown man with tons of life experience realizing that he was one of many that not only had a similar experience but also had the same consequential “nightmare” where he is called to go back and serve again on a recurring basis. This is similar to the dreams of finding one’s self back in high school because there were still courses to complete. It was this incompleteness that led to going over the past and sorting it all out. Craig felt it may be possible to get rid of the “ground hog day” recurring dream by finally putting it all to rest.

In the last act, Craig finally has several epiphanies that help him sort out himself and what he should do while he was there and what he should work on, which was really nothing at all. It was really about self-discovery and trusting one’s own gut feeling even to the point of admitting when he was wrong that finally brings peace and a connection to the Divine.

Craig finally realizes the beauty of this foreign place both in the scenery and the people.

He recognizes the goodness in people no matter where they are in life and seems to really get the benefit of growth and maturation in the second year before returning home.

The real question of commitment is answered not by how Craig views himself, but what he actually does after he returns home.

Craig Harline, after leaving the mission field in Belgium, goes onto earn a Ph.D. in European History from Rutgers University and becomes a Professor of History at Brigham Young University, teaching courses that reflect his own wanting to look at the big picture about The Reformation, The History of Civilization, History on Film as well as The History of Christianity.

Craig’s academic world has allowed him to travel back to Belgium several times and deepen the ties that began as a big question mark with many of the people he met from all walks of life.

In looking back at my own time as a missionary in Venezuela, I would not have left in the first place at age 22 if I didn’t realize it was all about losing myself in service to others. Between my own religious self study and the prodding of a really good Bishop, I thought I might find my own self-worth by getting out of my own messed up world.

While Craig had several expectations and aspirations going in, I had none. I had no idea about the how, what, when or why. I had sold everything I had of any worth post-college age including several valuable guitars and pieces of gear and a Chevy Van to offset the cost.

Whereas the benchmarks of success: Leadership and Baptisms seemed like they should have been quickly attainable, or so,  Craig thought, in truth it created a painful soul searching situation. On the other hand, I was rather shocked by my success and leadership abilities that manifested during my own two years away from “home”.

Craig had discovered a path in his education when he got back home that has led to some great continued experiences that really show the depth of his commitment to the part of himself that he left in Belgium.

I still had to face an unknown future with better family ties. Somehow, the mission commitment I made greatly improved the relationship I had with my Uncle Clyde. He had gained a respect for me by what I did rather than what I said.

When I got back home, I tried College for a while but finally just left on my own for Southern California and started building my own self-awareness outside of missionary life which took several years.

I even found myself going back to playing guitar and dealing with Uncle Clyde on that issue again. Only, this time I had an answer pop into my head when he gave me a scowl and said he couldn’t believe I was out playing guitar again-letting me know what a waste of time it was. I just said, “Go talk to my friends. If they tell you I don’t know what I’m doing or I am no good, I’ll quit playing guitar.”  Somehow, that ended the discussion once and for all.

I wish I could go back to Venezuela. I did to try to connect with the people I met there with very little results because of a very bad postal system. Just like Craig remembers the Orange Roofs as he flew into Belgium the first time, I remember how beautiful Barquisimeto was and getting my first Cuatro.

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The details that Craig Harline puts into Way Below The Angels will put you in a place and a mindset that is not only the 1970’s but is timeless in Mormon culture and is not that much different than what others go through on their journey to realize their own personal gifts and abilities that help to leave their own mark on the world.  It is a great read and very honest soul searching on the meaning of life that anybody can relate to who is very self-aware.

This memoir has won several awards including: The Juvenile Instructor – 2014 Best Personal History/Memoir, 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award GOLD Winner for Religion Mormon History Association – Best Memoir 2014, Association for Mormon Letters 2014 Finalist: Best Work of Creative Non-Fiction

Craig Harline is a well-known author in religious history circles having written several books including, Conversions: Two Families Stories From the Reformation and Modern America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), Sunday: A History Of The First Day From Babylonia To The Super Bowl (New York: Doubleday, 2007) and Miracles At The Jesus Oak (New York: Doubleday, 2003).

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN
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Lorrie Morgan at Nashville Visitors Center, photo courtesy Dana McDowell

Multi-Time Female Vocalist Of The Year Award-Winner To Guest On SiriusXM’s Prime Country In Support Of New Album, Letting Go… Slow, This Weekend

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (January 22, 2016) – “If you think I won’t, just watch me,” are words coined by country songstress Lorrie Morgan in her Number One platinum-selling smash hit “Watch Me” (1992), and twenty-four years later, she’s still saying them.

While visiting the Nashville Visitor Center inside of the Bridgestone Arena prior to an interview on SiriusXM’s Prime Country, Morgan spotted a hot pink Project 615 t-shirt hanging on the racks with all of her long-time musical heroes listed on the front: Patsy, Loretta, Reba, Emmylou and Dolly.

So what did she do?

She grabbed a Sharpie and penned “Lorrie” right at the bottom.

“I probably shouldn’t have ‘vandalized’ the shirt like that,” Morgan said of the incident shortly after. “I just couldn’t help it. There it was dangling in front of me saying ‘don’t do it, don’t do it,’ so what did I do? I had to do it!”

“Patsy, Loretta, Reba, Emmylou and Dolly are country icons, and some of my biggest musical heroes. They’ve paved the way for so many females in the country genre, including me, and I’m very proud and honored to get to call them ‘friends,’” she said.

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Lorrie Morgan personal addendum, photo courtesy Dana McDowell

The daughter of country music legend George Morgan, Lorrie remains one of the youngest performers ever to grace the Grand Ole Opry stage, making her first and everlasting impression on the country music world with her father at the age of 13. She is also the first female country vocalist in history to achieve three consecutive RIAA-Certified Platinum albums: Leave The Light On (1989), Something In Red (1991) and Watch Me (1992).

Opening up to the world about some of her most personal trials and tribulations on what’s being pegged as her ‘most revealing album to-date,’ Letting Go… Slow, Morgan will appear on SiriusXM’s Prime Country this weekend as an in-studio guest on “The Charlie Monk Show,” airing Saturday, January 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. ET.

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Lorrie Morgan & Charlie Monk, photo courtesy Lorrie Morgan PR

On SiriusXM’s Prime Country, channel 58, Morgan joins long-time music industry veteran, Charlie Monk, dubbed ‘The Mayor Of Music Row,’ to talk about her over 40-year career, her life’s biggest challenges including the loss of her father, and husband country legend Keith Whitley, as well as what kind of new music fans can expect to hear on her first solo album project in five years, Letting Go… Slow.

Morgan’s career accolades include multiple CMA/TNN/CMT Awards, three platinum-selling albums, one double platinum-selling album, fourteen top hits and four Female Vocalist Of The Year awards and thirteen recorded albums. Her top-charting include “Except For Monday,” “Something In Red,” “Five Minutes,” “What Part Of No,” “Good As I Was To You,” “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” “Watch Me,” “Dear Me,” “’Til A Tear Becomes A Rose (with Keith Whitley),” among others.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Jan. 29 Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts – Kansas City, Mo.

Feb. 13 Downstream Casino Resort – Quapaw, Okla.

Feb. 20 Little River Casino Resort – Manistee, Mich.

Feb. 23 Grand Ole Opry – Nashville, Tenn.

Feb. 26 Horseshoe Casino – Bossier City, La.

March 5 Paragon Casino – Marksville, La.

March 12 Seven Feathers Casino Resort – Canyonville, Ore.

March 19 Georgia National Fairgrounds – Perry, Ga.

March 25 Golden Nugget – Las Vegas, Nev.

April 16 Grand Casino – Hinckley, Minn.

April 22 Shooting Star Casino – Mahnomen, Minn.

For more information on Lorrie Morgan, visit or follow her on Facebook and Twitter!


See where the goal is at and support Marion James funeral this Saturday at Marion James Queen of The Blues gofundme site.

New! Official press release update below regarding funeral:

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Well, there are a whole lot of things about Jimi that were peculiar about him that we laugh about. So really, Jimi he was kind. One of the habits, I guess it’s natural for a person to do it but, I noticed that he never did like to wear no shoes. He would just walk barefooted you know.” – Marion James on Jimi Hendrix, September 2015

The Nashville Bridge: Do you think you will get up and sing with Jack Pearson?

Oh yes, I mean, you know, if it comes to that, I think I can cover it.” – Marion James on upcoming Musician’s Reunion Show, September 2015

Nashville’s Queen of The Blues, Marion James once known as “House Rockin’ James” back in the day when Jefferson Street was jumping with Live Music passed away where she always called home: Nashville, Tennessee on December 31, 2015.

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Marion James, photo – Brad Hardisty

Marion James kept busy helping others through The Marion James Musicians Aid Society as well as planning events such as the Annual Musicians Reunion which featured legendary Nashville Blues and related genre Artists as well as featuring more recently established artists ranging from Alabama’s Debbie Bond to local guitar and vocal legend Regi Wooten.

The first tribute to Marion James to be released was written by Nate Rau at The Tennessean which covered a great overview of her 60 year career.  There are great quotes by those who worked the closest to her, David Flynn [current President of The Musicians Aid Society] which has helped in times of need, the older musicians that trace their lineage to Jefferson Street for close to twenty years and Lorenzo Washington [Jefferson Street Sound] who released her last official recording, “Back In The Day” whose lyrics were about the biggest passion in her life; to tell the “Historia” [Marion liked to use the Spanish version of the word]as she used to say of Jefferson Street and the importance of the Jefferson Street scene in the history of Nashville’s musical past .

She was the strongest ambassador of the great sounds that came out of North Nashville during the time that she recorded the top ten hit in 1965 “That’s My Man” written by her late husband, James “Buzzard” Stewart. The single was re-released on vinyl as a limited edition recently on Record Store Day in the United Kingdom with the original Excello label.

“Buzz” Stewart was known as a great horn arranger and putting together a great band that backed Marion. The band featured great young players, like Jimi Hendrix who stayed in Nashville after being discharged from Fort Campbell, Kentucky along with a young Billy Cox [Jimi Hendrix].

Upon hearing of Marion’s passing, Billy Cox remembered one time, not too long ago, when he was in Los Angeles and Marion’s name came up.  He said it was surprising how many players were in Marion’s band at one time or another back in the day including Billy Cox saying that Marion also took him under her wing as a young musician.

Billy Cox is featured in the photograph of Marion James’ band that is on the cover of Night Train To Nashville Volume Two 1945 -1970 which was taken in 1971 after Jim Hendrix had passed away.

Marion James was included in The Country Music Hall Of Fame exhibit “Night Train To Nashville” as well.

Marion James even recorded a song by Billy Cox, “Find Out (What You Want)” for Nashville label K&J Records.

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Marion James at 30th Annual Musicians Reunion and Benefit, photo- Brad Hardisty

Marion James had a story about every great musician that set foot on Jefferson Street. One time she talked about riding with her girlfriend in the back of Arthur Gunter’s [“Baby Let’s Play House”] big car that he kept shined up for many years after receiving the royalties from Elvis Presley’s recording of his song which he had originally released on Nashville’s Excello records. She described how you had to keep your feet up since you could see the road through the rusted-out floor boards.

In recent years, Marion James had released recordings in the United Sates and Italy, most recently Northside Soul [Ellersoul Records] was recognized as one of the greatest blues recordings to come out in 2012.

While continuing her Musicians Awards show as well as the Musician’s Reunion, Marion was currently fundraising to erect a statue of Jim Hendrix outside the current Elks Lodge on Jefferson Street which was once The Baron Club, sight of the infamous guitar dual instigated by Jimi [Jimmy back then] Hendrix versus Johnny Jones who was headlining the club. During that fateful night, by all accounts, Johnny Jones got the best of Jimi but that was way before his days in New York City or London.

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Marion James, “Nashville’s Queen of the Blues” sings “24 Hours A Day” at Metro 50th Concert, photo – Brad Hardisty

Marion James last large stage performance was to over ten thousand fans as one of the headliners at the Nashville Metro 50th celebration outdoor concert which also included Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush and Del McCoury.

Marion became well known not only as a performer and recording artist but a songwriter and over the last two years she had been working on a gospel song which she hoped to include on a future full length recording.

Marion also hoped to one day return to the road in Italy where she had fond memories of performing in the past.

Marion James funeral will take place where her heart was at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, 2708 Jefferson St, Nashville, TN 37208 next to the Elks Lodge where her committee had been working tirelessly with support from the community to enshrine the Jimi Hendrix Nashville legacy this Saturday, January 9th 2016 at 11:00 AM.

A Marion James gofundme page has been established by current President of The Marion James Musicians Aid Society, David Flynn to help with the proceeding while longtime friend and music entrepreneur, Lorenzo Washington [Jefferson Street Sound] is working with Marion’s family members to make sure that all the details are complete that Marion had asked for.

UPDATE Jan. 5. 2015:


David Flynn

Funeral services for Marion James, Nashville’s “Queen of the Blues,” will be held this Saturday. At 10 a.m. a horse-drawn carriage will convey her casket from Smith Brothers Funeral Directors, 706 Monroe Street, to the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, 2708 Jefferson Street.  A one hour visitation at the church featuring music will begin at 11 a.m. and the service will start at noon.  Several ministers and a series of speakers will celebrate the life of Ms. James.  She died of a massive stroke on December 31, 2015.

Marion James, 81, was officially declared “Queen of the Blues” by the Nashville mayor’s office last September after a lifetime of blues music and of helping others. She had a national top-ten hit, “That’s My Man”, in 1966, and recorded a number of CD’s over the years including Northside Soul released in 2012.  Jimi Hendrix got his professional start as a member of her band.  Ms. James founded the Marion James Musicians Aid Society, which for decades has helped musicians in need.  Her Musicians Reunion, a fundraising all-day blues festival, celebrated its 32nd year in 2015.

A gofundme account has been set up for those who want to help with her funeral expenses. The link is: .

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    Marion James – Nashville’s Queen of the Blues at 30th reunion, photo – Brad Hardisty

    Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN





tower records movie

The Belcourt showed a few screenings of the documentary on the once great record outlet; All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall Of Tower Records which documents the once billion dollar music retail chain while trying to gain some understanding as to what happened to the great mothership of deep catalog outlets.

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Tower Records Fresno, 1978, The Fresnan

So many of my teenage years were spent going to and deciding what to buy at the Fresno Tower Records location after opening in the mid 70’s next to a brand new Pacific Stereo store. While I waited for the “everything-in-the-store-for-the-same-low-price” sale that came every so often, I would go through every bin of vinyl as well as the eight tracks, cassettes and reel to reel releases.

I knew where everything was. I learned during the screening that Elton John has me beat. He knew where everything was at the Los Angeles store which dwarfed every other location back in the day.

I remember the day they opened at the strip mall on Blackstone. They had a rock trio on the back of a flatbed truck in the parking lot blasting through Orange Amp Stacks. They were playing ZZ Top covers. They sounded great and that was the first time I had ever heard or saw Orange Amps.

One time, they had a Wet T-Shirt Contest out in front and I was little embarrassed because a girl from my Drama class at Hoover High School who was 16 and posing as “over 18” won.

van halen women and childrenI finally got to the Sunset location in Los Angeles when I was down in the area with the Snow College Jazz Band in 1980. I purchased a copy of Van Halen Women and Children First on cassette for the car while we drove around Southern California.

After I moved to 1984, I avoided going into the store for fear of spending my entire paycheck. I mainly would just drive by to see the big cover art displays and signage. I saved my dollars for the occasional purchase at a local record store in Costa Mesa, California because of my tight budget at the time.

the smiths how soonI noticed every store was different. It was like every location had its own vibe and bands they would push. I saw how big The Smiths were in Orange County at the Mission Viejo / Lake Forrest store near my work. The Smiths had their own display rack of every single they ever made.

ramones sheenaTower Records in Buena Park had a lot of Punk Rock and obscure Ramones stuff.

I actually made the trek to Tower Records when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama after seeing that there was one in Nashville, Tennessee. By the time I moved here in 2008, it was either gone or on the way out.

I remember FYE was there for a while but they never had the deep catalog of Tower Records.

the cretones

The last thing I bought from Tower Records Nashville was a Russian 2 CD set of the Best of Angel. Angel was difficult to find on CD. In fact, there are a lot of things that never were released on CD that were at the top of my list. There has never been a CD release of The Cretones Planet Records catalog. The Cretones were kind of like Elvis Costello & The Attractions if they lived near Joni Mitchell’s house in Laurel Canyon. In fact, three cuts made it onto Linda Ronstadt’s “new wave” album Mad Love including the title track.

There-in lies the rub: the turning back to vinyl for music lovers of all ages. I now own The Cretones first two albums in pristine quality for a few dollars as well as a couple of 7 inch singles.

The big question is how did Tower Records grow into a billion dollar business only to file for bankruptcy a few years later? They try to answer that question in the last fifteen minutes.

They talk about not selling singles. The youth quit coming and that meant death to future development business. The seven inch and twelve inch singles had the artwork and some exclusive B-Sides and mixes prior to the advent of YouTube. A CD single was not worth a dime. It still isn’t.

The other one was the price of a CD. The list price and average price was exorbitant. The actual cost of manufacturing was much less than vinyl so while this was to cover some marketing and the cost of promotional videos, much of this was a cash cow for the record companies and retailers that actually made the record business bigger than the film business in the Nineties.

The beginning of the end was Napster and file sharing. Lars Ulrich [Metallica] was right. At the time, he was demonized by other bands and his own fans for suing downloaders. If the record companies and bands had lined up behind Lars and took the whole file sharing scheme on in court and stiff fines were imposed for stealing music maybe the industry would not be where it is today.

It is missed opportunities like that which eventually drove the once gigantic Tower Records to be liquidated by its own creditors. It is hard to believe that every time a Tower Records opened up, there were hundreds of people lined up at the door much like an In N Out Burger joint opening is today.

The big chains are all gone and the small Mom and Pop shops and segmented Indie start up stores have taken their place. This is a mere ghost reflection of what sales figures were less than twenty years ago.

herb alpert whipped creamRecord buying was a part of almost everybody’s life whether it was Mom and Dad buying Herb Alpert & The Tijuana BrassWhipped Cream and Other Delights or some stoner blasting an 8-track of Black Sabbath Vol. 4 from a 1969 Chevelle SS with a 396 and tuck and roll interior.

Everybody was building their collection, a physical collection that was where friends and party goers gravitated.

Songs and records were a framed reference for friends, loved ones and events that transpired through the time space continuum. It was not background fodder or best of song lists in Pandora or Spotify.

There were jobs involved in the music business; everything from retail clerks to buyers, distributors, manufacturers, advertising and so forth. There are thousands upon thousands of jobs that are gone.

The one bright spot in the documentary was how Tower Records founder, Russ Solomon pushed to get a store open in Japan after a couple of investors came forward. He was met with a lot of resistance but pushed forward and in 1980 opened in Sapporo, Japan. As the business de-construction Managers came in, Tower Records was forced to sell off the Japanese division. Tower Records Japan exists to this day with 85 locations.

The implosion of the music business story begins to show a real personal toll as the story of Tower Records is told from the very beginning to the aftermath by Russ Solomon and the key players, some of whom breakdown telling the story of the final days of the once renowned Retail Giant.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Leah Nobel discusses her new EP, Music Licensing and making the move from Austin to Nashville.

Leah Nobel 2nd EP Cover_ Just Like SundayFollowing a successful year including “Ride The Butterfly” taking first place in the Pop category of the 2014 Indie International Songwriting Competition as well as “How To Behave” being featured in The Girls Guide To Depravity on Cinemax, Arizona native, Leah Nobel decided to double down releasing two EP’s in one year following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The first, Strangers Again, with its melancholy vibe is familiar territory while the recent release Just Like Sunday has more of a summer time feel that also features some stretching stylistically for Leah.

Leah just recently moved to Nashville after spending several years in Austin. This isn’t her first experience with Nashville, Leah started making the trek here in 2009 working with Producer Mark Prentiss and they have worked on three projects over the last few years.

Leah began work with Austin area Producer Keith Gary earlier this year and completed both projects before making the move to Nashville to focus on a more dynamic methodology to get her music out there. The music business infrastructure is what sets Nashville apart and gives Artists like Leah the opportunity to be more collaborative musically and in presentation.

The first single being released is “You Got Me So Good” which adds a new texture to her repertoire with its retro Soul ala Amy Winehouse Back To Black girl group vibe meets Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth) vocals.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: How was the gig the other night at The Basement?

Leah Nobel: It was great. We had a pretty good turnout that night.

Was it a Songwriter Round style show?

It wasn’t a Songwriter’s Round. There were five of us that played on Sunday so we did about a 35-45 minute set and it was great. It was really great.

Did you preview some of the new material that came out?

Yeah, so , Sunday was the start of my national release of my new EP that came out the 15th. We played a lot of stuff off of that record. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what I did this year but I released two EP’s six months apart.

I saw that you had a good Kickstarter campaign and you are working with the same Producer?

Yeah, I worked with the same Producer. We played a little bit of both the first EP and the second as well.

I did read that 2014 was a successful year. I guess you decided to crank it up and put out some material.

Yeah, well it was really time to make a new record but I decided I didn’t really want to do it in a conventional way. I sort of made some observations of how the music industry is changing and the way people consume music is changing. I wanted to do this double project so that I could do two separate projects with two different flavors and have them both come out in a year. It is kind of nice to have the time between because it kind of keeps people engaged now.

The two EP’s; are they thematically totally different or musically?

Yeah, thematically they are totally different. The idea was to showcase two different styles of writing that I like to do which is I love to write sad music, you know, more melancholy songs so the first EP that came out, Strangers Again was my melancholy piece. The second [Just Like Sunday] EP, which came out last week is a super light, upbeat, sweet, Pop album. Definitely, there is a thread of continuity between them. You can tell that they are part of a project but, thematically you have the dark and the light.

 Okay, so Strangers Again is kind of an introspective piece whereas Just Like Sunday is more of a go-to “summertime” music style.

It’s called Just Like Sunday because I just felt like these songs were songs that reminded me of the weekend or reminded me of music that I listen to on Sunday when I’m just kind of hanging out or cleaning my house. The second record was designed to be simply sort of fun and sweet.

Tell me a little bit about your Producer?

His name is Keith Gary [Mike Meadow, VELO, Ray LaMontagne, Coldplay]. He produced both records and he is based out of Austin, Texas.

Ok, so you’re based out of Nashville as far as living, but you’re still tied to Austin as far as production?

Sort of, the first couple of projects that I did, I actually did in Nashville. But, at the time I wasn’t living here. I have spent the past four years in Austin so I recorded the new projects in Austin, I moved here [Nashville, Germantown area] in May so, I have only been here for a couple of months. Maybe my ties will be different, now that I won’t be living there or working there.  But, I do love the city [Austin] it treated me right,

I was going to say from some of the reviews I’ve seen, you’ve got a lot of support in Austin. They still see you as a hometown person.

Definitely, yeah. I moved there for four years. I just recently moved to Nashville so, Nashville isn’t quite my home yet. Not yet, at least.

You’ve moved around some, where did you start performing?

I’m from Arizona so that’s where I started performing.

You got involved in a Café scene. You’ve talked about a couple of artists that you were into in California. How did that get things kicked off for you?

I started listening to music when I was a teenager kind of falling into that café scene. I didn’t discover them from going and seeing shows. I did through the internet and at that time I had just begun to write music and I didn’t really know what I was doing, where I wanted to head, sort of stylistically. I was definitely really inspired by artists like The Weepies and artists like Joshua Raven and Ingrid Michaelson and people like that.

What affected you the most as far as inspiration or your sound when you were living in Austin for four years?

Yeah, well Austin is an amazing city, it’s got a really good edge. It’s got an eclectic group of people that live there. I think that during that time that I lived there, I grew a lot as a person and as an artist because there are so many amazing artists in Austin and they are very diverse stylistically. I had, just like, a lot of friends there who I played music with and went to their shows and what they were doing would have crept into my psyche and my ideas of recording and what I wanted to do with my music. It was just really cool to be surrounded by all those incredible Musicians and Artists. The cool thing about Austin is it’s a mixed bag because Austin is a really great place to play music and enjoy music and there are so many positive people there.

So, now you are in Nashville. You can have your choice of publicists, getting your media out there and getting tours lined up. How do you find Nashville to be for you? How do you like it here?

Courtesy Leah Nobel

Courtesy Leah Nobel

So far, so good. I mean, I’m from Arizona, originally, and living in Austin has some Southern influence to it but, Nashville feels very different, culturally, to me. I’ve never lived in the South, so, it’s beautiful but, it also has been an adjustment. So far, it seems really good. I have been getting involved in doing a lot of songwriting as far as licensing purposes for other people and there is really just a good creative energy here. There are a lot of people that are really working hard and it is really good to be around because it is motivating. Everybody has been really supportive too. I don’t play Country Music. I would classify my music as sort of Folk Pop. People have been really receptive to it, which is really great. I wasn’t sure, although, Nashville is expanding in terms of the genres that it supports. I wasn’t sure how my music was going to translate here and, so far, it has been really great.

Who do you work with here in town?

Well, I’ve been kind of travelling a lot and I recently moved here. The show at The Basement was actually my first show in Nashville. So, I don’t have yet a repertoire of people that I am performing with. I’m sort of in a state right where I am just trying to meet and network with as many people as possible so I can find my home, people to work with and people to play with.

What’s the first song that you are pushing off the new album?

It’s called “You Got Me` So Good.” It’s kind of a breezy Motown influenced track and it kind of turned into the perfect slow dancing song which is, kind of, something I really like. I’m really proud of that song.

You had a mini tour planned that kind of fell through so, what are your future plans?

We were supposed to go out with Eric Hutchinson and he was on tour with Kelly Clarkson and she ended up cancelling the rest of her tour because she was sick or she had vocal cord issues so, that tour ended up falling through which was a really big bummer. We don’t have anything concrete that we have announced yet. I’m really focusing on writing for licensing and getting involved with pitching my music and writing for television and film. That’s definitely a big thing that we’re focusing on right now, for sure. Also, we are starting to crack into the College scene. I graduated in 2010 but, it still feels like a pretty great place for my music. So, we are kind of figuring out how we want to approach that this year. Unfortunately, I don’t have any official dates that I can announce yet..

It sounds like you are getting a foundation going.

That’s what I’m working on. You know, you have to rebuild when you move to a new city personally and also musically, I left my band and I left my fan base and everything in Austin so I have this wonderful new band here which has been great and like I said, I have just been focusing my energy on networking and writing and meeting people and kind of find my own base here.

I think you’ll enjoy it here.

Courtesy Leah Nobel

Courtesy Leah Nobel

It’s been really good, so far. I can feel it growing and changing more. I’m living in Germantown and things are getting built every day around me with new construction projects.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN