A Conversation with Jerry Lane
Would you tell us a little about your self?
Well, when youíve lived as long as I have, thereís a lot to tell! I was born in 1939 in Gorman Texas. It was a small farming community. My family lived in Comanche, TX, but Gorman was the nearest hospital. So thatís where I entered this great world! Throughout my childhood we lived all over the state of Texas. My Dad was a salesman. A traveling salesman you might say. So, we lived all over the state and I went to a different school nearly every year. We finally settled in Comanche in 1950 and lived there until about 1955 when we moved to Irving, TX where I still live. Iíve lived here off and on since 1955 except for a short time in Nashville and Ft. Worth. The rest of the time Iíve been right here in this little ole town!
Itís good that you havenít moved away from your roots to much!
No, Iíve tried and tried but they keep dragging me back. I like it here, but itís getting so crowded now. It used to be a little town, but now itís a suburb of Dallas.
That seems to be the way it is everywhere. A few years ago Kennesaw, GA was just a little place but now itís springing up everywhere!
Yep. Boy, theyíll do that. Theyíll get away from you. Iím about ready to make another move out to the country!
There just about ainít no more country left, is there?
Boy, aint that the truth!
How did you become associated with Chart Records?
I was a police officer here in Irving and I was working a club over in Dallas a couple nights a week. Ray Winkler, who owned the club and was co-writer of Jim Reeves hit "Welcome To My World", also co-wrote a song called "I Feel A Sin Coming On". I recorded it here in Dallas and somehow Ray learned that Slim Williamson was looking for some artists. He sent the demo up to Slim and, in all reality, I believe, he liked the song better than he liked me as a vocalist. I think he probably signed me as an artist to get part of the publishing on the song. We released the record. It didnít do a lot, but it got me a contract with a good record label and got me started as a recording artist. And thatís pretty much how I got started with Chart. Oh, and by the way, Jerry Reed covered my record.
Were you more a songwriter than an artist at that time?
At that time I had just begun to write seriously. Iíd been writing songs since I was 14, but I had just gotten into it fairly seriously. I was more of an entertainer at that time. I left the police department in 1965, and in Ď63/í64 I had my first song recorded and released by Webb Pierce who was still a pretty big artist at the time. It kind of pushed me in the direction I later followed in life. Of course that was being in the entertainment business.
What years did you record for Chart?
I started recording for them in 1965. My first record was "I Feel A Sin Coming On" and my second record was a duet with Lynn Anderson called "Weíre Different". Both of those were released in í65. I think I was with them about 6 years or so.
Were you there when Slim sold out?
No, I had already departed and was recording for ABC. It seems like I signed with ABC in í71.
So you went from Chart straight over to ABC?
No, it wasnít quite that direct a route. I left Chart because I was living here I Texas and I didnít have that closeness with the industry. I was trying to do everything from long distance. That put me at a disadvantage, but I was making a living here. I was without a label for a little while. I cut some stuff for a little independent label in Dallas then I got with ABC. As a matter of fact Lloyd Green was more instrumental in getting my contract with ABC than anybody. I had come to Nashville and cut four sides. Of course Lloyd was my steel player and my session leader. Lloyd and I were always pretty tight and we got along real well and I think he kinda like my singing. ABC records had just opened their country music branch, and Lloyd talked to Ron Chancy who was my producer at ABC. I think Lloyd put in such a good word for me that they signed me.
How did the album deal with Chart come about for "Loverís Lane"?
Well, we had already had almost enough material for an album recorded. A lot of the songs had been released as singles. Gene Hood wrote a song, sort of a play on my name, called "Loverís Lane". That song solidified the deal and we had something to work with. It worked out pretty well.
I have noticed that some artists released a lot of singles, even enough to fill an LP, but never released an LP for whatever reason.
Well, maybe Slim just liked me!
Iím sure he did. Who were the core musicians at most of your sessions?
Of course we had Lloyd Green on steel and as session leader. "Pig" Robbins on piano, Tommy Alsip on a lot of stuff. We used a lot of different guitar players and drummers, On Bass we used Jr. Huskey, who played the upright bass which I still prefer on my recordings. Thatís the core of them. All of them were first-rate musicians. Slim did not scrimp on musicians or studios. We used the best ones available.
No doubt about that. And it shows in all the records. How involved were you in selecting the material for your LP and singles?
I had a great amount of leeway in that area. I wrote most of the songs I recorded. I think that was what Slim wanted. He not only wanted a singer, but also a writer so he could build up his publishing catalog. It worked out for both of us. Iíd write a song and take it to him and if he thought it was worth recording, we took it to the studio and recorded it! As for the album, it sort of made itself from the songs we had already recorded.
You were signed to Yonah Music as a writer; Did you ever have any songs published on Slimís Peach Music company?
Itís hard for me to remember all that was published back then, but I donít think so. When I signed my recording contract, I also signed and exclusive writers contract with Yonah.
How did the pairing of you and Lynn Anderson come about?
I was at the DJ convention in October, 1964 (I think). It took place in downtown Nashville at the Andrew Jackson Hotel and the Hermitage Hotel. Thatís where all the record labels had a hospitality suite. We were sitting in the Chart hospitality suite having a beer or what have you. Liz & Casey Anderson were in town with Lynn and they came in. Lynn was about 17 years old at the time. Slim had heard her sing and was very interested in finding a vehicle to get her on record. During the course of the evening I had been singing some of the new songs I had written. Slim had heard me singing "Weíre Different", a duet I had written and he liked it. He asked me to sing it for Liz, Casey, & Lynn and they liked the song. Slim said while they were in town, why not cut this duet with Jerry & Lynn. They were living in California at the time. They agreed to it and we cut it and thatís how that came about!
That was before she had actually signed a contract to record for Slim, right?
Yep, I think thatís what got her name on the dotted line. Iíve told her several times after that I made her a star and she should have done the same for me!
Well, you were a star in your own right. You had some very good songs. Itís strange, you know, I donít know why some artists make it huge while others who in my opinion are just as good only just make it. Itís strange.
Well, I donít know either. We did have some good songs, we just didnít have that monster hit. I think that once I really got into writing I realized Iíd rather be a writer than a star. I enjoyed writing much more than performing.
Iíve written a few things, maybe one day Iíll try to get them published, who knows.
Itís pretty satisfying, at least for me. I really enjoy writing. I like the creation process. You can say, "Iíve done this all by myself" or if you have a co-writer, "all by ourselves". Youíve really created something there. That is a lot of satisfaction whether it gets recorded or not.
What was the general atmosphere like at Chart?
It was a pretty exciting time for an ole country boy from Comanche Texas! Chart records had a family atmosphere, the record business was booming, At least it was on the verge of booming. It was pretty exciting. It was a good feeling and a warm atmosphere with everyone involved.
How did your association with Chart affect your career?
It got me into the recording part of the business and into the Nashville part of the business. It allowed me to do my business in Nashville but continue living in Texas where I could make a living working the night-club circuit.
How about your career after Chart? You had said that you moved over to ABC records and cut a few records on an independent label in Dallas.
I left Nashville and came back to Texas where I could make a good living. In Nashville all I was doing was just making a living. I recorded a couple things with Janus Records. They charted nationally, but I donít know how far up they got. They were pretty good records. With ABC I had two what I call near hits. I had one called "Tear Joint", and one written by Eddie Rabbit before he became famous called "Right Out Of This World" .ABC bought Dot records and we had about 50 artists. I kinda got lost in the shuffle and decided to drop out of their deal. I started writing more and playing the club circuit. I started my own label, Stockyard Records, and Iíve had 4 or 5 releases on there so far. Thatís about it as far as the record part of my business.
Were there any more albums or only singles?
I recorded a Made For TV album. It was a double LP of songs we would sing in the clubs. Things like "Swinging Doors", "Only Daddy Thatíll Walk the Line", stuff we would sing in the Texas beer joints. It was sold only on TV and we sold over 300,000 copies!
Man! Thatís a lot of records!
It was a very successful record. We did that around 1979 or 1980. There was one out on a label called Bryson Records. They bought some old masters and put it out. I donít know anything about it really. Thatís about it.
Did you buy your masters back from Slim?
No I did not. I was too far out of the circle by then. I didnít even know they were available to me at the time.
Do you have any regrets about anything during your association with Chart?
No. I think I got about all I could from the association and I hope I gave back just as much. It was a good association and I have no regrets.
Thatís good. When you can look back with fondness and happiness on a situation, thatís the best way.
Yes it is.
You call your self Jerry Max Lane now. Was that a recent change (after Chart) or did you drop that when you signed with Chart and then pick it up again?
Of course thatís my real name. When youíre a kid and your mother calls you by all three names you know youíre in trouble!
Boy Howdy! I know that feeling!
A very good friend of mine who was a very prominent college football coach at the University of Texas by the name of Darrell Royal started calling me that. I was telling him a story about my mother calling me Jerry Max Lane and he said "Yep. I understand that!" and he started calling me Jerry Max Lane. It just took of from there. ABC somehow got wind of it and they were the first to start calling me that on my records.
It was the same for me back in Kentucky.
I guess it the same all over. I wrote a song about Kentucky once. I once took a trip with a friend of mine through Ky. He had a little business of re-treading tires. He would go out to the mines and things and buy them, take them back and re-tread them or whatever needed to be done. So we were in his 18 wheeler driving along and I saw a sign that said Dawson Springs next exit. I just kinda liked that name, Dawson Springs, so I just wrote a little song about it.
The north wind of Chicago at my back
Dawson Springs ahead, I see the sign
Kentucky Ďneath my feet for the first time in years
The taste of Mommaís cooking on my mind.
The leaves have just begun to turn to fall
The grass is still green with the dew
Iíll bet the fishingís good and Lord, Iíll find out soon enough
With Dawson Springs coming into view.
I mean no disrespect by what Iím saying
But once in my life Iím getting lucky
God knows I spent my time in Hell up in Chicago
And when I die Iím going to Kentucky
And thatís my Kentucky song, at least most of it.
Hey, thatís a neat song. I donít think Iíve ever heard it.
No, itís never been recorded. As a matter of fact, I donít think I ever pitched it. Itís just one of those personal things I scratched out on my way across the fair state of Kentucky.
That sounds like a pretty good tune.
I think so, too. I like it pretty well. I just never had the opportunity to record it so I never pitched it.
Can you see a time when the old traditional style of country music will make a come back?
Lord I hope so! Thatís pretty much what Iím bound to write. Thatís what I like and thatís what I do best. Although, I do write some of the stuff their singing now. Co-write. My little brother is one of the hottest writers in Nashville now. He wrote "Run Baby Run" for George Strait, he had a couple LeAnn Womack A-side hits, "A Little Past Little Rock". Heís hotter than a stove right now.
Cool! What is his name?
Tony Lane. I co-write with him a little. He stays on top of things down there. I donít really like some of the new country music and I have trouble writing something I donít like. So I pretty much stick with the traditional.
Lloyd Green is going back into the studio late this year (2002) to do some recording. Heís pretty confident that the music scene is going to be turning back around sometime in the near future. I sure hope it does.
So Lloydís not retired? I keep hearing that he has. I didnít think he would ever give it up.
Well, from what I understand he had a problem with his ear that prevented him from hearing well enough in the studio so he did retire for a few years. He is now all cured of that problem and is ready to get back into the studios.
I am glad to hear that. Thereís no one Iíd rather see get back into it than Lloyd Green. Thatís where he belongs.
He is definitely a fine musician.
One of the best! Lloyd was in the studio doing a session with Lynn Anderson and I happened to be there. This was the only time I have ever done session work as a musician, but I didnít get paid for it. Iíll have to tell Slim he owes me for a session!!. (laughs) Anyways, they were cutting "Ride, Ride, Ride". Lloyd played the intro like the start of a horse race. Well, I had half a coconut shell in each hand and a little box of gravel and I made the sound like the hoof beat of a horse.
So that was you, huh!
Me, 2 coconut shells and a box of gravel! I told Slim I was percussionist on that session and I need to be paid for it!! (laughs)
Lloyd and I talked about those "clops". I think he told me he thought it was Buddy Harmon, but I donít remember now.
I shall have to remind him it was me!
Well Jerry it was wonderful talking to you and I appreciate it.
It was good talking to you too Martin. Youíre doing a fine job with this project and Iíll be happy to help you out in any way I can.
Thank you! I really do appreciate it. Take care and let me know if I can do anything for you.
I sure will, take care.