SON-OF-A-GUN AND MORE FROM THE LEE HAZLEWOOD SONGBOOK.

SON-OF-A-GUN AND MORE FROM THE LEE HAZLEWOOD SONGBOOK.

On August the 4th 2007, Lee Hazlewood passed away aged seventy-eight. That day, music lost one its most talented sons. During a career that had spanned six decades, Lee Hazlewood had worked as a singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. Somehow, though, Lee Hazlewood found time to found his own record label LHI Records in 1967. By then, Lee Hazlewood had been involved with music since the the early fifties.

That was when Lee Hazlewood left the army. Prior to serving Uncle Sam, Lee Hazlewood had been pursuing a career in medicine. That was the past though.

When Lee Hazlewood left the US Army, he decided not to pursue his medical degree. Instead, Lee Hazlewood began work as a disc jockey. That he hoped, was only temporary.

What Lee Hazelwood really wanted to do with his life, was write songs. This must have seemed like a pipe dream to his friends and family. However, Lee Hazlewood had the last laugh. His songs were recorded by artists over a fifty a year period. This includes several generations of musicians that feature on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The  Lee Hazlewood Songbook. It’s just been released by Ace Records, and features twenty-two tracks. There’s contributions from Waylon Jennings, Billie Dearborn, Sanford Clark, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sanford Clark, Mark Morriss, Gold Leaves and Primal Scream With Kate Moss. They’re just a few of the names on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook that were recorded during  Lee Hazlewood’s long and illustrious career. His story began during one of the darkest periods, American history, the Great Depression.

 Lee Hazlewood was born in Mannford, Oklahoma on the 9th July 1929. During his early years, Lee and his family moved between Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Brought up on a diet of bluegrass and pop, Lee’s tastes broadened when his family moved to Texas. Music it seemed was in his blood. Despite that, Lee didn’t make a career out of music when he left high school.

Not at all; music seemed to be the last thing on  Lee Hazlewood’s mind. Making a career out of music only came later. When  Lee Hazlewood left high school, he headed to Dallas’ Southern Methodist University. That was where he studied medicine. After university, Lee joined the US Army during the Korean War. When he was discharged from the Army, Lee decided medicine wasn’t for him. 

Instead, Lee took a job as a disc jockey. His reason for doing so, was it allowed him to work on his songwriting skills. Lee had decided to pursue a career in music. That didn’t mean spinning records. No. It meant writing them.

The first hit Lee wrote and produced was Sanford Clark’s 1956 rockabilly hit The Fool. That was just the start of Lee’s musical career. He went on to pen two more hits for Sanford Clark, 1956s Usta Be My Baby and 1957s The Man Who Made An Angel Cry. Lee then wrote Leroy Vandyke’s 1957s The Pocket Book Song and Pat Boone’s 1957 single Why Did I Choose You? However, Lee’s career really took off when he met innovative guitarist Duane Eddy. 

Best known for his twangy guitar sound, Duane Eddy will always be remembered as  a pioneering guitar player. With  Lee Hazlewood writing and producing many of his singles, Duane Eddy went onto enjoy a successful career. Lee penned and produced 1958s The Walker, Rebel Rouser, Dixie Part 1 and Peter Gunn. Soon, Lee began writing for other artists, including Sam Horn and His Orchestra, Mark Robinson and Das Hazy Osterwald Sextet. However, just like 1958, most of the hits he wrote were for Dune Eddy.

During 1959, Duane Eddy enjoyed a string of hit singles. Forty Miles of Bad Road, Only Child, The Quiet Three and Shazam. Duane Eddy was now one of the biggest names in music. Although Lee had to keep the hits coming for Duane, he penned singles for Hans Brandel and Sanford Clark. This was no bad thing, as the hits started drying up for Duane Eddy.

1960 saw Duane Eddy release just three singles, one of which Rebel Walk, had been released before. Luckily, Lee was writing for other artists including Paul Rich, Tony Castle and Greg Connors. Another artist who’d release a single during 1960 was  Lee Hazlewood.

Lee’s debut single was Words Mean Nothing. which Lee recorded with Duane Eddy and His Orchestra. It wasn’t a commercial success, so Lee went back to songwriting and production. However, Lee had enjoyed a tantalising taste of life as a recording artist. His return to songwriting and production was only going to be temporary.

For the next three years, Lee Hazlewood was busy working as songwriter and producer. During 1961, Lee worked penned songs for Tom and Jerry, Donnie Owens, Tony Gunner and Bud Ashton and His Group. Then in 1962, Duane Eddy enjoyed a string of hit singles. With The Shadows and The Ventures recording songs written by Lee, Lee Hazelwood could’ve continued to enjoy a career as a successful songwriter. He didn’t. 

Instead, Lee decided to relaunch his solo career. He signed to Mercury and began work in what was his 1963 debut album, Trouble Is A Lonesome Town. This was first album of Lee Hazelwood’s five decade recording career. However, despite release over twenty solo studio albums, still many people remember  Lee Hazlewoodfor the songs he’s written for other people. Twenty-two of them feature on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook.

Opening Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook is Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley’s cover of A Cheat, which was originally recorded by Sanford Clark. The Pulp frontman and his onetime band-made Richard Hawley collaborated on A Cheat, for the 2002 tribute album Total Lee!-The Songs Of  Lee Hazlewood. One of the highlights, was Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley’s cover A Cheat. They totally reinvent the song, as betrayal, anger and frustration combine to create a vocal that’s almost menacing as they accuse A Cheat.

Chiswick born, Mark Morriss and his brother Scott founded The Bluetones in 1993. They went on to enjoy a string of hit singles and commercially successful albums between the late-nineties and early nougties. By 2008, Mark Morriss had released his debut album Memory Muscle, on Fruitcake Music. Memory Muscle featured a cover of My Autumn’s Done Come, which originality featured on  Lee Hazlewood’s 1963 debut album Trouble Is A Lonesome Town. My Autumn’s Done Come is celebratory ballad, where Mark Morriss welcomes the onset of middle age, on a song that is sure to resonate with many people.

Lee Hazlewood originally recorded Won’t You Tell Me Your Dreams for his 1971 solo album Requiem For An Almost Lady. Forty-one years later, and Gold Leaves covered Tell Me Your Dreams for a single released by Light In The Attic. Tucked away on the B-Side, was  Lee Hazlewood’s original’s version. This allowed record buyers to compare and contrast. Gold Leaves’ country-tinged version is a beautiful, heartfelt version of this ballad, that does justice to this Lee Hazlewood song.

Another song from Lee Hazlewood’s 1971 solo album Requiem For An Almost Lady is I’d Rather Be Your Enemy. This was a song that Lee Hazlewood had written about an ex-girlfriend. There has been speculation that the girlfriend in question was Nancy Sinatra? In 1990, I’d Rather Be Your Enemy. was covered by Boyd Rice and Friends for their 1990 album Music, Martinis and Misanthropy. It was released on New European Recordings and began a new chapter in Boyd Rice’s career.

Joining him in this new beginning, was one half of Strawberry Switchblade, Rose McDowall. She was one of Boyd Rice’s “Friends,” and helped provide the backdrop for his vocal. It’s best described as a mixture of cynicism and scepticism. Boyd Rice it seemed, had obviously to be convinced of how love can transform lives. His interpretation of the lyrics makes this clear.

In 1967, Lee Hazlewood and Suzi Jane Hokom recorded Summer Wine. Forty years later, Ville Valo and Natalia Avelon Summer covered Summer Wine for the soundtrack to Das Wilde (Eight Miles High). Polish-German actress Natalia Avelon was starring in the film, and was joined by Ville Valo the frontman of Finnish heavy rockers HIM. While this seems like an unlikely musical partnership, it was one that worked, and worked well. They prove the perfect foil for each other, as they create a cinematic cover of Summer Wine. It’s one of the best versions of the oft-covered Summer Wine.

Two years after Lee Hazlewood released his Love And Other Crimes album in 1968, Waylon Jennings released his Singer Of Sad Songs album. It was released released by RCA Victor in 1970, and had been produced by Lee Hazlewood. Singer Of Sad Songs stalled at number twenty-three in the US Country charts, and was the least successful album Waylon Jennings had released since Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan in 1967. However, Singer Of Sad Songs is a hidden gem in Waylon Jennings’ discography, with Singer Of Sad Songs one of the highlights of a truly underrated album.

One of the most successful Scottish bands of the last thirty years, are East Kilbride’s finest, The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were inspired by a disparate selection of artists, including Lee Hazlewood.  The Jesus and Mary Chain covered I’m Glad I Never from Lee Hazlewood’s 1971 solo album Requiem For An Almost Lady. It featured on The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1989 singles’ box set Head On. There’s a darkness to The Jesus and Mary Chain’s cover of I’m Glad I Never, especially when William delivers the line “I’m Glad I Never had a gun.”

By 1967, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra had just released their debut album Nancy and Lee. It featured the song Lady Bird. Lee knew that the song would’ve been perfect to record with his then girlfriend Suzi Jane Hokom. There was a problem though. He had given Nancy Sinatra first option on the song. She liked the song, and the pair covered Lady Bird for their album Nancy and Lee. However, a year later, Suzi Jane Hokom got the opportunity to record the song.

The only downside was, that it wasn’t with Lee. Instead, country singer Virgil Warner and Suzi Jane Hokom covered Lady Bird for their eponymous debut album. It was penned and produced by Lee, and released on his LHI label. Virgil Warner is the perfect foil to Suzi Jane Hokom as they make the song their own.

Sixty years ago, in 1956, Sanford Clark enjoyed a rockabilly hit with The Fool. This was the first hit single that Lee Hazlewood had written. Three years later, in 1959, Sanford Clark covered another Lee Hazlewood composition Son-Of-A-Gun single. It was released on the Jamie label, but failed to match the success of The Fool. That is despite the quality of Son-Of-A-Gun. It’s a cinematic song about redemption, that tells the story of a Wild West gunslinger who finds love, and mends his way. Not long after the release of Son-Of-A-Gun, it was the first song Keith Richard learnt to play on guitar, before going on to form the Rolling Stones.

Billie Dearborn covered Friday’s Child, the title-track to Lee Hazlewood’s 1965 album. Three years later, Billie Dearborn released Friday’s Child as a single in 1968 on LHI Records. By then, the song had been covered by three other artists, including Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. However, Billie Dearborn version of Friday’s Child can only be described as soul-baring and beautiful, as she combines power and emotion.

My final choice from Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook, is Sand which was covered by Holly Golightly With Brian Nevill. It was released as a single on Box Theory Records in 1996. This was thirty years after Lee Hazlewood and Suzi Jane Hokom recorded the song for the 1966 album, The Very Special World Of Lee Hazlewood. Holly Golightly and Brian Nevill’s cover stays true to the original, and pays homage to a truly talented songwriter, Lee Hazlewood.

There’s more to Lee Hazlewood than a songwriter through. Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook which was recently released by Ace Records is proof of that. Lee Hazlewood was also a singer, producer, arranger and founded and ran his own record label LHI Records. Multitalented describes Lee Hazelwood. His career began when the equipment found in most studios was very basic.

That however, isn’t surprising. Lee Hazlewood started out as a producer in the late fifties. Back then, equipment was far from advanced. That hardly seemed to matter to Lee Hazlewood. Still, he was able to create groundbreaking music. 

This was the case from his work with Duane Eddy, right through to the music he created during the surf and hot rod crazes. It seemed Lee Hazlewood knew how to make the most of the basic equipment found in studios. What he produced, left other producers scratching their head. They wondered how they could create similar results? Other songwriters were in a similar boat.

They watched as Lee Hazelwood penned hit after hit. Duane Eddy, The Astronauts and The Ventures were all beneficiaries of Lee Hazelwood’s songwriting skills. So were Sanford Clark, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra. Later, though, Lee Hazlewood’s songs were covered by several generations of singers.

Everyone from country and folk singers to crooner and indie rockers went on to cover Lee Hazelwood’s songs. Proof of this is Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook. It’s just been released by Ace Records, and features twenty-two covers of Lee Hazlewood’s songs. They’re an eclectic selection, and include contributions from Waylon Jennings, Billie Dearborn, Sanford Clark, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sanford Clark, Mark Morriss, Mick Harvey, Gold Leaves,  Primal Scream With Kate Moss, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley. These songs were released between 1959 and 2012, which covers  Lee Hazlewood’s entire career. Sadly, on August the 4th 2007, Lee Hazlewood passed away aged seventy-eight. Even after his death, artists continue to inspired and influenced by Lee Hazlewood. 

Many of the artists that have been influenced and inspired by  Lee Hazlewood weren’t even born when he first wrote and recorded some of the songs on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook. However, these songs have a timeless quality, and fifty years after they were first released, artists are covering them. Sometimes, they stay true to the original, other times, they reinvent the song. Lee Hazlewood, a musical pioneer would’ve approved of that.

After all, throughout a career that panned six decades, Lee Hazlewood was an innovator, who has influenced and inspired several generations of musicians. This includes many of the artists on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook. They pay homage to a musical legend on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook who somewhat belatedly, is enjoying the recognition he so richly deserves.

SON-OF-A-GUN AND MORE FROM THE LEE HAZLEWOOD SONGBOOK.

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