Steve Young-To Satisfy You.

Label: Ace Records.

During his life and a musical career that lasted five decades, singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Young always lived life on his own terms. Sadly, Steve Young like Gram Parsons, who played on his 1969 debut album Rock Salt and Nails, didn’t enjoy the recognition and critical acclaim that his music deserved. That was despite being a pioneer of country rock, Americana, alt country and the outlaw movement. Instead, Steve Young is better known as a songwriter, whose songs have been covered by the great and good of music.

During his career, Steve Young penned Lonesome, On’ry and Mean which was covered by Waylon Jennings, and Montgomery In The Rain which was recorded by Hank Williams, Jr. However, Steve Young’s best known song is Seven Bridges Road which was covered by The Eagles, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Iain Matthews and Rita Coolidge. The royalties that Steve Young received from these cover versions allowed him to live life on his own terms and make the music he wanted. This included his 1981 album To Satisfy You, which saw Steve Young move away from country music, towards a rockier sound. To Satisfy You which has just been reissued by Ace Records was Steve Young’s sixth album, and the latest chapter in the story of this musical maverick.

Steve Young was born in Newnan, Georgia on the ‘12th’ of July 1942, into a family of sharecroppers. His father who was a Native Indian, had been a sharecropper since the age of thirteen.  Life as a sharecropper was tough, and money was alway tight. To make matters worse, Steve Young’s father was  often getting into trouble, which resulted in the family having to pack up their belongings and move on. Eventually, the Young family settled in Gadsden, Alabama, and by then, Steve Young knew how he wanted to make a living.

Ever since he had been a young boy, Steve Young had listened to music, which made his life that bit more bearable. He could see the beauty in music, especially, Southern music, which Steve Young preferred listening to. However, from an early age, Steve Young wasn’t content to listen to music, and when people asked him what he wanted to do, he told them he wanted to be a singer, songwriter and musicians. To most people that was a pipe dream.

Things changed when Steve Young’s grandfather took him to  a swap meet, where he saw a warp necked Silvertone guitar. It was love at first sight, and Steve Young tried to talk his grandfather into getting him the guitar. However, the answer was no, and that day it was a disappointed Steve Young that returned home.

Still, he was determined to get a guitar of his own, and when he was fourteen, his mother relented and agreed to buy Steve Young his very first guitar. She bought him a Gibson ES 125 thin body electric guitar, which Steve Young knew  was enough to make his dreams come true, and follow in the footsteps of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records.

By the time Steve had mastered his guitar, the folk boom had hit Birmingham, Alabama. Despite his love of Southern music, Steve started playing folk music and by his early twenties, was a regular face on Birmingham music scene. Soon, Steve Young was regarded as one of the rising stars of the Birmingham folk scene.

During gigs Steve Young played a mixture of his own songs and covers of some of his favourite Bob Dylan songs. Sometimes, he took to the mic and started voicing his support for the nascent civil rights movement. While this was admirable, this was dangerous in Birmingham, Alabama, which was Klan country.

Some folks around Birmingham, Alabama didn’t take kindly to folk singers talking about equality and civil rights. Especially, ones like Steve Young, who after gigs, headed out on the town and enjoyed carousing in clubs. Sometimes, this lead to trouble, but Steve Young didn’t seem to care. He was determined to live life on his own terms and this included voicing his support for the civil rights movement. Fortunately, Steve Young never came to any harm, and in 1963, left Birmingham, Alabama.

This came about not long after Steve Young met Richard Lockmiller and Jim Miller, who were both folk musicians. They had signed to Capitol Records as a folk duo Richard and Jim, and were heading to Los Angeles to record their debut album. Steve Young joined the pair on their road trip, and in LA, played on Richard and Jim’s 1963 debut album Folk Songs and Other Songs. 

Steve Young’s guitar playing on Folk Songs and Other Songs, and when Richard and Jim played live, brought him to the attention of other musicians and record buyers. One of the first musicians to discover Steve Young was Van Dyke Parks. 

From the first time  Van Dyke Parks saw Steve play live, he realised that he was a cut above most musicians. Here was a versatile and talented singer and guitarist who seamlessly could switch between disparate musical genres. His live act saw Steve Young playing folk, blues and even a hint of Celtic music and the audience were enthralled by his vocals and virtuoso performance on guitar. Despite this, Steve Young spent time busking on Sunset Strip. However, this was only temporary.

Soon, Steve Young was about to go up in the world when he joined the ranks of LA’s session musicians. He also became the lead guitarist for the Steve Battin’ Band. After shows, Steve Young partied with some of the biggest names in the LA scene, including Mama Cass, Tim Hardin and Van Dyke Parks. At these parties, Steve Young partied hard, drinking  and taking drugs in ever-increasing greater qualities. Still, though, Steve Young always turned up for sessions the next day and even formed a new band with two well known names.

The Gas Company included Van Dyke Parks and a young Stephen Stills, who played rhythm guitar. However, The Gas Company was just a stepping stone for Stephen Stills en route to greater things. Meanwhile, Steve Young’s life was professional and personal life was changing. 

He met and married Terry Newkirk, who with Roger Tillison performed as The Gypsy Trips. Now a married man, Steve Young decided to take a job as a postman to make ends meet. However, he hadn’t given up on his dream of making a living as a professional musician.

It was only a matter of time before Steve Young caught a break, and this happened when he was approached by Stone Country’s manager. They were looking for a guitarist, and Steve Young fitted the bill. He played on their debut album. Not long after this, Steve Young dream came true when he was signed by  A&M.

Rock, Salt and Nails.

This was the break he had been waiting for, and twenty-six year old Steve Young year old began work with producer Tommy LiPuma. Backed by a band that featured some top LA session players as well as Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, gradually, Rock, Salt and Nails started to take shape. Sadly, when Rock, Salt and Nails was released by A&M in 1969 the album passed an indifferent record buying public by. Record buyers had missed out on what’s now regarded as one of the hidden gems of the late-sixties, and the commercial failure of Rock, Salt and Nails was a huge blow for Steve Young.

After the commercial failure of Rock, Salt and Nails, Steve Young did a lot of soul-searching, and with a heavy heart announced that he was turning his back on music. This was something that he had never envisaged would happen. However, there was only so long anyone could struggle to make ends meet, with the hope that one day, he might make a breakthrough. Steve Young decided to make a fresh start and he and his wife left LA, and headed to San Francisco, where they settled in the Bay Area.

This was a new start for Steve Young, and was the first day of his life after music. However, by then, all that Steve Young knew was music, so he and Terry Newkirk setup a guitar shop in San Anselmo in 1970. It was the new start Steve Young had been looking for. That was until Andy Wickham of Reprise Records came calling.

Although Steve Young had turned his back on music, he was still under contract to A&M. Andy Wickham who had followed Steve Young’s career approached A&M to ask if they would be willing to release him from the contract. They agreed, and now all Andy Wickham had to do was persuade Steve  Young to sign on the dotted line. 

Given Steve Young was disillusioned with life as a professional musician, this was going to be easier said than done. Especially with the new guitar shop up and running. However, for Andy Wickham it was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. He approached Steve Young about signing to Reprise, and eventually, the singer, songwriter and guitarist agreed to make a comeback.

Having signed to Reprise, Steve Young was paired with Ry Cooder, who would produce his first single for the label. The song that was chosen was Bob Dylan’s Down In The Flood, which was retitled as Crash On the Levee. Producer Ry Cooder made a guest appearance on Crash On the Levee, which was released later in 1970 as Steve Young’s debut single for Reprise. Sadly, the single failed to chart, and Steve Young realised that history was repeating itself.

After the failure of Crash On the Levee,  a decision was made to pair Steve Young with a new producer. The Steve Young and Ry Cooder partnership was over after just one single. Replacing Ry Cooder as producer was Nashville based Paul Tannen, which to many industry insiders seemed a strange decision. 

Nashville in 1970 was, and to some extent, still is, a conservative town and Steve Young with his liberal politics,  wasn’t going to be well received when he travelled there to record his sophomore album. Sadly, that proved to be the case.

Seven Bridges Road,

Steve Young journeyed to Nashville, to meet his new producer and record his sophomore album. By then, he was aware that Paul Tannen had penned twenty songs  and had around forty production credits to his name. This experience Steve Young hoped would be put to good use when he recorded his sophomore album. However, Steve was in for a surprise.

When Steve met Paul Tannen, he quickly came to the conclusion that his new producer was more of interested in music publishing than songwriting. This didn’t bode well for the future. However, Nashville had some of the best session musicians in America, and Steve Young hoped that some of them would join him in the studio.

Before recording got underway, Steve Young was joined by Paul Tannen and some top session players. When they ran through the songs, some of the musicians took umbrage to the lyrics. To make matters worse, Steve Young’s liberal politics and outlook on life didn’t go down well with some members of the band. 

As the session got underway, it soon became apparent that the band weren’t all on the same page. Some of the musicians couldn’t understand how to play the songs as this wasn’t the type of music they were used to playing. By then, the choice of Paul Tannen as producer wasn’t looking like the right one and later, Steve Young claimed that he ended up producing what became Seven Bridges Road himself. However, it wasn’t an easy album to record.

For parts of the session, there was an undercurrent and a degree of  tension. Partly, this was because the band were unsure how to play their parts, but also because the musicians and Steve Young were polar opposites. Steve Young was a sixties child with liberal politics and views, while the band were older, and much more conservative views. With his long hair, and liberal views, some of the band most likely saw Steve Young as a hippy from California.  He saw some of the band as rednecks, and the type of people that up until then, he had spent his life avoiding. It was a case of never the two shall meet. However, in Nashville session musicians were professionals, and the album was eventually recorded and Steve Young then hotfooted it home to San Francisco.

When Steve Young arrived home, he brought with him the tapes to what would eventually become the album Seven Bridges Road. A few days later, Steve Young took the tapes to Andy Wickham at Reprise and he listened to the twelve songs. As everyone in the room listened to the album, they realised that despite the difficulties Steve Young had experienced recording Seven Bridges Road, it was a very special album of country music.

While everyone at Reprise Records realised that they had heard a very special album, they had no idea how to market the album. Seven Bridges Road was very different from the country music that was being released at that time. Reprise Records were faced with the same problems as A&M when realising Steve Young’s debut album, what to do with it? The problem was, that Seven Bridges Road was way ahead of its  time.

Steve Young was a musical visionary who was the architect of a new Southern country sound, which was a forerunner of the outlaw sound, which Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson later went on to pioneer. Sadly, very few record buyers would know of the part Steve Young played in musical history.

On its release in 1972, Seven Bridges Road failed to find an audience, and before long the album couldn’t be found record shop shelves. Steve Young watched his dream destroyed for the second time, and for the second time, turned his back on music. 

He and Terry Newkirk sold their guitar shop and bought some land in Nashville, where they built a log cabin and raised their son Jubal. The couple went on what Steve later called: “your basic vegetarian-mystical trip. This lasted for a while, until Steve Young started drinking heavily. That was when Terry Newkirk packed her bags and left. Quickly, Steve Young’s life was unravelling, until Jim Terr entered the picture.

Jim Terr owned Blue Canyon Records, and thought that Seven Bridges Road was the best record ever committed to vinyl. When Steve told him the album wasn’t even in circulation, the pair started hatching a plan. 

Seven Bridges Road 1975.

The first part of the plan was to get Steve Young playing live again. Initially, Steve Young started playing around Albuquerque and then rerecorded The White Trash Song with The Last Mile Ramblers. After that,  Jim Terr discussed with Steve Young buying the master to Seven Bridges Road from Warners, with a view to reissuing the album. Jim Terr hit Warners with a lowball offer, and they accepted. 

Before reissuing Seven Bridges Road, two changes to the track-listing were made, with the newly rerecorded version of The White Trash Song replacing the Nashville version. A cover of Merle Haggard’s I Can’t Hold Myself In Line replaced One Car Funeral Procession. With a new track listing Seven Bridges Road, was ready to be reissued.

Although Blue Canyon Records was a small company, and didn’t have a distribution network like Warners, the reissue of Seven Bridges Road in 1975 was relatively successful. The reissue of Seven Bridges Road outsold the original, and introduced Steve Young and his music to a new audience. Despite the relative success of Blue Canyon Records’ reissue of Seven Bridges Road, sadly, Steve Young remained one of music’s best kept secrets.

Honky-Tonk Man.

Later in 1975, Steve Young returned with his third album Honky-Tonk Man, which was released on Mountain Railroad Records. It showed a  different side to Steve Young, who was showcasing a much more traditional country sound on Honky-Tonk Man. Sadly, despite its quality, again, Honky-Tonk Man failed to find the wider audience it deserved, and still commercial success eluded Steve Young.

Renegade Picker.

Despite commercial success eluding thirty-four year old singer, songwriter and musician, RCA Victor who had an enviable roster of country artists, decided to take a chance on Steve Young. This was the break Steve Young had been waiting for.

He entered the studio with some top session musicians and producer Roy Dea in early 1976 and recorded Renegade Picker, which was a mixture of cover versions and Steve Young compositions including Lonesome, On’ry and Mean which later, gave Waylon Jennings a hit single. However, Renegade Picker also saw Steve Young’s music change, as he pioneered the outlaw sound. This marked a new chapter in Steve Young’s career.

When Renegade Picker was released in June 1976, it was to critical acclaim and Steve Young watched the album reach forty-eight in the US Country charts. While Renegade Picker had charted, this innovative album didn’t enjoy the success that it deserved. 

No Place To Fall.

While the commercial failure of Renegade Picker disappointed Steve Young, by early 1978 his songs were being covered by some of the biggest names in music. Writing songs was proving more profitable than recording albums for Steve Young. 

He  had written three new songs he had written Renegade Picker, including Montgomery In The Rain, which later was later recorded Hank Williams, Jr. It made its debut on No Place To Fall, which was another album of cover version and Steve Young compositions that was produced by Roy Dea.

When No Place To Fall was released in September 1978, it featured more of an outlaw sound than Renegade Picker. While the album was well received by critics, No Place To Fall passed record buyers by. They missed out on an album that featured the Steve Young compositions Montgomery In The Rain, Seven Bridges Road, Dreamer and Always Loving You, plus covers of Drift Away, Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and JJ Cale’s I Got The Same Old Blues. These songs are part of one of Steve Young’s most underrated albums, and his swan-song for RCA Victor.

With no improvement in his record sales, RCA Victor and Steve Young parted company after two vastly underrated albums. By then, thirty-six year old Steve Young’s music was enjoyed by a small coterie of discerning record buyers, and he remained one of music’s best kept secrets.

After parting company with RCA Victor, Steve Young’s life spiralled out of control, and he seemed hellbent on destruction, nearly drinking himself to death. Eventually, he entered a clinic for homeless alcoholics in Nashville, and it was during his stay in the clinic, that Steve Young realised that his lifestyle had come close to destroying him. He made the decision to embrace his Native Indian heritage and became a Buddhist. His new holistic approach to life worked, and Steve Young started to rebuild his life, and although it took time, it eventually paid off.

Seven Bridges Road III.

In 1981, Steve Young returned after a three-year absence with not one, but two new albums. This included a remixed version of Seven Bridges Road, which featured a different track-listing. There’s a remixed version Seven Bridges Road plus new songs like Down in the Flood, Ballad of William Sycamore, My Oklahoma, Wild Goose and Days Of 49 on what was the third version of Seven Bridges Road.

The reissue of Seven Bridges Road was released by Rounder Records in early 1981, and sold reasonably well. It seemed that a new generation of record buyers were keen to discover Steve Young’s finest album which by 1981 was regarded as a cult classic. However, the original version of Seven Bridges Road released in 1972, and the 1975 version were both out of print. Rounder Records’ newly remixed version of Seven Bridges Road introduced a new generation to Steve Young, and in the process, helped transform his fortunes.

To Satisfy You.

After the success of Seven Bridges Road, Rounder Records offered Steve Young a recording contract. This came just a few months after The Eagles had covered Steve Young’s Seven Bridges Road on Eagles Live which was released on November the ‘7th’ 1980. Steve Young wanted as Eagles Live was certified gold in Canada and Britain, and after selling seven million copies in America, was certified platinum seven times over. This guaranteed Steve Young the biggest windfall of his three decade career, but still he wanted to record his sixth album To Satisfy You.

This time around, Steve Young only contributed one song to his sixth album, The River And The Swan. The remainder of the album was cover versions including Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly and Norman Petty’s Think It Over, Waylon Jennings’ To Satisfy You, Walter Vinson’s Top If The World, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ No Expectations and David Olney’s The Contender. They were joined by the traditional song Corinna Corinna, Jesse Winchester’s All Your Stories, Cat Stevens’ Wild World and William T. Davidson’s They Call It Love. These songs were recorded by Steve Young with a small, tight band.

During the sessions which were produced by Jerry Shook, Mac Gayden and Steve Young, three different version of the rhythm sections were used. This included drummers Buster Phillips, Mark Edwards and Tony Newman, who were joined by bassists Dave Pomeroy, Mike Leech and Paul Uhrig, plus rhythm guitarists Jerry Shook and Mac Gayden who also laid down some of the lead guitar parts. However, some of the other lead guitar parts were recorded by Dale Sellers, while Steve Young played acoustic guitar and added vocals on a very different album from its predecessors.

For much of To Satisfy You, Steve Young eschews his trademark country sound for a much rockier, and sometimes bluesy sound. Especially on Buddy Holly’s Forecast which chugs along from the get-go, rocking and rolling, bobbing and weaving before Steve Young delivers a lived-in bluesy vocal. It’s followed by To Satisfy You where Steve Young unleashes a vocal powerhouse as slide guitars play their part in this reinvention of this Waylon Jennings song which becomes an anthem-in-waiting. The oft-covered Top Of The World is also reinvented taking on a bluesy sound, before Steve Young revisits the outlaw sound on a heart-wrenching cover No Expectations. Closing the first side of To Satisfy You was David Olney’s The Contender, which becomes a six-minute epic that references everyone from The Band to The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.

The traditional song Corinna Corinna takes on a laid-back country sound, with Steve Young’s vocal sometimes hinting at Bob Dylan as he revisits the outlaw sound he pioneered. On the ballad All Your Stories weeping guitars accompany Steve Young as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.  Very different is the anthemic Wild World which is delivered a in a Bruce Springsteen style, and is one of the album’s highlights. Steve Young then delivers a vocal full of despair, hurt and heartbreak on the oft-covered ballad They Call It Love. Closing To Satisfy You is the only song on the album penned by Steve Young, The River And The Swan. It’s an epic ballad full of metaphors that ebbs and flows over the course of six magical minutes, as Steve Young tells the story of a love affair and closes the album on a high with this beautiful paean. Steve Young had definitely saved the best until last on To Satisfy You.

After three years away, Steve Young had returned with the most eclectic album of his three decade career, To Satisfy You. It featured blues, country and rock on album which featured anthems and beautiful ballads and should’ve introduced his music to a much wider audience. However, the only problem was that Rounder Records were unsure how to market the album. Steve Young had been here before when he released his debut album Rock, Salt and Nails in 1969, and Seven Bridges Road in 1972. Nine years later, and history was repeating itself, which was another disappointment.

Despite Rounder Records being unsure how to market To Satisfy You won over critics, who hailed the album one of Steve Young’s best albums. Sadly, when To Satisfy You was released by Rounder Records that album never came close to troubling the US Country charts and within a matter of months had disappeared without trace. It was as if this vastly underrated hidden gem of an album had never existed.

Another five years passed before Steve Young returned with a much more experimental album,  while Look Homeward Angel in 1986 which showcased a much more contemporary sound. Sadly, that was the last album Steve Young released during the eighties. 

He returned in 1990 with Long Time Rider, with Switchblades Of Love following three years later in 1993. Still, interest in Steve Young’s music and his cult classic Seven Bridges Road continued to grow. Despite that, Steve didn’t release another album until Primal Young in 1999. By then, Steve Young was sixty but Primal Young was hailed as his best album in recent years. Sadly, after that albums continued to be sporadic.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Steve released Songlines Revisited Volume One, where he revisited many of his best known songs including The White Trash Song, Montgomery In The Rain, Rock Salt and Nails and of course Seven Bridges Road which were all rerecorded. Steve Young sold the album at his gigs when he played live. Two years later in 2007, Steve Young released the live album Stories Round The Horseshoe Bend, which sadly, was also his swan-song.

Although Steve Young continued to play until 2010, he never released another album. That was despite having around a 100 songs that he had yet to record. Sadly they never saw the light of day, because on the ‘17th’ March 2016, Steve Young passed away aged just seventy-three. That day, music lost one of its most talented sons.

While Steve Young’s greatest album is undoubtably the cult classic Seven Bridges Road which was released in 1972, it’s just one of the many albums that this truly talented singer, songwriter and musician released over five decades. This also includes his 1969 debut album Rock, Salt and Nails, 1976s Renegade Picker and 1981s To Satisfy You which was recently released by Ace Records. 

Sadly, when To Satisfy You was released in 1981 Rounder Records were unsure how to market such an eclectic album, and despite being released to critical acclaim, the album disappeared without trace. Since then, interest in Steve Young’s music has continued to grow, and like his old friend Gram Parson, Steve Young’s music has a cult following. Sadly, many of his album are almost impossible to find, and have been out of print for many years. That is the case with Steve Young’s oft-overlooked hidden gem To Satisfy You, which slipped under the radar in 1981, and nowadays, is one of hidden gems in his back-catalogue. To Satisfy You is the perfect introduction to a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician, Steve Young, whose solo career spanned five decades and saw him pioneer the country rock, Americana, alt country and the outlaw movements.

Steve Young-To Satisfy You.


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