Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Story Songs: Nashville Cats

Several years ago while getting a haircut (back when my hair was long), a barber told me about his son and a girl having music aspirations as a folk-singing duo.

He said they spent some time in Los Angeles, playing various small clubs and  honing their skills. Then they decided to move to Nashville, believing they were ready to hit the big time. 

If anything, they hit a big wall. The barber said they couldn't believe the singing talent and musicianship they encountered in Music City. I'm not sure what happened to them; perhaps they returned to California.

The story reminds me of the great song by the Lovin' Spoonful -- "Nashville Cats" -- which celebrates the guitarists who can play "twice as better than I will."

Written by the multi-talented John B. Sebastian,  it peaked at No. 8 in 1966. It was on the "Hums" album that also included the hits  "Summer in the  City" and "You and Me and Rain on the Roof."

The song opens with the chorus:

"Nashville cats, play clean as country water
Nashville cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville cats, been playin' since they's babies
Nashville cats, get work before they're two"

The Lovin' Spoonful

Sebastian apparently held Nashville musicians in high esteem. According to one account, the song developed after the group was in Nashville for a concert, and while sitting at a bar, were blown away by the guitar artistry of Danny Gatton.

Among the clever lines in the song:

"Well, there's thirteen hundred and fifty two
Guitar pickers in Nashville
And they can pick more notes than the number of ants
On a Tennessee ant hill"'

And closes:

"Because it's custom made for any mothers son
To be a guitar picker in Nashville
And I sure am glad I got a chance to say a word about
The music and the mothers from Nashville"

The song makes a reference to "yellow sun record from Nashville" but Sun Records was located in Memphis. But, no doubt, you could purchase Sun Records in Nashville.

As for the Lovin' Spoonful, they recorded numerous other hits such as "Do You Believe in Magic," "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice," "Daydream" and "Darling Be Home Soon." They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. And Sebastian earned a spot in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008.

"Nashville Cats" lyrics

Until the next time...

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