by Chad Campbell, senior producer
Guy Clark has been a guest on this show twice before, but our intimate visit to his Nashville home makes this interview different. Clark invited us down to his basement and a small room that serves double duty as his songwriting space and his guitar making workshop. There’s a large wooden table on wheels where he can sit and look out the window and think about words and write songs. Then when that side of his brain gets tired, Clark can walk over to his workbench and coordinate his hands with his eyes by working on his latest guitar. He says the two activities go together very well for him. Clark’s two most recent CDs (Workbench Songs and Somedays the Song Writes You) both feature pictures of him and his guitars and this room. Unfortunately, the 69 year old is not in the best of health. He smoked three hand-rolled cigarettes while we were there, he was wearing a bulky knee brace and a soft cast on his right foot. Clark needs knee replacement surgery but the doctors have to wait until he’s completely free of infection. We learned later that he came home to fit us in between hospital visits the day of our interview. I think that says a lot about Guy Clark’s toughness and strength of character.
Here’s a slideshow of our visit with him.
Now for the story of “Make a Waffle for Me and Save It.” That phrase goes back to the September 12, 2009 wedding of this program’s executive producer Steve Lickteig. The morning after, I was on the phone with co-workers Geoffrey Redick and Dan Bloom, unsure I’d be able to make it down to breakfast at our hotel before the do-it-yourself waffle station closed. So I asked them to make a waffle for me and save it. Someone said that sounds like a song lyric, I sang it out loud in my best country twang and we all laughed. We’d think about it now and then but never got too much farther with it. Fast forward to October 2010 and our trip to Nashville. I knew we wanted to talk about the business and craft of songwriting so we arranged to talk with the local songwriting team of Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette.
I thought it might be interesting to see what they could do with our lyric. Of course what they came up with sounded nothing like what we’d been singing and I suppose that’s the point. They are professional songwriters after all. Camp has co-written number one hits for Garth Brooks, George Strait and Brooks & Dunn. Camp was a hot new artist in the early 1990s. He had two top 40 singles and a second album on the way when Warner Bros. decided he was too country and asked him to make some changes. Camp refused and the label released him and kept his music on the shelf. Thanks to a fortuitous meeting with the new head of the label, Camp’s sophomore album, now titled 1994, and his self-titled debut, Shawn Camp, are now commercially available. In our interview, Camp performs that number one George Strait song, River of Love, with one of his co-writers, Billy Burnette. Burnette was born into Memphis family of music royalty. His dad Dorsey and his uncle Johnny were two thirds of The Rock and Roll Trio which gave young Elvis a few ideas. In fact, it’s been said that the term “Rockabilly” was first coined by the trio for their song “Rockabilly Boogie” and was derived from the names of Billy and his cousin Rocky. Before their collaboration for us, Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette also put out a 2007 CD called Bluegrass Elvises on which they alternate vocals on 13 Presley covers.
Extra special thanks to Guy Clark’s manager Tamara Saviano who set up both of these interviews for us — and to her husband Paul Whitfield for recording the performances by Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette. And a super dooper extra special thanks to our former NPR colleague Jeannie Naujeck for helping with our entire Nashville trip. Bob and I worked with her at Morning Edition in the late 1990’s and Jeannie has been living and working in Nashville for eight years now. She took most of the pictures you’ll see and she acted as ambassador, hostess and chauffeur as she drove us around to all of our interviews.