Lonesome Onry and Mean: More on California Honky-Tonk Zelig Larry Hosford
l-r: Ramsay Midwood, Kip Boardman, Tony Gilkyson, Don Heffington, Larry Hosford, 1998
Photos by Charlie McGovern
We've just listened to his duet with Larry Hosford on "Reno Is a Late Night Town," and Mike Stinson looks up and grins like he's just heard Dwight Yoakam is going to cut another one of his songs. "Larry sort of fathered a little creative scene that went on in L.A.. there for a few years," Stinson recalls fondly. "When Charlie McGovern moved to L.A. from Salinas and was trying to get studio work, just get some work somewhere, Hosford said, 'you need to call Tony Gilkyson.' Tony cut his teeth playing with Hosford." "After Charlie met Tony, Tony brought Don Heffington, who was drumming for Dwight Yoakam then, into the mix. Don and Tony go back to Lone Justice together. They were the core guys originally in this large group of musicians who essentially met each other through Hosford," explains Stinson.
"That's how my first record happened and it all goes back to Larry, who was the catalyst," Stinson continues. "He also catalyzed a cool little scene that began to form in 1999 and coalesced around Randy Weeks, Ramsay Midwood, Tony Gilkyson and Kip Boardman. That was the family tree of that little scene that popped up around the Cinema Bar and some other roots-type gigs around L.A. "But the seed was Larry putting Charlie and Tony together. We all eventually did a lot of stuff for free for each other, playing gigs or working on albums at Charlie's place." McGovern, who is probably best known for producing albums by Victoria Williams and Mark Olson, recalls a time this past baseball season when he was at Hosford's house watching a San Francisco Giants game. "They started talking about Willie Mays, and all of sudden I heard one of the announcers quote some lyrics to Larry's song 'Home Run Willie.' Then they started talking about Larry and how his song is the best song ever written about baseball. They mentioned that [ex-Mets/Phillies relief pitcher] Tug McGraw, Tim McGraw's dad, used to sing it."
"Weirdest thing is, I recorded John Lee Hooker in about '97," says McGovern, "and he was a fan of the song. I listened to the single in John Lee's living room about midnight. We were drinking beer and eating chicken." "Of course," recalls McGovern, who isn't exactly the most linear guy in the world, "not many people remember but Larry was the first guy to record with Elvis' band after E died. 1977 at Capitol records. James Burton and all those guys." Hosford stories just keep bubbling to the surface with McGovern. "Larry was playing a snobby Steinbeck tribute dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with all these Steinbeck scholars - right next to Ed Ricketts' lab, by the way - and at the end of the show I was standing there with Larry and this scholar walked up and said, 'This might be kind of weird, but do you know who John Holmes is? He was a big fan of your work.' Larry took a puff off of his cigarette and said, 'Well, I was a great fan of his work'." Gilkyson, who went on to respected bands like X and Lone Justice, went north at a tender age to play in Hosford's band. Hosford had just released his second album and Warner Brothers had gotten in the picture. Another guitar hotshot was also hired around the same time: Danny Gatton. "Danny had heard Larry's work and liked it. He came to one of Larry's gigs somewhere and Larry just said 'why don't you come play with me.' It lasted about a year," Gilkyson recalls. "Like a lot of gigs, the money just was never quite what Danny needed. I sure learned a lot from him, though. That was a band. And Larry was hot then, real hot." These days, Hosford continues a long residency at the Britannia Arms in Aptos, Calif., where he can be found pickin' and pontificatin' every Thursday night.
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