Two of the better known roots producers on the scene have radically different memories of the first music of their childhoods that gripped them by the ears and heart. Gurf Morlix, whose notable production credits include Lucinda Williams' Grammy-winningCar Wheels on a Gravel Road
as well as stellar albums by Ray Wylie Hubbard and Slaid Cleaves, seldom includes more than one sentence in an email. His earliest childhood musical obsession was Tennessee Ernie Ford's monster hit, a cover of Merle Travis's coal mining song, "Sixteen Tons." Says Morlix, "I asked Momma what was the company store, but she never could explain it." On the other hand, R.S. Field, whose production credits include Sonny Landreth, John Mayall, Scott Miller, Hayes Carll and Webb Wilder recalls a very important album in his musical development.
"I grew up in a two-story house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi," says Field. "My parents and I had the whole upstairs and my grandmother, aunt and uncle lived downstairs. There wasn't much music in my house, but every Christmas, as the day wore on, my uncle Harry - who had been a teenage top turret gunner on a B-24 bomber in WWII - would play this great LP that had "Jambalaya" (Peggy Lee), "Love Me Tender" (Elvis), the theme from Bridge on the River Kwai, "El Paso" (Marty Robbns), "Mack the Knife" (Bobby Darin, I think) and "The Battle of New Orleans" (Johnny Horton), among others.
We would listen; uncle Harry would have a few and I would array my Iwo Jima or Ben-Hur play set (whatever the epic toy soldier collection of the year happened to be).
"My first 'favorite song and record of all time' would have to be the 'Battle of New Orleans.' It had everything a manchild of the era could want - shootin', marchin', martial drums, 'powderin' gators' behinds,' you name it. 'El Paso' was a close second (it had shootin' too). I still love both of those records, and what 'real' American wouldn't?
"Later on in life, my band the Howlers would play "Battle of New Orleans" (we did the Dirt Band's version off of Uncle Charlie) and I would always think back to Christmas and I would remember uncle Harry talking about trying to hit Messerschmidts or Fokkers with his 50 cal. twin deuces as they tried to shoot him down over the Fatherland. He looked just like Tyrone Power."