A year ago, Lonesome Onry and Mean wrote in these pages about the passing of a rather unsung musical giant, Tim Krekel. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to recently open a bubble-pack and find Marshall Chapman's latest effort Big Lonesome, a musical homage to her deceased friend and longtime writing partner.
"I lost so much money making my last record I wasn't ever going to do any more recording," says Chapman from her home in Nashville. "I was just going to write my books and do my magazine work. But Tim and I were supposed to go to Mexico to do a couple of gigs, and he died the week before we were supposed to go down there. The guy who hired me told me I could cancel but I told him I needed to do this gig, so I went on down by myself."
"While I was in Mexico, songs just started coming to me, and they were all about Tim and my memories of our times together."
Chapman recalls meeting Krekel when she joined Jimmy Buffett's touring band in 1987.
"Jimmy used to do these great tours where he'd pick a hub where we would ensconce ourselves. We'd play a gig there, then travel to two or three other gigs in that vicinity before we'd move on," Chapman drawls in her deep South Carolina accent. "Jimmy never played more than two nights in a row, so we had a lot of down time. We were on the road that whole summer, and Tim became my hang time friend. We'd do the museums and tourist stuff together."
"Then in 1995, Jimmy came to me about putting out a live album I'd just recorded, It's About Time, at the Tennessee State Prison for Women. That was the first album he and Chris Blackwell put out on the Margaritaville/Island imprint," says Chapman.
"Then Jimmy asked me if I'd open his tour dates that summer. Well, I said, 'Look, man, I'm too old to follow you around the country in a van all summer, I just can't do that.' And Jimmy, who is always so generous, said to just see his manager and they'd fix me up. So I got my own tour bus, paid for by Jimmy, and away we went."
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"But I needed another guitar player and I called Tim, who I think by that time had already left Nashville and was reestablishing himself in Louisville, and he said, 'What do you want me to wear?'" laughs Chapman. And I said, 'faded jeans and a white T-shirt.'"
"Well, he shows up and he's even cut his hair for this gig. I almost didn't recognize him as the same man I'd toured with eight years before. He looked fantastic, like a young Marlon Brando."
"Near the end of that tour, Jimmy put us all up in this wonderful hotel in Laguna Beach," Chapman reminisces. "And on our first off day, I said 'you know, Tim, I can't believe we've never written a song together.' We wrote two songs that day, and we stayed at it off and on for the next 15 years, really right up until he got too sick."
Check back in a few days for part two of Chapman's interview, where she talks about the Nashville scene, her new album and her new book.