Friday, January 18, 2008

Fun with Chords

In 1973 -- or was it 1974? -- I was living in Farmington New Mexico playing with Bill Smith (bass) and Gary Nabors (drums) -- or was it John Cunningham? -- at Dizzyland Liquors. It was a great place to play. The bar owners, Georgia and Sterling Patterson, were the best bosses I ever had during my 25-year bar band career and we would have a lot of fun playing whatever the hell we wanted six nights a week. I can't imagine music being as fun these days.
We knew hundreds of songs but we still used to get a little bored playing them so we had a gimmick we used quite a bit: we'd take a standard song that was in a normal major key and play it in a minor key; or vice versa. Or we'd take a raucous song like Louie, Louie and play it using all major seventh chords, which musicians know are smooth, jazzy chords totally unsuitable for anything but ballads and haunting love songs. It was incredibly jarring to hear the saucy words of Louie, Louie, or Brown Sugar or Satisfaction sounding like The Four Freshman backed by Guy Lombardo were singing them.
I wish I had more recordings from that era -- as well as a picture of the band -- but I recently did find an old reel-to-reel tape recorded at Dizzie's and one of the songs on it was Miller's Cave, a classic C&W tune written by Bobby Bare. Since the song is about a man who, upon finding his woman cheating with another man, kidnaps them both and drags their bodies into a dark cave, we figured the song needed to be in a dark, minor key instead of the major key it was in. So here it is, in all of its minor-key ominousness.
By the way, I think this sounds pretty damn good for a three-piece band. Bill Smith played bass and harmonica AT THE SAME TIME as well as back me up with some harmony vocals. I am sorry that I can't remember, or identify, whether it was Gary or Johnny on the drums. They were both excellent and I sure wish I knew what they did with the rest of their lives. Bill is still in Farmington and is one of the best guitarists I EVER heard. Like the egotistic fool I was, I played guitar the four years we played together and he played bass, and yet he was always twice the guitarist I was. He could play like Jimi Hendrix almost before Jimi could.
Check it out. And turn it up.


Bill Crider said...

A little "House of the Risin' Sun" vibe going on there.

I remember at least two versions of that song that were hits, one by Hank Snow.

Gavin L. O'Keefe said...

That's a great version of the song, and I have to agree that you guys made a big sound for a trio.

I love that idea of modifying songs in major keys to minor - nice way to turn a song inside out and to create something new.