Real Country Music
The phone rings and on the other end a voice says, “Dan?”
“No”, I replied, “it’s Don...or Donnie.”
“This is Chuck Rhodes with E1, did Daryle call you?
“Yes”, I answered, “and on time. We had a forty five minute conversation. It was fine.”
“Well, I just wanted to check, you know how those hillbillies are.”
Chuck’s comment was then followed by a click and silence.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the presented difference between the label and artist. I found the “hillbilly” in question, Daryle Singletary, to be quite engaging. However, the exchange with
Since his self-titled debut was released in 1995, Daryle has enjoyed chart success (although most of it early in his career), made countless appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, and has earned the admiration of peers and fans alike. With a new release on the horizon, it was a good time to speak to him about his career and his recordings.
The conversation started similar to the one with
“No, it’s Don...”
“Well, ok, sorry about that, this is Daryle and to start let me say that being in this business for 14 yrs and to be able to still talk about something new I feel very fortunate.”
“That’s great,” I answered. After sharing several pleasantries, I began. “We want to talk about the new record but, also could you run down a little bit about your career and highlights and things you might like people to know about?” From there, Daryle was off and running.
“I started out in a little ole town in
“Well, I entered a talent show in the 9th grade in high school and was fortunate to place in it and I was thinking ‘man, this is pretty neat.’ And I always tell a story, and I tell it as a joke, that I went on a Chorale trip my first year, in the 9th grade of high school, and after doing that talent show, I did “Forever and Ever Amen”, and the senior girls were like ‘sing “Forever and Ever Amen” for us’, and I was thinking to myself this is what I want to do for a living, cause they get the women. I always tell that as a joke, but it is a true story.”
“But, you know I started singing and doing some country stuff in 9th grade and put a little band together down there in GA. I’d feel like that band that was on Sling Blade, you know ....‘I would like to get a paying gig sometime.’ We practiced more than we played out anywhere but had a great time all and all.”
“But there was guy who was living down here, his name was Allen Baggett, and he always told me that if I ever wanted to move to
Now in Nashville he “started singing around town, doing different open mic nights and started doing some demo work.” A demo of “An Old Pair Of Shoes” eventually caught the attention of Randy Travis’ wife Lib Hatcher.
“Thankfully at the time this Allen guy had left Tanya, around late 91 early 92, and went to work for Randy Travis. Well, Randy wanted to hear the song and when he heard the song his wife, Lib Hatcher, wanted to know who the singer was. And in 1992 that worked into a management contract with Lib.”
“And I continued to sing demos and continued to sing a little club in
One night “a guy came in the club and said ‘I’m looking for good country demo singer’, and I said ‘Well, I need the work, and the money, so I’ll do your demos for you’”. The first demo Daryle recorded as a result of this meeting was “I Let Her Lie”. “We went in and did the demo and at the time the publishing company was Giant Publishing.” Giant Publishing “had a record label that was a Warner Brothers spin-off”.
“All the demos done for the publishing company went through” James Stroud, President of Giant Records, “for approval ... I guess to see if any hits were in there. So I demoed the song and he heard it and wanted to know who was singing it. He found out how to get in touch with Lib and that all worked into a record deal in 1994. My first CD came out in late 1995 and we’ve just been having a big time every since.”
I mentioned to Daryle that I remember buying the CD on the strength of “I Let Her Lie”, and that it has struck me that his second album, All Because Of You, seemed different than his first.
“It is. Well, I moved to Nashville to be a traditional country singer and I loved Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Randy co-produced my 1st CD, and you see a lot of the influence there, not only vocally but you can see Randy’s song selection a little bit, he wrote a song on there that I’m real fond of, called “There’s a Cold Spell Movin’ In”. Then Randy kind of ducked out of the second one and old Stroud took over, and it got a little out of hand, you know, not all of it, I did have a hit off of it with “Amen Kind Of Love”.
“I did two records with Stroud as a producer. Out of both records that song, “Amen Kind Of Love”, was the only song that Stroud was actually in the studio when we did vocals. It was me and him and nobody else, so that was kind of a neat memory, but that was a different record for us. I guess I was going through that sophomore CD, where I really still didn’t have much say so and I just had to do what the record label told me to do, but we got through it, and fortunately on my third CD, I did it with Doug Johnson.”
“It yielded “The Note”, which, I think probably with the exception of “Old Violin” that we did a few years later, is probably one of my favorites. “The Note” was a big, big single record for us.” But “that album didn’t knock any doors down.... but that single sure got some nice reviews.”
I asked, “So after the three records for Giant you ended up on Koch/Audium. How did that come about?”
Daryle, with a little laugh beneath the words, explained, “Yeah, that was my last attempt on Giant. It was an awesome deal and I had a great time on that record label. And it kindly got my feet wet into the business. But I don’t know about the particular circumstances as to what happened, but the music was kind of starting to change a little bit. That third CD started to get a little more pop and I couldn’t........Somebody said the other day that I couldn’t ‘say Pop with a mouth full of firecrackers’. But it was starting to change, and they were having a tough time finding a niche for me. So we seen fit to part ways after that third CD.”
“Nick Hunter and Chuck Rhodes were both at Giant when I was signed. And Nick had been let go, and then Chuck had been let go. They were let go in the middle “Too Much Fun.” We had released “I Let Her Lie” and they promoted it, and it went number one, in Cashbox I think. I always tell everybody that it was a number one record.”
“I’ve always heard the tale that Conway Twitty always said he had a number one record, it didn’t matter what publication it went number one in. But it was number two in R&R Billboard. In Cashbox it went number one, so I consider it a number one record. And I got a Giant Records Jacket to prove it. That was a deal I made with them, that if I had a number one record with it that they would buy me and my whole band leather jackets, and they lived up to that.”
During the promotion of “Too Much Fun,” it was decided that Giant “didn’t need a promotion staff, so they fired the staff and I got stepchild by Warner Brothers Reprise. Their promotion staff started promoting “Too Much Fun” which was Top 5 Record as well. In the midst of all that Chuck and Nick left and started Koch.”
“I had left Lib, and was managed at the time by Erv Woolsey, Erv and Nick were big buddies And Nick had stayed in touch, Nick said ‘I’ll sign you to a record deal if you want to do Country Music’, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ My first CD on Koch was Now and Again.” For that, “we actually went back and licensed some of the recordings from the Giant Records and recorded a couple of three new things. Had a great time doing that, but didn’t really have any hits off of that first record.”
Then “we had come up with the idea of doing a traditional record of some of my favorite artists and songs that we had been playing on the road for all those years.” Daryle had also found the song “That’s Why I Sing this Way” that he “had been holding on to, and had played on the Opry a few times. So when we started talking about doing this cover record I said ‘Man, I got the perfect title for it.’” “That’s Why I Sing This Way”, written by Max D. Barnes, and brought to Daryle by his bass player, contains the memorable line of “mama used to whip me with a George Jones album, and that’s why I sing this way.” “So we recorded it with all the songs that we did for that record.”
Daryle’s satisfaction with the recording of the album is clear. “I actually got Haggard to sing on it with me; I got Jones to sing a song on there with me. And I guess my most favorite, memorable, recording ever is the recording I did with Johnny Paycheck. It actually, unfortunately, was his last recording that anybody has on tape from the hospital that he passed from not long after we got this record done. And that was in 2004, I believe.”
“And we released it, and it didn’t really blow the doors down, but it kind of hammered the fact home that I am a Country singer, a traditional music country singer. I’m a big country music fan and that was an awesome deal to be able to do that.”
I had to stop Daryle and ask him more about the recording with Paycheck. I knew that on Daryle’s version of Old Violin, Paycheck sounds a little weak, but was I right in hearing that he was hospitalized at the time of the recording?
“Yes, he was in the hospital. When we put his vocals on there he was actually on breathing machines, on respiratory machines, he had emphysema real bad. He had been asked to sing on some records and had passed on everything. It was Nick’s idea, and I kind of felt bad about it because I said ‘I respect the fact that Johnny’s sick and probably don’t want to bother with doing this.’ But after they called and asked him, he was like ‘I’d love to do it.’”
“One of my fondest memories is coming of the Opry stage one night and I was handed a cell phone and it was Paycheck on the phone calling. He had seen me perform Old Violin on TV and he was very complimentary of it. And I thought that was a pretty neat deal.”
“And actually we recorded the CD that’s getting ready to come out right after That’s Why I Sing This Way. We had the art work and had, I mean, the whole deal done and was ready for release and it happened pretty much all in one day (slight laugh again in the words) they shelved the record and closed the record label. So here we are with a record that we thought was pretty doggone good that was not going to get to be heard.”
But “we moved on and we did a little one off for Shanachie, and they kind of wanted to do the same kind of concept that we did with That’s Why We Sing this Way.” Straight From The Heart was released on Shanachie in 2007.
“And we had kind of started looking for some funds to buy this Rockin In The Country Record from Koch. They had started talking about digitally releasing it as a download. And I was like man that would be a waste of time, and a waste of great music, and great songs, so let’s go and try to buy it.”
“Well, when we started to talking about purchasing the project, they come up with the idea, well, ‘Let us just open another division, & change the name from Koch to E1 Music and let’s put it out.’ “We were like ‘OK, let’s do that’, and we recorded a couple of new things. And it’s kind of weird, the same way I got the “I Let Her Lie”, I had demoed the single that’s currently at radio now about a year before I recorded it for this record. I went on a song search for two things. “Love You the Lights On” was one, and the other was “They Know How To Grow Em” that we actually found to replace a couple of songs that had been recorded by other artists while the record was on the shelf. So that kind of brings us up to date with what’s going on.”
I lost connection with Daryle after as soon as he made the last statement. I thought “well, I guess saying we’re up to date is as good of a stopping place as any, somewhat abrupt, but maybe he was done.”
The phone rang about two minutes later. “Hello, I’ll get up here where I can pull off. You got me now?” I did for about 20 seconds, and he was gone again. A few moments pass, and then I hear him say, “Let me go on a bit and see if I can get a signal. Got me now?”
“Alright I’ll hang my head out the window then.” I’m left with the image of him pulled over on some back road in South Georgia with his head out the window as he continues, “Well, I ended pretty much where we are today with a new CD.”
About the CD, there were a few things that I had wanted to discuss. I began by stating I remember that track seven of Rockin In The Country, “If I Ever Get Back”, was also recorded by Joe Nichols. “Yes, Joe Nichols recorded that but I don’t know if he ever released it as a single or not. That didn’t scare me, I loved the song and I am a big Billy Yates fan too (the track was written by Billy Yates and Billy Lawson). There was a song that we did replace called “To Do What I Do.” Alan Jackson recorded that and titled his CD after it. So we definitely took that off and we took off Jesus and Bartenders, which we later rerecorded” (appears on Straight From The Heart).
Another song that I wanted to discuss is “Going Through Hell (With You Again).” I mention to Daryle that stylistically it seems a little different for him. His reply is yet again marked with a little laugh.
“Yeah I thought so. I liked what the song said and it was definitely different. I just like the song a lot and Jimmy Wayne is a buddy of mine and ole Wynn Varble, he’s a nut case, (said with a laugh), he’s a friend of mine.” Wayne and Varble, along with Don Poythrees, share writing credits. “So when I got that song I thought it was cool and we got to show a little bit of a different side of us.”
I assured him I liked it as well, and stated my belief that it might make a good single. “We thought about it, we had a few we thought about, cut number three, “That Why God Made Me”, we thought about it as a single and it was gonna be the first single before we recorded “Love You With The Lights On”.”
About “Love You With The Lights On”, I mention that I hear a Keith Whitley influence on full display. He replied by saying, “I’m a big Keith Whitley fan, I’m a huge fan of his, and anything that I do, if I get complimented on as being influenced by him it’s definitely taken as a compliment”
“Couldn’t that be a bit of a double edged sword though?” I ask.
“Yeah, I mean I think in this business we got to be compared to somebody. I mean if you listen to those early Johnny paycheck records, before he was Johnny Paycheck he was Donnie Lytle, you can hear George Jones stole some licks from Paycheck. And Haggard is very verbal and vocal about trying to sing like Lefty Frizzell. It just goes on down through the years and I appreciate the influences that I have had. I even say that I moved to
After this little aside, it was back to talking about the new CD. Somewhat of a surprise to me was the artwork. But the mystery of the photos for the new CD seeming like those for That’s Why I Sing This Way, is explained in the closing of Koch. “Yeah, we didn’t do new ones. It happened so fast, like I say, when we decided to do it. When we started talking about releasing it, we said, ‘shoot, we got a photo shoot of stuff already’ and that’s what they did.”
Remembering Daryle’s earlier comment that he thought releasing Rockin In The Country digitally would be “waste of time”, I asked his thoughts of what now is becoming more than a trend. “Honestly, I think that’s where it is going, unfortunately. John Q. Public really don’t know what’s internal in this music business, but we have to fight with some of the retail and distribution places. They just don’t want to spend the money if you’re not a Chesney or Tim McGraw.”
Having heard his thoughts on a move toward digital offerings, I thought he might have more thoughts on the current country climate. I was right. Daryle states, “I’m of the opinion that there’s room for everybody. You know some of it really doesn’t have any substance to it, but I feel like there’s room for everybody. They ought to be able to play a Kenny Chesney and be able to play a George Jones or Merle Haggard right behind it. I mean it shows with this Carrie Underwood cut of “I Told You So” that the influence is still there of great country music.”
Surprisingly, when I asked about a European following, he stated that he really didn’t know. “You know what, I’m sad to say, I’ve never been overseas and never played outside the
Now, in preparing for conversations like this, I am reminded of when Waylon Jennings noticed himself carrying a briefcase and commented “a country singer with a briefcase beats all I ever saw.” It does seem a bit funny to look at profiles on myspace and facebook and websites for information about traditional country artists. Daryle again shows his honesty in saying “I have somebody that runs my facebook and my myspace and my website, like you say, I was up at trying to kill a turkey. I’ve got better things to do than sit on a computer.”
While laughing at the last comment, I ask, “Well is there anything else you might want to discuss or talk about or go on a rant about?”
“No, I think we covered it. You know I’m a country music fan. I appreciate everybody that will read the magazine and listen to the music. I love country music and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have been in this business for fourteen years and still have something new to talk about.”
“One last question, and I’ll let you go, being such a fan, what’s in your player?
“Right now, a Vern Gosdin record and that’s only because it can’t hold but one CD at a time.”
“Well, Daryle, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I’ve enjoyed it.”
He ends by saying, “Me too, it’s been a pleasure.”
And it was.