ROCK & REPRISE.NET
“I left L.A., which was not a good political move. LiPuma wanted me to stay in L.A. and work with him but I said no, I'm going to San Francisco. I disregarded everything--- business, music--- everything.
“So I went to the Bay Area and opened up a little guitar store in San Anselmo. I said, I'm through performing. I've had enough of this music business crap. I'm going to be just an old shopkeeper here.”
“Steve and I started Amazing Grace Music in late 1969,” recounted ex-wife Terrye Newkirk. “We had moved to San Francisco and stayed with a San Francisco attorney, Ed Stadum, and his wife before moving to an apartment, then moved to to Marin County, then out to Nicasio in extreme western Marin. We lived in an apartment in the Druids' Hall, the only building in town besides the post office/store and the Catholic church. The cover photo (of Young's Reprise album Seven Bridges Road) was shot on the bridge that crossed the creek behind our place. That is not me in the photo. It's a model.”
Young and Newkirk weren't the only people watching Rock Salt & Nails tank. Reprise Records' Andy Wickham watched with hawk's eye and when it became obvious A&M had all but given up on the album, talked Reprise into giving Young a go.
“Andy basically sent me to Nashville and put me in touch with Tannen for some reason I never quite understood,” Young stated. “He was the so-called producer, but he was really a publisher--- a Northern Jewish guy to whom some people did not take very well at the time. Really, I was co-producer though I don't get credit for it. A lot of the production had to do with me and the excellent musicians who were involved. Tannen was okay in the way of organizing and stuff like that, but he wasn't much of a creative producer or anything.”
Tannen brought in a raft of pickers and players, names not yet that well known but who would soon be on Nashville's A-List: Charlie McCoy, Fred Carter Jr., Jerry Carrigan, David Briggs, Weldon Myrick and others. One would think that the talent alone would have carried the sessions, but something didn't quite seem right. At least, to Young.
“I remember there being weird abstract conflicts with some of the musicians,” Young said. “Some of them didn't seem to know what to make of the songs, couldn't figure them out. There was a weird tension through it all.
“For what it is worth, it was only a few. There was a redneck-ism present that I had always been sensitive to. I think some of the lyrics bothered a couple of the good old boys there. Long Way To Hollywood, for example.
“In a way, going to Nashville was a mistake. I suffered culture shock. I wasn't living there at the time and was just going there to record, but I basically ran into what I had left. It was all kinds of bad and bleak. It was interesting to be back in the South, but I wasn't really okay with it. Even though I was a Southerner, I had become used to the California thing, so it was a shock at times. I still had a lot of anger about the South--- about the social, religious and political views there.”
In the end, Young was a bit disappointed in the album, but he admitted that he has never been completely satisfied with any of his albums. There always seemed to be some songs which could have been recorded better or at least differently. He left the studio feeling slightly uneasy but glad that it was done. And then he waited.
While he waited, he built the business.
“The store was a real guitar store for people who really liked guitars and the hippies and musicians responded well to it,” Young said. “Jerry Garcia and Van Morrison used to stop by occasionally and life was good, though there wasn't a lot of money in it.”
“Jesse Colin Young came in one day,” he explained, “and I gave him a tape of the album and he loved it and went and talked with the executives at Reprise. Not long after, the album was released. That may have been why they finally released it.”
Seven Bridges Road hit the floor faster than Rock Salt & Nails. In spite of several positive reviews, radio stations would not touch it. Rock stations claimed it wasn't rock enough. Country stations claimed it wasn't country enough. Some critics went so far to say that Reprise, with no track record in the country music business, were shut out of country radio by default. Of course, it mattered neither to Young nor Reprise that A&M was having similar problems with The Flying Burrito Brothers and Dillard & Clark. No airplay in those days equaled dead and there simply was no airplay. Reprise, after making the minimal and obligatory attempts to market the album*, promptly forgot about Steve Young and Seven Bridges Road. (*There were two attempts to make Young more palatable to radio--- white label promo 45s. One, Sea Rock City, was actually The White Trash Song under a different title. The second, a cover of Bob Dylan's Crash On the Levee (Down In the Flood), was released as There's a High Tide A'Risin').
“They changed the title from The White Trash Song to Sea Rock City because White Trash was too controversial,” said Young. “They never said, hey, can they change it. I was unaware of it until I had a copy in my hands.”
“Steve and I went to Nashville twice to record while we lived in Marin,” Newkirk noted. “Once, I was about four months pregnant with Jubal and once when Jubal was approximately six weeks old. We continued to live in Marin until Jubal was fifteen months old, then moved to Nashville. We intended to buy a farm with the proceeds of the sale of the guitar shop.”
“I dropped out,” Young said. “I didn't give a damn. I was running the guitar store and trying to lead a normal life. I was still playing, but mostly in the store when there was no one around. I did get gigs now and again around the Bay Area. But after two years or so, I became bored. I found out that I was a very restless individual. I was married with a son and said, okay, we can't afford to buy any land around here so let's go to Nashville. It was a big mistake, but we went there and got a little bit of land outside of Nashville and had this little farm which kind of drove us crazy.”
“We bought a small farm outside Leiper's Fork”, Newkirk said, “with a 100-year-old log cabin on it. I planted a big garden, we heated with wood and our water was gravity-fed from a spring. Eventually, we sold the farm to Waylon (Jennings) and his drummer, Richie Albright, lives there to this day, although the original cabin has since burned down.”
During that stretch, things were not all that good. There were problems with money and with the recording and music publishing deals.
“Steve's publishing was held up by Warner Brothers for years,” Newkirk said, “and Steve couldn't record any of his songs until the publishing contract expired. (In the meantime) Warner Brothers refused to record more records with Steve. It was a nightmare.”
The nightmare extended to their personal lives also. Young had started drinking again and it was the last in a line of straws. Steve Young and Terrye Newkirk separated in 1974. Newkirk, needing to support herself and her son Jubal, headed to the city of Nashville out of necessity. Young hit the road, becoming the troubadour around which much of his legend revolves. To listen to him tell it, he lived from barstool to barstool, his guitar equivalent to an old cowboys' six-shooter. Without it, he may well have drunk himself to death. But he didn't. There was a lot of music yet to come from that old guitar.
Chapter One: The
Long Way to Hollywood