The following commentary appeared in
the October 2002 edition of
The Songwriter's Connection.
Minor changes have recently been made.
"They Came To Hear The Music"
I lost a wonderful
friend recently. My good
friend and co-writer, James Odle,
Jr. of Houston was the one to break the news to me. "Mickey
Newbury passed away".
I was numb and spent the next several days searching for answers to so
many questions, but none came.
Mickey filled my life with joy
through his music, and was an inspiration to me with his gentle,
and through the love he had for his wife and children. They were
more important to him than
anything or anyone else, with his music coming in a very close
A close, loving family and music ... I can't
think of a better way to live, or a better legacy to leave behind.
At a time in my life when I was emotionally
at my lowest, I heard one of his songs.
I waited until the end to hear the DJ give his name, but like too many
DJ's I've listened to over the years he didn't back announce the songs
and artists. I called information, got the
phone number of the station and finally got through to the DJ.
"Hi, could you tell me who sang that song that you just played?"
"Yeah, that was Mickey Newbury."
Every time I heard one of
Mickey's songs on the radio (which was NEVER enough) I would stop
was doing and just listen. There was so
much more to hear than just the lyrics or the melody. He sang
with a passion and an emotion that could make you feel a
part of his every experience.
The first time I saw Mickey in concert was in early 1974 in San
My buddy Kelley and I headed into The City anticipating a fun evening
at The Great American Music Hall,
never imagining the transformation we would experience over the next
few hours. We had a table not more than 20
feet away from Mickey while he performed.
The lights were dimmed (he never was one that liked the bright lights,
preferring the more intimate settings that a nightclub or coffeehouse
could offer), and he made constant eye contact with his audience.
chatted with us between songs, and
generally made us feel like we were all just sitting around in his
living room or in our own comfortable rocking chair on his front porch
on a balmy summer evening, sipping
while he sang his heart out and told stories.
I saw him again, in a similar
setting, not too long after that first show, and then a few years later
I found out he was coming back to the Bay Area for three shows at a
in Los Gatos called The Cellar. I was a freelance
photojournalist by then and I mustered up the courage to track down his
phone number and called
him to see if I could interview him for an article I was writing on
spec for the
San Francisco Chronicle and also take some photos.
my heart pounding
uncontrollably from excitement I dialed the phone and a soft, sweet
voice answered on the other end ... it was his wife, Susie.
I told Susie my name and explained I was a freelance writer from the
San Francisco Bay Area, and I'd heard Mickey was coming back to the Bay
Area and wondered if
there would be any chance that he might allow me to interview
him. Susie said warmly, "I'm sure he'd love it! How kind of
you to call and ask. He's not home right now but he'll be back in
a little while and I can give him your name and phone # and have him
call you if you'd like."
I replied, "That would be great!" and
gave her my number. Less than a half hour later the phone
rang. My heart jumped and started pounding hard once again.
Was it Mickey?
"Hi! Is this Jace"
"Yes, it is!"
"Hi, Jace, this is Mickey Newbury. My wife, Susie, said you'd
called. I just got back from playing a little golf. How can
I help ya, Jace?"
We talked for about 45 minutes and before the end of the conversation
he'd made me feel like his newest and best friend. Actually that
had happened within the first 30 seconds and the rest of the time felt
more like we were old
buddies renewing a great friendship and catching up on old
times. Oh, how I
been able to be a part of those "old times".
After we hung up I was bouncing off the walls! When I calmed down
I called The Cellar where Mickey was going to be appearing and asked to
speak with the manager. I told
him who I was and that I was a freelance photojournalist and had just
spoken to Mickey Newbury and gotten permission to interview him when he
came to town to play at The Cellar. I then asked the manager (I
think his name was Dave) if there was a way I could reserve a table
near the stage for each night. He said, "Sure! I'll give
you and one guest complimentary tickets and half price tickets for up
to 4 guests who might like to join you each night."
"Really?! That's great!" I said.
Then he said, "Can I ask just one small favor in return?."
"Sure, what I can I do?"
"Well, you mentioned that you're a photojournalist, and I'd appreciate
it if I could have a copy of one of the photos you shoot of Mickey
to display on our wall. An 8x10 would be fine."
"Yeah! No problem. I can do that." I made another new
friend when I showed up a week after the shows and handed over a
16x20. Blew him away!
The first of the three nights arrived and my wife and I and our guests
arrived early. Dave was there to greet us and show us to our
table. A perfect location! Any closer and we'd have been on
stage with Mickey! Before the show started Dave came up to me and
said Mickey wanted to meet me and led me back to his dressing room.
Dave knocked on the door, and a friendly, familiar voice said, "Come
in." I was about to meet Mickey Newbury face to face!
Dave opened the door and we stepped in. Mickey quickly rose from
his chair and came up to us. "You must be Jace! Gosh, it's
SO good to meet you and thank you SO much for coming!"
Almost speechless, with my heart pounding like crazy again, I said,
"Mickey, it's great to meet YOU and thanks for letting me do all of
chatted for a few moments and then I excused myself so he could finish
ready for the show.
The show was sold out. You couldn't squeeze another person in, at
least not legally. He had the audience right in the palm of his
hands from the
moment he stepped onto the stage until he finished over 2 hours
later. Kathi and I and our guests waited for awhile and then Dave
to us and said, "Mickey's ready. You can go on back now."
As we approached his dressing room the door was open, with more of his
fans coming and going, sharing their "Great show, Mickey!" and
"Wonderful to see you again, Mick!" As the commotion began to die
down a bit he saw me and said, "Hey everybody, I want you to meet my
friend, Jace Carlton. He's from right here in the Bay Area and
to interview me for an article he's writing for the Chronicle."
He didn't say it in
a way to make the people leave - that's not Mickey. He ALWAYS
loved to have people around. But people wanted to be polite, plus
it was a very small dressing room and they wanted to give us all the
room we could get. I introduced my wife and friends to him and
then we sat down for the interview. The tape began to roll.
A half hour later (it felt like only 5 minutes or so) we started to
wrap it up. "You comin' back tomorrow night, Jace?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. We'll probably be at the same table."
"Great! I look forward to seeing you again. And, we'll
continue this interview afterwards, OK?"
"Continue? Really? Sure!" In truth I had covered
everything I could think of for my article, but it turned out he wasn't
through sharing with me all of the things he wanted to tell me. I
could hardly wait!
Night Two came. Dave greeted us like we were old friends and led
us to our table. And after another great show (Mickey never gave
anything but his best) the interview continued.
By the end of the third night everyone in the place thought I must have
been his friend for years. He made everyone in the place feel
like a friend, but we'd shared a lot in our first two interview
sessions, and from that came a very special bond. That night I
also took all of my albums for him to autograph. They're very
Somehow I think we both knew it might be a long time before we'd see
each other again, though neither one of us could have guessed that
third interview would be the last time we met face to face. I
spoke with him on the phone a few times after that, including after I
sent him a copy of the article I wrote for the Chronicle, titled "They
Came To Hear The Music",
a little title twist after one of my favorite songs
complimented me on the article and said he wished the paper had printed
it for MY sake, not his.
I also sent him a copy of my book of poetry, Sounds of Darkness, and a few songs
written. The comments he shared and the compliment he gave me are
priceless. "You've got a good heart, Jace. Always remember
that. And NEVER give up on your writing! The world needs
more people like you. God bless ya, my friend!"
I've kept my promise, Mickey. I'm still writing.
Over the years many songwriters have influenced my own
songwriting, but Mickey's influence touched me very deeply. Maybe
it was because his songs helped me through a particularly tough time I
was going through in my life during
the mid-70's, or perhaps it was how easily we made friends. The
I think of it, the more I'm convinced it was both. I had always
dreamed of someday co-writing with him, but for now I'll have to be
content with my dream of someday playing along with him in that great
I can see it now ... so many gathering to meet Mickey and listen to him
sing his legendary songs.
They've come to hear the music.
Now comes my hard edge message you need to hear LOUD and CLEAR!
were listening to me on the radio right now instead of reading this I'd
say, “PUMP UP THE VOLUME!”
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. How many times have we said to
should have __________ (you fill in the blank). I could have
__________ (fill in another blank). If only I’d have known, I
would have __________ (fill in your last blank).
Now, hidden in this exchange is a person you MUST avoid at all costs
her name is “If Only Ida”. She's the
sting of procrastination that hurts too many people.
How would I fill in the blanks above? Good question ...
"Something told me I should have called Mickey when I
first thought about calling him last spring.
I should have listened to
that still, small voice inside of me. I could have dug a little
deeper to find his phone number instead of thinking, 'Oh, I'm sure I’ll
across it tomorrow.' If only I had known my friend wasn't doing
would have at least called him, and then I would have done whatever it
took to go see him personally."
Many years ago I read a column by Charles McCabe in the San Francisco
Chronicle titled "Tell
Them". He urged his readers not to wait
until someone passes away to tell others how much you loved that
The person who needs to know is your friend,
and they need to know NOW!
Some of you reading this also subscribe to my daily motivational /
called "Change Your Stars!"
(OK … I admit it … a shameless
The message that has received the most requests to be repeated is:
If you had one hour
to live ...
Who would you call?
What would you say?
Why are you waiting?
I would extend that to
EVERYTHING we do in our lives! Sift
through all of the garbage and feel a true sense of urgency to do those
that truly matter most! Take whatever
time is necessary to love someone deeply.
When you feel moved upon to call or write or go see someone, trust your
instincts and DO IT!
When the Muse
upon you with lyrics or a melody for a song (or, if you're lucky,
the time to write it, RIGHT THEN!
Otherwise, if YOU don't write it someone else will. The Muse
ever found yourself
listening to the radio or a CD and all of a sudden you hear a song that
SWEAR you were going to write, but someone else beat you to it?!
Everything about it … the melody, the
lyrics, even that particular guitar riff … THEY'RE ALL THERE! And
someone else did it before you!!! Well, guess what? You
weren't paying attention when your Muse came knocking! You
snooze, you lose! Your Muse took it to someone else because
you weren't in tune! You might have a
favorite MUSE that you believe is ALL YOURS!
He or she always seems to be there to inspire us, but if you ignore him
or her, the song will simply go to someone else. THE SONG WILL
songwriters, we depend on our
Muse inspiring us in
their unique way. Mine acts like a
sultry mistress and whispers softly in my ear.
It's not long before the words start to flow and I hear the melody
sharing with me in my head. She's
patient with me while I work through the initial writing and subsequent
re-writes. Pretty soon, with the help
of my Muse, I have a new song! BUT … if
I ignore her, I'm in DEEP trouble!
whether you have a friend to
call, or a song to write
… DO IT NOW!
Copyright © 2006 by
lives near Nashville, TN and is a member of NSAI. A Freelance
Photographer, Poet, Author, and former Radio DJ, he now enjoys a career
as a Songwriter, and a
collaborator much in demand predominantly in the Country genre, but
also enjoys occasionally writing for A/C, Pop, R&B, Smooth Jazz,
As a Freelance Writer he has contributed reviews on new CD's to online
newsletters and regularly contributed book and concert reviews along
with personal commentary on the music industry to Nashville's Songwriter's
Jace is also the creator of the Change Your Stars! website
companion daily motivational / inspirational e-mail message that's read
by over 14,000 people all over the world. He is currently working
on a series of books based on the Change Your Stars! theme. For a
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