My story of a band named “the Caldwells”

Currently listening to: Gypsy Flat Road by: Sandra McCracken

Ok, there was a time when I thought I knew everything.  Haven’t we all been there?  When in reality I knew nothing.  I was a late bloomer musically.  No one in my family was a musician, I just kinda stumbled onto this passion for music after hearing “We Built This City” on the radio a million times back when I was a kid.  I can still hear that tune over the radio and picture me belting it out in my bedroom when I lived off of Snavely rd in PA.  I know, I know. “We Built this City”?  Something about it grabbed me.  Secretly it still does 🙂

Fast forward to my sophomore year in college when I was playing guitar in a band called the Paddy Odell’s where I met Rodney Wright a local drummer who was still in High School at the time.  We became friends and I told Rodney that one day we would be in our own band together.  Well, a few years later I ran into him on campus at Belmont University where he had just started attending.  Wasn’t long before we started playing music together as a duo.  I lived on “Caldwell Ave.” beside campus and without being able to come up with a band name so we became the Caldwells. Playing gigs at “the Foundry” in Nashville and eventually making it a full band when adding Danny Memeo on guitar and vocals.  I am not the best musician, never have been.  Kinda a scrap guitar player and singer.  In those days I had not yet found my own voice as a singer or guitar player.  Putting better musicians around you is always a good idea to learn from.  Back then sadly I was not very teachable.  Stubborn and foolish was more like it.  Again, I was young.  Thankfully I had Rodney and Danny to sing and play music with who were much more skilled as musicians, singers and writers.  We practiced every week in my brother in law’s garage.  He lived down the street on “Caldwell Lane.”  At the time he was just an acquaintance using us to get my sister over to his house so she would fall in love and marry him.  It worked and they now have 3 kids and live in Franklin TN.  We seemed to always have rotating bass players.  Many great players joined us. Glen Kimberlin though was the closest thing we ever had to a full time bass player.  I will forever have a bond with Glen.  Great man, great bass player.

We eventually met Todd Adams who came on board to help manage everything.  He took great pictures, tracked the money, spent most of his own money trying to keep us afloat, booked gigs, set up radio stuff, took care of all that stuff you take care of when you are a band.  He also cared for us, laughed with us, and at times kept us from killing each other.  Todd is and will always be dear to my heart.  I’m thankful to call him friend.  When Danny joined the group he really helped refine the songs adding great guitar parts and excellent harmonies.  As well as writing new parts to some of the songs that needed a lift.  Psalm 121 was one of those.  Danny’s additions really made that song.   Looking back I wish we had played Danny & Rodneys songs.  They wrote great songs.  Instead we mainly played the songs I had written in college and some fun covers.  If I could go back I would listen more, speak less, and play more songs written by better writers so I could have learned the craft better.

During those day I was working at the YMCA and met a man whom I seriously thought was a homeless guy but turned out to be legendary producer Bob Johnston.  No one really knew he was still alive when I met him.  He was just a quiet family man taking care of his family and being a grandfather.  Bob Johnston produced Bob Dylans biggest records, Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” , Simon & Garfunkel’s biggest records from the 70’s, Willie Nelson, Carl Perkins. The list was impressive!   He was also a songwriter for Elvis back in the day.  He was a character to say the least.  He invited Todd and I out to his house to meet with him to discuss recoding a full project.  I will never forget the strange drinks he gave us and Todd looking at me asking me what the huge clump was in our drinks.  We will never know.  Bob spent weeks coming to the garage to listen to us practice and share his wisdom with us.  He would stand in the middle of the room, dance around and shout words of encouragement at us.  Then he would leave only to come back 15 minutes later and repeat the process. Oh, the stories. One night he repeated that same scenario only to add drawings of each of us.  One by one he gave them to us as we were rehearsing a song.  I wish we still had them and then again I don’t.   The laughter and eery feeling each of us had afterwords was priceless.

We eventually ended up recording a batch of songs with Bob.  That experience was a stormy midnight Halloween recording session at Cherokee Studios in Nashville.  Bryan Sutton was with us playing bass guitar and mandolin.  That evening was like a b grade horror movie.  Bob would come in the studio like a cheerleader would a football team.  Then have us play it again while he would slip out.  Eventually returning. One time he returned into the studio as were finishing up a take.  He turned the lights down really low and began to encourage us with some funny sayings then proceeded to move a lava lamp to the middle of the room not realizing at the time that it had been on for the last several hours resulting in him dropping the lava lamp and burning his hands.  I will never forget that.  If you listen to the CD you can hear Bob telling us we only had one more take of the song “Count On You” and me commenting back thinking he couldn’t hear me.  But he did and responded promptly with much enthusiasm. “Yes, Yes, Rock and Roll!”   Bob was good man with a lot of excitement, aged wisdom and experience who worked hard to encourage us to play the best we could to try to capture magic on tape.  I will never forget his personality and the adventure he took us on.

After that we recorded with friend, mentor,  acclaimed guitar player, songwriter and producer Dave Perkins,who has played with everyone legendary musician you can think of from Carol King to Jerry Jeff Walker to Vassare Clemmens.    He recorded, produced and mixed everything we recorded.  A few tracks recorded in Bryan Sutton’s apartment, a few with Bob Johnston, and the majority with Dave in his legendary 1940’s Bus that was transformed into a studio.  I learned allot over those weeks in the studio and most importantly had my first Guinness.  After a long and late night of mixing Dave gave us some cash and asked us to get Guinness in a can, warm.  Told us we were all going to drink some guinness with him.  I will never forget that night. The hair on my chest began to grow that night.

We eventually released the CD “Posture” on Todd’s indie label “Lab recordings” with high hopes and dreams.  We played shows, did some radio interviews, got some good radio play (We were big in Estonia Russia. Like who isn’t right?), got good reviews, sold a few CD’s and never really went anywhere.  And eventually we melted down and disbanded and went our own ways.  I look back and am sad at how immature I was back then.   Rodney, Danny, Todd, Bryan, Glenn (bass player) Blain, and a host of others who filled in at one time or another over that time span.  I am grateful and honored to have shared the experience and journey with you all.  With Rodney and Danny our connection was like that of being brothers.  Which was not always easy. But I will always love those guys.  They mean the world to me.

Many months later after we went our own ways I received a phone call from a Disney producer who said she had heard one of our songs on an internet radio station.   And that she wanted to know if we would be interested in auditioning for a spot on a new show called Two Hour Tour.  I think because things were still to fresh from our bands collapse only Rodney and I ended coming back together for this “one time” thing. Looking back I really don’t remember all the details but I wish Danny had been with us. We ended up assembling a group of friends to the play the other instruments and audition for this TV show where a couple of bands from different cities were competing to gain an opening slot for a major act from their city.  We made it through the biggest part of the audition process and made it on to the show where we got to perform live for the main act who for us was SheDaisey.  Listening back to this video I don’t remember what on earth made me do that weird vibrato thing with my voice in the song.    I don’t think I ever did that before nor have I since.  I was still searching for my own voice I guess.  The show was a fun adventure.  We filmed the episode super early one morning and our final competition was against 2 teenage girls.  Let me remind you we were aging 26 and 27 year olds.  I was just starting to go bald.  The premise of the show was whoever Shedaisey chose would spend the day with them and then open up for them at the Wild Horse Salon in Nashville.  After everyone had performed we waited for about 30 minutes for the band and producers to decide who “made” it.  One of the highschool girls was chosen which made a lot of sense since Rodney and I would have had to go shopping with SheDaisey.  That would have been odd.  ha.  Chalk it up as experience and part of our own story.   I’m thankful for the time in my life and I’m glad we only grow wiser as life humbles us and we fall into the grace of God’s love and mercy.   The Video is of our portion of the show.  My two minutes of Disney fame 🙂  ha.  It’s been 15 years and I’m glad I went on that journey.

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