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VIII. Six Strings, No Kick

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Six Strings, No Kick


’d been playing that acoustic guitar long enough for it to look like a Brazilian-rosewood-and-spruce extension of my rib cage. It was where all the songs I wrote came from. Nevertheless, I wanted to add new tunes to my repertoire. I wanted to play with other like-minded musicians. I wanted to interpret the music I had loved since I was a kid, as well as write music I hoped was just as good. Musicians made far more money in Texas playing the hits in pickup bands out in the interstate motel lounges. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Instead, I wanted to be more like the glamorous rock ’n’ rollers in the British Invasion that had shrewdly marketed

Houston kids like me since I was old enough to tune an AM radio.

I happened upon a rough-looking, blonde Rickenbacher guitar hanging on a pawnshop wall in Houston. It was similar to the one Lennon played in the early Beatles. It was puppy love, alright. It had some important pieces missing but still had the original pickups. A few trips to the guitar fixer later and it was reconditioned plenty good enough for four-by-four rock ’n’ roll, even without the whammy bar. For the first time in my young performing career, I played both the familiar, woody

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XXXV. Say in Your Owndamnway

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Say in Your Owndamnway


ometimes the loudest sound in my cabin outside of Nashville was the rice frying. When songs are trying to become songs, it’s quiet as death, hour in and hour out, except for cursing punctuations in the midst of the music I envision. Write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. Sometimes till you’ve made a huge circle of scrabbling in the sky, only to find you’ve come out the other side facing the original. It’s the worst of the work. It’s no wonder the frets on a guitar get ruts in them as fast as they do. Over and over, round and about, up and down, and back again. Poor damn guitar.

Then, what you faithfully scrawl you must, discouragingly, learn.

And it never goes as easy as you might suppose it would. You can write songs for 30 years, but your hard-won latest always turns out to be just different enough from the rest to qualify as a whole new sonorous complication.

Ambition sure is lonely.

I was very high on Texas Plates. But the hulking Godzilla of an entertainment label was no more impressive in its efforts to market my presentation than the independent from Austin that had buried my first. In my Black Book I wrote:

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XXX. Phoenix

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF




fter the Complete Works was done, I began to think a recording would in fact be possible,” says Hobart.

“I had a short list of producers in mind, with an eye to sensitivity to music and sensitivity to the artist. Sometimes you’ll trade one for the strength of the other, but that’s what I had in mind. Todd Rundgren,

Van Dyke Parks, Jim Rooney, Elliot Mazer, and T. Bone Burnett were a few. I was listening to T. Bone’s latest album and realized that the songs I thought were the best were coproduced by Bob Neuwirth, and that turned my focus to Bob. I’d met him once or twice in Los

Angeles with Peter Case and that ‘L.A. Folk School,’ as I call it—Case,

Soles, Steve Young. I was very glad Bob decided to do the project. I was glad, too, that Vince wasn’t lumped in with Nashville or something else recognizable. Vince is an individual before a style. Vince’s songs are not folk songs, they are art songs. And they are closer to

Jacques Brel than Woody Guthrie.”

Bob Neuwirth came to the Bay Area to record two songs he had chosen from my Complete Works. He chose “Frankenstein,” written by

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VI. I’m Not This Way Because I’m a Musician,I’m a Musician Because I’m This Way

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


I’m Not This Way Because I’m a Musician, I’m a Musician

Because I’m This Way


he “circuit” began for me in Twin Falls,

Idaho. The plane ride felt luxurious compared to driving my Rambler to all the whistle-stops I could lie my way into in the Lone Star State.

After we landed, the pilot came over the intercom and advised us that ours was the last plane before a snowstorm and the arrival of the then Vice President. He announced that none of us paying customers would be allowed to enter the terminal.

Employees of the airline and Secret Service goons hurried us through the deplaning. As I was shoved down the walkway from the

727 into the swirling snow, I looked over to the baggage-claim area.

There was my precious $500 guitar in its new case, lying in a bank of snow. As I retrieved it and brushed it off, in stormed a baby-blue vicepresidential version of Air Force One. I grabbed my hat as flurries of white obscured us all. The big airliner raced past us.

I looked down at the fancy, alligator-linen-covered hard-shell case

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XIV. Rumor of My Demise

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Rumor of My Demise


he rumor of my demise certainly spread far.

Larry Monroe, who has been a mainstay of the University of Texas’ radio station for over 25 years, remembers, “I had been working at KUT for a little over a year and a half on December 20, 1982. That was my last night of work for a few days because I was flying back to my hometown for the Christmas holidays. I finished my blues program, ‘Blue Monday,’ at midnight and, early in the morning of the 21st, left the station.

I pulled my old blue Chevy onto I-35 southbound and as I pulled off the freeway at the Riverside exit I could see several emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. A police car was blocking the lanes and an officer was diverting traffic. As I made my turn I could see the aftermath of a very nasty automobile accident. I only had a moment to look, but I could tell from the debris that it had been a pretty bad crash. I went on home and packed for my trip to Indiana.

“I got to the airport a few hours later and bought an Austin

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