"It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made." Ray Charles.

How a cult music book became a cult music documentary, and it only took ten years.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Been meaning to post this link for ages, and seeing 'Canton' again last week reminded me to do it - one of my favourite scenes in the movie has Jim Dickinson singing 'Wild Bill Jones', a fine, dark outlaw song that sounds as if it could have been written at any time in the last five hundred years. Jim's accompanied by Jerry McGill, armed robber and raconteur, on the song. It's a spine-tingling moment, especially at the end when McGill says "That's a beautiful song..." - he flashes a dark look into the camera - "...and true, too." And he would know because he is the living image of the nameless narrator of the song, who kills Wild Bill Jones in cold blood, after Bill, who's been "passing the time" with one of the narrator's women, tells him "You know my age - it's twenty-one, that's too old to be controlled." The narrator says, almost sadly, but with a sense that this is the rightful order of things, "I pulled the trigger on my gun and I released Wild Bill's soul."

The song was written, sometime in the sixties, by an obscure Southern singer/songwriter called Bob Frank. To quote from his homepage, "Bob's dad always told him, "Whatever you do, son, do it better than anybody else." So when Bob decided to do obscurity, he didn't fool around. He became so obscure, he couldn't find his own shoes. That's why the only pictures you ever see of him, he's always barefoot. "

I found the website a couple of years back and emailed Bob to ask about buying his at that time most recent CD, 'Keep On Burning', which was produced by Jim and features many luminaries of the Memphis scene, as well as Bob's own version of a song Jim had tried and failed to release in a version by the above-mentioned outlaw Jerry McGill, a song about the Civil War called 'With Sabres In Our Hands'. Within a few days, and without any money changing hands, Bob had sent me the CD, trusting me to send him the cash by return. I hope he doesn't do that all the time, it might just partly explain his unjustified and wholly undeserved lack of recognition. It's a great CD, in any case, so if you find your way to his site via this blog, listen to some of the great free audio samples on there and then buy the damn thing, buy everything he's got to sell. He's another sort of outlaw, but thankfully one who's less likely than Jerry McGill to let off gunfire in studio or threaten to pistol-whip you.
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