musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Larry Jon Wilson’

Tommy Talton’s Musical Legacy: Cowboy & We The People

One of the more unsung musicians of the 1960s and 1970s is Florida’s Tommy Talton, a guiding force behind influential bands such as We The People and Cowboy. I grew up in Central Florida during those years and heard a lot about those bands, but I am ashamed to admit that until earlier this year I had never heard a full album by either one of Talton’s famous groups.


Cowboy, a band that Talton formed with Scott Boyer after We The People broke up, were signed to the Capricorn label (label mates and friends with the Allman Brothers) released Reach For the Sky in 1970 and 5’ll Get You Ten in 1971. Both albums (re-released last year by Real Gone Records) were laidback country-rock gems, focusing on melodic songs and soaring harmonies more than the “guitar army” slant of many other southern rock bands of that era. After the other band members left following 5’ll Get You T Boyer and Talton continued making music as Cowboy and later as a duo for the rest of the decade. They reunited in 2010 for a live album and reports have it that they are writing songs for a new studio album. Meanwhile, Talton continues to play live shows, mostly near his home in Atlanta and around Florida.


Talton cut his musical teen as a teenager when he formed We The People  in late 1965 with other Orlando area musicians such as guitarist Wayne Proctor, David Duff, and Randy Boyte. They played a lot of shows in the Orlando area and around the Southeast, and were briefly signed to the RCA label (releasing a few singles but not a full album), but never managed to break big nationally. Blame that on poor marketing and record distribution more than talent. Like Cowboy, this was a band that had an arsenal of great songs. To immerse myself in the music of We The People I recently bought Mirror of Our Minds a 2-CD collection that includes everything the band recorded during their brief existence, including tracks that the members made under earlier band-names such as The Trademarks, The Nonchalants, and the Offbeets. Most people categorize We The People as a psychedelic rock band, or garage band, but their songs also had a strong melodic foundation and sometimes exuded an R&B and soul vibe. Even at this young age it was clear that Tommy Talton was a songwriting talent. It’s not a stretch to say the songs of We The People were every bit as good as those of their more famous British contemporaries such as The Yardbirds or the Pretty Things.


Meanwhile, here are the other albums — all legally purchased CDs — that I have been enjoying and singing to during the recent rainy days and stormy nights in Bangkok.



Verckys et L’Orchestre Veve – Congolese Funk, Afrobeat, & Psychedelic Rumba 1968-78

Cut Copy – Fabric Live 29

Bobby Lance – First Peace/Rollin’ Man

Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off the Lavender Bridge

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart



Todd Rundgren – Global

TV on the Radio – Seeds

Paul Collins – Feel the Noise

Various Artists – Bonobo: Late Night Tales

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands



Various Artists – Jazz Meets Africa

Sloan – Commonwealth

Mongo Santamaria – Up From Roots

Various Artists – Masterpieces of Modern Soul

The Grip Weeds – How I Won the War



Barbara Massey & Ernie Calabria – Prelude to …

Mark Knopfler – Tracker

Blur – The Magic Whip

Phillip Upchurch – Darkness, Darkness

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down



Various Artists – Studio One Scorcher: Instrumentals

Rasputin’s Stash – Rasputin’s Stash

The James Taylor Quartet – Hammond-ology

Ron Nagle – Bad Rice

Bobbi Humphrey – Fancy Dancer



Larry Jon Wilson – New Beginnings/Let Me Sing My Song To You

Various Artists – Next Stop Soweto

The Pazant Brothers – The Brothers Funk: 1969-1975

Various Artists – Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Wendy Rene – After the Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax & Volt Single & Rarities 1964-65



Various Artists – Can’t Be Satisfied: The XL and Sounds of Memphis Story

Orchestre Super Borgou de Parakou – The Bariba Sound: 1970-1976

Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Roscoe Gordon – Bootin’: Best of the RPM Years

Chris Spheeris – Eros


Heartworn Highways

It’s late December, 1975, and a group of musicians have gotten together to perform a few songs. This bunch of singer-songwriters were all young men, all based in the American Southwest (mostly from Texas), still relatively unknown to the music world, but in the words of this album’s producer, ones who “were beginning to change the landscape of country music.” What these musicians were offering was definitely not your traditional brand of hillbilly country, but something that was later dubbed “outlaw country” or even “progressive country.” More whiskey and Texas chili, as opposed to grits and biscuits.

Whatever the label, you could safely say, without exaggeration, that this was one of the greatest collections of singer-songwriters ever assembled; a jaw-dropping group of young mavericks that included Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, and Steve Young. Throw in interesting characters like Larry Jon Wilson, Gamble Rogers, and David Alan Coe, and the atmosphere becomes even more intoxicating — in more ways than one! The CD clocks in at nearly 80 minutes, offering stunning performances such as Van Zandt’s classic “Pancho and Lefty,” a few Guy Clark gems (“L.A. Freeway” and “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train”), Crowell’s “Bluebird Wine,” and Coe’s surprisingly tender “I Still Sing the Old Songs.”

Although the film was made in 1976, it’s not clear why it took over 30 years for these recordings to surface. But thanks to efforts by the label, the album’s producer, and sound engineers, a “meticulous audio restoration” was undertaken and the result is an incredible album. It sounds like you are right in the room with these guys, listening to history being made. Not only is this a priceless audio snapshot of great musicians during their formative years, it’s also a thrilling listening experience. And it may cause some listeners to redefine what they think of as country music. 


There is also a documentary companion to Heartworn Highways that contains even more music, including performances by Charlie Daniels. But it’s apparently now out of print and the last time I checked on Amazon, even used copies were selling for well over a hundred dollars. Have to patiently wait for a reissue or more affordable offerings.

The biggest musical contributor to Heartworn Highways — at least the one with the most songs — was Guy Clark, at that time a young songwriter who had just released his first two albums, both of them flawless collections of well-crafted songs; Old No. 1 and Texas Cookin’. Pick any song off either of those albums and you have a classic. Really, it’s hard to think of an artist, in any genre, who had two better albums to launch a career. Although Guy Clark is perhaps best known as a songwriter whose songs have been covered by hundreds of other artists, he’s also a very good singer and the power of his songs are not diminished at all by having him perform them. Which I think, was one reason why fellow troubadour Townes Van Zandt never made it big. Townes was a great songwriter, no question about it, but his vocals took some getting used to. And while Guy Clark is no Willie Nelson in the vocals department, he’s much smoother than Townes. 

For yet another glimpse into the great songs and personalities of these musicians, check out Together at the Bluebird Café, a live album recorded in 1995 with contributions from Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle. Wonderful tunes performed in small venue with some great between songs patter helps gives this album a refreshing down-to-earth homey vibe. This was also one of the last times the three shared a stage; Van Zandt passed away less than two years later.


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