|photo by Fred W. Arnold|
James Paul McCartney in Nashville
By Fred w. Arnold
Strawberry Fields Forever Issue #11 (1974)
Nashville, Tennessee is actually two capitol cities in one location. Besides being the state capitol of Tennessee, it’s also the country music capitol of the world. But when James Paul McCartney and Wings arrived here in mid-June it had little to do with the fact that Nashville was the state capitol of Tennessee.
“The main purpose of our visit was to practice,” said Paul,” and just rehearse with the band which we did every day. But after we got here we decided it would be silly not to record as well.”
The McCartney entourage (which included Paul, Linda, Stella, Heather, Mary, managers and the then-Wings lineup of Denny Laine, Jeff Britian, and Jimmy McCulloch) stayed at the Curly Putnam place, so thirty miles from the center of town. For the $2000.00 per week rent they paid, Curly provided two houses, a lake, several horses, and complete use of his 133-acre ranch.
During free time they toured Opryland (a gigantic amusement park, much like Disneyland but with country music as its theme), swam, rode horses, Paul tired out his new Honda, Linda shopped; but what they enjoyed doing most was—going to the drive in movies!
It wasn’t all fun, though; Paul spent lots of time in the recording studio too:
“…everybody’s talking ‘bout the president,
Let’s all chip in for a bag of cement,
I took my bag into the grocery store
The prices were higher than the time before,
Old man asked me, what is it for.
Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go take me down
To Junior’s Farm”
Paul and Jimmy traded off lead licks on this one, a rocker called “Down on Junior’s Farm.” Next they did a ballad called “Hey Dilla”, slow and soulful with excellent background harmonies by Paul and Linda.
A country and western number followed, usual only because it had already b een recorded by Paul and Linda in Paris under their “Suzi and the Red Stripes” pseudonym. It’s called “Wild Prairie.”
“Well I was born in Arkansas, yes I was born in Arkansas,, yes I was born in Arkansas and I ain’t going back, no I ain’t going back, going back no more. Well I was born in Arizona and when I was only three my mother took me in the saddle and rode the Wild Prairie, Wild Prairie, and we rode the Wild Prairie.”
“Send me the Heart that you broke” was next and this may be one of the finest country and western songs recorded in years. Paul and Wings get into some real downhome Nashville pickin’ and grinin’ complete with Nashville cats and pedal guitars!
One of the highlights of the Nashville sessions in fact, had to be when two of Nashville’s heaviest cats, Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer, showed up to jam with Wings. Together they did an instrumental piece called “Eloise” which was written by Paul’s father some 30 years ago! Musicians at this session included Chet and Floyd, Wasser Clements on fiddle, Lloyd Green on Pedal guitar, Bobby Thompson on piano, and Paul on bass and washboard!
The same lineup also recorded “Sally G.” although they did have the added help of the singing Cates Sisters.
“I ran my eyes across her as she sang ‘A tangled Mind.’ I used to love her sweet guitar. And they call her Sally, Sally G. Why do you do what you do to me.”
And so Paul McCartney becomes the second Beatle to record extensively in Nashville (Ringo recorded “Beaucoups of Blues there and album that really knocked out the critics!) The working title of the album just competed is “Cold Cuts”, although tentative plans right now call for the album not to be released in the near future, if at all. Paul wants the follow-up to “Band on the Run” to be just as fine musically and just as successful so unfortunately we may never hear these sessions.
A personal note: meeting James Paul McCartney was, for me, a super thrill. Paul said at his only press conference that, “Tennesseans are real downhome folks.” I found him and Linda to be downhome as well; they were both warm, friendly people who always had time to answer a question or sign an autograph (usually with a small picture after their names).
And I’m proud to say that they’ll be taking a little bit of Nashville home with them too. Just as they’ll be leaving a little bit more of themselves with us! How do I know they’ll be taking home some Nashville? Because I watched them coming out of Soundshop Studios one evening and singing Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” with Paul strumming his newly acquired acoustic guitar and Linda signing in her newly acquired southern accent!