Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We All Make The Little Flowers Grow - R.I.P Lee Hazlewood


I just heard that Lee Hazlewood has finally left the building...

I noticed a surprising number of his tunes floating about online, which I first momentarily thought was an interesting cool coincidence, a simultaneous late recognition of his genius...maybe it was his birthday.

That was until I realized, hey the guy is terminally ill, and it might be for another less fortunate reason. Well it was indeed the grim reaper, who'd been banging on his door for awhile, and Lee was well aware of it.

I wrote up his final album "Cake or Death" a few months back, written and performed while he battled cancer...and recalled his ironic much earlier death themed tune, "We All Make The Little Flowers Grow"

Lee Hazlewood - "We All Make the Little Flowers Grow"

Barton Lee Hazlewood was an oakie, born the son of a wildcat oilman in Mannford OK in 1929. He moved around a lot as a kid in the depression, through Arkansas & Texas, according to the flow of the black gold, eventually winding up in Port Neches, Texas by the time Lee hit his high school years. Lee got into Southern Methodist University until the draft snatched him up and during the Korean War, Lee became a DJ for Armed Forces Radio in Japan.

When he returned to the US he spent some time in LA learning additional broadcasting skills before becoming a $40 a week DJ job in Phoenix at KCKY. As an on-air personality, he adopted the persona of Eb. X Preston, and grew adept at portraying a grizzled old-timer ala gabby hayes, who'd converse on air with the younger Hazlewood.

Lee perceived a late night/early morning market for R&B, and started mixing in records like Hank Ballard's "Annie Had A Baby" between Bing Crosby & Chet Atkins tunes.

He was a poet, a fool, a bum, and below there's a remix of a post I wrote on him last October.

Poet Fool Or Bum ?

Wanna take a further walk down Hazlewood memory lane?

here it is...

Some of the links may be dead, since some 9 months have slid by, and a man's life, but here it is...

Poet Fool Or Bum

Lee Hazlewood is best known as Nancy Sinatra's leather chaps wearing duet partner on a series of late 1960's LPs. Lee was the far out cat that composed much of the country tinged music, and let the otherwise dreary & pedestrian prospect of Frank's daughter bleating through obligatory pop tunes a strange sort of magic.

Here's a dramatic clip of the two doing the sublime "Some Velvet Morning", likely my favorite of their collaborations...

from Lee's 1968 solo release "Love & Other Crimes"

Lee Hazlewood - The House Song

Lee was born in Oklahoma in 1929, and in the early 50's, after a stint in the Army, got a job at a tiny radio station in Arizona & hooked up with Duane Eddy. Lee started a record label , and continued recording material, finally hitting paydirt on his Viv label with a track called "The Fool" in 1956 sung by Sanford Clark. Hazlewood gave his wife (Naomi Ford) the songwriting credit because legally it wasn't allowed to be the producer, manager of the artist and writer all at the same time.

Sanford Clark - The Fool

Eventually Lee headed to LA, and got a job as a staff producer with Dot Records, an ABC subsidiary label. He ended up getting his pal Duane signed, and worked alongside Lester Sill and Phil Spector. In the end Lee handpicked many of the backing musicians who were part of Phil's legendary studio "wrecking crew".

from his 1964 solo disc The N.S.V.I.P.s

Lee Hazlewood - Go Die Big City

Lee started another label LHI (aka Lee Hazlewood Industries) released some solo material,

and eventually in 1967, put out the debut LP of Gram Parson's Legendary Submarine Band "Safe At Home".

Lee was actualy considering staying Safe At Home himself and retiring from the biz, until that is, he met one Nancy Sinatra. Jimmy Bowen of Frank's label Reprise suggested Nancy, who was struggling to make it without her dad as a foil, work together with Lee, and the end result was a 5 year string of hits.

Suposedly Lee told Nancy to "sing like you're a 16 year old girl who goes out with 45 year old truckers!"

Despite ending up in Nancy's shadow, Lee also manged to get some solo albums & tunes out on his own

Here's a two song clip of Lee from a European TV appearance in 1971

Lee never really went away, although he now lives as somewhat of a recluse in Arizona, sort of like Stevie Nicks, far from those Hollywood Hills of yore.

I caught Lee playing with Nancy Sinatra about 8 summers back at The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk...

Lee was there in his haps of course, looking every bit the skinny chain smoking alcoholic music director alongside Don Randi. But the most frightening thing of all was standing up close to the stage, which was a rather high one, and realizing I was looking right up Frank's daughters mini skirt at her ...um ... middle smile...

I pointed this out to Joe Goldring, who I was in attendance with, and we both promptly stepped a bit further back from the stage. After all , Frank was still alive and if he knew we were on the boardwalk checking out his daughters clam ... who know what fate might be fall us.

Sonic Youth were big fans and are somewhat responsible for keeping the mans name in print, long after his 15 minutes were up.

He last had a release in 2002 on the Euro label City Slang... " For Every Solution There's A Problem"

He also sells a book called "the Pope's Daughter" which purports to be fictional tales of his fantasy life with Nancy Sinatra and other tales.

What’s it like to work with a Nancy Sinatra? It’s a visit to Disneyland, only your father owns all the rides. It’s an evening in the medicine cabinet of Edgar Allen Poe’s mother. It’s a trip on Superman’s cape and you are too frightened to look down for fear you’ll discover your real identity. It’s a Sousa march and the phallic cymbals are playing melody. It’s a plastic palace where all that glitters is gold. It’s a Las Vegas stage, sitting on a two-dollar stool in front of a fifty-two-piece orchestra, next to a lady in a five thousand-dollar gown; you’re singing a little flat and wondering if the fly is open on your eight-dollar ‘jeans’. It’s Beauty and the Beast selling a ‘fix’ to the Mickey Mouse People. It’s frustrating, foolish, Falstaffian, freaky, fucked-up and fun.

So let us begin at the beginning. . . .

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - The Summer Wine

From the epic ballad fest that is "Cowboy In Sweden"... "Night Before" gives Kristofferson a run for the hangover tune battle title, edging neck & neck with the immortal "Sunday Morning Coming Down", while "Pray Them Bars Away" is a little bit "Folsom Prison Blues" meets some bad off Broadway musical production...

Lee Hazlewood - Night Before
Lee Hazlewood - Pray Them Bars Away

When Nancy was busy, Lee found Ann Margeret a willing foil in good ol' '69...

Lee Hazlewood w. Ann Margeret - It's A Nice World To Visit Not To Live In

from his album "For An Almost Lady" released in 1971

Lee Hazlewood - Little Miss Sunshine ( Litle Miss Rain )


That's a lil bit of Lee Hazlewood history for ya...

eMusic has an interview with Lee, plus dozens more downloads of the duets with Ann Margeret and Nancy Sinatra, and his final solo album Cake or Death...

R.i.P Lee Hazlewood

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Much the best posting I've seen on the passing of this great man. Thanks.