Jerry Reed’s guest guitar on Ringo Starr’s countrified ‘$15 Draw’

Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr nabbed this resplendently red selfie during the summer 1970 “Beaucoups of Blues” era.
Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr nabbed this resplendently red selfie during the summer 1970 “Beaucoups of Blues” era.
Clasping a cigarette between his index and middle fingers, 29-year-old Ringo Starr nabbed this resplendently red selfie during the “Beaucoups of Blues” era. Distributed in the wake of the Beatles’ break-up by their Apple Records on September 25, 1970, a scant six months after Starr’s head-scratching debut long player of pre-rock standards entitled “Sentimental Journey,” “Beaucoups” charted at No. 65 POP, No. 35 C&W. It surprisingly did not register at all in the left-handed fill drummer’s native homeland. Penned by Buzz Rabin, the title track was the only single released, barely climbing into the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 87. It was a glaring mistake not to push the vastly underrated “$15 Draw” instead. Photography by Ringo Starr / appears in “Photograph” via Genesis Publications

“I just always figured that if I hung on, I’d make it big some day.” That’s Jerry Reed counting off “$15 Draw,” Ringo Starr’s mid-tempo ballad of a wandering musician missing mama and his hometown, and clawin’ up a super catchy riff on acoustic guitar. Although Reed had a half dozen Top 20 country singles already under his belt when he did the June 26, 1970, Nashville session for the ex-Beatle’s second solo album , by February 1971 “Amos Moses” would cross over into the Top Ten on the pop chart.

Starr even exclaims, “When you’re hot, you’re hot!,” which he may have heard African American comedian Flip Wilson say in character as the sassy Geraldine Jones, during “$15 Draw’s” closing vamp. Reed’s second and final Top Ten pop entry was — get ready — “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” which he wrote and issued as the follow-up to “Amos Moses.” Starr’s penchant for unwittingly inspiring hit song titles — e.g. the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” — was still active.

“Wine, Women, and Loud Happy Songs” and “I’d Be Talking All the Time” were also tracked during the three-hour Starr session at Music City Recorders with innovative steel guitarist Pete Drake in the producer’s chair. Reed is documented on the session log, but his rhythm contributions are not so easily discernible if that’s the case. In a nod to the band’s efficiency and assembly-line Nashville recording protocol, all 12 songs from as well as the Starr-penned B-side “Coochy-Coochy” and outtake “Nashville Jam” were tracked in just three days. Reed never crossed paths with Starr again.

Previously, Drake was asked by George Harrison to contribute pedal steel to the spiritual Beatle’s triple album in May 1970 in England [the initially rejected “I Live for You” finds Drake shining during the instrumental break]. Adrift in the months following the Beatles’ demise over controversial management decisions, Starr lent a drumming hand to Harrison. Drake convinced Starr to fly to Nashville the next month to record an album’s worth of freshly submitted country music. As a Beatle, Starr’s reading of Buck Owens’s “Act Naturally,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “What Goes On,” and even his debut composition “Don’t Pass Me By” had leaned effectively toward country.

Elvis Presley’s right-hand man Scotty Moore co-owned the Music City studio and engineered the Starr sessions. Moore had recently stopped playing his prized Gibson Super 400 electric guitar and remained on sabbatical except for a few notable occasions — e.g. Carl Perkins’s clever Presley tribute “The E.P. Express” in 1975 — until the original “Blue Suede Shoes” songwriter convinced Moore to cut the LP and hit the road together for a brief England tour in 1992.

Another linchpin of Presley’s sound was D.J. Fontana, who supplied the drumming for in tandem withpal Buddy Harman [harmonicist Charlie McCoy, guitarist Jerry Kennedy, gospel quartet the Jordanaires, and Harman were all Presley session veterans at RCA Studio B]. Starr concentrated primarily on vocals. His delivery is sincere, confident, and a relaxed fit for country, but much of the material is lackluster and devoid of earworm hooks. One of the four compositions contributed by future peanut butter entrepreneur Sorrells Pickard, “$15 Draw” is the clear victor. The “I remember how my little fingers blistered” lyric is a nice, unintended callback to Starr’s infamous exclamation at the climax of “Helter Skelter” from the Beatles’ .

Starr has yet to attempt any of the songs onstage or cut a proper country follow-upHowever, that was the tentative plan for 2017’s Co-written with Eurythmics multi-instrumentalist Dave Stewart, only “So Wrong for So Long” made the final running order and ironically may be that album’s best song.

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Likely “clawing” a patented guitar riff on the banks of the Cumberland River as fall breaks into winter, a warmly dressed Jerry Reed poses for the cover of sixth studio album “Cookin’”. Issued in January 1970, the experimental “Cookin’” was the gifted raconteur’s first record to briefly dent the pop album chart at No. 194 [No. 33 C&W]. Serving up a foot-tappin’ brew of acoustic blues, balladry, rock, and even pop psychedelia, “Cookin’” was preceded by “Turn It Around in Your Mind,” a driving, bitter-soaked A-side which failed to obtain any commercial impact. Photography by Jimmy Moore / Sony Music Entertainment / FanArt.tv
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Glumly looking into the distance but sporting a timeless outdoorsy vest, blue short-sleeve shirt, bluejeans, and white sneakers, Ringo Starr is seated in the doorway of Mother Earth frontwoman Tracy Nelson’s smokehouse in Burns, Tennessee, for the album cover of “Beaucoups of Blues.” Photography by Marshall Fallwell, Jr. / Capitol / Genius
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Steel guitar maestro Pete Drake, Ringo Starr, and Jack Drake are comrades in arms in this June 1970 shot from the same day as the cover photo of “Beaucoups of Blues” on the rustic property of Mother Earth chanteuse Tracy Nelson. The Drake brothers co-founded Window Music Publishing and Tomake Music in 1962, ultimately becoming one of the most successful independent publishing companies in Nashville. Jack was also a 24-year veteran of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours, leading the band and supplying bass. Photography by Marshall Fallwell, Jr. / The Pete Drake Music Group Collection
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From left to right in the top row are Charlie Daniels, Dave Kirby, Chuck Howard, Gordon Stoker, Hoyt Hawkins, Neal Matthews, Ray Walker, Charlie McCoy, and Sorrels Pickard. In the middle row are Larry Kingston, Jerry Kennedy, Jerry Shook, George Richey, and Grover “Shorty” Lavender. Seated in the front row are Jim Buchanan, Roy Husky Jr., Pete Drake, Ringo Starr, D.J. Fontana, and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith on June 27, 1970, possibly outside Scotty Moore’s Music City Recorders in Nashville, Tennessee. Jerry Reed was only present for the previous day’s “$15 Draw” session. So far no photos have turned up of the Guitar Man and “Octopus’s Garden” singer. Photography by Marshall Fallwell, Jr. / The Pete Drake Music Group Collection
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Guitarist Jerry Shook looks to be temporarily brandishing a six-string bass as Ringo Starr tries his hand at acoustic guitar during the sessions for the sad-eyed Beatle’s second solo album — “Beaucoups of Blues” — at Music City Recorders in Nashville, Tennessee, during the last day of tracking on June 27, 1970. First tenor-pianist Gordon Stoker, baritone Hoyt Hawkins, second-tenor-guitarist Neal Matthews, and bass vocalist Ray Walker of the Jordanaires are preparing to harmonize in the background. Photography by Marshall Fallwell, Jr. / The Pete Drake Music Group Collection

jeremylr@windstream.net

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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