Monday, November 17, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Pete Drake

Back in the mid '90s, I was living in Olympia Warshington. I would make frequent trips down to Centralia and Chehalis to hit the thrift shops and to visit Richart's Art Yard.

On one of these trips, I found a record called 50 Country and Western Hits. It was one of those half-assed Starday compilations of Nashville also-rans. I picked it up for my girlfriend at the time.

In all honesty, I never really scruitinzed at the album cover until I heard an amazing sound, a Framptonesque cover of the late Porter Waggoner's Satisfied Mind.

There on the cover were the standard country dandies in all of their early sixties Grand Ol Opry wannabe stylings; white Stetsons, bolo-ties, toothy smiles. Except one photo. It showed the profile of this balding, pallid, liver-lipped nobody wearing a paisley shirt. It was Pete Drake, the artist who 'sang' the amazing song.

Always wanting to assume that art is born from adversity, and trying to make sense of the soul wrenching truth meets Steven Hawking vocals, and not knowing Drake's background, I contrived my own history of Pete Drake.

In my mind, he was a young trachiotomy victim, who fell in love with the true country legends, but because of his ailment (pasty, liver-lipped, voice-box-removed) couldn't sing. So he picked the closest instrument to a human voice box (steel guitar) and rigged the open hole in his neck to a microphone wired in to the pickups on said steel guitar so he could sing.

I began collecting as much of his steel guitar work as possible. I have a lot. I love it more than Charlie Rich singing "Life Has It's Little Ups and Downs". And, that, my friends, is a lot.

So, long story short, through the back covers of his albums and a little poking around, I learned that Mr. Drake was not disabled. He originally played steel in The Sons of The Pioneers back in the '50s. He became a session musician for Nashville, picking up where legendary picker, Speedy West left off, sitting in on nearly every session requiring steel guitar from 1959 to roughly 1974. During much of his early career, he worked an early morning job delivering milk (his nickname was The Milkman).

Most of you not prone to overalls and bare feet (I pity you) can sample more of Pete Drake's work on Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

Thanks for the video and coincidence, Boing Boing.

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