Mickey Newbury, singer-songwriter, was born 83 years ago today
Mickey Newbury was born 83 years ago today.
Newbury was a songwriter, a critically acclaimed recording artist and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. As a teenager, he sang tenor in a moderately successful vocal group, The Embers, which opened for several notable performers, including Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash.
Newbury later moved to Nashville and signed on with the prestigious publishing company, Acuff-Rose Music. Ralph Emery referred to him as the first "hippie-cowboy." Along with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, Newbury was one of the first to rebel against the conventions of the Nashville music society.
After being disappointed by the production methods used by Felton Jarvis on his debut album, Newbury got himself released from his contract with RCA and signed the first offer he received to comply with his condition that he could either produce his own albums or choose the producer. He went on to record three albums in Wayne Moss's garage-turned-studio just outside of Nashville.
The influence of the production methods can be heard in the albums Waylon Jennings went on to record in the 1970s (with instrumentation highly unconventional for country music) and his poetically sophisticated style of songwriting was influential on Kris Kristofferson.
It was Newbury who convinced Roger Miller to record Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee," which went on to launch Kristofferson as country music's top songwriter. He is also responsible for getting Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to move to Nashville and pursue careers as songwriters.
In 1974, Newbury moved to a house on the McKenzie River in Oregon. He recorded several albums throughout the 1970s for Elektra and ABC/Hickory, all of them critically praised but financially unsuccessful.
In 1980, he was given the distinction of being the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Although he spent much of the 1980s retired from performing and recording music, he returned to both recording and touring in the late 1980s before he died, in Springfield, Oregon, following a battle with emphysema on September 29, 2002 at aged 62.
Newbury wrote many songs that would be recorded by singers and songwriters.
They included Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bill Monroe, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Snow, Ray Charles, Tony Rice, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Ray Price, Don Gibson, Brenda Lee, Charlie Rich, David Allan Coe, Sammi Smith, Joan Baez, Tom Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Steve Von Till, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, Dax Riggs and Bobby "Blue" Bland.
Although his songs have been recorded by hundreds of performers from a wide variety of musical genres, he is most remembered for his creation of "An American Trilogy" — a medley that was recorded by many, ranging from symphony orchestras to Elvis Presley. He simultaneously had four Top 10 singles on four different charts in the late 60s.
Eddy Arnold had a #1 Country hit with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby," Andy Williams had a #4 Easy Listening hit with "Sweet Memories" and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a #5 Pop/Rock hit with "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)."
Shortly before his death, Newbury was interviewed by John Kruth, who was writing a biography on Townes Van Zandt, where he said: "How many people have listened to my songs and thought, 'He must have a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other.’ Well, I don't. I write my sadness."
Here, Newbury performs his “An American Trilogy”