Clinch Mountain Echo

John Wright - Everything She Asks For

(River Track Studios RTS-1786) 1993


Everything She Asks For
Cassette Inlay Bluegrass Unlimited advert Dec. 1993

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This cassette was the first release by John Wright, author of the Ralph biography 'Traveling The High Way Home', and columnist for the 'Banjo Newsletter' (1981-1993). It was recorded on the 24th Feb 1993 at River Tracks Studio in Louisa, Ky.

Wright plays in an old-time clawhammer style, with a pleasant but rough vocal and is accompanied on the cassette by Junior Blankenship and Curly Ray Cline.

In 1994 he told the 'Chicago Tribune':- "We met at Curly Ray Cline's house, which is way back in the woods in Pike County, Ky., to rehearse a bit over an afternoon. Then we went up to this place on the Big Sandy River; a tiny little mountain studio called River Tracks where Ralph Stanley has recorded once or twice."

"I've never done anything so exhausting in my life," Wright says. "I did it the way Ralph does it, all at once, in one afternoon. Start at 11 a.m. and charge on until you finish. I was completely rung out when it was over, but it was exhilarating at the same time. As an academic, I would compare it to a six-hour oral examination. I just wanted to go soak my head when I was done, but I felt real happy with it."[1]

John wrote three songs on the project, two love ditties, Everything She Asks For and I Get So Cold; plus a touching tribute Let's Talk For A While: The Last Day In The Life Of Carter Stanley.

Other tracks include Dirty Dishes which Curly Ray had recorded with The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers back in 1953 (as Dirty Dishes Blues); Brand New Tennessee Waltz which Ralph featured on Something Old, Something New; and Gravel Road which Charlie Sizemore also cut ('Gravel Road' (Rutabaga RR-3013) 1988).

John Wright began playing banjo in his undergraduate days at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa. and during the great folk scare of the '60s even cut an album as part of an act called 'The Crum Creek Valley Boys and Girl'.[2] That apparently also included a version of Earl Taylor's The Children Are Crying - recorded by them in 1962 and the first single to be released on Rebel.[3]

After graduating, John stayed in academia and later became professor of Latin and Literature at Northwestern University in Evanston, Il:- "I put away the banjo after my student days, the way one will with such things, and for the usual reasons - the demands of a profession and the demands of fatherhood. When I took it up again around fifteen years ago, almost by accident, I made two very interesting discoveries. First, the instrument was now, at last, documented, with a library full of instruction books and a monthly magazine devoted to note-for-note transcriptions of recorded banjo pieces, which would finally, I thought, answer some of the musical questions that had been tormenting me as an undergraduate. Second - and it is strange that this should have happened almost simultaneously - I discovered in working with this material that, much to my amazement, I could produce such transcriptions myself. Or at least I could for the recordings of Ralph Stanley, whose banjo pieces were the simplest of those of the major nationally known musicians. And while the magazine had regular monthly columns devoted to the music of the other nationally known banjo players, it had none for Ralph Stanley."

"Of course I saw an opportunity. I wrote a transcription of a Stanley piece (from the only Stanley record I possessed at the time); I wrote a few hundred words (none of them based on first-hand knowledge) on Stanley to go with it; I submitted the package to the magazine. In a short time I discovered that I was a columnist; I also discovered, from the correspondence that started pouring in, that ex officio I was looked upon as an expert on Ralph Stanley by banjo players all over the country and in fact throughout the world. This was embarrassing as well as exhilarating, and it was immediately clear that what I needed was a crash course."[4]

John's 'crash course' meant a prolonged immersion into appalachian culture, which resulted in the long running column in 'Banjo Newsletter', numerous interviews that were reproduced in the magazine, a few booklets, and ultimately the 'Traveling The High Way Home' book. He also produced the first discography of Ralph's music, published two editions of '5-String Banjo - Stanley Style', and wrote the liner notes to several of Ralph's releases, plus Curly Ray's wonderful Smarter Than The Average Idiot.

John later recorded another album backed by Junior Blankenship and James Price (Promises 1996); and a further CD with his wife: Ellen & John Wright - 'I Shook Hands With Eleanor Roosevelt' (2004).

Everything She Asks For was reissued on CD-R in 2003 (Bluegrass Collection BC-507) and all three CDs are available from www.cdbaby.com. Be aware though, that the Everything She Asks For artwork was printed on an inkjet, and has not particularly aged well. The CD-R sound is a bit sharper than than the old cassette though! In the CD-R liner notes John recalls: "Curly Ray seemed his usual ebullient self as we drove up Route 23 to River Tracks... chatting away constantly with stories of local interest: the Floyd County schoolbus wreck was over there, here's where they found all the coal when they were widening the road, and so forth. But he sat down almost as soon as we entered the studio, and stayed seated throughout the session - something I'd never seen him do in the many Clinch Mountain Boys recording sessions I'd attended during previous years. His health was failing fast, as in fact ours turned out to be his last full session. He went to Nashville with Ralph Stanley a couple of months later, but most of the fiddling at that session was done by Art Stamper."

Track:
Title:
Side One:
(13:58)
1
Everything She Asks For

John Wright
2
Let's Talk For A While: The Last Day In The Life Of Carter Stanley

John Wright
3
Highway Of Sorrow

Bill Monroe / Pete Pyle
4
Funny When You Feel That Way

A.P. Carter
5
Dirty Dishes

Gene Masters
6
I Get So Cold

John Wright
Side Two:
(14:24)
1
Too Old To Die Young

Moe Bandy
2
Brand New Tennesse Waltz

Jesse James Winchester
3
The Children Are Crying

Earl Taylor
4
Gravel Road

Jackson Lee Leap
5
No Hiding Place

Louise Certain / Gladys Stacey
6
Shall We Gather At The River

Robert Lowry

Go To Top Of Page [1] Chicago Tribune, 19th April 1994. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-04-19/features/9404190102_1_wright-banjo-literature-at-northwestern-university
[2] 'Ellen and John Wright - 'I Shook Hands With Eleanor Roosevelt' listing on CDbaby 'About this album' notes:- http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/wrightje and http://thesis.haverford.edu/dspace/handle/10066/13897
[3] Liner notes to the 4xCD box set 'Rebel Records 35 Years Of The Best In Bluegrass - 1960-1995' (Rebel REB-CD-4000-1/4) 1997.
[4] John Wright - 'The Performance of Homeric Epic: Homer and Appalachian Bluegrass':- http://www.didaskalia.net/issues/vol3no3/wright.html