by Bill Weaver
photo by George Bredewater
“It’s the most fun studio I’ve ever been to,” says Pat Webb of the place where he’s recording his next album, Shadows on the Road. Webb is not only getting better as gets older, he’s getting busier. “The studio belongs to a man called Al Stone. Stone is an old time radio man. He’s the voice of Blossom Chevrolet where it says, ‘Lordy they’re good people!’
“He really knows how to cut a record—when he has time,” Webb laughs. “We squeeze them in between his other projects.” Bluesman Yank Rachell made his last recording at the studio. They’ve also worked with Cindy Scattergood on her gospel album Just as I Am and Patrick Grant, the Irish tenor. “Patrick was in the movie Eight Men Out, he sang the national anthem. Everybody has a good time.”
Pat performs Saturday March 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Harvest Moon in Nashville where he is in rotation with his son Christopher (March 5 and 26) and Lou Stant (March 19). “It’s the second winter that Jerry (Prairie) has kept entertainment. It’s good for business and good for the entertainers, too. We invite everybody to come.”
While the winter performances are quickly becoming a favorite with local folks, quite a few visitors end up there as well. “Some of my friends, and Christopher’s friends, will drive down occasionally. We let people sit in. Everything from dulcimer to banjo to guitar. And singers. We like that.
“It’s a good place to work. Jerry’s got a good location and puts out a very good product but it’s a lot of hard work.”
Webb started playing music in 1948 before joining the Marine Corps. After service in Korea Pat was stationed at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina where he was in two bands. “One band played off base at a little beer joint. The other guy and me, he played guitar and I played mandolin. We’d go down to Florence, South Carolina when we had the time off to play on a radio show and a Saturday night dance. It was just like a giant ‘Round Dance.’ There’d be somebody calling out the steps. I remember one night I got in the dance circle and this big woman picked me right off the floor and moved me around!” Webb laughs. “I only weighed a hundred and sixty then. Those are some pleasant memories.”
Pat worked for Melvin Purvis, “the guy that got Dillinger,” for a year on WOLS. “During most of the 50s and all of the 60s and 70s I just played music. Full time. Every once and awhile I’d get some other type of job. Temporary stuff to put things together. Make a buck, you know?”
In 1953 Webb reunited in Springfield, Missouri with his old mentor Blind Tommy Hunt. “He hadn’t always been blind. It happened in a bus accident. He crushed his optical nerve. We played saloons mostly, and colleges. I’d lead him downtown to one of the saloons where we played and then I’d lead him home. I’d stick around and he’d teach me things. He knew guitar even though he didn’t play guitar.”
By 1955 Pat played with a country-western band, The Westernaires, in Nebraska. “We were on a great big powerful radio station. So for that year I got to do a little traveling in the north-central states. We traveled around a lot, that band. I got in on some of the last of that. Shortly after that rock and roll started and broke up the family audience.”
1968 found him in Hollywood being offered a recording contract. “It was such a stringent contract in their favor that I didn’t sign it. I was 36 and I auditioned three times. They wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke that I went over as well as I did. Peaches and Herb auditioned the last night that I did and they signed a contract. Their contract might have been a little better because they were a really hot boy/girl duet and they did soulful kind of songs. But I couldn’t sign it because they wanted half of the money right off the top and then the business manager got the rest of it. I got to have my independence by not signing but I would have been a lot better known if I had.”
Right now the most important thing for Pat is his son Christopher’s new CD Spilling. “It’s going beautiful. I’m always amazed at his ability to write, play and sing.” It’s a comeback of sorts for Christopher because while touring with his band The Beaten Poets to promote his first CD he discovered that he had cancer. “He’s better,” Pat says gratefully. “If not in better shape. It takes a while to get over chemotherapy treatment.
“My version of music, I guess you’d call it Alternative,” he goes on after a pause. “‘Back Porch’ music, or ‘Melting Pot’ music—Christopher too—because we try to use elements from several different ethnic groups. Folk music as it was called in the 60s was a whole conglomerate of things. It was no one thing. Rock and roll is no one thing.
“I remember when I was starting out people would say, ‘Why don’t you become a doctor or a lawyer or something? You don’t want to be a guitar player.’ But I stuck with it. I’m not sorry, I’m glad I did. I got to meet a lot of interesting people, see places that I wouldn’t have been if had been a lawyer like my grandfather, or an insurance man like one of my uncles. It helped me to get around and to make friends.
“The main thing to me is the music itself. That’s the reason I’m in it.”
Pat Webb’s music can be found at Mountain Made Music in Nashville. While you’re waiting for Shadows on the Road to be released check out his previous CDs Land of the Homeless Black Dog and Mad Dog Wine.