Sept 2016 TMO Newsletter (Continued)
Mickey Raphael interview, part 1, continued:
Raphael: "So, in the coach’s room, there were probably 30-40 people there. Joe Jamail was there, the attorney, and he was a close friend of Willie and Darrell’s. And Charlie Pride…and a lot of the coach’s friends. Willie would sing a song, then pass the guitar to Charlie, and the other musicians that were there would pass the guitar around and sing their songs. Of course I started to recognize Willie’s classics: ‘It’s Funny How Time Slips Away,’ ‘Nightlife,’ but I probably knew it through hearing Ray Charles or Aretha do them, because I was just more into pop music like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Ray Charles. Country was not what I had listened to. I knew nothing about it. I think we did ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ I could play the melody on that, the Hank Williams song.
"And after that little pickin’ party, Willie say, ‘Hey kid, if you ever see us playing around somewhere, come sit in.’ And I think Edith had a big hand in pushing Willie to include me, at least further on down the line.
"A few weeks later, Willie was playing for a volunteer fire department benefit at the high school in Waxahachie. And I drove down there and sat-in with them. Of course I was totally lost, because I didn’t know any of the songs. But I began to know (some of the songs), like after we played ‘Fraulein’ four times that night, because...he was a dance band.
"So after that gig, we went to a truck stop out on I-35 South for breakfast at one in the morning. I was getting ready to leave, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have one more cup of coffee.’ And during that last cup of coffee, Willie said, ‘Hey we’re going to New York in the next couple of months. Why don’t you go with us?’ And I said, ‘Well, sure!’ And we went to play Max’s Kansas City, the famous punk club up there.
"And in that interim, I would keep in touch with them. I would show up when they’d be playing around Texas. I’d just show up…drive my car down there and show up and sit in. And I think that’s when Edith got into it, and was telling Connie, ‘This is a good thing. You should include Mickey.’ Jimmy Day, Willie’s steel player, was leaving the band at that time. And I could replace Jimmy Day. And so he brought me in. I mean, they’re not gonna replace Jimmy with another steel player. So (what I was doing) was unique enough. And at that time Donny Brooks was playing with Waylon Jennings. So that kind of opened up the door to have a solo harmonica player as a part of the band."
TMO: And you’d already known Brooks.
Raphael: “It was several years since we first met, and I’d followed his career. And he was kind of my mentor…and surely one of my biggest inspirations at that time."
TMO: So it was almost like a kismet/perfect convergence there…
Raphael: “Um, hmm.”
TMO: You had mentioned Max’s Kansas City. It sounds like Willie’s draw at that time was mid-to-small clubs? Is that what it was like? Or was it even bigger places?
Raphael: "Oh no…smaller clubs and dance joints: Beer joints, Big G’s - which was out in Round Rock, Gilley’s in Houston. They were medium-sized beer joints, and sometimes some small clubs, but more in the country field. We eventually ended up at the Troubadour, and Ebbet’s Field in Denver…which drew a younger crowd, it wasn’t a drinking crowd."
TMO: The Troubadour in LA?
Raphael: "Troubadour in LA. Palamino in LA. Ebbet’s Field in Colorado…"
TMO: Was there anything that you noticed that caused a shift that started drawing those younger people in?
Raphael: "I think the movie HONEYSUCKLE ROSE – and when RED HEADED STRANGER came out – that got a lot of people interested. Then we would play (to young people) at the Armadillo in Austin. He was really pretty big in Austin and in Texas. It was iconic. Then he would do his Fourth of July Picnics every year that would draw people like Leon Russell, who at that time was the biggest rock star on the planet. And you’d have Kris Kristofferson, who was a big movie star.
“You know Willie didn’t even have to leave Texas. I remember we got offered the opening slot for the Rolling Stones’ world tour in ’73, and he turned it down. And I’m going, ‘What?!?’ Like, ‘What the (expletive).’
"Why be an opening act when you can be king of the hill in Texas…so. I’d have gone for being the opening act, but they weren’t asking me.”
TMO: I think 99 out of 100 people would have gone for opening for the Rolling Stones.
Raphael: “Luckily Willie didn’t listen to me.”