Ben Wasson: Spirit of Rockabilly, 60's style arrangements, flavored with country and blues! Ben Wasson: Spirit of Rockabilly, 60's style arrangements, flavored with country and blues!
Reminiscences of Times Past
The Saga of Powder Blue!

Unannounced and uninvited thoughts sometimes enter the minds of those who write, compose, or create at the most unusual times. I was comfortably sitting in an empty chair at a hair salon, waiting for my friend to come in, when a young girl of fifteen or so, came walking by and for no known reason the words, “Powder Blue” came abruptly into mind.

How odd I thought. Why? I hadn’t the slightest idea. Nevertheless, the thought came back to me one evening with guitar in hand and I wrote the first line of Powder Blue. The basic melody came a little later… but try as I may, I couldn’t think of anyway to finish it.

Fast-forward twenty years and upon one family gathering, I mentioned to my son that I had a song I had never been able to finish.

Since he is a good lyricist and co-writer of the song, “Winds Of Change,” I played it for him. He said that’s not bad! Play it for me again.

A few days later he woke up at midnight, sat down at his computer, and in an hour and a half completed what I hadn’t been able to finish during the past twenty years (he’s quite a talented fellow! At his full-time job, his patients call him, “Dr. Wasson!”)

We recorded it and put “Powder Blue” on a c.d. album.

When visiting my childhood buddy, Stan Parham, one of the featured characters in my memoir/novel, “Footsteps Through My Mind” [LINK], I overheard his wife and daughter along with my sister Peggy discussing amongst themselves how they particularly liked the song, “Powder Blue!”

We then decided to pull it out of the album and feature it as a single, which will soon be released to C.D. Baby, YouTube, and streamed globally. It was quite a trip!

Now, my friends, you now know the “Saga of Powder Blue,” and the journey it took on it’s way to arrive at your doorstep. Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to my fellow musicians who performed so wonderfully on this recording, and with special thanks going to Mike Scherimpf, who played keyboard for Conway all those years.

See when you look… feel when you touch… and remember.

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Together Again

I was on an L.A. label at the time.  Both “Goodbye Sunshine” and “Lonely Much To Long” had recently made Billboard.   One of the labels executives, suggested I might want to visit Buck Owens studio in Bakersfield, while in the area.    “They were getting some fantastic sounds on their cuts”.  (Whether he owned all, or part of the studio, I never learned.  Anyway, everyone referred it to as “Bucks”.}  After receiving the name and number of the studio manager, Jack McFadden,  I made the appointment.

My first surprise upon entering the outskirts of Bakersfield was that it geographically did not appear to be the Garden of Eden, with flowers and palm trees, as I had imagined. It was flat and dry.

I found the studio address and met Jack in his office.  An affable man, who after a brief chat, opened the studio door, and we stepped out into Bakersfield history.

California has always been different.    However, after the first step into the studio, I stopped in my tracks and simply stared at the ceiling.   Jack caught my gaze, and a knowing smile crossed his face.   Big, really big, beach umbrellas of red, yellow, blue, orange, & purple hung from the studio ceiling.

My thoughts instantly flew back to my childhood memory of,   “Alice In Wonderland”, where chairs were placed on the ceiling.

Then Jack, smiling at my puzzled expression, pointed to the umbrellas overhead and said “ceiling acoustics”!   So that was it!    By judging from all the hits that were recorded there, it apparently worked, ever so well!   In addition, it gave the studio an added carnival like upbeat attitude.    Looked like a fun place to record!

After the studio tour, as Jack was walking me to the exit, I heard two men talking in a small office just ahead and to my right.   One of the men had his right leg crossed over his left knee, and just the bottom half of his right boot was visible through the small office open door.  Wow!  I thought to myself….that’s the best-looking boot I’ve ever seen.  Still wondering about the owner of the boot, Jack said, “by the way”, while you’re here, would you like to say hi to Buck!

In about two seconds, out of the office stepped the owner of the boots, Buck Owens, and immediately we shook hands.  Now everyone has had handshakes that were for appearance sake only, insincere, and etcetera.   This was not the case with Buck.  He shook hands like he meant it.

Upon rare occasions, actually exceedingly rare, you meet someone you feel you know right away, and this was one of those occasions with Buck.    We instantly got along, and enjoyed a warm and friendly conversation.   It was a fun visit!   I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember it was pleasant, and most of all…..he was for real!   After awhile, we shook hands and bid each other goodbye, and on the way out, I had the feeling I had been privileged to spend some precious time, with a very special man.

Bucks song, “Together Again”, was one of the best love songs ever written.  We always played it at the various venues where we appeared, and when playing in clubs, the dance floor filled every time we started to play the song.

For some while I had it in mind to pay a tribute to Buck, and record “Together Again” .   The “Transitions” album was the perfect chance.   When we assembled in the studio to lay down the tracks, it was agreed that we would try to come up with an interpretation of the song that would be different from any that had been done before.   All the players had the deepest respect for Buck, and the song, so we decided to give it our best shot.

Walt Cunningham on keyboard said he thought he’d try a light, almost semi classical piano intro.  No one we knew of had ever tried that.  Joe Spivey, a stunning fiddle player, said he had something in mind he thought would fit right in, guitarist,

Dug Grieves, said he would use an acoustic on his part of the lead.   We had never heard of anyone using those two instruments in the lead slot either.  To boot, we even added a cello for counter melody.  It was a great adventure!

Buck died on March 25, 2006.   I read in Wikipedia that on Saturday night he had a chicken fried steak at the local club, Crystal Palace, where he regularly played, he mentioned it was his favorite meal, but thought he would be going home, as he didn’t feel well.    Some fans had just arrived from Oregon, especially to hear him play.  Not to disappoint them, in true Buck Owens fashion, he turned around and went on stage, and performed for the last time.   He passed away that night in his sleep.

Buck Owens wrote one of the most touching love songs of all time.  Through his music and television appearances, he left millions of happy tracks, and did his part to make this a better world.  It was an honor to have met him!


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Journeys Beginning

The north Atlantic can be a wicked mistress, and we had been bouncing around on her cold tree top waves for several weeks. The aircraft carrier, Intrepid, on which I served as a radar man, was in need of repair, and heading for the Brooklyn Naval Yards. (I was never so glad to have my feet on solid ground in my life.)

My guitar playing buddy Mac, went into the city (NY) first, and since he was an enterprising Catholic boy, judicially discovered there was a Catholic U.S.O. on 52cnd street, that welcomed sailors. They offered free sandwiches, soft drinks, and girls from the various churches and schools, came there to dance and socialize with service men, who were away from home .

Since neither of us were drinkers to any degree, and loved to dance , hear great music, and girls, it sounded like the place to go, and we couldn’t wait for the weekend.

Upon arrival at the U.S.O. , a cordial , stoutly built lady with graying hair, and a steady eye , surveyed us as we walked through the door. You could sense right away that no hanky panky would be allowed on these premises. (We later speculated, rightly or wrongly, that she was a nun in plain clothes.)

After being offered a sandwich and soft drink, we turned towards the main hall, and our eyes fell upon a sizeable group of well groomed, disciplined young ladies, who appeared that their college classes had just been let out, and had recently arrived at the U.S.O. , in order to be with us. Now that’s a fanciful stretch, but when you have long been at sea , in many foreign ports, where hardened perpetual ladies of the evening follow the fleet, you can’t imagine how utterly wonderful it is to see so many nicely dressed and mannerly young ladies all in one place, unless it’s been a long time since you’ve seen one.

They did not have a band that evening , but a Wurlitzer juke box, turned up to a high volume, provided enough enthusiasm to set the stage for dancing feet. Mac and I waited for a couple numbers to work up our nerve, and walked over to the group of girls. One young lady, conservatively but tastefully dressed, reached out her hand when I asked her to dance. As we walked onto the dance floor, the words “That’ll Be The Day” hit my ear. The Crickets ! I had never heard of them, or the song before, but I loved it and punched the play number on the Wurlitzer, twice more, before the evening was over.

New York City is light years away from a dusty little town named Clovis, New Mexico. However, that was where the music was , before it died, and in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined, that in a year in a half, I would be singing over the same microphone, in that far away place, as the great singer who had made that recording. In fact, if I had speculated to someone, that I would ever be in, and of all things, recording in Clovis , New Mexico , they of course would have laughed and replied “That’ll Be The Day !” ……….That’s how the journey began !

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Just Another Misty Night

I had been invited to spend Christmas at Kiawah , a sea island on the Atlantic coast, 15 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. A lovely place, and with a population of a little over a thousand, traffic congestion was not a problem. The island has a long and colorful history, Wikipedia mentions that it was referred to as “Kittiwah”
by George Gershwin in the opera “Porgy & Bess.”

In early evening on Christmas Eve, I took a walk down by the ocean, observed White Tailed deer peacefully grazing along the way, seabirds floating overhead, and to my surprise, alligators making a commotion in the fresh water ponds as I strolled by.

A fog started moving in, a chilly breeze blowing over the water confirmed it’s usual message that the Atlantic is nearly always cold. My days as a sailor could attest to that. After a few minutes walk on the beach , I came across a wooden crate that had floated in from somewhere, placed it next to a wooden post sticking out of the sand, and with a fairly comfortable seat and back rest, started thinking about a song that had been floating around in my head.

I had just become comfortable when out of my right eye I saw a figure walking ever so slowly in my direction. In time it became clear it was a woman, middle aged or better, walking with her dog, a golden retriever. She paused in front of me for a moment as she drew near, and rather sadly wished me a Merry Christmas. My impression from her demeanor was that she was alone, and anything but merry. Trying to find good cheer of some kind in return, I mentioned what a handsome dog she had. Yes, he is she said, “where you from she asked?” Texas I said….and you? New Jersey she replied, and then as she turned back in direction of travel, I could barely make out “or at least I used to.” She turned briefly once again to speak something in my direction, but the wind blew her words away.

Drops of moisture from the mist started collecting on my face, as I once again caught a brief glance of the woman, and her dog disappearing in the distance. Turning up my jacket collar, I headed back towards the house, wondering what set of circumstances had brought her here. After pouring a glass of merlot, and taking some sharp cheese squares out of the fridge, I sat down and wrote “Just Another Misty Night” (in Southern Carolina.) Hopefully someone who cared for her would call tonight. After all, it was Christmas Eve.

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