Forrest Skaggs - Al Casey - Lee Hazlewood tribute

This is a page to give a few very important people at the start of Richard's career a little tribute.
We just picked a few and there's certainly no disrespect for those who are not mentioned.

This page is for :
Forrest Skaggs / Al Casey / Lee Hazlewood

L-R: Richard Bennett , Forrest Skaggs and Al Casey. Taken in Al's home in Hollywood. Forrest Skaggs was in LA filming a scene in The Jazz Singer with Neil. Picture credit cwb.

Richard talks about Forrest Skaggs and Al Casey :

Forrest Skaggs:

A red sun going down on the desert, the searing 115 degrees of the afternoon mellowing to a tolerably dry 95! Saddle up your horse, we're going for a sunset ride.

The Sunset Riders was the name of Forrest Skaggs' band, a revolving door of musicians always anchored by Skaggs who usually played string bass with the group.
In the 1950s The Sunset Riders had regular shows on KRUX radio, a Saturday afternoon television program on KOOL-TV and served as house band for the Arizona Hayride, a live Saturday night shindig staged at the boxing ring downtown.
The Hayride hosted every major country star that came through the Valley as well as local talent. Sunset Riders alumni include Duane Eddy and Al Casey.
By the 1960s the Hayride was just a memory as was the band's radio and TV commitments but Skaggs kept the name going and could always put a gig together.
The group was also a vehicle for some of Skaggs' students to get a little on-the-job experience.
I'm proud to say that some of the first live playing I ever did was as a Sunset Rider.

Richard Bennett , liner notes "Valley Of The Sun"

addition : Playing steel guitar on the left of the pic is Buddy Wheeler, Forrest Skaggs is not in this particular snap.

Al Casey:

Richard about Al Casey

On the 17th of September my buddy Al Casey died. He was my mentor, best friend and the reason that I'm in the business. We stayed very close through all the years and I spent a week with him in Phoenix last February while we recorded what turned out to be his last album. Everyone should have a mentor in their life and I am the luckiest guy in the world to have been under Al Casey's wing for the last 40 years. I spent most of the 60's in Phoenix and took guitar lessons with Forrest Skaggs who's star student 15 years earlier was Al Casey. When I met Al in the mid-60's he was already a first call session man in Los Angeles having played on so many hits for Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Glen Campbell, The Mills Bros. and hundreds more. I was only 14 years old then and it was like meeting a titan. He was very kind to me and I still have a snap shot of us sitting in the back of Skaggs' store with a couple of guitars while Al pushed and pulled my fingers around. It was during those moments while the picture was taken that in my ignorance and arrogance, I made up my mind to be a studio musician.

On graduating high school I moved to Los Angeles and went to work in Al's music store in Hollywood. He took me around to record dates, introduced me to everyone who came by the store, showed me the ropes, furthered my guitar education, taught me how to keep a date book, bought me a million lunches and was like a big brother to me. I did my very first record date in Hollywood in 1968 sitting next to him. From there I had many years in the L.A. studios then moved to Nashville 21 years ago where I continue to have a studio career as well as having recorded and toured with Neil Diamond from 1971 to 1987 and for the past 12 years recording and touring with Mark Knopfler. I would have had NONE of it without Al Casey.

Al returned to Phoenix in the 80's where he raised the quality of any gig he played and began a long running teaching career at Ziggie's Music. He recorded several solo albums during these years that I 'm very proud to have worked on, and saw the re-release of much of his earlier solo work on CD.

Al Casey played great rock, country, standards, jazz, Hawaiian steel and was one of the finest rhythm guitar players in the business. He was also my best buddy and I'm going to miss him like crazy, miss him ringing me up with a story or joke he'd just heard, miss going to Phoenix and the two of us dashing off to some Mexican restaurant for green chilli then back to his place for a few drinks and a little guitar playing. I'm going to miss the easy musician talk and calling him up after a particularly lousy day in the studio when the music business isn't all fun and games. I'm going to miss him.

I'll be flying solo now, but my wings are strong because I learned from the very best, Al Casey. See ya pal, I love you. Richard Bennett

September 2006


Al Casey's Hit List album (2004) :

A legend from his days back in the ‘50s with Duane Eddy and all during the ‘60s doing sessions with everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys, guitarist Al Casey returned to the limelight with a laid back instrumental tribute to his ‘60s session work called Al Casey’s Hit List.
Working alongside Casey on this 2004 release is Mark Knopfler band member Richard Bennett, who grew up one of Casey’s most loyal fans and students.
Commenting on working with a legend such as Casey, Bennett adds, “It's hard to narrow down Al's body of work to the most influential, it's vast, but when Al was putting together the titles to record he was very mindful of picking the big ones and if he had only played on those songs alone he'd be a legend. That's not even covering all the Eddy records and thousands upon thousands of other things. ” Serving up jazzy, low key easy listening instrumental guitar based tracks such as “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, “Sloop John B”, “That’s Life” and “Strangers In The Night”, Casey and Bennett receive fine support from several player as well as producer / engineer Jack Miller.
The CD features fine liner notes by Bennett and detailed track by track notes by Casey, whose insights serve as an encyclopedia of ‘60s pop trivia.

Lee Hazlewood :

On his Valley To The Sun album Richard dedicated a song to Lee Hazlewood called Barton's Theme and told us this about the song:

In 1953 Lee Hazlewood was a disc jockey at KCKY in Coolidge, Arizona a small community southeast of Phoenix. It was there he met a young Duane Eddy. Lee had dreams of writing and producing records and in 1955 after a couple of false starts, he launched his own label, VIV Records. Recording local country talent, Lee produced the highly collectible "Cat Daddy" by Jimmy Johnson with Al Casey on guitar. After a handful of releases he sold VIV. Lee had written a song called "The Fool" that he produced and released on MCI, another local label. The singer, Sanford Clark, was recommended to Lee by Al Casey who again handled the guitar duties. After a slow start the record began to get some action in Cleveland, Ohio. Sensing a hit, Dot Records picked up the master and re-released it. "The Fool" went on to become a top 10 pop hit in 1956, the first of many to come from the Valley under the direction of Lee Hazlewood. A long string of chart topping instrumentals soon followed by Duane Eddy, the majority of them recorded in Phoenix at Ramsey's Studio on North 7th Street including the iconic "Rebel Rouser"... Jack Miller always at the recording console.

Lee eventually set up shop on the west coast producing records for various labels including Reprise and starting up his own LHI Records. "These Boots Are Made For Walking" by Nancy Sinatra, written and produced by Lee, was a smash. He and Nancy were duet partners for a while and had a few hits together including the sublime "Some Velvet Morning," also a Hazlewood composition. Along the way Lee recorded solo albums for himself that are now highly prized. For a couple of decades he became a citizen of the world leading a nomadic life before returning to live in the States.

Lee spoke low and slow, loved scotch, a good song, cigarettes and Stan Kenton. He could be brusque but was a good guy who never took himself too seriously. A man's man from a time when that kind of thing still mattered and he was OK in my book, not that he gave a damn one way or the other what anyone thought about him. Incidentally, Lee was his middle name. His first was Barton.

This is Lee's original "Boots" version with Richard Bennett, Duane Eddy, Glenn Worf , Tony Harrel , Lars Olofsson and Kenny Malone

Here's the Barker guitar used on the "Boots" song, Al Casey and Duane Eddy.

Here's a nice biography about Lee Hazlewood : Biography about Lee
His final studio album was CAKE OR DEATH. Recorded in Stockholm, Berlin, Nashville and Phoenix, the album featured guests from throughout his career, including Duane Eddy, Al Casey, Richard Bennett, Ann Kristin Hedmark, Bela B and his own granddaughter Phaedra, named after the famous character in his classic “Some Velvet Morning”.

No comments: