Saturday, 12 September 2020

Not as easy as picking cotton after all.

The working title of my sixth novel was Easier Than Picking Cotton. It's part of a quotation from the sadly departed Glen Campbell. As an enthusiastic, if under-talented guitarist myself, Campbell was one of my heroes though that was far from the only reason I used his quote as a working title. My story revolves around the life and loves of Warwick James. He shares two characteristics with Glen Campbell, he was a gifted genius on the guitar and he was part of a musical phenomenon that influenced the quality and the business of popular music in the USA and the UK. That phenomenon was the loose, informal associations of gifted musicians who, we now know, actually produced much of the best-known popular music over two decades or more. Glen Campbell is now well-known as a member of 'The Wrecking Crew', musicians primarily based in the Los Angeles area, though at the time no-one outside the music business had ever heard the name. 

In my story 'The Workmen' is a similar, though imaginary, collection of musicians who were called upon by recording studio bosses and record producers in Nashville when making records by the 'celebrities' of the moment. Invariably these 'names' usually had their own backing bands or groups who, due to lack of talent or experience, simply needed too long in the studio getting their music note-perfect. Time, in the studio, is money. Instead of patiently waiting for the 'new celebrities' to get their notes right, the producers called-in experienced musicians like 'The Workmen' (or The Wrecking Crew') who could walk into the studio, glance through the charts - the written arrangements - and play them. Not only were they invariably note-perfect but they could also play their instruments in the style of the band or group they were replacing.

Of course, some of the backing groups resented being reduced to miming to the work of the pros on television or having their photos taken with the 'celebrity star' but when they got paid for doing little – and recognising that the pop music 'machine' would soon discard them and their star – they kept quiet and made the best of it.

With this in mind, I realised the working title wasn't going to work - I needed a title more relevant to my story. I toyed with a number of alternatives before, in a blindingly obvious moment of revelation, The Guitarist jumped off the page. In fact, there was just one moment of doubt - when I ran the title through the Amazon search engine and discovered that the book would probably be surrounded on the Amazon page by countless guitar tutor books. The solution was to add – for only the second time – a subtitle and 'A novel' was added. 

Time will tell if it worked!

As my regular readers will expect, this is only part of my story. In the course of making his career in music, Warwick meets and becomes an integral part of the musical life of Eva Cantrell. In my story, she's an Australian-born jazz pianist and singer and although Warwick's own love life (another strand of the novel) doesn't involve Eva, nevertheless her career becomes inextricably intertwined with his. Needless to add, although I refuse to confirm or deny any parallels, my admiration for a particular jazz lady is a complete coincidence. 

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