The Story Behind the Song – Weeds

adkins_loudermilkWeeds (Where the Flowers of Love Once Grew) was written by David Morris and Chris Dockins, two emerging song-writing talents in the bluegrass music fraternity.

They wrote the song in in February 2013, during what was their “second or third writing session”, according to Morris.

The song was demoed that summer by Stephen Mougin and played for Dave Adkins that fall at IBMA WoB. He put a hold on it for Adkins & Loudermilk and their eponymous CD was released on March 17, 2015.

 

David MorrisDavid Morris hired a local bluegrass band for his wedding in 1981, “but I drifted away and didn’t really come back to bluegrass until about 10 years ago when I got to know a couple of local pickers in Washington, DC.”

He bought a guitar first, then an upright bass and he has been playing bluegrass music ever since. Morris met Chris Dockins at a music camp, Common Ground on the Hill, Westminster, Maryland, and they have been writing together for about three years. They have two cuts together so far, Weeds, by Adkins & Loudermilk, and When You Were the One, by the Kevin Prater Band. A new song, So Long Lindytown, is being cut by Valerie Smith later this year. (Stay tuned for details).

Additionally, Morris has two cuts on the upcoming Circa Blue CD and has co-written two songs with Dawn Kenney and Dave Adkins on Dave’s solo project that comes out in February. Morris has had a cut with Jim and Valerie Gabehart also. That song, Forever Waltz, was written with John Miller.

Another song co-written with Dawn Kenney and Mitch Matthews, Something about a Train, won the bluegrass division of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest last year and is another of Morris’s songs on Valerie Smith’s next record.

He says that he has been fortunate to have four songs selected for IBMA’s Songwriter Showcase in the last three years. The Tenth Day of September, written with John Miller, in 2013, Weeds and Something About A Train in 2014 and So Long Lindytown in 2015.

David Morris says of the song-writing process …

David Morris and Chris Dockins“People always ask how long it took to finish a song. In the case of Weeds (Where the Flowers of Love Once Grew), the answer can be two years or two hours. Both, in a sense, are correct.

While writing another song a few years back, I came up with the phrase ‘weeds where the flowers of love once grew.’ But it didn’t fit the song I was working on at the time, so I filed it away in my notebook. I was also playing around with 13, in the context of an unlucky number, so I tried to fit the phrase and the number somehow. What resulted that day in my music room was what is now the chorus of the song, pretty much intact.

Fast forward two years, and I was sitting in the music room with my co-writer Chris Dockins. We had just finished a song that grew out of one of his ideas and we still had time, so we looked for something else to start. I showed him the chorus tucked away in a notebook. And the verses started flowing almost immediately, from both of us. Meanwhile, Chris took a stab at the melody. It, too, came quickly. There was very little tweaking. I loved it the first time I heard it.

To me, one of the best parts of the song, the echo in the chorus on ‘no me, no you,’ came about pretty much as an afterthought. For some reason, Chris was singing the verses and I was singing the chorus on a work tape, and he added the echo one time through. I knew as soon as I heard it that it belonged.

As an aside, this was the easiest pitch ever. We had Stephen Mougin record a demo, and he emailed a fabulous take as I was driving to IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in Raleigh two years ago. I listened two or three times, checked in at the hotel, then headed for the convention center. I ran into Dave Adkins and after one listen he asked for a hold on the song. The recording, with Dave singing lead, came out on Mountain Fever Records in March 2015, on the self-titled debut recording from Adkins & Loudermilk. On the CD, it’s simply called Weeds.

The song has done well for us in other ways, too. It was chosen for inclusion in IBMA’s 2014 Songwriter Showcase and placed third in the inaugural Hazel Dickens Song-writing Contest this year. That contest was sponsored by the DC Bluegrass Union.”

Chris DockinsChris Dockins’ mother and father are both from East Tennessee, around the Knoxville area, so he heard quite a bit of bluegrass, old-time Gospel, and other traditional music when he would visit family from where he lived in Virginia or Georgia.  At home, Dockins didn’t listen to a lot of bluegrass until the Seldom Scene came along, and then he recalls listening to their early albums and singing along with his parents. As a teenager he set aside bluegrass and country music, “focusing more on rock music, which is a pretty typical progression,” he reasons. However, when his family moved to northern Virginia he discovered an active bluegrass community there. He started attending jams and found his way back to bluegrass music.

He has written several songs on his own and some others with David Morris, although the only pieces that he has had recorded by others are those written with co-writers. Valerie Smith has begun to record one of these songs called So Long, Lindytown. “The writing of this [song] began with an article David and I read about Lindytown, West Virginia, and how it no longer existed because of mountain top removal mining. We worked the ideas through and he sent me a mostly completed set of lyrics that I set a melody to. With some additional work from each of us on both the music and lyrics we arrived at the final composition.”

The Kevin Prater Band has recorded another composition by Dockins and Morris, When You Were the One, which reminisces about a lost love and what could have been. Dockins explains, “It’s set in Jones Bridge Park which is along the Chattahoochee River in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, and draws upon times my wife and I spent there when we were dating. (For the record, she still is the one.)

Dockins hasn’t played regularly with many bands, but has got together with others to play for charity events. For a few years he led his church worship band, playing acoustic and lead guitar, arranging songs and singing.

“Dave and I don’t get together to write often enough simply because we are busy with other things, including family and work. We would both like to collaborate more regularly and try to take full advantage of the time we have.

In what was maybe our third time sitting down to write together in Dave’s music room in Gaithersburg, we did some final editing to one song and then decided to start something from scratch. This is something we hadn’t done before. All of our prior collaborations began with one of us having a pretty good start on lyrics and/or a melody. We didn’t anticipate finishing it, but we were both ready to try something different.

Dave had a few lines that he had jotted down in a notebook, one of those thin Moleskin ones that he keeps in his back pocket so he can jump on any inspiration. The lines were a large part of what became the chorus to Weeds starting with, if I recall correctly, ‘…in 13 words you said goodbye. No me, no you…’ through the end. We didn’t know what to do with that musically but were both intrigued by the possibilities. Further, we both wanted to break away from the usual chord progressions one tends to slip into when writing with bluegrass in mind, or those favorites that your hand just goes to first on your guitar.

As we were talking I began working on patterns around a D-minor chord and it hit us both at the same time that this was the right feel for the song. In fact, we both looked at each other and said ‘ooh!’ From there we began working out the chorus, adding lines at the beginning and tracing out where the melody was taking us working out of Dm. It’s not a key that either of us writes or even plays in very much so it was fun to follow the melody we had into the chord changes: ‘Oh, a G to Bb…yeah, that will work.’

We spent a lot of the next bit working on what to do for the verses. What leads up to ‘silence echoes in my head, a three-line note on an empty bed?’  We knew that someone was just coming home to this terrible news.  ‘Silence’ led us to ‘didn’t greet me at the front door and no reply when I called your name…’ I had in my mind that someone was just returning form out of town, fumbling through the door with their luggage into a home that shouldn’t have been as quiet and still as it was. We had to get to the note on the bed so we have him (or could be her, I suppose) stumbling down the hall to discover it. The second verse is just reflection after the note. The Weeds and garden metaphors led to ‘thought our love would always grow’ and ‘where you saw thorns I saw the beauty of the rose.’ Working in a relatively new key for us we followed the same sort of process we did with the chorus – trying different chord changes, and just seeing where it led.

Once we had two verses laid out in addition to the chorus we worked through it a few times. On one of these takes I think I started singing a response or echo for the ‘No you’ and ‘no me’ lines, which felt really natural even though it’s not something we had planned on at all up to that point. Both of us thought that it added a little more texture to the chorus.

It was remarkable how quickly it all come together in an afternoon. We did some editing and modification afterword, but not very much. Weeds was largely done in one very enjoyable sitting.”

 

Weeds (Where the Flowers of Love Once Grew)
David Morris/Chris Dockins

Paddle Faster Publishing/BMI

You didn’t greet me at the front door
No reply when I called your name
In the dark I stumbled down the hall
Then it was clear my life had changed

Silence echoes in my head
Three-line note on an empty bed
I guess forever was just a lie
In 13 words you said goodbye

No me, no you
Just weeds where the flowers of love once grew
No me, no you
Weeds where the flowers of love once grew
Weeds where the flowers of love once grew

I guess I never saw it coming
Thought our love would always grow
You saw thorns, I saw the beauty of the rose
Here I am, the last to know

Chorus

Repeat chorus

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.

A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.

He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.