(Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from an interview the author conducted for his radio show, Songwriter Showcase, which will debut next month at bluegrasscountry.org.)
Jim Lauderdale and Roland White have a pile of records between them. Lauderdale alone just passed 30 studio releases.
This is the story of one that almost got away. In fact, it did get away for a while – nearly 40 years, in fact.
The CD, officially dropping next month, is called, simply, Jim Lauderdale and Roland White.
The story begins, as many musical tales do, with someone making a musical pilgrimage to Nashville. Lauderdale’s goals were lofty: to meet and become friends with George Jones and White, and to make a name for himself in bluegrass and country music. He lasted five months before moving to New York City, with all but one of his goals unmet.
But the goal he attained was big: He not only met and became friends with White, they cut a three-song demo that was good enough for White to propose something bigger. “He said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do a record together,” Lauderdale recalled.
So in October 1979, they gathered some musicians in Earl Scruggs’ basement and, with Earl’s son Steve engineering, cut 12 songs. Today, most of the musicians on the session are household names: Gene Wooten on dobro, Johnny Warren on fiddle, Terry Smith on bass, Marty Stuart on lead guitar, and Stan Brown on banjo.
But fame was elusive. Lauderdale shopped the record, but label after label turned him down because he was an unknown and wasn’t touring.
“I just kind of put it away and thought it would never come out,” he recalled.
Several years later, record deal in hand, he approached White and suggested they finally put out the record. White was all for it. But there was one problem. One huge problem.
“You’ve got the masters, right?” Lauderdale remembers White asking him. “I was like, ‘No,’” drawing the word out to a four count. “’I thought you had them.’” Searches were fruitless, and for the second time, Lauderdale was convinced that the recording would never get out.
But a few months ago, as he left the Station Inn stage after sitting in with Lauderdale, White said, “Oh, by the way, my wife found a tape in the bottom of a box. It had our names on it.”
As he retold the story, Lauderdale sounded as if he still didn’t believe the session turned up decades later. “That was a mix of the record,” he said. I didn’t think I’d ever hear it again. I was stunned.”
The first single on the Yep Roc Records CD drops today.
I’ll have a review of the full CD next week. For now, suffice it to say, this one was worth waiting for.