Image courtesy of Think Country
“I don’t know how I ever expected to celebrate my 80th birthday, but I’m sure I never thought it would be with Bill Cody!” Those were the words of Jeannie Seely, “Miss Country Soul”, herself, as we walked out on to her back patio overlooking the beautiful Cumberland River in Nashville. Well, why not kick off your birthday with Bill Cody, host of 650 AM WSM’s Coffee, Country & Cody Show Jeannie? You’ve earned it. Not everyone has had the kind of career you’ve had, and still has. A Grammy winner, a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years, an honorary doctorate, accolades, more awards, a radio host and that’s the short list. Your birthday should be talked about, and since listeners tune in from all over the world on http://wsmonline.com people will get to hear about it everywhere. Sure, turning 80 is a big deal all by itself, but the Grand Ole Opry legend has an even bigger reason to celebrate come Monday, July 6, 2020.
Photo courtesy of Jeannie Seely/B Noticed Public Relations
Seely will be having her cake, eating it too, and… releasing a brand new single. A gorgeous duet with none other than the incomparable Willie Nelson. “Not a Dry Eye in the House”, written by Dallas Wayne. will be the first single off Seely’s new album, An American Classic, which drops August 14th. The album was recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and produced by Don Cusic. It would be an understatement to say Seely is excited about this song. She and Willie Nelson are old friends. They’ve done songs together before, but there’s something extra special about this project and she’s so thankful he agreed to be a part of it. Nelson sings and plays guitar (with his trusty old guitar “Trigger”) on the track and Seely is especially fond of the song’s bridge. She quickly sang the lyrics to me and I just knew it was going to be something special.
“You played your part to perfection
I always left me one more
Standing in the spotlight’s reflection
You brought the house down
When you walked out the door”
Then, she played me the song itself. The song is called, “Not a Dry Eye in the House”, and it struck me as so meaningful and exquisite, that I actually was moved to tears as it played, right there on her patio. Knowing she recorded it with someone she’s known since 1963 and has had such a good friendship with, I think that’s what really gripped my heart. Watching the smile on her face as it played, I know she’s proud of this song, as she should be. It’s quite the work of art. Both of their voices are flawless. This record release isn’t just a birthday gift for Jeannie Seely, it’s something we can all enjoy for years to come.
There were plenty of plans to celebrate the release of this single, but as with most everything, the COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined them for now, but Seely made it crystal clear that she’s “not letting this go”. There will be a celebration, make no mistake about that. If all goes well, there will be a great cause for celebration when An American Classic releases in August. Seely is scheduled to star with Moe Bandy at the Old Dominion Barn Dance in Richmond, Virginia on August 15th. Tickets are on sale now. That should be a real party and I know Jeannie will be in high spirits with her new record just out the day before, so if you’re in the area, or up for a road trip, grab those tickets now. Ticket link below.
I talked about the single that’s coming out July 6th already, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 13-track album is going to be extraordinary. Seely considers herself fortunate to have such incredible friends like Bill Anderson, Ray Stevens, Lorrie Morgan, Rhonda Vincent and The Whites collaborating on the album. Other artists joining in on the project include Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and Bobby Tomberlin. It was an honor to hear some amazing stories about the making of this album. Allow me to share a few with you.
First, I must tell you, if you’ve never met Ms. Jeannie Seely, she is one of life’s greatest gifts. Pinch yourself. Did you feel that? She’s as real as that pinch you just gave yourself. No airs, no celebrity swagger. If she’s cool, it’s because she’s cool. She doesn’t put it on. I remarked to her that people say things like, “How does Jeannie Seely stay so hip?” I can only respond by saying, “She doesn’t stay hip. She is hip.” She looks great and she’s more interesting, and much, much cooler than a lot of people decades younger than she is. That’s just a fact. I love talking with her because she can tell good stories and she really seems to enjoy telling them.
One of the most compelling backstories accompanies track number two on the album. The song is “If You Could Call It That” (Dottie West, Steve Wariner, Bobby Tomberlin). Now, I must make a confession here. I did record our conversation, but unfortunately, after we finished talking, I realized only nine minutes of the interview actually taped. Apparently, Ms. Seely believes I have a spectacular memory, because she said, “Oh, you’ll remember.” I will? I’m lucky I can remember what day it is lately, but I did have nine minutes, maybe I could piece things together. Well, as luck would have it, I didn’t have nine minutes after all. I had no minutes of audio. Nothing recorded. This entire piece is being written on memory. If I mess up, I’ve got nobody to blame but me. I’m giving it my best anyway.
Photo courtesy of countrythangdaily.com
Jeannie Seely was one of the late Dottie West’s best friends. They were extremely close. Seely misses West terribly. They were thicker than thieves. They knew each other inside and out. According to Seely, “She was my 3 am phone call person. When nobody else was awake to talk to, I could call her or she could call me at 3 am.” Yes, that’s the type of friendship they had. So, it seems whenever Dottie was having a bad time, she would often answer people with, ” I just go on living, if you could call it that,” rolling her eyes, with her head down, more or less moving on with whatever her current situation was, but only because she absolutely had to. Many times, she would preface that phrase with a quiet chuckle and then, “If You Could Call It That”. They were words she used often. West left a notebook with song ideas behind after she passed away. “If You Could Call It That” was one of West’s half-finished songs that Seely knew needed to be completed. Steve Wariner and Bobby Tomberlin worked their magic to capture the essence of Dottie West in the song by finishing it.
There was an old pop song that Seely had been wanting to record since she was 13-years old. Imagine how thrilled she was when her producer told her he thought the record needed a pop song. No searching around and going through thousands of songs, Seely knew exactly which one she wanted to do. “Teach Me Tonight” (Sammy Cahn, Gene De Paul) was originally recorded by Janet Brace, and three others immediately followed, Jo Stafford, Dinah Washington and Helen Grayco. The song charted for all four in 1954, but none were as impressive as what happened a year later when The DeCastro Sisters got a hold of it. Their version hit number 2 in 1955. The song has since been covered many times over and is considered to be a jazz/pop standard. Seely’s version is sleek and classy. A friend remarked to Seely they envisioned her singing this number in a gown. Another mentioned she should sing it at Rudy’s Jazz Room in Nashville. I agreed, that’s the right venue. In a gown. Definitely.
Photo courtesy of Jeannie Seely/B Noticed Public Relations
“All Through Crying Over You” (Jeannie Seely) is a country “shuffle” that needed just the right artist to collaborate with. Seely didn’t need to think hard about who would be perfect for it either. Barely into the the first verse, you’ll realize Rhonda Vincent was, indeed the right choice. Seely’s voice sings the story as Vincent’s sweetly blends right in. This is pure country with a touch of the bluegrass sound that Vincent is known for.
Country Music Hall of Fame Member Bill Anderson and also a dear friend of Jeannie Seely, lent his voice on “When Two Worlds Collide” (Roger Miller, Bill Anderson). This is a special song for Seely as she was also a friend of co-writer, the late Roger Miller. Miller made the song a hit in 1961 and the song was recorded later by Jim Reeves and released posthumously in 1968, and Jerry Lee Lewis and released in 1980. Lovely guitar intertwined with the soft vocals of Seely and Anderson create an imaginary three-minute paradise.
A tune that will be familiar to many country music fans is “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” (Pebe Sebert, Hugh Moffett). That’s because it was a 1978 hit for Joe Sun and really made its mark when it hit number one for Dolly Parton in 1980. It’s been done by others as well. It’s just a great song, that’s why. Jeannie Seely sang it with a guy named Jody Payne. If you don’t know his name, he was Willie Nelson’s longtime guitar player. He passed away in 2013, but he left behind quite a legacy. Lots of good music and memories for the fans for sure, but even more than that, he had a son with the late country star, Sammi Smith, another friend of Seely’s. That son, Waylon Payne, inherited the music gene from his parents and appears on “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” thanks in part to one night at the Opry.
Photo courtesy of Grand Ole Opry
Payne was playing the Grand Ole Opry while Seely was hosting. He caught her off guard by asking her if she’d like to sing that song with him, seeing as how she’d done such a nice job of singing it with his father. She was taken aback, but happily said she would. On her way home from the Opry that night, she listened to the playback and was surprised at how well their voices blended. When the idea for the album came around, she knew she wanted Payne to come back for an encore performance of the song, but this time, they were going to get on record. Top shelf Tennessee whiskey, that’s how smooth Payne’s vocals are, and yes, they blend quite well with Seely’s. When telling the story about this song, Seely recounts that night at the Opry, looking over at the other microphone and seeing Payne standing there. She couldn’t help but imagining his father standing there singing the same song. Wonderfully nostalgic.
When it was time to bring in a more rockin’ number, it was another one of those moments where Seely didn’t hesitate on who had to be called in. Her wild and crazy girlfriend, Lorrie Morgan, of course! “That’s How I Roll” (Tim Atwood, Brent Ronen) features Lorrie Morgan on vocals and the one and only Vince Gill on guitar. This is one track not to be skipped. Ever. Listen for the super-slick piano and Morgan’s last minute impromptu comment that could have been edited out, but was not. It was just too damned good so they left it in. Nothin’ but fun here people.
Why stop the good times now, right? Another cool surprise on this record is a song by Paul McCartney. Ray Stevens joins forces with Seely on “Dance Tonight”. This song appeared on McCartney’s 2007 album, Memory Almost Full. While it didn’t do anything grand on the charts for Sir Paul McCartney, it’s still a light, celebratory tune, fit for someone ready to reach a milestone birthday in the pinnacle of style. Who could that possibly be? I think we all know who that is by now. To be perfectly honest, I like Seely’s version with Stevens even better than the original. I think it has a bit more zing. If you’re turning 80, dropping a new single, and about to release an entire new album, you need more zing.
To round out the rest of the album, there are Jeannie Seely originals that she’s brought back out for us. Old favorites like “Can I Sleep in Your Arms Tonight, Mister” (Hank Cochran) and “Don’t Touch Me” (Hank Cochran), plus a couple of other amazing surprises. You’re in luck because “Not a Dry Eye in the House” is headed your way Monday, July 6th. As for the other tracks, you’ll have to wait for the full album to come out on August 14th for those, but I promise you, they’re worth the wait.
For details on where to get the music and everything else you’ll ever want to know about Jeannie Seely, follow the links below. Another excellent place to keep up with her until the new album drops is her radio show on Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius/XM every Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM CT. Let her know what you think of the new single after you hear it. I’m sure she’d love to know. Tell her Think Country sent you!
Photo courtesy of Jeannie Seely/B Noticed Public Relations
Jeannie Seely can be found:
Old Dominion Barn Dance Tickets: https://olddominionbarndance.com/2019-calendar/
*Featured image courtesy of Think Country/90 East Photography