I met Lee Hazlewood before he knew he was famous.
Recently, my pal Jason Carmer and I were talking about some new high rotation KMEL hip hop track we found inspiring in all its minimalist glory. Jason said, "It's just a machine and like one guy rapping. The machine sounds like an electric typewriter".
I got to thinking about Lee Hazelwood and how he probably would've dug it too. I recounted meeting Hazlewood in what had to be the craziest of chance meetings, in a recording studio in Scottsdale, AZ, sometime in 1988 or so. I was a record collecting, Lee Hazlewood geek with an encyclopedic knowledge for Hazelwood's artist/producer maverick output. Dan Stuart and I were cutting in the same studio with Naked Pray, getting high and helping Van Christian and co. midwife the record that killed them. From Duane Eddy, to Waylon, to Lee's Swedish years... I knew my shit and I was ready to grill Lee when we heard he was coming into the studio.
Lee arrived in a Porches 914, looking every bit like the way you'd expect Lee Hazelwood to look. We commenced to hanging out, literally around the water cooler and drilling him for info (Nancy and Lee, Waylon, Sinatras, Gram Parsons), he spilled the goods: "Gram would have shot up watermelon seeds if he thought it would get him high".
When it came to contemporary music, his taste was a little less PC. He gushed enthusiastic over Bobby McFerrin's, "Don't Worry Be Happy" (a big hit at the time). Huh?! Now I think I'm closer to understanding where he was coming from. In all fairness, while "Don't Worry" was a huge international hit, and not your cup of tea I imagine. It was a stone-cold, freak novelty, purely acapella, beneath the underdog, smash. Not unlike "Boots". Those kinds of records can change the world, if you believe in that kind of thing.
As I recall, Lee was in there producing a local country hat act. He had some housewives assembled from the union book to do a background vocal part imitating a train whistle ("Whoo Whoo"). One woman turned to me and asked, "Is this some kind of joke?" Lee had no idea who he was. Or at least to say, he had no idea of his legacy.
I still have the business card he gave me in the top drawer of my desk. Years later, Nancy and Lee did a reunion tour and Lee refused to give any interviews. But man did he spill it that day around the water cooler. "Drugs are a reward son, after the work is done." If only it were that easy.