Reunion at Elmo’s Lab, Austin, Texas

Posted by in Music

Reunion at Elmo’s Lab, Austin, Texas

In the process of making a new collection of recordings, I thought it would be interesting and nostalgic to share that process with some old friends in Austin, Texas (Buda, actually, about 15 miles south), a place where the youthful me attended university and spent three and half musically formative years. Through arrangements with John Inmon and Layton DePenning, we gathered for two days at Elmo’s Lab (the studio) to add overdubs to three of the tunes that will be included on the CD: All a Man Can Do, Horses, and Man in the Moon.

Layton and I were in a band called Genesee in Austin, around 1969 to 1970 or so, with Chuck Rogers, Gary P. Nunn (author of the Austin City Limits theme song), and Jerry Potter. Layton was the lead guitarist (Gold top Les Paul, now owned by Eric Johnson. It was the first question I asked him after 43 years and after saying hello, “Do you still have the Gold Top?”) and usually sung the highest part in ensemble with Gary and me. When he and his lovely wife JoAnn picked me  up at the hotel to go get some Tex-Mex (must have), I hadn’t seen or spoken with him since 1970.

It’s funny how easily one falls back into rhythm with an old friend, no matter how long it’s been. At dinner the stories came fast and furious, each one spilling over another, each name mentioned suggesting some other old forgotten memory, now recalled. It was just what I had hoped it would be.

JoAnn DePenning

JoAnn DePenning

Layton DePenning

Layton DePenning

Of course, in the studio it was hard work to stay focused on the task at hand, because of the enormous amount of stories that needed to be told. Still, we only had a finite amount of time to finish the overdubs that were planned.

No problem, as it turned out. Layton’s studio was completely capable, the ambiance relaxed, the engineer (Layton) superb. And I am pleased to report that his angelic voice still exists, virtually unchanged by time. What could be better than recording in a charming house overseen by JoAnn (who, as it turned out, had some interesting memories of her own to tell) out in the country with some old friends?

And the recording itself went seamlessly. The guitarist and old friend that I HAD seen a few times over the last 40 years was the previously mentioned John Inmon, a player of no small reputation who I had admired since we were relative kids. He has always possessed a lyrical beauty to his playing, and I wanted that quality only he could provide on these particular tunes. No disappointments in that regard. Rather than a showcase of guitar chops, he finds and compliments the emotional heart of a song.

John Inmon

John Inmon

Needing a keyboard player for two of the tunes, John brought along David Webb, someone that I did not know, but later discovered that we share some common friends now living in Colorado, pianists Jeff Jenkins and Eric Gunnison, two decorated jazz mainstays I’d had the pleasure to share stages with, both teaching and performing in the Denver area.David knocked out his parts elegantly and was a pleasure to listen to. John made an excellent choice in that regard.

David Webb

David Webb

For all their efforts and talents,  I am grateful. In addition to the time spent recording, Layton and JoAnn went out of their way to ensure that I was entertained. We drove into Austin to re-visit old haunts to see how things had changed, to return to the scene of one of my college motorcycle crashes, to walk 6th street, and have dessert and coffee at the historical Driskill Hotel. We had carnitas at a roadside café and visited Fiddler’s Green music store to try out some mandolins I wanted to see. It was everything I imagined and hoped it would be, and more.

I have said more than once in songs that the only thing we possess are the memories we make, and this reunion in Austin was a completely satisfying one.

January 29, 2014