Denny Laine of Wings, Moody Blues fame to rock Lebanon
In the summer of 1974, Paul McCartney and Wings hunkered down for six weeks on a friendly farm a few miles outside of Lebanon.
Now, some 41 years later, the locals have a chance to hear one of the lads show his hand, and it should be a grand affair as Denny Laine, a brilliant guitarist, singer and songwriter, headlines a concert at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Legacy Farms event center (8061 Murfreesboro Road) with Steve Holley of Wings, Elton John and Ian Hunter, as well as The Cryers and the Forever Abbey Road Beatles revue.
For those who weren't around in the '60s and '70s, please pay heed to the fact that Laine, who at 71 continues to stride forward with new projects, sang the lead on "Go Now," the first big hit for The Moody Blues, in 1965. And for the entire 1970s he toured the world with McCartney and his wife Linda as they performed such smash hits as "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die," "My Love," "Let 'Em In," "Silly Love Songs" and "With a Little Luck."
And if that's not enough to blow your mind, Laine and McCartney co-wrote "Mull of Kintyre," the biggest-selling single in the history of the United Kingdom.
Rocking in the fast Laine
Guitarist-singer-songwriter Denny Laine, formerly of Wings and The Moody Blues, headlines a concert including The Cryers, the Forever Abbey Road Beatles revue and Steve Holley from Wings/Elton John/Ian Hunter at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Legacy Farms event centerl (8061 Murfreesboro Road, aka Highway 231 South). Tickets are $15 in advance via legacyfarm.bpt.me (tickets will be a bit more expensive at the door). A percentage of the proceeds will go to a local food bank. Patrons are encouraged to bring canned food goods for the Wilson County Community Help Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Memories of Summer '74 in Lebanon
Laine fondly remembers that summer idyll in Wilson County as Wings was breaking in a new drummer and even recorded a few songs in a Nashville recording studio, including "Junior's Farm," a tip of the hat to country songwriter Curley Putman, who rented his farm to the British musicians.
"We didn't really mix with the people in the town of Lebanon too much. We were just at the farm. They were nice people. I like country people," reminisced Laine. " I like the whole feel of Tennessee. I really like those people. Through music I have a lot of similarities with them personality-wise I think.
"Everybody came to this big party that we had there: Roy Orbison, Roy Acuff and Jerry Reed, people that wrote songs for the Everly Brothers. I remember that, throwing horseshoes, and yeah, it was a good experience. We had a lot of fun.
Take a listen and a look
Denny Laine performs "Go Now": www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ9lJylfNQ4
Paul McCartney and Wings perform "Band on the Run": dailymotion.com/video/xxk53_paul-mccartney-wings-band-on-the-ru_music
Paul and Linda McCartney, Denny Laine and Wings perform: "Mull of Kintyre": youtube.com/watch?v=K5626WzsfMw
"We did some recording in Nashville. We met a lot of people in the clubs, Waylon Jennings, all those kind of people. I think Paul went up to meet Johnny Cash."
The musician, who was born in Birmingham, England, began playing the guitar at a young age. Among his early influences were Lonnie Donnegan, Django Reinhardt, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. A bit later on he became attracted to folk-music artists.
"I was into many different styles, and I would say blues became my next big love, and The Moody Blues were actually a blues band in the early days because I wanted to play blues music. I've kind of crossed over so many different genres of music guitar wise," he said.
Meeting The Beatles
Laine met The Beatles (John, Paul, George and Ringo) when they first moved to London and went on to be good friends with them as they shared the same management group.
"We did the second British Beatles tour, and then I did one show for Brian Epstein (manager of The Beatles) at the Saville Theater, which he owned, and Jimi Hendrix was on that show. Paul and John and Peter Asher were all in the royal box, and I did my show with my Electric String Band, and that was kind of the beginning of a new direction for me. It was a little bit like ELO (Electric Light Orchestra).
"I was kind of into that fusion between classical music and the blues and all that sort of stuff. I had a good night at that show, and Paul called me a few months later, probably because Linda talked him into putting a band back together again because he didn't know what to do after The Beatles. So he wanted people he knew, I think, and he called me and asked me if I wanted to get a band together. And I said yes."
Along the way, Laine and McCartney wrote a few tunes together. He says his favorite of their works remains "No Words." Why so?
"Because it's the only song that ended up on the 'Band on the Run' album. I wrote the song actually. It was two songs that I had that he talked me into joining together, and he added a few more words, but it's basically my song. And then there was 'Mull of Kintyre,' which was more his song because he had the chorus, then I added a lot of words to that."
Still making music today
These days Laine is aiming to transform a project he created some 20 years back, "Arctic Song," into an ecological musical.
"I'm going up the next couple of weeks to Fredonia University in New York, and I'm working with the students there and producer Armand Petri, who's produced a lot of famous bands. Then we're gonna present it at the opera house in Fredonia, just the music, not the whole musical, in April. So I'm looking forward to that."
As for what fans can expect to hear at his show in Lebanon, Laine said, "I'm working with a band called The Cryers, who are from New Jersey. They're all music teachers, and I've known them for quite a few years. They know a lot of my material, so I have a pretty broad collection of songs with them: three or four major Wings hits, all of the songs that I've ever done with Wings that I've written myself, and then some other stuff off obscure albums of mine. I've put out a lot of solo albums. I'll just mix it up with that."
He continues to perform on the road, noting otherwise he wouldn't know what to do with himself.
"I like to do live work. It's just the way I am. I like live shows. It keeps you on your toes, and you get to play a lot of material that you wouldn't otherwise. It's not like I've had major solo album success, so I like to go out and play all that stuff."
As for his relationship with McCartney, one of the two surviving Beatles, Laine says, "It's OK. I'm still in touch with him. I've been to a couple of his shows over the years. I don't really go backstage too much. We're still on good enough terms. I'm living my life. He's busy living his, and that's the way it is."
Band on the farm
Paul McCartney and Wings, sometimes simply known as Wings, performed from 1971 to 1981. The group changed membership over the years, except for McCartney, his wife Linda and guitarist-vocalist Denny Laine.
The band had 14 Top-10 hits and six No. 1 hits in the U.S. Their most successful album was 1973's Band on the Run. During the summer of 1974, the other two members of the band were lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton.
At that time McCartney and Wings were riding strong on their latest album, Band on the Run, which produced three No. 1 hits, the title track, "Jet" and "Helen Wheels."
How the former Beatle, his family and music mates wound up in the green, green hills of Wilson County came through the musical and legal connections of the late Buddy Killen, then president of Tree Music Publishing in Nashville, a Music Row country music giant for decades.
Killen's company's copyright lawyer was none other than New Yorker Lee Eastman. His photographer daughter, Linda, was also Mrs. Paul McCartney. One of the hosses of the Tree songwriting stables was Curley Putman. And guess who had a white mansion on a hill with a swimming pool, fishing pond, horses and acres and acres of farmland where an international superstar could let his hair down, practice his music in peace and let the kids go giddy-up?
So, once Killen persuaded Curley and Bernice Putman into leasing their home for six weeks, here came the Band on the Run ready for a summer break in the Tennessee sun. The McCartney clan included Pop and Mum (Paul and Linda), who were both 32 years old, their three young daughters (Heather, Stella and Mary) and the boys in the band (Laine, McCulloch and Britton).
While the Putmans evacuated to Hawaii and various points West for half the summer, Wings pulled out their drumsticks and guitars and did some serious jamming in the Putman den. They also recorded some tunes on Music Row, including a little ditty called "Junior's Farm," a No. 3 hit in November 1974. It's a safe bet the title was an homage to the Putman residence. (Wings also cut another hit in Nashville, "Sally G," likely inspired by Paul and the boys' visits to Printer's Alley, then famed for its burlesque shows.)
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.