So many lifetimes ago… This is a radio promo copy of my 1985 debut music single, Country Blues. I lost my copy decades ago; to find this one now, such an unexpected blast from the past, big blast. And yes, of course, I bought it.
I still can’t believe it. Moments of odd truth to remind: yes, that really did happen.
A brief piece of history long forgotten, buried; seeing the old 45 record brought back memories in bits and pieces, some I’m eager to note, others will remain forever buried where they belong.
That Nashville Sound
I don’t think Country Blues was the original name of the song; wish I could remember. I know something major got changed in it during the recording sessions. The recording sessions were amazing even though I felt a lot more pressure than on the many songwriter demos I’d sung on the side years prior. In fact, it was songwriter Cottrell’s Slow Dance song that caught the industry’s attention and got me the notice. I really loved singing that song, Slow Dance. It was definitely on deck to be re-recorded as a later single release.
Click the play button below to hear the songwriter demo of Slow Dance recorded in Dallas, Texas, 1985, R. Cottrell’s songwriter demo that was pitched to the Nashville producers.
Slow Dance, Krystyn Vaughn (recorded 1985)
We had A-list Nashville musicians for the Nashville recording session, including CMA award-winning Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano. (I need to check the spelling of his name.)
Country Blues was one of two songs we recorded in those sessions; the other being Love Comes Better, a great little dance tune with a sort of country-margarita-feel set to be my second release. I think we recorded Love Comes Better first, but I just don’t remember. I do remember the song was fun and I enjoyed singing it.
Click the play button below to hear our original unmixed recording of Love Comes Better. I’d forgotten how much I liked that little song until hearing it again the other day after rediscovering the Country Blues record. I just wish I’d noted on the cassette tape the names of the song writers. If I find them, I will update here.
Love Comes Better, Krystyn Vaughn (recorded 1985)
I’d struggled with Country Blues in rehearsals with the song writers; and I was terrified that I was going to screw up and show these A-listers what an amateur I was. They were all big league and I was… not.
I remember drinking gin and something (orange twist maybe) before or during Country Blues. Not sure where I got the idea that gin was the solution, but I must’ve thought it would somehow get me through the song. (I’d taken a liking to gin after an extended Rolls Royce business venture in England a year or so earlier. In fact, now that I think of it, that recording session might have been the last time I had gin; can’t remember a time after that, frankly. My blood sugar simply could not handle it.) I don’t know if it was the gin or if I just gave up the fight, but we got through the song and everyone — including me — was happy with the results.
Click the play button below to hear the final cut of Country Blues, my debut single 1985.
Country Blues, Krystyn Vaughn (recorded 1985)
The song debuted at #2 on the Independent Record Charts, which back in those days was kind of a big deal. It meant the independent radio stations liked my record — a lot. The IRC consisted of around 300 or so independent country radio stations across the US who played new artists as a way to test the market. I was doing live on-air radio interviews before and after they’d air Country Blues; I phoned in the interviews from my apartment, my toddler playing on the sofa next to me. That part was cool.
Here’s the black & white promo shot that accompanied the record packet to the radio stations. (I was so young!) I had terrible allergies the whole time I was in Tennessee and was also trying to fight off a cold the day of the photo shoot in Nashville. (Fortunately that was after the recording sessions.)
My nose was drippy and my eyes were watery and it just about drove the photographer nuts. I think that’s why he left the shadow under my nose. Yes, that was the days of film cameras. Funny the things we remember.
The power & influence of independent radio
I was particularly fond of the radio people. Perhaps because radio was one of my first jobs. I started in radio in the mid-1970s at age 14 as part of a cheerleader fundraising project and liked it so much I practically begged the station manager for a job. He relented, finally. I worked weekends spinning the Top 40 countdown (yes, we used turn-tables and vinyl back then), and pushing the buttons and turning the knobs on a little console for Denver Bronco football games on Sundays. (I was the only person at the station during the games and crocheted an entire throw with fat fuzzy yarn my first season between announcements every quarter hour (or half hour, can’t remember), but as many times as I said it, I do remember the announcement still to this day: “You are listening to KYVA radio, Gallup, New Mexico, your Denver Bronco football station.”)
So, back to the Country Blues radio interviews 1985-1986. There was one radio interviewer in particular from Roswell, New Mexico, who I felt an instant connection with: Tony (Anthony) Lucero. Maybe it was the New Mexico connection, I don’t know what it was at first, but he’d called several times after the interview with questions, sage advice, and lots of encouragement. He was concerned that I “might fall prey to people who just want to use and exploit” me. He was so genuine, so sincere, and he knew his business. We became friends.
He’d played my record for a new artist development representative from Warner Bros and invited me to join them at a Texas Rangers game in Arlington; that the rep liked my record and was open to meeting me. Yes, of course, I went.
I was so nervous sitting with Tony and the Warner rep that I remember little if anything about the game. Nor do I remember the Warner rep’s name. But he was very nice, very professional, and indicated further interest. He wasn’t at all pushy like others had been. Was I on my way? Was it really happening?
Quick end to a great beginning
For reasons I’m still not comfortable discussing decades later, my music career ended shortly thereafter; my second single Love Comes Better forever in the vault, never to be released. And no, not because of Warner Bros; they were respectful.
Lets just say my foray into big time music business was just one of many early awarenesses of Intellectual Property — mine, others, and our vulnerability when it comes right down to it.
In short, I was a single mom with a child to take care of and the price of potential fame in the music business — for me, anyway — had quickly gone too high, too complicated; too many people speaking for me, making decisions for me, pulling and pushing me in too many different directions, all throwing numbers and songs at me, wanting a “piece of the action” — and too fast.
I wasn’t THAT good and I was getting myself into trouble; the challenges of single motherhood were tough enough, but being dependent on so many people telling me what and when and where was just not working for me, at all. I had to get out. And I did. I just stopped. Put an end to all of it. Whereas my brief shot at a successful country music singing career had come to a screeching halt, Tony Lucero and I remained friends.
Friends across the great divide
A high school dropout, I’d managed to rack up a few college credits here and there so decided to go back to college full time, to join the real world, give my baby the closest thing to stability that I could muster.
Tony and I wrote letters and spoke on the phone from time to time over the next few years. He always had some interesting event or promo going on at his station and the sincerity of his voice and genuine care was … well, he was just a great guy; a good friend. He was supportive of my decision to pursue a college degree (and not a music degree; I’d seriously had enough), but it always bothered him that I was off the music track and he was determined to find a way through my complicated music business issues to encourage me back in, so he planned another trip to Texas. I knew our friendship would far outlast the music business. I looked forward to his visit.
The day he was to arrive came and went. Nothing. A week. Nothing. Something was wrong; I could feel it; wasn’t like him. He wouldn’t just go silent like that; I called the station.
I sat in stunned silence as the man on the phone, his voice breaking as he spoke, told me that Anthony “Tony” Lucero had been killed in a plane crash during an airshow in Roswell only weeks earlier, May 4, 1990. No. No. No…
He’d gone up with a stunt pilot prior to or during the air show, I don’t remember which the man said exactly. Both Tony and the pilot were killed in the crash. The man on the phone was kind as he told me how Tony was looking forward to his Texas trip; how he’d believed in me; that Tony still had my promo photo up at the station. I don’t remember how I responded, if at all. I think I was in shock. And felt very alone.
A shining light in the dark
That was long ago. Decades. Another life. Yet, seeing that 45 record on ebay the other day brought more of Tony’s voice to my memories than my own. Somewhere, I still have the last letter he wrote to me.
Tony was one of only a few people I had contact with in the music business back then who was… who truly cared about me and my child, about our well-being. He was safe, he was kind, he … His genuine kindness and concern was one of the most beautiful aspects of the entire experience; a shining light that made all the other bad parts worth it in a way; to know someone so rich in spirit, so good of heart, so alive, so real. Even though he saw me musically, he always spoke to my humanity; I imagine he was like that with everyone; its just who he was. And for that, I shall always be thankful.
Another piece of the puzzle.
If you’d like to hear more of my music over the decades, visit the musicology page on this site where I’m posting my old recordings as I find them. I left the music business in the mid-1980s, but I still managed a few recording sessions over the decades.