When Jim Lauderdale read a biography on Gram Parsons he was fascinated by an anecdote about the deceased drinking and crying when he listened to George Jones - the unsung king of honky tonk music.

But it was Parsons' description of Jones as the 'King Of Broken Hearts' that ignited a song idea for Jim. Lauderdale was staying at his producer Dusty Wakeman's Rimshot Ranch near the Joshua Tree national monument in the desert of southern California but he was having trouble finishing the song. Then Jim, son of a North Carolina Presbyterian minister and choir leader, got a flash and headed for his oasis - Cap Rock. This was where Gram's garrulous tour manager and latter day author Phil Kaufman and his little Aussie mate Michael Martin gave the deceased a cut rate cremation after stealing his body from Van Nuys airport.
"It was a full moon and I was hanging out this place called Cap Rock and the rest of the lyrics just came to me," Lauderdale told Nu Country FM on the eve of his debut Australian tour. "I often used to go there to write songs. It's still one of my favourite songs that I've written." And, of course, one of the most lucrative after being cut as a matching pair with 'Where The Sidewalk Ends' by Texan rancher George Strait on his huge selling movie soundtrack 'Pure Country.'

They were the first of 14 Lauderdale songs taken onto the charts by Strait and his entrée to a feeding frenzy for his songs by other major artists. Texan troubadour Mark Chesnutt, who shared the same home town as Jones, also cut King Of Broken Hearts and Jan Browne - one time singer for Asleep At The Wheel - also released Where The Sidewalk Ends.
And, now 15 years down the lost highway, Lauderdale is hoping Jones will also cut it and ease the pain of the historic Jones-Lauderdale duet on 'Tavern Choir' languishing in a Sony vault. The song was recorded for Lauderdale's planned Pete Anderson produced debut disc in 1987 and also Jones duets album 'Friends In Low Places.'

Jim's lost album 'Point Of No Return' had just been released in Europe but doesn't include 'Tavern Choir.' "George's record company didn't end up putting it on his record because I was no longer on the label when it originally came out," Jim revealed, "one of these days I must work it out with Sony and get it out."

Another song from those sessions - 'Highway Through My Home' - emerged a decade later on Lauderdale's first album with his bluegrass mentor Ralph Stanley.Which leaves just one more lost album - 11 songs cut in 1979 with Roland White and featuring Marty Stuart at Earl Scruggs basement studio in Nashville on his first trip to Music City. "Maybe we'll put that out but we can't find it," quips the singer, "it's probably still at someone's house. It was originally at Earl Scruggs Basement studio but it moved."

Although Jones has subsequently cut a duet with the other Coalminer's daughter Patty Loveless on Jim's song 'You Don't Even Miss Me' the writer hopes Jones, now 70, will cut 'King Of Broken Hearts' and other songs he has penned. "George almost cut that song years ago, I hope he will do it some day," says Jim "I think he would really tear it up."
Meanwhile Jim has attained much solace - he played Jones in the Ryman Auditorium stage show of 'Stand By Your Man - the Tammy Wynette Story' and performed the same venue in concert with The Possum a few weeks later. "George Jones was a hero to me, "confessed Jim, "he had been one of my main guys to listen to since I was a teenager. It was kind of surrealistic to portray him and then he and his wife took me to dinner the night before they came to the show. He kind of played it up that he wasn't going to come because he didn't want to make me nervous. He was just the sweetest guy. I would have just done the show to have that experience of sitting next to him at dinner. It was like sitting next to Elvis, the Beatles and Hank Snr rolled into one for me."

Lauderdale was born in Statesville but grew up in Troutman, North Carolina where his dad was a Presbyterian minister and his mum Barbara was a choir director. He developed his love of music when he was a DJ in 8th grade at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina.

The singer, whose songs have also been cut by Australian chanteuses Sherry Rich and Felicity, compares the Jones buzz to writing with the seven times wed legend Harlan Howard and Jones former performing partner Melba Montgomery.

The Howard stints produced 'You'll Know When It's Right' from The Other Sessions and others including 'The Goodbye Song' from another straight country disc Whisper in 1998. "Being in the same room as Harlan and hearing stories, watching his genius work was unreal," says Jim "we did You'll Know When It's Right in one session. I was talking about a certain experience and he said 'well, kid, you'll know when it's right. Then he kept talking. This melody came out and he just sat there with his pad and scenarios - about me and her - the other person in the song. He just honed it in."

Lauderdale, who has four other discs due this year, also earned a bonus when he and Greek born, Montana based writer Kostas wrote 'Merle World' about another of their idols - five times wed former convict and Californian legend Merle Haggard. "I went over to write with Kostas and he had that title," says Jim of another prolific songsmith, "he's such a quick writer I had a hard time keeping up with him with that song. He has a love for the older style of stuff which I'm crazy about - the golden era up through about the mid seventies."

Lauderdale revealed that Merle World and another tune he penned with Buddy and Julie Miller are to be in movies. And that another Californian, surfing cowboy Gary Allan, was so taken with one of 16 tunes he penned with Leslie Satcher from Paris, Texas, that he changed the name of his album from 'What's On My Mind' to 'The Other Sessions.' "Gary cut it and I heard it might be the title track so I made that decision," says Jim whose colourful career is hard to condense.

His New York City era included stints with the Millers in bands and major stage shows including the late Harry Chapin's 'Cotton Patch Gospel', 'Pump Boys & Dinettes' (in which Carlene Carter also trod the boards) and 'Diamond Studs' where he played Jesse James and Shawn Colvin played the spouse. "I played banjo and guitar in Cotton Patch Gospel," Jim revealed, "that show ran off Broadway for several months and then I toured with it. It was a great day job at night - the hours were real short. I was glad I got to meet with Harry and work with him before he passed away. He was a really dynamic fellow."

Chapin, born on December 7, 1942, was the second son of Big Jim Chapin -a jazz drummer with Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman's bands.

Harry and younger brothers Tom and Steve performed in various family groups at grammar school and added father Jim as drummer in 1964 before he branched out into films and made a boxing documentary "Legendary Champions" which earned him an Oscar nomination in 1969.

But it was his solo career which produced the huge hit 'Taxi' from his 1972 debut disc 'Heads And Tales.' Ten more albums followed with hits such as WOLD - the saga of a faded, jaded DJ - Sniper, Better Place To Be, Sequel, his Dylan parody 'The Parade's Still Passing By,' Vacancy and Cat's In The Cradle which became a country hit for Ricky Skaggs. Taxi Driver and Sniper inspired movies for the singer-songwriter whose life saving work for World Hunger couldn't preserve him.

Chapin, died at 38, when his VW was squashed by a tractor trailer truck on July 16, 1981, on the Long Island Espressway in New York. The singer, whose stage shows included 'The Night That Made America Famous' in 1975, live revues including 'Chapin' and 'Bummer,' also wrote the soundtrack for telemovie 'Tangled Up Puppet.'

This author caught Chapin live in concert in Jacksonville, Florida, in April, 1978, - the performer interrupted his intermission to sing me 14 verses of a song he hadn't finished. When Chapin finally toured Australia in 1979 he still hadn't finished his song but he had sired five children before his tragic death.

It was no surprise Chapin was an inspiration for Lauderdale who moved from New York to a town south of Bakersfield in the early eighties. Lauderdale played the Club Lingerie with Dwight Yoakam's band and met up with John Ciambotti - chiropractor and bassist for Lucinda Williams - who became his manager. "John had also been in Clover who played on Elvis Costello's first album." Jim said, "they included John McFee (later with the Doobie Brothers) and Huey Lewis (Huey Lewis & The News). He was a big fan of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner. I was playing with Billy who was managed by John. I was so taken by the fact that he knew them, we had a lot of the same musical heroes." But did the good doctor crack Jim's back gratis as part of the management deal? "No, there was no free manipulations," Jim quipped.

But he recorded his ill-fated debut disc 'Point Of No Return' in 1987 with Dwight's guitarist and prolific producer Pete Anderson. In 1989 the single 'Stay Out Of My Arms' from that CBS album went to no 86 on the country charts.

Rodney Crowell produced 'Planet Of Love' which was the album out of the chute in 1991. It was followed by two Wakeman produced albums - 'Pretty Close To The Truth' and 'Every Second Counts.'

His eclectic 1996 Rounder album 'Persimmons' was followed by the stone country disc 'Whisper' in 1998. Then came 'I Feel Like Singing Today' - the first of two albums with Stanley - and the 16 track album 'Onward Through It All.'

Jim then joined Radney Foster and David Ball on Dual Tune for 'The Other Sessions' and has four new discs - the accoustic 'The Hummingbirds' with Tony Rice, Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush and Tony Garnier - the second Stanley Clinch Mountain album, another project with Grateful Dead writer Robert Hunter and a stone country disc.

It's been a long creative journey from his pre-teen DJ work in North Carolina, a stint in the Rolling Stone mail room in New York and overcoming the hurdles of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with his early releases and the right place with his liquid gold songs ever since.

Lauderdale was almost in the wrong place in New York City on December 8, 1980. Lauderdale worked in the Rolling Stone mail room and was almost a witness to one of the darkest events in rock music history. Early in the day Lauderdale, an intern, picked up a camera bag from the New York apartment of John and Yoko Lennon after a Rolling Stone photo shoot by famed photographer Annie Leibowitz. The singer returned to the Dakota building on West 72nd Street late in the day with a gift but left before Lennon's assassination by Mark David Chapman. "I had to drop something back over there for Annie," Lauderdale revealed. "I was waiting outside to, by some chance, see John and Yoko, I asked their assistant, who had been really nice. And she said 'well. it could be 10 minutes, it could be an hour.' And I stood out there for a few minutes. I had a gig that night and I had a gig the night before and I was really beat. I thought to myself I live only three blocks away. I'm sure I'll see him later. I thought why am I standing around there like that guy over there with the record. I later recognised him as being the assassin." But, unlike that other prematurely deceased country idol Gram Parsons, Lennon did not earn a song from Lauderdale.

Jim has also found time to perform The International Singer Songwriter Concert Series with Kim Richey, Fred Eaglesmith, Jason McCoy and Audrey Auld at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, Victoria, on Sunday January 27.

For trivia buffs and discographers here's a selection of the albums Jim has played and / or sung on.

· Kings of the Catnap 2000 ROUNDER SELECT
· One Endless Night 2000 ROUNDER / PGD
· Dwight Yoakam - La Croix d'Amour 1999 WEA INTERNATIONAL
· Folkscene Collection, Vol. 2 1999 RED HOUSE
· Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons 1999 ALMO SOUNDS
· Dwight Yoakam - A Long Way Home 1998 WARNER BROTHERS
· Ralph Stanley - Clinch Mountain Country 1998 REBEL RECORDS
· Chris Cummings 1998 WARNER BROTHERS
· What About Yes 1997 PALADIN RECORDS
· Come on Christmas 1997 WARNER BROTHERS
· Buddy Miller - Poison Love 1997 HIGHTONE
· Sara Evans - Three Chords & the Truth 1997 RCA
· Chasers 1995
· MORGAN CREEK - Joy Lynn White - Lucky Few 1997 POLYGRAM RECORDS
· Where I Stand 1997
· Scott Joss - Souvenirs 1996 PLG
· Gary Allan - Used Heart for Sale 1996 MCA
· Rig Rock Deluxe: A Musical Salute to the American Truck
· Drivers 1996 UPSTART (BAYSIDE)
· Longest Train 1996 WATERMELON / ADA
· Tammy Rogers 1996
· America's Music: The Roots of Country 1996 CURB RECORDS
· Dwight Yoakam - Gone 1995 WARNER BROTHERS
· Mark Chesnutt - Wings 1995 MCA
· Buddy Miller - Your Love and Other Lies 1995 HIGHTONE
· Chris Gaffney - Loser's Paradise 1995 HIGHTONE
· George Ducas 1995
· Shawn Camp 1993
· Fear Nothing 1993
· Orphans & Angels 1993
· Kelly Willis 1993
· Mark Chesnutt - Longnecks & Short Stories 1992 MCA
· Rodney Crowell - Life Is Messy 1992 SONY
· Dwight Yoakam - If There Was a Way 1990 WARNER BROTHERS
· A Town South of Bakersfield, Vols. 1 & 2 1988
· Points West: New Horizons in Country Music 1978 HIGHTONE
· Dwight Yoakam - Just Lookin' for a Hit 1989
· Dwight Yoakam - Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room 1988 WARNER BROTHERS
· Chris Gaffney & The Cold Hard Facts 1989
· Dwight Yoakam - It Only Hurts When I Laugh 1991
· Lucinda William - Sweet Old World 1992 CHAMELEON
· A Town South of Bakersfield, Vols. 1 & 2 1988 RESTLESS RECORDS
· Lucinda Williams 1988 KOCH INTERNATIONAL
· Patty Loveless - Trouble No More 1990 SONY
· Pam Tillis - Mi Vida Loca 1992 HIGHTONE
· I Fell in Love 1990 WARNER BROTHERS


· Gary Allan - Used Heart for Sale/ Alright Guy
· D.C. Anderson - Box Under the Bed
· David Ball - Play
· Mandy Barnett - Mandy Barnett
· Mark Chesnutt - Greatest Hits / Wings
· The Cicadas - Cicadas
· Dixie Chicks - Shouldn't a Told You That
· Deryl Dodd - Deryl Dodd
· Dave Edmunds - Plugged In
· Vince Gill - Pocket Full of Gold
· Scott Joss - Souvenirs
· Patty Loveless - Long Stretch of Lonesome / Trouble with the
· Truth / When Fallen Angels Fly
· Shelby Lynne - Soft Talk
· Jim Matt All - My Wild Oats
· John Mayall - Silver Tones: The Best of John Mayall & / Spinning Coin
· Buddy Miller - Poison Love / Your Love and Other Lies/Buddy & Julie Miller
· Heather Myles - Just Like Old Times
· The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Bang Bang Bang
· Perfect Stranger - You Have the Right to Remain Silent
· Jon Randall - What You Don't Know
· Bruce Robison - Wrapped
· The Larry Stephenson Band - On Fire
· George Strait - on 10 albums
· Doug Supernaw - You Still Got Me
· Rick Trevino - Rayo de Luz
· Joy Lynn White - Lucky Few
· Kelly Willis - Bang Bang / Kelly Willis
· Dixie Chicks - Fly
· Felicity - New Shadow


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