Thursday, May 3, 2012
LITTLE ROCK Do Ray Wylie Hubbard a favor. Don’t ask him to sing “that song.”
Fans know what song. It’s his 1973 composition “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mothers,” a song Hubbard has to have mixed emotions about, much like Don McLean and Arlo Guthrie with their epics “American Pie” and “Alice’s Restaurant.”
At least Hubbard’s song is shorter. “Redneck Mothers” was made popular by singersongwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, though most connect the singalong song to Hubbard.
But seriously, folks, Hubbard is known and respected for a career that spans 41 years and 16 albums, the latest of which is The Grifter’s Hymnal. He prefers talking about his latest work and, chances are, fans willfind him a happier performer if they let Hubbard present songs and stories at his speed.
The 1994 album Loco Gringo’s Lament established Hubbard as a spiritual and poetic country bluesman. The Grifter’s Hymnal is a collection of original compositions, three co-written songs and one cover tune.
“I recorded Ringo Starr’s ‘Coochie Coochie,’ which was a bonus cut on the CD version of his 1970 album, Beaucoups of Blues,” Hubbard says. “Though Ringo is on it, he wasn’t in the studio with us. We sent him the song and he added some shakers, drums and backing vocals and sent it back.”
Hubbard has performed at Starr’s annual birthday party and will return this year.
“His birthday party this year will be at Ryman Auditorium on July 7 in Nashville, Tenn., and he invited me again, so I’ll be there for that.”
The singer-songwriter, 65, enjoyed success in the mid-1970s after Walker recorded “Redneck Mother.” Austin, Texas, was the center of the progressive country rock movement that included Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Michael Murphy and others. Hubbard has admitted to having been a problem drinker, who foundhelp after getting advice from a Texan, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, in 1987.
Hubbard was inspired by finding part of a 1930s Regal guitar in an Arkansas storenearly 10 years ago. He can’t recall what town, just that the store owner told him that the guitar fragment had been found after a 1972 flood on the White River. The merchant had turned it into a planter.
“He told me I couldn’t have the plant, but gave me the rest of it, so I took it home to Texas, got it fixed up and it’s now one of my best guitars,” Hubbard says.
A couple of years ago, Hubbard co-wrote a movie script for a Western set in 1912, The Last Rites of Ransom Pride. The experience did not turn out well.
“I had to resign from that, walk away,” he says. “I had written some songs and the score, and what they did to that, the editing, wasn’t what I had in mind. It had some great actors in it - Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakam. I’ve found a new project, working with Hayes Carll. We shot a little trailer for it, and are trying to decide whether to do a movie or to go the route of a TV series on HBO or Showtime.”
Carll, a graduate of Hendrix College in Conway, credits Hubbard with offering good careeradvice and counsel when Carll returned to Texas to start his music career a decade ago.
“Slaid Cleaves and I took him on the road with us and showed him some stuff. I just did a show with him in Kansas City,” Hubbard says.
For years, Hubbard has traveled with only a drummer, Rick Richards, which was what initially impressed Starr. Richards is about to tour with Joe Walsh, and Hubbard will tour with his and his wife Judy’s son, Lucas, a freshman at Texas State University in San Marcos.
“I don’t know whether he’s destined to go into music or not,” Hubbard says. “He’s also a bowling hustler.”
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Opener: Grace Askew
8 p.m. Sunday, Revolution
Room, 300 President
Clinton Ave., Little Rock
Tickets: $12 advance, $15
Info: (501) 823-0090 or
Weekend, Pages 30 on 05/03/2012