“Larry, I just don’t know what country music is these days.”
That’s what Mel Price said to the owner of the Believe In Music store in Easton, Maryland not too long ago. Or so Larry himself told me and some friends as we were passing through town the other day.
We were on our way to pick some old country tunes on the shore for the weekend and had stopped at the shop to discuss tech specs for an upcoming gig. As we strolled around the shop, pickin’ on banjos, marvelling at lovely sunburst-laden arch tops and laughing at NASCAR electrics, I happened on a small stack of home-printed CDs on the front counter top. “Mel Price: Just Me & My Guitar” it read. Below that: “1 man, 1 guitar, 1 mic, 1 take.” Next to the stack of CDs was a newspaper cutout picture of an old guy playing guitar at an old folks’ home, his flower-printed white guitar strap thicker than Hank Williams’ southern accent. I asked Larry (my buddy Tim’s old man): what was the story with Mel Price?
Turns out Mel is an old country artist who spent most of his life (if not all of it) in Easton. He and his Santa Fe Rangers enjoyed some modest success in their day, even opening for Elvis Presley when the 21 year-old King-to-be played his first gig here in DC, on board the S.S. Mount Vernon. Mel still plays music in Easton, and stops by Believe In Music from time to time.
One day in the shop, between griping about the current state of country music and the younger generations’ disinterest in real country, Mel was persuaded by the folks at Believe In Music to lay down some of his favorite songs. Joe Grimaldi of Believe In Music played Rick Ruben to Mel’s Johnny Cash in the production, recording him in one of the back rooms. One man, one guitar, one mic, one take. And one heck of a voice, especially considering it’s coming out of an 86 year-old man.
The CDs sell for ten bucks each. There was a stack of five of them on the front counter when we went into the shop that day. There were three left when we walked out.
“Butter And Egg Man” by Mel Price
“Old Dogs And Children” by Mel Price
“18 Again” by Mel Price
Mel hosts a Sunday radio show on Delmarva’s WAAI. I’d love to hear it sometime. According to Larry– who discovered it by chance, scanning through stations while working in his garage– the show is largely Mel telling stories from the good old days at the Grand Ole Opry and such. I hope to hear it one of these days. Part of me wishes it was a podcast, but that wouldn’t be right. I think there’s something to be said for letting some things stay ephemeral in this day and age, lest we talk (or blog) the coolness right out of them.