Thursday, March 8, 2012

Goodbye: Goodbye California

Dick Feller: Goodbye California

[purchase (vinyl only, out-of-print)]

If music fans remember Dick Feller at all, it's most likely for a series of mid-charting country novelty records he released in the 1970s -- most notably "Making the Best of a Bad Situation," "The Credit Card Song" and "Uncle Hiram's Homemade Beer." While those are fine, fun songs, it's a shame they obscure Feller's talents as a skilled songwriter and accomplished acoustic guitarist.

Dick Feller landed in Nashville in the late 1960s. He bounced around as a writer and backing musician. Johnny Cash, who had a habit of mining songwriting talent, signed Feller to House of Cash. The Man in Black enthused to Rolling Stone magazine, "There's a new writer named Dick Feller. Just watch for him. He's going to be great someday." Somehow Cash got away with singing Feller's "When Uncle Bill Quit Dope" on network TV in 1970. He also recorded Feller's "Orphan of the Road" and "Any Old Wind That Blows." After the association with Cash ended, Feller signed with Jerry Reed's Vector Music. Reed recorded many of Feller's songs, and scored hits with "Lord Mr. Ford" and "East Bound and Down." Others covered Feller's music as well; one of John Denver's last hits was Feller's "Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones." Feller eventually moved away from country music, writing commercial jingles and collaborating with humorist Lewis Grizzard.

Unfortunately, Feller wasn't a particularly prolific recording artist. He released just three albums of original material, the last in 1975. All are stellar and decades out of print. In the past 35 years, he's put out only an obscure live album and a self-produced set, made up mostly of re-recordings. "Goodbye California" is taken from his first album, Dick Feller Wrote. It boasts the musical cadence and vocabulary that typify Feller's compositions, as well as some hot guitar picking.

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