Columbia Records 1971
“Mudflap Cadillac, won’t you roll for me, take me back, to where I ought to be…”
I knew Rob Galbraith’s name long before I knew his music. I’d seen him listed as producer on Ronnie Millsap records in the 80’s, I knew he’d written songs and produced music for the great Nashville soul singer Clifford Curry, and most importantly, for me, he’d co-produced the first three records by Larry Jon Wilson.
When I got to know Larry Jon, one of the first things I asked was if Rob Galbraith had ever made any records. “Sure did,” he said. “Made a thing about a Cadillac named Jezebel.”
My simple question turned, as every conversation with Larry Jon did, into an endless night of half remembered stories and convoluted tales of Nashville delinquency; nearly all of it unrepeatable and unverifiable. Most of what he told me I subsequently found to be true in spirit if not in fact. He misremembered the names and dates of the records, placing them, at least once, in the wrong decade. He talked about the music they both loved; Mose Allison and the blues and The Swan Silvertones. He told me about the original cover of the second record; “what Rob wanted,” he said, “was to be holding this bone with meat hanging off it and blood all over him and his clothes.” He talked about singing backing vocals on the Donnie Fritts song Three Hundred Pounds Of Hungry.
I found a copy of Nashville Dirt a month later. Recorded in 1971, (four years before Rob met Larry Jon), it featured the two songs that Larry Jon had confused: Jezebel Of The Morning and Mudflap Cadillac. It sprang from the same fertile ground as Dylan’s Nashville Skyline; relaxed to the point of carelessness, informal and easy, a laidback classic. “What I wanted”, Rob said, “was a ‘feel’. A good ol Nashville feel.”
I met Rob 23 years after Nashville Dirt was made. Myself and three friends turned up at his music row office one afternoon and became, for the next week, his gang. It was a great week. We hung out, listened to stories, went to the movies, went to see Larry Jon play at the Blue Bird Café.
When I told Rob how much I liked Nashville Dirt, he sent me a copy of his second record (recorded in 1976), Throw Me A Bone. Bigger this time, with horns and disco drums, but still relaxed, still with that Nashville feel. A magical record. When we met, a year later, he gave me his new record, Too Long At The Fair (2004). Jazzy this time, another slice of Nashville cool.
This is how music should be made. When it needs to be. Every once in while. Using those friends that are available. Familiar without being cosy, a mix of all the disparate parts of life. As he once said to me: “I just do what I do when I can find the time to do it.”
Jeb’s fantastic new record, ‘The Jeb Loy Nichols Special’ is out now on Decca. CDs are on sale from the Caught by the River shop, priced £10