Be That Way
Jimmy Gray Hall
Things get lost. Things go missing. It’s a cold, hard fact: the things most precious and dear to you will, at some time, vanish.
Last week, while searching the house for a missing book, I found: £3.26, a key, a comb, a feather, a number of nuts and seeds and dried berries, two lengths of string, a single pasta shell, a button, a number of dead wasps and flies and spiders, a pencil, a screw, a nail, a paperclip. I failed to find my book. It is, I suppose, gone forever, fallen through the cracks of life.
I tell myself that the goal is to lose more than you accumulate. To forget more than you remember. To constantly have less.
A month ago I was talking to my friend Tony Smith. He told me that he’d just bought a single called Be That Way by Jimmy Gray Hall. He told me it was produced in Muscle Shoals by Eddie Hinton. I told him I’d never heard of it. It was, to me, even before I owned it, a lost record. A record that had fallen through the cracks.
I did some asking around and a couple weeks later bought a copy. I played it and loved it. I thought: you lovely little lost classic. You look like a winner, you sound like a winner, you walk like a winner, and yet here you are, ignored. I wondered how it came to be so forgotten, so neglected.
I did some more asking around. Turns out there’s a whole long, strange story that’ll have to be told another time. It’s a story of the wrong guy at the wrong time mixing with the wrong people. It’s the oldest story in the book: a basically good guy doing his best but making a mess of things. Turns out Jimmy Gray Hall, who had everything, who sang and wrote and played with the best of them, who was handsome and sweet and fun to be with, wound up being shot by the police in California at the age of 34 after being implicated in 26 bank robberies.
That’s the way Jimmy Gray Hall got lost. That’s the way he disappeared. And yet here’s this record, this strange, great record. A record that, a month ago, I didn’t know existed. And that I now play everyday. So I guess, like most things, it’s found and lost and missing and gone, all at the same time.