ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE DOWN IN TENNESSEE ARE DIGGING BAREFOOT JERRY…
An Interview with Wayne Moss
By Derek Halsey
Wayne Moss is a musician who has played in the studio with everyone from Nancy Sinatra to Bob Dylan to the Steve Miller Band. But he may best be remembered for his recording studio, Cinderella Studios in Nashville, and his being a part of the legendary southern rock group Barefoot Jerry. Barefoot Jerry evolved from a prior group called Area Code 615 that was a bunch of studio musicians that decided to play the hits of the late 1960s with bluegrass and country instruments. Area Code 615 recorded two albums and a bunch of the same guys became Barefoot Jerry and went on to record six albums throughout the 1970s. Oddly enough, they became famous because of a mention of them in Charlie Daniels' hit song 'The South's Gonna Do It." In an interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, the late Allen Woody, bass player for the Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule, said of Barefoot Jerry, "Barefoot Jerry was a country band that really rocked. They had Russ Hicks on pedal steel, Wayne Moss thumbpicking a Jazzmaster...For a while, the term "country rock" meant the Eagles, but these guys were the real thing." I recently talked with Wayne from his studio in Madison, Tennessee.
What was the difference between the two bands you were both in, Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry? Both were made up of studio musicians, were they not?
Area Code 615 was basically an instrumental band. A lot of the membership was the same. Charlie McCoy was in both bands. Kenneth Buttrey was drummer in both bands. Myself and Mac Gayden. All three of the others went on to better and bigger things. Mac Gayden wrote a lot of terrific songs like "Everlasting Love." Charlie McCoy was musical director for Hee Haw for twenty-some years and he plays for six different labels right now (as a session musician). So, we had to replace those people with other folks and in the process of that we ended up with 25 different people in the band. Dave Doran played with Moby Grape. Bobby Thompson played banjo on a lot of the Hee Haw shows. Buddy Skipper went on to be musical director of the Crook and Chase show. There were a lot of good people in and out of the band. Terry Dearmore is now a Unity preacher in Virginia. John Harris is deceased; he was our original keyboardist. Guitarist Jim Colvard also passed away in the seventies. Our group made records from 1970-71 to 1976. We haven't had any new product out since then, however there is an album coming out that is a combination of various tracks we have saved over the years.
All six albums of Barefoot Jerry are on CD now?
Yes. The first album was on Capitol, the second was on Warner Brothers, the rest of them were on Monument (Records) and they are all available on CD now at www.barefootjerry.com.
Did you guys, as Barefoot Jerry, play live much at all back then?
Yes. We traveled for 11 years and there was 25 members in and out of the band, a lot of friends. We went out all over the United States in a couple of vans. We generally flew, though, to the best gigs.
Did you do a lot of gigs on your own, or did you open up for other bands and so on?
Well, we worked with the Charlie Daniels Band. Do you know of (comedian) Jim Varney? We worked a couple of gigs with him. A lot of southern rockers, Wet Willie and, of course Charlie Daniels mentioned us in his song ("The South's Gonna Do It").
Did you ever play with Dickey Betts?
I don't think we played with him but one of the Allman Brothers did come and sit in with us at The Exit/In club. I think Duane Allman was who sat in with us that night. A lot of us were pretty drunk that night so I can't remember which one it was. A long time ago...
Barefoot Jerry had a lot of different sounds on the albums but the band really captured that southern rock sound especially with songs like "Can't Get Off With Your Shoes On"
That was the title cut from one of our albums. Now that one and "Watching TV' are on a CD together and the first and second albums, Southern Delight and 'Barefoot Jerry, are in a CD together as are our last two, Barefootin' and Keys to the Country.
Are there any live tapes floating around of Barefoot Jerry?
I have one that we did at The Exit/In that I will put out at some point.
Did you ever tour overseas with Barefoot Jerry?
Yes. We worked 31 days at the Olympia Theater in Paris and packed it every day and twice on Sunday. Thirty-one days in a row. The place held 2500 people. It wasn't just us, the main act was a French dude who was kind of the Elvis of France called Eddie Mitchell. (Eddie Mitchell was just featured in that recent PBS special on Sun Studios in Memphis).
What outfit gets the most response from people all over the world, Area Code 615 or Barefoot Jerry?
It depends on what part of the world you're talking about. We went over to Japan and were very well received as Area Code a couple of months ago. We played Tokyo, we played Yokohama and we played Kyoto, and we did some Barefoot stuff and some Area Code stuff.
Do you think you will be playing in the States like that?
I doubt it. When we were there had a bunch of musicians that played with us that were Japanese. They had memorized all the songs well enough to play behind us.
Does that amaze you?
Yes. We had this fellow named Dr. K who was the bandleader and he had a nine-piece band and they knew every note of every song, and did it very well. They are big fans of Area Code and Barefoot Jerry.
How is (Area Code and Barefoot alumnus) Bobby Thompson doing?
He has got Multiple Sclerosis pretty bad and is not playing any more. We get together every now and again and have lunch or something. The new Area Code CD has a few songs on there that he wrote that were not on the previous vinyl. One song is his version of "John Henry" in a minor key. It's pretty strange for a banjo. He would put a banjo through a wah-wah pedal and stuff. He was a pretty inventive dude.
You played on the albums Bob Dylan recorded in Nashville did you not?
Well, I played on Blonde on Blonde, which was one of the biggest albums he ever had.
Was Charlie Daniels on that album?
Yes. Charlie McCoy, Ken Buttrey, a lot of the same people that went on to be in Area Code and Barefoot. Do you remember that "everybody must get stoned" song? Its actually called "Rainy Day Women #12." That was one of those things where he (Dylan) wanted everybody to get a little drunk first, and we did. It's not fake. We were all loaded. We had a hard time convincing (the producers) that we ought to get paid for that credit.
There are a lot of musicians who did not get paid for things they did back then.
Well, that's true. I played on "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison and they are playing that in a commercial right now in Japan and I have not gotten paid for it. Charlie McCoy is on that song, too. He played saxophone on it. But a lot of the things we did back then involved a lot of the same people. We played on two rhythm and blues singles that went to number one from one session. One was by Joe Simon. What we did on that was we all switched instruments. Charlie played lead guitar, Mac Gayden played rhythm guitar, I played bass. It was the first time I ever played bass in my life. It worked out pretty good.
You played some Moog synthesizer on some Barefoot Jerry albums, too, I think.
Yeah, played the Moog, piano, played steel guitar on one song.
You are listed as working on a Robert Mitchum album. Was that the actor?
Yes. He cut "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me."
And Mitchum sang on that?
Yes. And Fred Foster (producer) called him up and said, "you need to come in here and cut an album because we are going number one next week with that song." But Robert Mitchum said, "I don't think so. I don't like those record sessions. I'd rather do five movies than one record session."
So he did do the album or didn't he?
He did not do the album, no. He had a number one single and no album to go with it. A lot of the same people played on a lot of stuff. We backed up Linda Ronstadt at the Fillmore West several times when we were Area Code 615. She later came to Tennessee and we warmed up for her as Barefoot Jerry. Linda recorded an album at my studio, Cinderella Studios, called Silk Purse.
What year did you play behind Ronstadt at Fillmore West?
It was probably '69 or '70. And that was during the two years we were Area Code 615. We did that and the Johnny Cash show and it was the only gigs (as Area Code 615) we ever did.
You mentioned your studio, Cinderella Studio, in Madison, Tennessee. Is it not the oldest continually operating studio in Nashville?
Yes it is. It's not in the phone book, never has been. Word of mouth is what has kept us alive. Billy Swan did an album here, Leo Kottke did one here. The Whites (Of O Brother, Where Art Thou? fame) did one here produced by Ricky Skaggs. Jerry Jeff Walker recorded here. Steve Miller Band. Charlie McCoy on harmonica played on it. It is the album I have on the wall called the "Anthology Album."
(author's note - sure enough, folks, get out your old "Anthology" album like I did and you will see that the songs "I Love You," "Never Kill Another Man" and the familiar "Going To The Country" are there from the "Number Five" album recorded at Cinderella Studio.)
Who else recorded at Cinderella?
Charlie Daniels recorded his Whiskey album here. Vern Gosdin. Mel McDaniel. Buddy Emmons did a classic steel guitar album here. Tony Joe White recorded Even Trolls Love Rock and Roll here. Ricky Skaggs. Grady Martin, who just passed the other day. Grand Funk recorded an album here way back on 4-track. It was back when they were Terry Knight and the Pack. John Hartford recorded a double album here. It was a solo album with banjo and him dancing on his plywood.
What was it like working with Nancy Sinatra?
I was the band leader on her session and she was fine to work with. Working with her producer, however, was nothing but bad. He started off the session by saying, "I don't want you all to get intimidated because this is Frank Sinatra's daughter. Just play the same kind of stuff you would play with any other dumb country chick that comes in here." Which didn't sit well with all of us. In fact, most of the people I called to work with him wouldn't because of his reputation.
You recorded the Monkees there as well?
Well, it actually wasn't with the whole Monkees, it was with Mike Nesmith. When we did the session it was with a whole bunch of Area Code 615 that was hired and Nesmith went off for a time to work on some lyrics or something and we were sitting there with our earphones on and the mikes in front of us. We started playing "Lady Madonna" and other stuff on banjo and so on and that was where we got the idea to start Area Code 615.
Who was the best player that never made it big?
Joe South. He had a lot of hits that he wrote. But he came to Nashville to do record sessions and I hired him for a few. He was a fabulous guitar player but he didn't gel too well with the Nashville pickers. I wouldn't say pickers, the pickers had a lot of respect for him, he just didn't get along well with the producers and stuff like that. He liked to play in the style that he was comfortable with and it didn't always fit the record he was playing on.
When did you first start playing on other people's records?
When I first came to Nashville I worked with Brenda Lee for two-and-a-half years in 1959. I started the studio about 1960.
There are groups now, especially in light of the success of the "O Brother" soundtrack that are purposely finding all of the old recording equipment to use to record with. You still have any of that old stuff there at the studio?
Yes. We have a lot of microphones and stuff from that era like RCA 44s, RCA 77s that worked real well with banjos, the 44s with the bass. (One microphone) was how it was done I the bluegrass era. A lot of those kind of microphones have a sound all their own. I used to have a mellotron in here and a guy came through town and I was having a problem with mine (mellotron) and I went to a seminar on it and I told him I had a couple of notes out of tune. He said, "If I can't fix it I will give you the one I have here." He told me it was the one that was the same one used on the Beatles "Strawberry Fields'." So, he came out and tried to fix it and couldn't fix it so I said a deal was a deal. He said that his belongs to John Lennon. I can't give you this. I said that he told me if he couldn't fix mine I would get his.
Remember where you're at, boy!
Yep, and he did. I don't have it any more. I sold it for twice what I paid for it.
John Hartford once said that he had played instruments as a kid but when he heard Flatt and Scruggs it changed his way of looking at music and sent him on his way. What did it for you growing up?
Flatt and Scruggs was some of the first records I ever listened too in my life. I grew up in West Virginia. I had a buddy that was a banjo player and he had the Scruggs part and I learned the Flatt part. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and things like that. And when I discovered Chet Atkins I started to imitate him.
Who gave you your first break in Nashville?
A guy named Hargus "Pig" Robbins. He hired me for a session when nobody knew who I was. I came across a musician in a session who said to me, "If I ever get a record contract I want you to play lead on it." It turned out to be Tommy Roe. He later had a record called "Sheila" that was the first number one record I ever played on. As a result, I named my daughter Sheila after that. She is 39 now so it tells you how long ago that has been. I was called to do an Elvis session after I had quit doing sessions for a while and I figured if I did that Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton and a bunch of people would say "sure you'll play with Elvis but you won't play with us." So, I turned it down.
You turned down a session with Elvis?
Yeah. In hindsight maybe I should have done it but I didn't want people thinking I was playing favorites or something.
Did you ever play on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry?
Yes. I did a Columbia show there that Grady Martin hired me for. He gave me about four intros I had to play and I think I blew three of them. I remember that I was kind of geared for making three-minute records and it was like a three-hour show so it was hard to remember what I was supposed to play.
So what is new with you, what are you up to now?
Well, I am doing a gospel album with the group New Hope Road. And soon I will be putting out Barefoot 7. It will have tracks that have never been released and will soon be available at my website www.barefootjerry.com.