As I said in my last blog I wanted to share some other stories and insight on my new Christmas CD if you don’t mind reading. I’ve been looking forward for years to record a Christmas album but never really felt ready. I suppose this is because Christmas means so much to me not only as a parent and grandfather but as a believer in Jesus Christ and his immaculate birth. I finally gave in and went for it this year. I’ve had a Christmas tree in my guitar room all year long. I’ve had such fun and have drawn comfort and inspiration by recording this record.
One thing that sort of gave me a ‘love-shove’ to get this done was the fact that a couple of years ago the Lytton Cobbold family asked if I would come over and perform at their beautiful estate… the Knebworth House in Knebworth, England. They explained that for years they had sponsored a “Charles Dickens’ Christmas” where an actor would come in and read A Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens’ book. They wanted to do something different this year, so they said they wanted “A Doyle Dykes Christmas” or “Christmas with Doyle Dykes” which is now the title of my new CD.
I have visited with Henry and Martha Lytton Cobbold and their family many times in their stately home. I also wrote the song “Knebworth Dream” and recorded it in their 500-year-old barn converted into a recording studio. I interviewed Henry on video at their mansion after I played the song inside the house as part of my Live Sessions DVD. My good friend Robert Wilson from Knebworth village was responsible for introducing me to the Lytton-Cobbold family at their church and for setting all this up.
On my new CD I wrote “Christmas at Kebworth… (with you)” and our good friend Michael Lloyd (producer- Dirty Dancing, Lou Rawls, the Monkees, the Osmonds, Donnie and Marie, Debbie Boone, Pat Boone, Barry Manilow… and many more records and movie credits that line his Hollywood home) recorded and produced it for me. I will never forget writing this song at my mother’s home in Florida at the beginning of the year. I was playing some Christmas songs for her that I told her I wanted to record. This was right before I started on the project in the studio. My mother, “Mert” had not been well for a couple of months and I was down visiting her. She sat on the couch and listened as I started playing and this little waltz came into being. I told her I wanted to write another song for Knebworth House as I was supposed to play Christmas concerts there this year. This was back in February. I told her that I thought a waltz would be nice since my old friend, Rusty Wilcoxen, who produced the Grand Ole Opry, once told me before a show that Chet Atkins said to him, “Everybody loves a Waltz.” My mother loved it. I was stumped on the end of the chorus and thought it out on my way back home. When I got up to my guitar room I played “Christmas at Knebworth (…with you)” for the first time in its entirety. I called “Mom” and told her the song was completed. I kept thinking of a vocal line….just one line at the end of the song. I didn’t particuarly want to sing it but the lyrical line in my head is what prompted the melody.
My UK buddy Robert Wilson introduced me to Michael Lloyd as well as my good buddy, Johnny Tillotson, who is from my hometown of Jacksonville, FL. I recorded Christmas at Knebworth at Aspen Pittman’s (Groove Tubes fame) studio in San Fernando, CA and none other than Johnny Tillotson and his wife Nancy came to the session. I love Johnny’s singing. I literally wrap presents and we open our gifts to Johnny Tillotson’s Christmas CD every year. It’s a tradition at our house. I asked Johnny if he would sing the last line in the song. Although this was an instrumental piece, I told him that this lyrical line helped create the melody so I asked him to simply sing… “Christmas at Knebworth with you” and say “Merry Christmas” at the end of the song. Johnny was perfect for this as he also knows the Lytton Cobbold family and has visited Knebworth House in the past. Johnny is the crooning voice on the theme song for “Gidget” as well as his many hits including “Poetry in Motion” and his own original song “It Keeps Right On A Hurtin’ Since You’ve Gone” recorded by himself, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and over 100 others artists. I remember when I was a young boy and my dad took me to Main street in Jacksonville, FL to a radio station. There was a flat bed trailer and a band with a cool young singer and a whole lot of people listening to him out on the street. It was a promotional appearance for the radio station and one of his new hit songs. I asked my dad who the singer was and he said, “Why that’s Johnny Tillotson… he’s a big star now and he’s from right here in Jacksonville.” What a privilege to have Johnny on my recording of this special new song. Johnny was so sweet to my parents as he sent them a stack of signed CDs. Dad cherished these until he passed on a few years ago. I wanted only family and close friends on this record. I got it!
I will be performing at Knebworth House in December. To all our friends in the UK and all over Europe, I hope you’ll make it over for one of these performances. Maybe even someone from the U.S. will venture over and enjoy the hospitality of the Lytton Cobbolds and the elegance of their 500-year-old stately home which has been the location for many films including “Batman” with Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger. In fact, I’ll be performing in the very room that they dined in at “Bruce Wayne Manor.” What a wonderful place to enjoy the Christmas season!
Well, I said I would share some stories from the Christmas CD. This is only one. I have more. Please drop back in on the site in the next few days for another story from… “Christmas with Doyle Dykes.”