As I promised… here’s more on the making of my new Christmas CD.
First of all, I started working on my new solo guitar CD last year. I have a number of songs recorded for this project that my friend Eric Johnson also helped me with by allowing me to use his studio. His engineer, Kelly Donnelly has worked with ‘EJ’ now for a few years and I’ll have to say is a tremenous engineer and a great guy to work with. His expertise in mic placement and great ear has not only earned him his position with EJ but with other record and movie producers in which he has been very busy with in Austin. He has been a real blessing to me. Eric invested in some of the best microphones in the world for acoustic music, two of which are my favorites… the KM-58 Neumman mics. These tube mics, along with Kelly’s other mic placement magic, have created a sound on my new Guild guitars as well as Gretsch and Fender that I think is the best sound I’ve had yet. Thanks to EJ and Kelly for not only a great job but their encouragement and enthusiasm. Agree with me for a tremendous Christmas for them and all they do. They’ve both gone out of their way to help make this Christmas album as good as we possibly could.
Years ago when I was a youth pastor at a church in Jacksonville, FL I had a Tuesday night youth service called Power House, which grew to be as large as the church congregation, especially on some occasions as having in our special guests David and the Giants. David Huff and his brothers Rayborne and Clayborne and their drummer Keith Thibodeaux (who as a child actor played ‘Little Ricky” on the I Love Lucy Show) made up the band David and the Giants, and I had never seen a more dedicated and sincere group of musicians. I’ll never forget that even during set up time they were praying for God’s blessing on their concert and “HE” always did. Their Beatlesque style was captivating, and the audience always responded. Starting out as a rock band from Laurel, MS, they all became Christians (starting with “Little Ricky” who continuously witnessed to them) and continued on as a Christian Rock band. David Huff today is still a favorite singer, songwriter and musician of mine, as well as being a great friend. At the time we met, David Huff had no idea I was a guitar player, and through the years he saw my name around and reached out to me. He offered his great studio and expertise to me to be a blessing. He has since worked on my CDs and DVD projects such as Bridging the Gap, Live Sessions, The Lights of Marfa song and DVD and now Christmas with Doyle Dykes. His son, Tate, who ran the L.A. studio for The Dream Center mastered this project. I can’t tell you all what a blessing the Huff family has been to me. Join me in wishing a very Merry Christmas to David Huff and Tate Huff and their family for prayerful and talented involvement in this project.
The Nashville studio was recommended to me by my guitar buddy, Sonny Thomas. Mark Thornton, the engineer and studio owner, worked with Jerry Reed the last ten years of his carreer. Mark totally gets what I do and captured my tone on the Starfire on Winter Wonderland, the Del Vecchio, and Caleb on the Sand guitar and Jake’s bass and especially Haley’s voice and was quick and accurate, which really helps when trying to do your best. Mark was always available and has a great attitude. When I heard him pick up a guitar and start playing… I thought maybe ‘I’ should jump over and push the record button! When he comes out with a solo guitar album (which I’m highly encouraging him to do) you’ll hear about it from me. That’s gonna be a must-have.
Aspen Pittman is one of the most talented and smart people I know. I first met Aspen Pittman in Frankfurt, Germany. I knew I had to do something at his place. I’m so glad it was this CD. He is the founder of Groove Tubes, which besides replacement tubes for amplifiers also included microphones, tube amplifiers, tube pre-amps and many other products. His studio was vibey and warm and his engineer, Brian Ascenzo, (whom I met in Michigan at Huber Breese Music) is a talented and friendly fellow who made recording there fun. Although Michael Lloyd actually engineered and produced Christmas at Knebworth (with you) at Aspen and Associates studio there in San Fernando, CA and mixed it at his own studio in Hollywood, Brian recorded What Child is This?, which also made the album. I’m so thankful to Aspen Pittman for his involvement and encourage you guitar players to try out his studio. His collection of mics and tube pre-amps make his studio unique and fun especially for a guitar player. Aspen has a collection of amps and guitars… as well as cars and car paraphenalia that almost makes you forget what you’re there for. Amazing place and amazing folks.
Last but not least here would be the album photos and layout. I don’t have a photo of Dan Miggler at Noiseland in Minneapolis, but I asked if he could get a feel of my favorite guitar album cover of all times. It was Chet Atkins’ Christmas album with the single cut Gretsch 6120 standing upright in the snow covered landscape. I still don’t know how they did that, but Dan went a little different direction to make our cover look a little cheesy, retro 50s look. Sort of like an old post card. The back cover is my White Falcon and a white and gold Nutcracker piece I found in Cologne, Germany right next to the Dome Cathedral. Holli was taking photos of my guitars and I decided to take the Nutcracker out of my wife Rita’s curio cabinet and it just matched perfectly. With the right photographer and a great layout guy… it’s amazing what can be done. Holli took photos of my red and green 1961 Guild Starfire guitars which made the front cover. I already had the candy cane strap and the red Santa cap was given to me by a young man at First Baptist Church in Texarkana, TX a couple of years ago. He was probably 8 or so, and I didn’t want to take his Santa hat. He insisted so I gave him a CD. Things that are personal and simple also make things special. This may seem silly to some people, but I guess I’m sentimental enough that it’s all important to me.
So as I promised, here are a few more stories and facts that I didn’t write in my liner notes. All the people and places involved in Christmas with Doyle Dykes also influenced the sound, feel and look of this record. I hope this has been interesting to you.
Today is the 5th anniversary of my father’s heavenly homecoming. I miss “Bubba” every day. My mother and I talk about him pretty much every conversation we have. They were true soul mates. My brother Aubrey and I talk about him a lot too. I wish Dad could’ve heard this record. Perhaps he has. He’s involved in it for sure. Every time I pick up a guitar and play it is a reflection of him. I miss my dad. As Chet used to sing… “No matter how hard I try, no matter how many years go by… no matter how many tears I cry… I still can’t say Goodbye.”