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.”
What a wonderful Fall it has been! I’ve had some great experiences, such as the special presentation for Grandpa Jones
at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Had “Grandpa” lived, he would’ve been one hundred years old just a few days ago. I was on a panel with Ramona Jones (Grandpa’s wife), Fred Foster (producer and President of Monument Records), Sam Lovullo (Producer of Hee Haw), and we told stories of “Pa,” and the Hall of Fame played back excerpts from live shows including Hee Haw and showed lots of photos on a giant screen. It was almost as if he’d just come back to us for a day. His family was all there, and we sang and played “Eight More Miles to Louisville” (Charlie McCoy sang), “Falling Leaves,” sung by his daughter Alisa Jones, and his son Mark Jones played Grandpa’s Vega banjo, which was the one he played when I was with him. Mark plays just like Grandpa. What a memorable and honorable occasion that I won’t forget.
My Christmas record
is finished! I’m so excited to finally be able to share some Christmas music with you folks. Christmas is my very favorite time of year and although I’ve even had a Christmas tree in my guitar room (two or three actually) and have been playing and listening to Christmas music all year, I still haven’t gotten tired of it! I love Christmas! It’s not just a holiday or a season but the very foundation of my belief in God and the Savior of the world. He came to us as a little child. That may be hard to comprehend and even why God chose this way but the simplicity and tenderness that lingers still warms my heart like nothing else. When I was a young man I played guitar for J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. They always said “We came to sing about the greatest story ever told.” It is truly the greatest story ever told!
I have put this Christmas album off for many years mostly because I never thought I was ready for such an important and meaningful collection of music. I felt the same thing with “Songs of Faith and Freedom,” and it has become one of the greatest albums of my career. I wanted only family and friends on this record. My son-in-law Jake Johnson played electric and string bass, and I told him this album would not have been the same without him. The same goes for Haley, as she sang “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and my brother Aubrey’s genius skills on keyboard set this album apart from all others I’ve done. My son Caleb played “Silent Night” with me. What a wonderful thing to even say besides the fact he played brilliantly. Andy Leftwich on fiddle and John Gardner on drums on a few select tunes gave this album what it needed and more. Eric Johnson played “White Christmas” with me. Can I just say that again… Eric Johnson played White Christmas with Me! Man! This was such a blast to do! My times working in the studios with Kelly Donelly and Josh Johnson in Austin, Mark Thornton in Nashville, Michael Lloyd and Brian Ascenzo in L.A. and David and Tate Huff in Georgia were all very special times in the making of this CD. You have to have folks who are ‘into’ what you’re doing. All these guys were.
I was at my mother’s house in Florida in the early part of this year. I remember playing several Christmas songs for her as I was about to start recording in Texas a few days later. She sat there for several hours listening to me. I told her I wanted to write a song for Knebworth House in England. My friend Robert Wilson called me a couple of years ago and said the Lytton Cobbold family of Knebworth wanted me to play a few Christmas concerts at their stately home in England. For a number of years they had Christmas events there every year they called “A Charles Dickens Christmas” with an actor from London who would come and read “The Christmas Carol.” They expressed their desire to have “Christmas with Doyle Dykes” which is what gave me the sort of “Love Shove” to get things underway for this album, not to mention a lot of encouragement from my family. So, while at mom’s house I started playing a melody that I had in my head for awhile and “Mert” (Mom) liked it. I came home and finished it. A few days later I went to Los Angeles and recorded “Christmas at Knebworth (with you) at Aspen Pittman’s studio and Michael Lloyd (Google him up!!) came and recorded and produced it. Who else but Johnny Tillotson and his wife Nancy came walking in to see what we were doing. I had to ask Johnny to do something on it and so Michael and I persuaded him and sure enough… he did! Johnny and Nancy had also visited Knebworth in the past and were very close to Robert and Mary Wilson there in England. This was like another “Marfa Light” experience for me.
These are but a few experiences I didn’t have the room to write about in the CD liner notes… so I may add another story or two in the next few days. Needless to say I’m very excited to tell you about all this! By the way, we have opened up our online store for pre-orders
. I just approved the final insert info even today and so they should be shipping by mid November. All pre-orders will ship first.
I hope these next few weeks are very special ones for you and I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy this Christmas and remember that it’s more than just a tradition. The Joy of Christmas is as real as the story itself. The greatest story ever told.
Joy and Peace….
Doyle’s long-awaited Christmas album is now available for pre-ordering at doylestore.com! (Ships mid-November)
1. ”Christmas” (Prelude)
2. Jolly Old St. Nicholas
3. What Child Is This
4. Ave Maria
5. White Christmas (with Eric Johnson)
6. Up on the Housetop
7. Winter Wonderland
8. In the Bleak Midwinter (with Haley Dykes Johnson)
9. The Christmas Song
10. Jingle Bells
11. Christmas Carol Medley
12. Classic Christmas Medley
13. Christmas at Knebworth (with you)
14. O Holy Night
15. Angels Medley
16. The Little Drummer Boy
17. Silent Night
18. Auld Lang Syne
*Available in packs of 3/6/12 as well! Click here to order!
*Pictures courtesy of Donn Jones Photography.
In the studio this week at Mark Thornton’s place in Nashville with my son Caleb, daughter Haley, & son-in-law, Jake Johnson, working on my upcoming CD. “Merry Christmas!”