For Clint Black, Working With Country Legends Was ‘Beyond What You Dream’
In some ways, the Nashville community and country music industry hasn't changed much since Clint Black released his debut album, Killin' Time, 30 years ago. In other ways, it's changed so much that it's unrecognizable.
For one thing, many of the people responsible for helping shape that album, and molding Black's career as a young musician, are no longer alive. As Black celebrates the milestone anniversary, it's difficult for him not to revisit old stories, and remember the people who are now some of Music Row's most fabled ghosts and legends.
"I remember going to lunch with Waylon Jennings. I think this was before my first single was out, but one of the songs on Killin' Time, "Winding Down," there's a line in there that's a reference to a Waylon Jennings song," Black recalls. "The bridge: 'Honky-tonk heroes are turning the page / And the books are closed tonight.' [That was one of the songs] I would close with when I played solo in bars."
Black's team arranged a lunch with Jennings in order to give the young performer a chance to meet one of his idols. "That was, of course, beyond what you dream," Black says of the experience, going on to say that he had been so busy pursuing the actual work of music-making that it blindsided him when he began to be welcomed into a social community of country stars.
"You know, you dream of getting a record deal. You dream of having -- for me, it was having a crew, because I was one guy carrying around my sound system and everything -- you dream of having a crew, and somebody that can take good care of your guitar for you," he explains. "Being on the radio, you know -- that was the dream."
The people he would meet, however, were beyond Black's imagination. "Then you go, 'Oh yeah, I'm meeting Mel [Tillis], and Waylon and [Johnny] Cash. Oh, I'm doing a song with George Jones. I'm writing with Merle [Haggard]. It's really not what I was thinking about," he admits.
For Black, getting a chance to know some of the genre's greatest legends before their deaths was like being able to walk into a piece of country music history.
"It was this amazing thing that sort of hit me out of left field. It was like, 'Oh, look what I'm walking into,'" Black continues. "When I won the [CMA] Horizon Award, I said, 'This is like stepping into a picture that I've been looking at my whole life.' And that's exactly, exactly what it felt like."
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