How Jeannie Seely Landed a Long-Lost Dottie West Song for Her New Album
Jeannie Seely got one of her first shots at country music stardom thanks to Dottie West, who recorded recorded the Seely-penned "It Just Takes Practice" for 1965's Dottie West Sings. The two built a friendship, and it was West who encouraged Seely to move from California to Nashville.
When Seely was in a car accident in 1977, West "was there as much as she possibly could be," Seely remembered years later. Since West's death in 1991, in a car accident, Seely has remained a champion of her longtime friend, holding the Dottie West Birthday Bash annually since 2016 and pushing for her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which happened in 2018.
Now, Seely is singing her friend's words on her new album, An American Classic. "If You Could Call It That" is a newly finished song, featuring Steve Wariner, started by West and recently completed by Wariner and Bobby Tomberlin.
As Seely tells The Boot, her "adopted little brother" Ron Harmon has quite a bit of West's memorabilia. He was the one who found the notebook with West's notes and brought it to Tomberlin and Wariner.
"I just think that whole thing was a God gift; it was just meant to be. It was meant to be found, it was meant to be finished," Seely reflects. "She was going through such a rough time [when she started this song], so I wasn't surprised at all that she would have made notes."
West ran into financial trouble later in her career and, after declaring bankruptcy in 1990, lost many of her possessions. Seely says Tomberlin and Wariner's work on the downtrodden "If You Could Call It That" "pretty much captured what she was feeling and what she would have said."
"The boys said there was no question that they had to bring the song to me," Seely shares, adding with a laugh, "I told them I couldn't even imagine how upset I would have been if they had given that song to anyone else."
As she was recording "If You Could Call It That," Seely says she could hear West singing certain lines and did her best to replicate it.
"I felt like I was getting to finish something for Dottie that she had started and could not finish on her own," Seely continues, "so I got to finish it for her."
In addition to Wariner, An American Classic features the Whites, Rhonda Vincent, Bill Anderson, Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens, Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan and Waylon Payne across 13 tracks. Seely could have kept going, she says.
"There's so many of my friends and my peers that I would love to record with still," she admits, "so hopefully there's another album out there!"
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