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Larry Henley Interview

Introduction by Jim Liddane
Larry Henley is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter whose work has left an enduring mark on the music industry. His career, marked by both his time as a lead singer of The Newbeats and his prolific songwriting, showcases his versatility and profound impact on popular music.

As the lead singer of The Newbeats, Larry’s distinctive falsetto voice became instantly recognizable with hits like “Bread And Butter” in 1964. This song, with its catchy melody and playful lyrics, quickly climbed the charts, securing Henley's place in the pantheon of 1960s pop music, enabling him to tour with Roy Orbison and the Rolling Stones.It was he who advised a hesitating Bobby Goldsboro to go ahead and record the Bobby Russell song "Honey" - a song which became the best-selling record worldwide for 1968, even more popular than the Bestles' "Hey Jude".

However, it is Larry's work as a songwriter that truly cements his legacy. One of his most iconic contributions to music is co-writing the timeless classic "Wind Beneath My Wings." This song, covered by over 200 artists including Bette Midler who made it a major hit, is a testament to Henley's ability to capture profound emotions in his lyrics. "Wind Beneath My Wings" has become an anthem of gratitude and inspiration, resonating deeply with listeners worldwide. The song’s enduring popularity and emotional impact underscore Henley’s gift for writing lyrics that speak to the human experience.

Larry also co-wrote many other significant songs, such as “Till I Get It Right,” recorded by Tammy Wynette, "Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song" cut by Billie Jo Spears and “Is It Still Over?” performed by Randy Travis. These songs showcase his range as a songwriter, adept at crafting both heartfelt ballads and upbeat country tunes. His lyrics often convey a depth of feeling and an authenticity that make them relatable and enduring.

"Til I Get It Right" (later covered by Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers), was followed by such hits as "Lizzie And The Rainman" (Tanya Tucker), "He's a Heartache (Looking for A Place to Happen)" (Janie Fricke), "Shotgun Rider" (Delbert McClinton), "You're Welcome To Tonight" (Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris) and "The World Needs A Melody" (The Carter Family with Johnny Cash).

Larry's legacy is one of remarkable versatility and emotional resonance. Whether through his distinctive singing voice or his poignant songwriting, he has left an indelible imprint on the music world. His songs, characterized by their heartfelt lyrics and memorable melodies, continue to inspire and move audiences, ensuring that his contributions to music will be remembered and cherished for generations to come.

Larry Wayne Clark spoke to Larry on behalf of International Songwriters Association's "Songwriter Magazine".

Two songs loom like bookends in his 40-year career, and they couldn’t be more different.

“Bread And Butter” by the Newbeats seemed to blare from every transistor radio in North America in the summer of ’64. Written by Larry Parks and Jay Turnbow, and delivered in Newbeats lead singer Henley’s impossible-to-ignore falsetto (falling somewhere between Lou Christie and fingernails scraping a blackboard), the song was one of those near-nonsensical ditties (think “Mony Mony,” “Woolly Bully,” et al) popular with teens in that era.

Silliness aside, there was something quite irresistible about the R&B-flavoured song. It was a huge hit, the biggest the Newbeats would ever have, and it established Larry Henley as a viable pop stylist. Had everything stopped there, he would perhaps be remembered as the quintessential “one-hit wonder,” a piece of pop culture trivia. After all, he didn’t even write “Bread And Butter.”

Fast forward to 1982 as a graceful ballad called “Wind Beneath My Wings” is born, a love paean simple in structure yet as emotionally soaring as its title would suggest. Written by Henley and Jeff Silbar and first recorded by Roger Whittaker in ‘83, the song became a #4 country hit for Gary Morris, and pretty soon everybody was covering it (some 200 artists, according to the official Henley website). But when Bette Midler’s gauzy pop version played behind the end credits of the 1988 tearjerker film Beaches, it was goodbye hit song, hello phenomenon.

“Wind” won the 1990 Grammy for Best Song as well as Best Record (for Bette Midler’s 1989 single). With well over five million BMI broadcast performances logged, it’s one of the most- requested special occasion songs of all time. It reigns as number one in sheet music sales, and we’re told - again courtesy of the Henley website - that it’s also the most popular marching band selection anywhere.

Probably no one is more surprised by all this commotion than Henley himself, now 62 and living in Nashville since the ‘70s. A modest, compact man who keeps himself in good shape, he continues to write regularly with a group of co-writers that includes ace scribes Pat Alger and Richard Leigh. His songs have been recorded by a vast array of singers in several genres, including Tammy Wynette (“Til I Get It Right”), Randy Travis (“Is It Really Over”), Janie Fricke (“He’s A Heartache”), the Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Perry Como, Gladys Knight, Delbert McClinton, and many more.

Married and divorced four times - with four children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren to succeed him - Henley occupies a tidy townhouse right on Music Row, a stone’s throw from Jack’s Tracks studio (built by Jack Clement) where Allen Reynolds has produced all of the Garth Brooks recordings. Living a somewhat hermetic life nowadays, Henley pretty much gave up performing years ago (although he’s recently completed a new studio project that he’s proud of - more on that later). He has no current publisher affiliation and pitches his own catalogue, though, by his own admission, perhaps not as aggressively as he should. Still, his major copyrights continue to generate new recording activity.

Sitting on his patio on a humid September afternoon, amidst the sound of windchimes, traffic, and distant thunder, Larry Henley talked about his journey to what might be songwriting immortality.

So you were born in a place called Arp, Texas?
Little town in east Texas near Tyler.

Texas seems to love these cryptic town names. Roy Orbison hailed from a place called Wink, didn’t he?
I grew up in Odessa which is 20 miles from Wink. I grew up with Roy Orbison. Wink is “if you wink when you drive through there you’ll miss it”! That’s why they called it Wink.

How did music get into your life? Family?
Well, my mother was a singer. My mother and all her sisters. I come from a very musical family. My sisters were all singers, and I’ve got a lot of cousins who sing.

What did your dad do?
My dad worked in the oilfield. He was a driller.

Seems like a common occupation in those parts.
Where we lived in west Texas, that was the only thing there.

So did it look as though that’s where you were going to end up?
Well, I think my daddy was sort of afraid I might end up there. Naw, I was never going to end up there. I escaped at the first opportunity. I went to California. Thought I wanted to be an actor - I thought I was James Dean in the beginning. So I went to California to pursue that with no experience, no knowledge of what to do or how to go about it. Knocked on doors till I got worn out; nobody paid much attention to me. I wound up back in Louisiana singing with a band there. I couldn’t get anything happening in California.

Did you have any experience as a performer?
No, my first real performing was with that band in Louisiana. The only reason I started singing was because I thought it would get me some attention and I could go into the movies and be an actor. I never really intended to be a singer, or a songwriter. It just sort of evolved. It was the farthest thing from my mind to ever actuaally write a song.

How old were you when you went to California?
I was 20, I think.

Had you been to university?
I was going to college at the time. I went out there to try and finish.

No, I was married and had a one-year-old son.

Had you done any other sort of work up till then?
I worked in the oilfield like my father did. And before I left Texas I worked for Phillips chemical company, Phillips 66. And I ran a sulphur plant. That didn’t apply to anything I could find in California so I went to work there building the Atlas missile at Convair Astronautics, while I was going to college. I’d work at night and go to school in the daytime.

So this was all because you wanted to be an actor?
Well, I thought I did. I kept getting side-tracked, I kept taking left turns. I’d think I was heading right toward Hollywood and then, next thing I know, I’d take a left and go this way, you know. But my life kept happening for the best, and in time I really lost interest in being an actor.

Did you ever get to act in anything?
Well, I was in a little Australian movie that was done in Honolulu.

An Australian movie done in Honolulu....
I had a little bit part in there...well, actually it wasn’t too bad a part. I never ever saw the movie.

What was it called?
Uh, "Rent-a-Gent". It was written by a German writer. It was like a girl’s escort agency and I was a guy who was in love with one of these girls who worked in this agency, you know. I was an old beachcomber sort of guy.

What year would that have been?
Oh, that was only about six or seven years ago. So I’ve been scared to death it’s gonna show up on the Internet or late night TV, embarrass me to death. But, other than that, I did videos with a couple of folks. I did one with Tanya Tucker and I did one with Fleetwood Mac. And that’s about all my acting.

Well, let’s get back to the music. You say you went to Louisiana?
Shreveport. Bossier City, actually.

What kind of music were you doing with this band?
We were rock and roll. Well, R&B, actually. We called it R&B in those days. Now it’s become rock and roll. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, that kind of thing.

Were you writing?
I’d never even considered the thought at that time. I was just trying to get noticed and get a recording contract, which I did. I recorded on my own for a couple of years. Then the guys that were in the band with me when I first got my recording deal, we made a demo together that my record company really liked. So they put us all together and called us the Newbeats, and they put out a record. And it was the #1 record in the world [actually “Bread And Butter” peaked at #2 in the USA.

I remember it well. But I read somewhere that a serendipitous thing happened where you got up on stage one night with the Mathis brothers and got “discovered.”
Oh, you know somebody wrote something stupid like that. I’ve seen two or three different versions, as a matter of fact. It didn’t happen like that at all. And they weren’t the Newbeats then; they were the Dean & Mark [Mathis] Combo when I got up on stage with them. And I didn’t just jump up out of the audience. My brother-in-law went up and told them that I was a famous singer from L.A. and that I wanted to sing a song. He didn’t tell me he was gonna do it. And in a minute I hear them say, “We have a very special guest in the house, let’s all give a nice hand to - from Los Angeles - Larry Henley!” and I thought, ‘There’s another guy in this room called Larry Henley’. Surely they’re not calling me up there.

And my brother-in-law said, “No, no, go on up - they’re after you. I went up and told them your name.” And I said, “You son of a...” [chuckling] I wanted to kill him, you know.

So I couldn’t stop it. They’d already put the spotlight on me, so I got up and sang a song with them. And the vice president of Mercury Records was in the audience. I’m just out drinking with my brother-in-law, and they offered me a recording contract. So I quit what I was doing and joined that band.

I played in the band, but I recorded in Nashville on my own. The band wasn’t part of the act in the beginning. I was just a singer who worked with that band but I recorded [solo] for Hickory Records.

You were in the band but your recording contract was a solo one?
Yeah, I joined the band. They wanted to fire their singer and hire me. They were mad at their singer, so my timing was perfect. They fired him and hired me.

Did you always sing with that falsetto voice that we heard on “Bread And Butter”?
No, that’s just something I discovered I could do. I’d sing along with Ray Charles and [early Raelet] Margie Hendricks records, and I could do the Ray Charles part and then I could do the Margie Hendricks part. Everybody thought that was cute so I’d sing a few Ray Charles songs like that, and people started saying, “You should record like that, that’s a real interesting voice,” that kind of thing.

So actually, all I was doing was my impression of Hendricks. [chuckling] That was never my voice, that was Margie Hendricks’s voice, or what I thought she sounded like.

So having done that once...
Well, we played a demo for the record company, they loved it, and they had us come to Nashville and we wound up cutting “Bread And Butter,” and next thing you know we’re an international band. We’re all over the world!

It was a big hit. I was in Windsor, Ontario the summer that came out and I was hearing it on the radio every five minutes.
I was in Windsor, Ontario that year too. Many times.

Is that right?
Yeah. Well, it broke in Detroit [across the Detroit River from Windsor] - that’s where the record exploded. So we were up there a lot to do all the TV shows.

I didn’t live in Windsor, I was visiting relatives there. I remember walking around with a transistor radio. Perfect ‘60s pop music scenario.
Well, “Bread And Butter” was such a short record that it played a lot more than most songs. They’d play it going into the news, coming out of the news, going into a commercial. It was only a minute and fifty-eight seconds long so it was the perfect thing when you’ve got two minutes to kill. So we got an enormous amount of airplay because of that, you know. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it. I could hear it off in the distance somewhere, it seemed like, all the time.

It was right in your face. The lead vocal on “Bread And Butter”.
It was a strange thing for that time. It made us different, it got us a lot of attention. We did a lot of TV shows. Did Shindig [‘60s rock variety show] primarily, went on tour with that whole organisation.

Then we worked at being the Newbeats for about six years, till I didn't want to sing in falsetto anymore. And I quit.

Did you have anything else resembling a hit of that size?
As an artist, no. Never.

Were you writing fairly prolifically at that time?
I had written a couple of things for the Newbeats, just because I could get songs on the album [being] in the group.

Was anything being pitched outside of the group?
Not really. Well…yeah, I had a couple of things recorded. I had a song recorded by Mark Dinning - - do you remember Mark Dinning - he had “Teen Angel”?

Well, I thought I’d made it when he recorded one of my songs and it was a single for him. But it wasn’t a hit. It was a silly song. It was just kinda like “Teen Angel.” They wanted something else like that, so I wrote him a song called “The Last Rose,” which is just as corny as “Teen Angel” was. but I thought I’d made it when that song came out and was playing on the radio. And I realised it was a bigger thrill to have someone else sing your song than it was to sing it yourself. When I heard someone else sing [one of my songs] on the radio, my heart just came right up in my throat. It was so exciting. I thought, I like this songwriting thing! So I started trying to write a little more.

And the first thing you know I had a hit record as a songwriter. And it was a big record, it was a #1 for Tammy Wynette [1973’s “‘Til I Get It Right”]. And I started having to make a decision: do I really want to go out and be a singer or do I want to be a songwriter? So I thought, I'll do both. I’m a rock and roll singer but I write country songs.

Everything else in your career seems so different from “Bread And Butter”!
One of the strangest things I’ve encountered in my life is the fact that you can do “Bread And Butter” and “Wind Beneath My Wings” in the same set, and it goes over. And to be the guy who sang “Bread And Butter” and also the guy who wrote “Wind Beneath My Wings,” it’s a strange conglomerate! It really is. It doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does.

I know “Wind Beneath My Wings” has been recorded by everybody. I think Lee Greenwood’s was the first version I heard.
He had a really great version of it. As a matter of fact, that was the [title track] of that album.

Bette Midler’s is by no means my favourite version, but it’s probably yours, all things considered.
Well, you know, I love a lot of versions for different reasons, and I think hers is probably the best track of all. I love the track of it - not to say I don’t love her vocal, because her vocal is really great. But there were a lot of great records of it by many, many great singers, like Gladys Knight.

Is there a bizarre one?
Oh, probably...let me see. I’ll tell you a bizarre one: [country lampooners] Pinkard & Bowden. They did one that was so bizarre Warner Brothers wouldn’t let them put it out. They came to be and tried to talk me into [endorsing] it. They played it for me and I said, "If you think I’m gonna go to Warner Brothers and beg for that, you’re crazy! [laughing] It was awful.

Nobody’s turned it into a polka?
Oh, yeah, I’ve heard it done by steel drums, I heard it done reggae. I’ve heard it done rock and roll.

It seems like a song that was born to be a ballad and yet I understand that you and Jeff Silbar played it faster when you wrote it.
Right. Actually when it was first written, it was written in a kind of syncopation. That’s what got my attention to start with, I just loved the way the melody syncopated. It felt more like maybe an Eagles record or something, you know, the way the song was written originally. But then we decided it was more like “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” so we went in and did a piano-vocal version of it with a guy named Jim Hurt.

I’ve heard [veteran producer/A&R man] Bob Montgomery credited with the idea to demo it as a slow ballad.
Well, yeah. It was kind of know, we all were in on that. But it was the right demo. I’ve always loved that demo and I got a lot of records because of it. It got cut by everybody you could think of after that.

Actually, Lou Rawls recorded it from the first demo we did, the uptempo one. It just didn’t seem to work for me, the Lou Rawls record.

Great singer.
Well, the fact he talked the whole first verse is what bothered me about it.

Like Conway Twitty doing “The Rose.”
Yeah. But that was his rendition and a lot of people loved that version. It was just...I felt it kinda cheapened the song a little bit.

Is it true that it was taken from a poem you wrote?
Well, it wasn’t taken from a poem. I had actually written a poem ten years before that called “The Wind Beneath My Wings” which says basically the same thing the song says, but in an entirely different way.

This song was dedicated to your wife?

The same wife you left Texas with?
No. [chuckle] I’m a man of many wives. I've had a whole herd of wives. I've had three no, four too many.

But you're not married now?
No, I don't make good husband material, I don't think.

Some songwriters don't.
It's kind of hard to be understood when your whole life is a song, you know what I mean? You write your life in a song and everybody in the world hears it except the person you’re writing it to, the person you really want to hear it. They think you just made up a song, but the whole world thinks you’re pouring your heart out about the way you feel. When I realised that, I was embarrassed a lot by people knowing how I felt. It’s like standing [before] the world with your clothes off. Everybody can see things that you didn’t want them to see.

So you tend to live your songs?
Well, sometimes you live the song and sometimes the song lives you. I’ve written songs that didn’t come true till after I wrote ‘em. It’s almost like you see the future and you write a song about it.

A crystal ball.
Yeah. Or maybe after you write the song you make your life that way because you know how it goes now [chuckling]. I don’t know.

So how did Nashville enter your life? You said you did some recording here in the Shreveport days?
Well, the night I was offered the deal from Mercury Records, Bob Luman, the country singer, was with that [executive], and he and his manager got me off to the side after that. And his manager wanted to manage me, but he didn’t want me to sign with Mercury; he thought he had a better deal for me with Hickory Records. So I’m kinda caught in the middle, I don’t know what to do.

So I trusted them. I didn’t go with Mercury Records. I wound up with Hickory Records which was run by who I thought was the greatest manager at that time, Wesley Rose, who managed the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison. So I wanted to be a part of that. And for me to wind up back with Roy Orbison... I began with Roy Orbison. I followed him around listening to his music. I used to go to his dances. It was Roy Orbison and the Wink Westerners. Then they changed the name to the Teen Kings. I knew all the guys in the band.

Was he doing more of a rockabilly thing then?
Yeah. Actually he always kinda did the same thing except he was a little more rock and roll in those days. When he ound the big ballad thing with “Only The Lonely,” he was the only guy in the world who could get away with that. You knew one of his records immediately.

You knew, “That’s Roy Orbison.” Elvis said he was the greatest singer in the world. He was Elvis’s favourite singer. I think he was everybody’s favourite singer.

So you basically moved here because of management and the studio scene?
Well, when I decided to quit the Newbeats I really didn’t have any connections anywhere except L.A. a little bit, but I was starting to get into this town and the people. And I really wanted to learn how to write country music. So I made an effort to learn from the best, you know. I learned most about country music from a guy named Red Lane, who’s a legendary character. And the fact that he would even write with me was a thrill to me. Most people wrote with me because of my past. They wanted to call up somebody and say, “Guess who’s in my office right now - that little guy that sings "Bread And Butter!” That’s the way it all began.

But it didn’t take them long to realise that I did have some talent, and I did have some good ideas. And, first thing you know, a lot of people wanted to write with me. I started having hits from the very beginning when I really started to focus on being a country songwriter. One of the very first things I wrote was a hit. So I thought, Well, I found my niche.

So this was early ‘70s?
Yeah, through the ‘70s.

What was that hit you just mentioned?
“‘Til I Get It Right.” Tammy Wynette.

So that was written early on?
Well, actually we had a hit before Tammy Wynette (that was our first #1 record). Our first hit was Johnny Cash and the Carter Family, “The World Needs A Melody.” Then Tammy came along after that. All of a sudden we were hot and everybody was cutting everything we wrote.

This was all writing with Red Lane?
Mainly with Red Lane. I was also writing with Kenny O’Dell, but Kenny and I were writing an entirely different kind of music. Ours was a little more pop-oriented than what Red and I wrote. But then country music kind of evolved to what Kenny and I were doing and we started getting cuts out of those songs. Like, we wrote “Lizzie And The Rainman” for Tanya Tucker, which was one of her big hits.

So this town became a part of me and I became a part of it, I guess. There was a slump through the late ‘70s where I really wasn’t getting much done as a songwriter. I was producing records. But it’s too hard to deal with the record companies. I’d rather just be the guy who wrote the song and forget about it.

Have you had staff deals here?
I did with Acuff Rose, and I did with Tree. And then with Warner Brothers for about ten years. And then when I left Warner Brothers I never did sign with anyone else, I just stayed on my own.

Who were you with at the time of “Wind Beneath My Wings”?
That was House Of Gold, which got bought by Warner Brothers. That’s why I ended up with Warner Brothers - they bought the company I was with.

Have you written much with Jeff Silbar?
Jeff and I have written several songs, close to ten songs probably. We had two hits. We had another hit by Janie Fricke, “He’s A Heartache.”

Pretty good ratio! So were you a five day a week, two appointment a day kind of writer?
I’ve tried that. Really doesn’t work out too good for me. It’s more the magic of the moment for me. If I feel like writing and I happen to be where I can, I will. I try to make appointments to write now because that’s just the way it’s done now. Used to be, we’d come down to Music Row and hang out till you run into somebody who’s looking for somebody to write with and you’re looking for someone - whoever’s got a song idea - and you’d hole up in some room somewhere and write a song. Or go to a bar and write it on a bar napkin. We did a lot of that too. Lot of my best songs were written on bar napkins.

Have you saved them?
Not the bar napkins. I probably should have. I’ve got every lyric to every song I’ve ever written in my life. I’ve saved them all, except one. “Wind Beneath My Wings.” I don’t have that lyric.

The day I wrote it I was on a friend of mine’s yacht and I didn’t have anything to write on but a brown paper bag. We’d been fishing, out in the middle of the Gulf Of Mexico. Jeff and I had started the song in Nashville [earlier], and now all I had to do was write the lyric.

So we went out and tried fishing for a while that day and nothing happened, and I had this song on my mind driving me crazy. So we just anchored the boat for a while, and I said, "Do you have a pencil and a piece of paper?" He got me this brown paper bag and I sat and wrote the lyric out from top to bottom in about twenty minutes. It was just all in my head. And then I looked at it for another hour or two after I wrote it and thought, There’s gotta be something wrong with this, it seems like it’s too good. I finally decidedit was the best thing I’d ever written, and I signed it and gave it to my friend’s wife. I [wrote on it - “Keep this because I think it might be worth something one day. I really think it’s the best thing I ever wrote.”

She’s still got the bag that says that on the back; they’ve got it in a frame on their wall. They’ve been offered $35,000 for that paper bag! It’s a real collector’s item. Of course, when I said this might be worth something I never dreamed it would be worth that much.

So when you write something as monumental as that, does it alter everything that follows? Do you find yourself wondering when you write something now, Is this going to be the next “Wind Beneath My Wings”?
I guess in a way it does. I think I learned a lot from the experience. What I learned mostly about “Wind Beneath My Wings” is that everybody thinks they understand it and no one does, but that’s what’s really important. It’s not really important that people understand what you meant by it. What’s important is that they can identify with something in their lives that fits [the song], and they think they understand it. That’s more valuable than people actually understanding it, you know, ‘cause then you’ve got this broad spectrum of things it can mean. It can mean anything in the world. People asked me if it was about Martin Luther King, if it was about John Lennon, if it was about John Kennedy. It’s amazing what people think it’s about. They think it’s about whoever their hero was.

I just took it to be a love song.
Well, that’s really all it was. I was amazed that it became all these other things. When you say, “Did you ever know that you’re my hero,” that could be anyone that you’re talking to. I meant it to one person, but you could be talking to your postman!

Could be a hymn.
It could be anything. And I wasn’t smart enough to think of that when I wrote it, but I did learn a lot from the experience.

The thing that strikes me about it is that there’s no rhyme.
Well, you know, I didn’t know that until someone told me - I thought it rhymed! But I checked it out and there’s not a rhyme in the whole song. Several of my friends use it in songwriting seminars to show how you can write a song that doesn’t rhyme.

What are you influenced by? Who do you listen to?
Oh, everybody. I listen to the wind [laughs]. I look at people in a crowded room and I pick out people that are of interest to me and I sit and try to figure out what exactly they’re thinking. And it becomes a song in my head. Which is not what they’re thinking at all, probably, but it just gives me a place to start.

I understand you just recorded a new album?
Yeah, as a matter of fact I did. Me and Bruce Channel [of “Hey Baby” fame] - you know who Bruce Channel is? Well, Bruce and I have been buddies for years and years, and you know everybody’s always thought we sounded alike. Which we don’t really. We thought when we started this album that we sounded alike ‘cause everybody told us we do, but when we got in and started singing together we realised we don’t sound nothin’ alike, you know. But we both sound very unique; we have two really strange voices to be on the same record together and it comes off in a nice way. And I’m very proud of what we did.

We call our group Original Copy. It’s me and Bruce Channel and a guy named Ricky Ray Rector, who was the genius behind all the tracks. We wrote all the songs. It was a labour of love, one of the most fun times of my life. I just loved doing it. And we have it for sale now on the Internet.

Do you still get the same buzz off the process now? You’ve been doing this a lot of years.
I do from time to time. Every now and then I write something that’s really exciting to me and I’m thrilled that I can still do it. I’m thrilled that I can still be thrilled! But I’m jaded a little more than I like to be, and I’m not as impressed with myself as I’d like to be.

But I have my moments. I hit the golf ball a little better. [chuckles]

Is golf important to you?
It is, really. It’s the only relaxation now that my mind can get. When I can focus on a golf ball, and I have a good day [at it], then I don’t hear this little drummer that’s going in my head all the time. I have a little drummer in here that will drive me crazy if I let it.

Do you play guitar?
No, I don’t play guitar. I studied the violin when I was a kid and I haven’t played it since then. That’s my instrument.

So you’re mainly a singer
. Yeah, I’m just a singer, mainly.

What do you write with?
I can beat around on the piano a little bit, and I beat around on the guitar a little bit. But I mainly try to write with people who write really good melodies.

Do you still write with Red?
We’re talking about it. He and I are supposed to be getting a cut by Willie Nelson, on “‘Till I Get It Right.” He called me one day a month or two ago and he’d been talking to Willie. Willie said it was a great song and he was gonna cut it. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever been paid on “Beneath My Wings”?
Well, there’re a lot of great compliments. The fact that it’s become sort of a part of the culture, the language. [People] will be making speeches and they’ll talk about somebody as the wind beneath their wings. And to think that I thought of something that became a catch phrase, you know, is exciting to me.

One of the most exciting things to me was when Playboy magazine did a cartoon on it. That probably thrilled me as much as anything did. There’ve been a lot of big, big thrills.

One of the biggest that comes to mind is [when] I was in Hawaii with a friend of mine and we were delivering a pot-bellied stove to a little church that was out in the jungle of the big island, in the rain forest. You’d be amazed at how remote you can get on an island of that size. And I’m helping this guy put this pot-bellied stove in the church - he’s donating it to them - and I look up on the mantle and there’s the lyric to “Wind Beneath My Wings” typed on a piece of paper and in a frame. And I thought, That looks like my song! I got it down from there and I said, “My God!” I asked the priest, “Where did you get this?” and he said someone had sent it to him from South America. He didn’t even know it was a song; he thought it was a poem. And I said, “You know, if you let me sign this it would be worth a little bit more.” I started taking it out of the frame and he got all flustered. He didn’t know who I was and what I was doing, you know.

He thought you were going to deface it.
I’m telling him I’m gonna sign his poem and he thinks I’m crazy! But that was a big thrill. That was a very big thrill. To find it in a place where people didn’t even know it was a song and it still meant something to them - that was wonderful.

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