It's a pleasure to talk to you again Gail. As a long time fan of
Webb Pierce I'm thrilled to see his memory being honoured with
Caught In The Webb. It is an excellent album.
What influenced you in putting this project together?
"You know I grew up on Webb Pierce music. My dad worked
on the Louisiana Hayride at the same time that he was on. So I've
always listened to Webb Pierce's music and I've always loved it.
February last year, the date that Webb had passed away…10 years
previous (24th February 1991), I got a call from Eddie Stubbs (WSM)
asking if I'd do an interview…he had people calling to talk about
Webb Pierce, because my first chart record was 'No Love Have I'. So
I called in that night and had a great talk about it and I said that
I'd cut 'Slowly (I'm Falling)', 'Love, Love, Love' and some other
Webb Pierce tunes and ended up not putting them on the record,
because the record company said they were too country…this was
back in the 80's. So I told him that I wish I could do a whole album
of Webb Pierce song, like a tribute to Webb Pierce. The next morning
I got an e-mail from Deborah, Webb's daughter. She said that her and
her mother had been listening to the show and were very excited that
I was so very much into her dad's music and wanted to get together
with me. So I said that I was doing the Live At The Station Inn
release party, and it was to be broadcast on WSM as well. They
showed up at the Station Inn for the release party…this was in
March (2001). We got to talking and ended up saying, oh hell I'm
just going to go and do it. I didn't have the money and none of the
major labels were interested, they didn't want anything to do with
it. So I decided to give all the proceeds to the Minnie Pearl cancer
Foundation and The Country Music Hall Of Fame, so everybody came and
played for nothing. We made the album for less than $6,000. An album
that would have cost anybody else, like $200,000 to make."
You have involved some fine artistes and musicians on the
album. What kind of response did you get when approaching artistes
such as George Jones, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris?
"It was very easy actually really, because a lot of those
people…like George Jones and Billy Walker and Charlie Pride were
all friends of Webb Pierce. And of course Willie was one of his best
friends. They were easy to get, and then other people like Robbie
Fulks and Emmylou Harris were all fans. When they found out…when
Emmy found out, I ran into her at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and
I've known her for 25 - 30 years…and she said I've heard that
you're doing a Webb Pierce tribute album. I said yeah and she goes:
God I'd love to do 'Wandering'! And I say well you know, it's open!
So there was a lot of people… BR549 asked if they could do 'There
Stands The Glass'. I called Dale Watson about being on it and he
goes yeah, I want to do 'In The Jailhouse Now' and I said, I've
already got you down for that song! So, a lot people like the
Jordanaires…they sang on the original stuff and they are old, old
friends of mine, so it came together pretty easily."
How did you decide which numbers to include and which artiste
would record a particular song.
"First of all I picked the songs. I went through the
albums and picked those that were either #1 or #2, songs that would
be very recognisable. I didn't pick too many that were obscure,
because I wanted people to remember the wealth and volume of his
accomplishments. After I had got the songs together, I started going
down and deciding that this song would fit this person and pretty
much picked out the tunes I thought would work out for the
As a record producer, you would have a good idea what would
suite a particular artiste.
"Yeah, I think I got them all picked out pretty
Some of the arrangements are a little different to the way
Webb did the songs. Who actually put the new arrangements together?
"Well, I think there is only a couple that is different…the
Kevin Welch (Why Baby Why) and the Emmylou Harris (Wandering) are
quite a bit different. Before we cut each track I would play the
Webb Pierce version to get everybody into that state of mind. But, I
also gave everybody the freedom to interject their own style,
because if somebody wants to hear Webb Pierce exactly as Webb Pierce
sounds, then they can go and buy Webb Pierce! So I was trying to
show the influences he had on the different artistes, so that when
they did their version, it would sound like them, instead of trying
to imitate Webb, because you just can't do it."
So was the main reason in putting this together because of
your own earlier interests in recording Webb Pierce numbers.
"Yes! Because I have always loved his music and I was a
little irritated that he wasn't a member of the Country Music Hall
Of Fame. It is also an absolute crime that Carl Smith is not a
member of the Hall Of Fame, because he was a major star when Webb
and Audrey moved to town (Webb married Audrey Grisham in November
1952). This was like Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snr. and Carl Smith. And
Carl isn't a member, nor Johnnie & Jack (Johnnie Wright and Jack
Anglin), which I also think is a shame!"
There have been a lot of deserving people left out. Webb
Pierce was nominated for the Hall Of Fame in August 1990 and though
he was expected to be inducted, it didn't happen.
"That's right! There is a person in Nashville…and I've
heard this from the inside track of people at the Hall Of Fame….But
first, let me explain. A lot of people blame the Hall Of Fame for
people who are not in the Hall Of Fame. But the Hall Of Fame only
houses the plaques…they are a museum and they don't decide who
gets the plaques. The CMA does that! So that is why part of the
proceeds are going to the museum and also the Minnie Pearl Cancer
Foundation. But I loved the music and I thought that it was a crying
shame that he was forgotten. So I started asking around and I found
that there was a lot of people who really loved him. We almost had
Mark Knopfler on the album, because Richard Bennett had been out
touring with him…Richard has been an old friend of mine and I said
that I wanted them both on the album, but they just couldn't get
their schedule round it. So we missed out on Mark and I had thought
of asking Waylon… I did ask Johnny Cash. John Carter Cash kept
ringing back and saying: Dad really wants to do it, but we're
waiting for a day when he is feeling well. So after a time I just
felt that it was too much for them. Waylon and Johnny were too sick
and it was too much to ask."
How long ago was it that you started putting Caught In The
"Well I cut the track in two days on June 11th and 12th ,
and they didn't announce that Webb was going into the Hall Of Fame
until August when I got back from touring in Europe last year. So I
was really thrilled, because it did stirrup a lot of excitement and
noise about him. But there was one person that I was going to tell
you…who voted from the CMA for the people who gets into the Hall
Of Fame…and I had been told, said that Webb would not go into the
Hall Of Fame as long as they were alive. Well that person is still
alive and Webb is in the Hall Of Fame, so to Hell with them!
It is so political and it is so very sad to me that there are
some people like….no disrespect to George Morgan who only had one
hit record, Webb Pierce had 96 charted records. There was a
particular pole that Ed Morris quoted, where they said going by the
number of hit records and the amount of time on the charts, that
Webb Pierce surpassed Hank Snr, Lefty Frizzell and even Jim Reeves,
and Webb dominated the charts, I think in 1946, for almost the
entire year at Number 1….and nobody has ever done that! It was
politics and you know…not played the game. I have also found that
in my career as well, if you don't kiss-up to the right people….and
I just refuse to do it! The music stands on its own without all the
It should Gail, but the problem is that there is too much
"Yes! When you get millions of dollars involved you get
some nasty people."
What kind of response have you received so far from radio and
the record buying public?
"Oh! It's been amazing. The record is selling great.
Audium Records says that they have had more press on this than any
other record that they have got out there. The Washington Post, the
Boston Globe….everybody's writing about it. In fact when I did the
interview with Eddy Stubbs on WSM about the album, Barbara Bush (the
president's mother) called in and requested a Webb Pierce song. You
know, it's pretty phenomenal what's going on all over the country
people are just raving about the album. It has been touted as the
best tribute album ever made."
Well I have to agree, it is an excellent album.
"Thank you! And do you know that my duet with Ralph
Stanley is up for a Grammy Award?" (laughs)
No, I didn't know!! Congratulations.
"Thank You…I'll be happy with that too."
Has there been any concerts in the States by the artistes
involved…in a similar fashion to the O' Brother Where Art Thou
"We're working on that. The Minnie Pearl Cancer
Foundation had asked me to put together a tribute show at the Ryman
Auditorium with some of the artistes, but it seems that we can't,
you see George and Dwight and Willie are out touring, so we are
trying to decide whether to go ahead and do it without them. If we
do, it will be April 3rd."
I hope it comes off Gail….What about your own concerts? Are
we likely to hear a selection of the numbers included on this
"Yeah we are going to do a few of those. This tour is
primarily to promote the Webb Pierce tribute album, but also you
know, my Live At The Station Inn album, which was picked by the
Nashville Scene as one of the Best Ten Records of the Year, right
next door to Down From The Mountain. But it is interesting on this
tour that I've got my brother Ron coming over with me. So that is
kind of exciting. I was talking with Bob Harris today for Radio 2,
that Ray Davies always got credit in Europe, because they think that
the R. Davies on the Ziggy Stardust 'It Ain't Easy' is Ray, but it
is in fact Ron, so we were laughing about that."
So you've put that to rights.
"Yes I did, I got the Kinks out of that one."
Your own popularity has been boosted quite considerably in the
UK over the past 6-7 years. What significant changes have you found
with your fan base over the past few years.
"You know it has been a little difficult over the past
few years, because I retired of 12 years to raise my son Chris.
Chris is out on the road with Rosie Flores tonight and my husband
(Rob) is in Switzerland playing in Mandy Barnett's band, so he lands
here in London an Saturday. But I think that when I took those 12
years off, a lot of people forgot me. And I walk a fine line and
I've got to show today…I don't want to appear to be blowing my own
horn…but if I'm not for me than who is?!! And I found that a lot
of people have forgotten some of the things I've done. That I was
around in the days of Roger Miller…singing with Roger. That I
organised the first Female Writers In The Round at Austin City
Limits. There are a lot of things like that that I seem not to get
due credit for. I've come back to say very loudly that I do intend
to get credit for these things."
Well you have also been one of the biggest and can we say the
first female producers for record companies.
"Yes I was! Gee I don't think anybody else ever did it.
I'm not sure, but I think Dolly may have been on something as a
co-producer. You know, she told me that she doesn't really produce
stuff. You know, really to have total control since me, has been
Alison Krauss. And Alison does a wonderful job. It's sad, because
there should be a lot more women involved. You look at the Top 100
on the Billboard charts and there's not anybody."
But aren't we going back to these politics of it all.
"Yes! That's Right. I've been writing a book for the past
15 years, called the Pee Wee Comradary. And it's all about women in
Nashville and the South. My mother…I was born in Oklahoma…the
way women think from that genre and that attitude that they have…Men
The last time we did an interview two or three years ago at
North Wales…you were telling me about the reaction you got when
you recorded John Prine's 'Unwed Fathers'.
"John Prine and Bobby Braddock were co-writers and they
brought it to the studio when I was recording and said please cut
this song. It would be great if you would cut this song. I said God
this will destroy me! But it was such a great song and we went ahead
that day and cut it. It was magic, then Dolly came in and sang
harmony and it just got better and better. Then they released it and
it just bombed. I think I told you, that Newsweek magazine said it
was the best country song of 1984. But it wasn't a hit…there were
too many unwed fathers programming the radio stations. You know,
Tammy Wynette was a friend of mine and she cut it a few years
before. When I cut I it…I ran into here at lunch…and she goes:
God I hope that song doesn't blow-up in your face like it did in
mine! But it is a great song.
Perhaps times will change.
"Well I think they have. The fact that the girls have
some out with the likes of 'Independence Day' (Martina McBride) and
some of these other songs, 'Earle' (Dixie Chicks) and that stuff. It
is very different to my day. When I did 'Round The Clock Lovin' The
record company didn't want to release it as a single, because they
thought it would alienate men, because it was so strong and
feminist. And I said...that's Bull! You know we need to catch-up
with the rest of the world. I put it out and it was one of the best
selling records that I had."
With the success of Caught In The Webb, are there any plans
for a tribute to any other artistes?
"Well you know, I love Carl Smith and everybody keeps
asking if I'm going to do a tribute to Carl. But I don't want to
become pigeonholed as a tribute producer. You know, she does all the
tribute albums! So we'll just see…I don't know yet.
Thanks for your time Gail, it has been lovely to talk with you
about your new project Caught In The Webb. I wish you every success
Yeah, thanks and I hope we see you for the show at the Mirage.