Interview with R.S. "Bobby" Field- the Ionizer 3/95
(copied with permission-sort-of by Ken Drew)
This appeared in the Watermelon Slices newsletter put out by Watermelon Records. This is to re-affirm Bobby Field's existence as many people have thought that he and Webb where one in the same person.
Kelly Looney, The Ionizer, Les James, WW, George Bradfute- the Tone Chaperone (image to the left)
A: I don't mind them knowing
Q: Okay, then let's find out more about you. Where are you from?
A: Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It's kind of like the Chinese curese "may you live in interesting times", but with Webb and me it was like "may you live in an interesting town." Basically, I lived in England in my head while I was growing up musically.
Q: What were some of your earliest musical memories and influences
A: Every Christmas, I would hear my uncle play Love Me Tender by Elvis, Ballad of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Jambalaya by Hank Williams, and El Paso by Marty Robbins. Otherwise I didn't really have much exposure to country blues or roots music until I was grown up. I remember hearing the Beatles when I was in sixth grade. They were, and are, it. Besides them, the main influences were singles from the 60's up through the early 80's. Specifically, all Fab Four singles through Paper Back Writer and Rain; You Really Got Me/Kinks; Goldfinger/John Barry and his Orchestra (the teen instrumental version); Just Like Me/Paul Revere and the Raiders; House Of The Rising Sun/Animals; Heart Full Of Soul/Yardbirds; Pictures Of Lilly and I Can See For Miles/The Who; Tin Soldier/Small Faces; Sweet Soul Music/Authur Connally; Dock Of The Bay/ Otis Redding; Fire/Jimi Hendrix; White Room/Cream; Honky Tonk Woman/ and Jumpin Jack Flash/Stones; No Dice/Bad Finger; Maggie May/Rod Stewart; Stay With Me/Faces; Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line/Waylon Jennings; Tonight/The Raspberries; Kid and Back On The Chain Gang/The Pretenders; Teacher, Teacher/Rockpile. They're the big ones. Obviously, I'm into guitar and songs rendered by combos. Top five albums would be Rubber Soul/Beatles; Sticky Fingers/Stones; Shazaam/ The Move; Stage Fright/The band; and Good Old Boys/Randy Newman. Elvis's first greatest hits and the Rock and Roll Trio collection are a close numbers six and seven. Favorite producers are George Artin, Chris Thomas, Nick Lowe, and the late Vic Malle.
Q: When did you start playing music?
A: I started out playing drums when I went to military school and then playing guitar and writting songs in my 20's. My first band was "The Outcasts" when I was in military school- we were doing stuff by the Small Faces, The Kinks, The Who. My first "civilian" band was the Phlowurz, "the sound that makes scents". Then there was Star Spangelled Bandaid, The Flakes, and Fire Truck, my first band with Webb. Eventually I went from being a drummer to a musician. I was the drummer in The Howlers (before it was Omar and the Howlers). I moved to Austin in 1975, then moved back to Hattiesburg when I got married in 1978, and was in a band called the View Masters, again with Webb. They became The Drapes. We played everything from my songs to rockabilly, Pretenders, Delmore Bros. And so on. That band, in addition to Webb, included Suzy Elkins of the Commandos (my favorite co-writer), Gene Brandon of Omar and the Howlers, Rick Rawls of the Leroi Bros. and Kelly Willis. Eventually I fired myself on rhythm guitar and started getting attention for writing original songs. I co-wrote "Powerfull Stuff" which became an AOR hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It really saved me from doom and got me a good publishing deal.
Q: How did you meet Webb Wilder and start producing his albums?
A: We both grew up in Hattiesburg and my mother was his Sunday school teacher. I really met him, though, when I was checking out the band he was in at the time, The Power of Steam. It was kinda like the Fillmore West meets the HAttieburg Teen Center- they did Moby Grape songs, Quicksilver, Canned Heat, et. This was his junior high band. And they jammed, they were one of the only bands around that jammed. Webb and I became friends and have been friends since he was in junior high school- it was 11th grade for me. Webb and I were in several bands together after that. We both ebnded up in Austin in 1976, then moved back to Mississippi, and by 1981 we were both in Nashville. He always ended up moving six months ahead of me, even if it was my idea.
I moved to Nashville because Dan Tyler (a fellow Mississippian who had moved to Nashville and become a hit country writer) signed me to write for his publishing company, Intuit Music. We started Webb Wilder andthe BeatNecks in 1985 as a way of promoting our music by playing it, loud, in people's faces. We based it on the types of bands we dug in Austin and London... bands that played what they wanted to. I played drums and then fired myself and hired Les. He was playing with Billy Joe Shaver at the time.
My experience as a producer started with Webb's It Came From Nashville, which I guess came out in 1986 (I have kind of a calendar allergy). I became producer more or less by default, I think at the time I just argued more than anyone. Then I produced Hybrid Vigor (Webb's second album on Island Records). I've always had an overview and attic of influences that I never could excercise myself in my sald days. Plus, I'm obsessed with equipment.
Q: Tell us about the new Webb Wilder album?
A: This record is Webb and me picking out tunes that hit our monkey-nerves. We had quite a collection of them. We picked "nashville Bum", Waylon's first song, partly because we've always been guys who aren't afraid to be from here. The Flamin' Groovies song captures that British stonesy the-hell-with-it angst. "goldfinger" was my personal Rocky theme, it has that big guitar that gave me the will to endure when I was at military school. This album has some of the sound and feel and freedom and creativity of It Came From Nashville. We were really going for a record that featured the band unequivocally, done in our own studio, engineered by Webb's former sound man (Mike Janus/Scorch) and his lead guitar man (George Bradfute/Torch). For the very first time I hands-on mixed four of 'em myself. So none of the Lovin'Public can accuse us of being too slick or tryin' to be Rock Radio Weenies on this one. And the album kind of celebrates our Nashville/Austin connection.
Q: What projects are you most proud of?
A: Every one of them.the new Webb Wilder album that I co-produced with Webb Wilder and the Nashvegans, Town and Country. I've done three John Mayall records- the last one was nominated for a grammy. the Shaver record was probably the closest to the way I've wanted an album to come off. And then both Sonny Landreth albums... and probably It Came From Nashville. I was just nominated for Outstanding Acheivement: Producer (1994) for the NashvilleMusic Awards (NAMMIES)- me and four millionaires. It's cool- you don't always know if people are paying attention to what you are doing. Also, Les James is up for Outstanding Acheivment: Drummer (1994)
Q: What plans do you have for the future?
A: I currently write for GMMI/Sony, and am shifting my emphasis away from producing and back to writing (with the exception of Webb Wilder and the NashVegans). If some cool young band, Don Williams or Ian Hunter (of Mott the Hoople) call I may reconsider. Also, Webb and Les James Lester and I are really trying to get our own label/production company or whatever in the hell Racket is off the ground in a serious way, which we've been able to do in a serious way thanks to Watermelon. Also, it is rumored that I may do a solo album, Highwater Bells, for Watermelon. I hope the rumors are true.
Q: Any last words?
A: How about a Tip For Teens: Dream big, but don't get caught nappin'!
R.S. Field: Outstanding in his....
By Randy Fox
This was written in the Summer, 1996 by Randy Fox and appeared in the No Depression WWW site.
R.S. Field represents one of the great hopes for Nashville. He is a maverick producer/performer/songwriter who is not afraid or ashamed to integrate Nashville's past sounds with its present. In an era where most major-label country is either overproduced ballads or southern-slanted rock, Field knows how effective the basics of true rock 'n' and true country can still be.
Originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Field absorbed the sounds of British rock bands such as the Beatles, The Who and the Kinks as well as American country artists such as Johnny Horton and Hank Williams. Field moved to Austin for a period and played drums for Omar & The Howlers, but he soon moved back to Hattiesburg and resumed playing with his childhood friend and frequent musical cohort, Webb Wilder.
As a songwriter, Field has co-written "Powerful Stuff", an album-rock radio hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He moved Nashville after scoring a publishing deal but continued to work with Wilder, producing his 1986 debut, It Came From Nashville, as well as Wilder's subsequent Hybrid Vigor, DooDad, Town & Country and Acres of Suede albums; he also wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on those records.
In the early '90s, Field produced three records for British blues legend John Mayall, the second of which, 1993's Wake Up Call, as nominated for a Grammy in the contemporary blues category. Next up was Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth; Field co-produced both of Landreth's records on the Zoo/Praxis label.
But the production credit that should have put Field on the permanent Nashville map and honor roll was Tramp on Your Street, Billy Joe Shaver's 1993 comeback record (made with Shaver's son Eddy on guitar and relased under the simple last name Shaver). Tramp was the kind of record Nashville didn't seem to care to make anymore: It was a little raw, highly impassioned, and it totally cooked and caressed the soul in all the right places. It was a startling work that it proved all is not lost on the country music horizon. "It was an honor to work with Billy Joe and Eddie; I would love to do it again," Field says, adding he was also thrilled to have a chance to work with Waylon Jennings, who sang on two cuts from Tramp.
A lover of "guitars and cool songs", as he puts it, Field likes to do what he calls "informal" music. While he may not dress up the music to beg for mass acceptance, most of the time it sounds like he and the artists dig down deep when they go into the studio. A such, it's no surprise that Field considers Billy Bremner, Albert Collins, Kenny Vaughn and George Bradflute among his favorite guitar players, as these players realize just how much that one note can mean, and what can be squeezed from it.
A couple artists Field is currently working with include John Keany, who Field describes as "Kinks-like" or "past-modern mod"; and Jamie Hartford (son of the legendary John Hartford), which he hopes to release on his own label, commonLawrecords. It also looks like he will be producing a new Leroi Brothers record for Rounder; other projects in the works include Carmella Ramsey (the wife of Kenny Vaughn), R.B. Morris, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Though Field is known for his work in more traditional genres such as country, blues and roots-rock, another band on his wish list to produce is the British alternative-rock trio Supergrass. That may come as a surprise at first, but it stems from Field's basic, undying passion for dressed-down music with a killer vibe. It's a relief to see folks such as Field in the business, looking for that emotion in music rather than its overall marketability. The future don't look so bad after all.
PLEASE feel free to check out the No Depression WWW site. It is very cool!
As promised, the track listing for RRAF- Roots Rock Action Figures "Calling Dr. Strong": The Ionizer's solo project-
Check-up Form The Neck Up, How Long Can She Last, One Of Those Nights, Twangeaux, No Great Shakes, The Rest Will Take Care Of Itself, Calling Dr. Strong, Friendly Little Game, Powerful Stuff, Heart She Can't Beat, Long Short Story, Secret Heart (1982)
Bobby Field (duh!)- vocals, guitar; Les James/Jimmy Lester plays drums; Kenny Vaughan plays guitar (If you haven't seen or heard Kenny play with Kim Richey, you're in for a treat.); Scott Baggett on bass
As you can see there are several Webb Wilder tunes. The versions are a tad different than the one's we know and love. Are they better or worse? Hard to say. I love Twangeaux as it is an instrumental ala WW fine works like Horror Hayride and the recent Goldfinger cover. Powerful Stuff is the old Fab T-Birds tune that made it into the movie Cocktail. Calling Dr. Strong is an interesting song in which the Ionizer uses an electronic sort of voice. This song really rocks. Many of the songs are very mellow yet show off The Ionizer's strong songwriting skills. As someone mentioned earlier, it would be cool to see this crew on the road with WW singing as well. Look for some local Nashvegas dates for RRAF. For all us people from outside of Nashvegas, we are out of luck. The tour will consist of very few dates in and around town.
It will be curious to see how well this record does. As usual, the proper marketing is helpful- something that Acres Of Suede did not get (thanks Watermelon Records!). Look for it in stores in June. Enjoy!