The Tanyards Recording Sessions
“Tanyards” was my first solo project.
It was recorded in 1983 in a private studio somewhere outside of Nashville,
TN. When Dave Thompson and I first got to the studio, Jim & Jesse’s
banjo player Mike Scott, was finishing up his album. The “Tanyards”
sessions were back to back with Kenny Baker’s “Highlights” sessions.
We had the studio from 2:00 in the afternoon to 10:00 at night. At
10:00 Kenny began working on his album. That lasted until 8:00 am the next
morning. We did this for a week.
This turned out to be a great opportunity to see
how the old pros recorded together. Observing how they used the mics
and how they worked together provided the foundation for how I record now.
After we had finished each day, Dave and I would hang around to watch the
“old guys” do it. It was great! Kenny had Joe Stuart
and Charlie Collins on guitar at the same time. As I looked across
the studio on the right Joe was playing bass runs exclusively. Then
a few feet to the right of Joe was Charlie who was strumming chords, with
no runs. In the middle of the room was Kenny with the RCA 77-DX ribbon
mic, sitting on a tall stool. To my left was Bob Black in the
same chair that he used while recording my album. Jesse had been
sitting on a riser to one side of the room so that we could hear his count
offs, but when Bobby Osborne came in to record his part on Kenny’s album,
he moved his chair off of the riser closer to the guitar players.
The experience was awesome. Roy Huskey Jr. was playing his bass sitting
We came into town a few days early to work on
the tunes. One thing Bob and I felt we should do, was play “Tanyards”
and “Real Foot Reel” for Bill Monroe. It was Bill who suggested that
I record the tunes on my fiddle album. He had told me that his record
company would let him record only a few of the tunes he wrote. During
the 1970’s, Bill showed me about 10 tunes that he suggested I record.
Some I have only heard once when Bill played them for me. Kenny once
said that Bill would write a new tune every few days. One thing
that happened had to do with the tune “Tanyards”. Bill had played
it for me out in California and again at his farm and that is how I learned
it, however, when Bob and I went to his offices he played it differently.
So there I was eyeball to eyeball with Bill and he had changed the tune.
We quickly learned the changes to get his approval. Bob Black asked
him to come over to the studio to record the mandolin part, we thought
he had him convinced, but he said that a new guy at his record company
would not approve of it. So he told Bob “you take care of him”, meaning
me, and we were off. Bill did say that if I recorded the tunes the
way he wanted them recorded, that he would make an endorsement to be used
on the album. After the album was completed, Bill listened
to the recordings of his tunes and kept his promise.
During the mornings of the sessions, Bob Black,
Dave Thompson and I would go to Baker’s farm to rehearse the tunes we would
record that afternoon. Bob Black is a genius. He can learn a tune
perfectly in minutes. Bob learned to play banjo in a town of fiddlers.
This led to his developing a style that allowed him to play fiddle tunes
note for note, something that up to that time in the early 70’s, had not
been done with such accuracy. Bob really created that very “fiddle”
style of banjo playing.
Kenny really acted as the producer for both albums,
making many of the critical arrangements with the studio and in getting
Jesse for both projects. I had spent many winters at Kenny’s, learning
the finer points of playing the fiddle, to then have him mentor me through
my first fiddle album was terrific. I didn't say easy, I said terrific.
He was very supportive at every step and I am forever in his debt, but
there is no fooling Baker. We even got to see him play the banjo.
The song “Tune For Andy” from “Highlights”, was about a panda bear that
played the banjo in a cartoon he saw years before. This is what you
hear Bob playing at the beginning of that tune.
Sonny Deaton the studio owner engineered both
sessions and virtually worked around the clock to do it. I
remember Sonny showing us a fiddle that was made by Gibson and it had a
virzi inside of it. Jesse doesn’t remember it, but I remember it
was pretty different from everything I had seen. On the “Tanyards”
sessions we had Dave Thompson on guitar, Bob Black on banjo, Jesse McReynolds
on mandolin, Roy Huskey Jr. on bass and a guest appearance by Kenny Baker
on fiddle. We cut all the tracks live, one right after the
next, then for only a couple of tunes came back and added some tracks.
Jesse would count off the tunes and away we would go. We recorded
in one big room, which was the second floor of the engineer's house.
This turned out to be a bit of a problem as there was not enough isolation
of the standup bass to keep it out of the other mics. This was not
a big problem in the remix, but it did color the original mix.
I was never happy with the original mix, which
is what led to my becoming so involved in the recording process.
The mix was my doing, but I swore I would never produce a mix without “grind”
and “thunk” again. We recorded the album in a week and on the night
before Dave and I had to catch our plane, I sat up with the engineer and
mixed the album. We mixed it in 5 hours, boxed up the tapes
and caught the plane. In 2002, after finishing the Sleeping Lady
album, I remixed the “Tanyards” album with the appropriate “grind” and
“thunk”. I cannot put into words the sound of “grind” you will
have to listen to the CD to hear that, but “thunk” is a rock and roll term
that refers to the sound you get when you make a fist and strike your chest.
The sound you get is a “thunk” sound that exists in the mandolin and fiddle
notes, but has to be brought out. It is what helps to deliver punch
in your recording. Bill Monroe had “thunk” in his mandolin
playing in the sound system at Bean Blossom. A flathead banjo can
To work on the old 1-inch 16-track tapes I had
to bake them in my electric kitchen oven at 130F (with no more than 10
degrees plus or minus), for 8 hours, twice, to dry out the tapes.
Tapes from the 1980’s have a tendency to collect moisture. When they
do, they give off a gummy material, like wax, that sticks to the heads
and prevents the tapes from playing. George Horn of Fantasy Records
who is an old friend suggested that I bake the tapes and how to go about
it. It worked. Next I had to find someone who still had a tape
machine with this very old format. When I did, I transferred the
tracks to digital tape and worked on them in that form back in my own studio.
The remix utilizes classic analog studio gear
to get the robust sound that is the signature of my later recordings.
I also designed some vacuum tube gear that I now use to optimize the dark
or wood sound of the mandolin, fiddle and even the flathead banjo.
This sound is the result of listening to, and talking with Bill Monroe
at Bean Blossom and from watching Kenny over the years in a lot of places.
Monroe would push the mics at Bean Blossom to over drive the mics a bit
to get a big deep wood tone through the sound system. On the
other hand, Kenny played so quietly into his RCA 77-DX on his tracks in
both the “Tanyards” and his “Highlights” album that it took me years to
figure out the common ground in the recordings.
The versions of the tunes on the Tanyards CD that
are traditional, I learned from Kenny Baker with the exception of “Chicken
Reel” which Bill Monroe taught me.
I cannot read or write tab, so just after we recorded
the album I asked Bob to send me tab for the tunes on the LP. The
original LP didn’t have two tunes that appear on the CD. These are
“Tennessee Wagoner” and “Leather Britches”. I am not sure why we
left those off, but since they were not on the original LP they are not
included in this tab book.
Over the years I have received a number of CDs
and tapes from bluegrass musicians who have recorded my tunes like “Old
Blue Hen”. It sure makes me feel good when I hear about them.
Be sure to visit our web site and don’t forget to say hello.
Jim Moss, 7-24-2002
I have just been working on the re-release of
my first CD (1983)
"Tanyards". This was my first solo
album project and was recorded
in 5 days, back to back with Kenny Baker's album
By that I mean that I had the studio from 12
noon to 10 pm and
Baker would have it from 10 pm until dawn.
(People really should call or write County Sales
to get them
to put Baker's great albums out on CD. They are
In the 1970's Bill Monroe had given me about 10
tunes to record
when I told him that I would be working on my
first fiddle album.
He felt that he would never have a chance to
record all his tunes
himself do to the limitations of his recording
contracts at that time,
and would show me a couple of new ones each time
we got into a
jam or when we might be sitting around for some
reason. At that time
Bill would write a tune a week. This CD
actually has 2 tunes that
he wrote outright and one that he influenced
heavily. I have only
recorded four of these tunes so far. Bill's
recordings of these
10 tunes are in my tape collection and hard to
find in there, as in a
lot of cases we would be in the middle of recording
and Bill would say "here is another one for your
album". So when I
record a new album, I just have search through
these old recordings
until I find another of these tunes. The
one on Sleeping Lady was
found completely by accident one day when I was
a recording of "Evening Prayer Blues".
The Tanyards album has some really nice mandolin
and banjo playing on
it by Jesse McReynolds and Bob Black. This
album was the motivation
for me to become educated in the field of recording.
The fiddle mix is
not up to my standards, but at the same time
is not bad. The studio
we used only had a spring reverb. I intend
to remix this album at
some point and make the fiddle sound as tough
as my other albums.
Some people, audiophile types, prefer this album's
sound. The multi
track tapes are gummy and need to be baked, which
George Horn has taught me how to do.
Kenny Baker is listed as a producer on this album.
This is the least
I can say about his help on this project.
Kenny found the studio, gave
me much help. He worked with me on the
tunes noting and fingering
techniques of execution. In the case of
Florida Blues, gave me his
rough mixes of "Farm Yard Swing" to learn
his version that was not allowed
on his album due to what I understand was a feeling
by County that
the tune was too swingy. I can tell you,
that his version kicks ass.
If this is true, then County made a big mistake.
Baker and Jesse really walked
me thought the recording process. I had
recorded before, but these
guys really helped me understand both the process
and the attitude
involved in recording. I am forever in
debt to these guys.
Monroe on the other hand, taught me the importance
of the subtle
details in his tunes. Of course that was
what Baker had spent years
teaching me, but this time it was on a mandolin.
The transition from
mandolin to fiddle was made very clear to me
as I played the tunes
over and over and over in front of Monroe.
Both Baker and Monroe
have a way of waking you up if you start drifting
off, when they would
say "Can't you hear that?" or "You can't hear
that?". :-) (God!!! :-Þ).....
"Of course!.." I would say.... "Let me try it
...and I would try to listen so closely that
at times I thought I could
photon particles bouncing into each other.
I mean, what else can
you do with Monroe or Baker staring at you?
When Bob Black and I were in Nashville to record
this album we
visited Monroe several times at his office and
almost got him to record
his tunes under a pen name. He did do two
things though.. First he
told Bob Black to "Take good care of" me.
This is a fact that I never
let Bob forget :-) and
second Bill promised to give me an endorsement
of my recordings of his songs to be used "on"
the album, but only after he
heard them recorded. I played the final
mix tapes to him and he
made this recording for the album. He also
gave me his signature
on the cover of a BOSSMEN book, if I were to
When the LP came out we decided to use his words
as liner notes only.
In remastering the 2 track recording of the entire
album for CD I decided
to include Bills own words as an introduction
on track 1. I think the recording
of Monroe's words makes the point of how he felt
about people recording
John Bird wrote:
> Great stuff, Jim, as usual.
> Could you elaborate a bit more on what you mean about "attitude"
> recording? I think it would be interesting to hear what they taught
> from you know from your years in the studio...
there was a cool calm professionalism with Baker
Also true with Bobby Osborne and Joe Stuart who
Jesse on Baker's album. Charlie Colins
was there and was quiet
and I guess professional, but not like Baker,
and Joe. They were very deliberate
and I guess the word that
really covers it would be Focused. They
were focused and a half.
Dave Thompson and I thought it was a little like
Gary Cooper in the
movie High Noon.
They would tell stories when outside the studio,
but it was total focus
on the music when we were in the studio.
My style even now is
to be focused, but not calm. I think some
lively banter can help
break up a mind lock situation. Once on
the Sleeping Lady album
we were doing basic tracks and on, I forget which
track, the band
just could get any spark in the recording.
So I hit them with something
so far over the top, that it shocked them and
them laugh too.
I said, "You sound like a bunch of limp d----s!
Is this what your wives
have married? Is this what they come home
to every night? Well it
ain't gonna fly here!" Boy
they didn't know what to think. I wasn't
sure if they were going to kill me or start laughing..
I had made sure
that all the doors leading out of the studio
were unlocked first...
but they started laughing and making jokes
accusing each other of
having martial problems..
The point was they broke up that mind-lock that
they had and laughed a bit.
When they got back to work, they knocked out
a great track. Really hot.
They had just gotten into a rut is all.
It all took about 10 minutes and
that saved me hours of being nice and maybe not
getting the track.
But.. a little of that goes a long way.
Well, nothing like that ever happened with Baker
and them. They were
cool and calm, and they got the job done.
Jesse set the tempos and
did the count into the track. Here is something
else I noticed, which is
part of how they must have evolved, working in
sessions for others.
I could not get a critical judgment call from
Baker or Jesse. Baker would
talk to me in his code language that I knew how
to understand, but Jesse
would not say anything at all critical.
I asked him to and he wouldn't.
I wanted to get a second opinion, someone else's
ears who was a fiddler.
Baker was not there at that time. I asked
Jesse about a track, face to
face.. and he just said nothing.
I learned from this, that in their world
of recording on other people's albums that you
really need to keep your
distance from the person who's album it is.
I do that myself now when
I do session work. I thought about that
a lot and how Jesse who was
totally supporting me in the project, would not
make a critical comment
about anyone else's performance but his own.
So here is what I figured out. When you
go to a new company and
interview... The people there will
ask you about why you are
leaving your current job. If you
say something negative, that will
soil your image. It does it subconsciously.
No one might say "Oh,
that is a guy with a bad attitude", but they
will feel less toward you
than to the guy who just says he simply needs
more money or needs
When these guys, Baker and Jesse comment on someone's
even if it is requested and could help, in their
world, it could loose
them future session calls. Those
are a few things that come to mind
They did joke about Curly Ray Cline's recording
The story was that Curly Ray would record an
album in 2 hours.
He would come in, sit down, and go for it.
They had heard this
from a studio engineer. When this
engineer asked if Curly Ray
wanted to hear a play back of his track, he just
said "No, move on
to the next!". Like Curly Ray would
just hammer them out with
no looking back. I heard that story when
the engineer was taking
a bathroom break. By the way, the
engineer worked 20 hours
a day on both of our sessions that were running
back to back.
There was an interesting thing that happened to
a well known
dobro player who was working on Sally Goodin
for a session in our
studio room. He had to finish before we
could take the studio in the
beginning of the projects. What happened
would amaze you, but I
can't talk about it out of respect for the guy,
who I don't really know.
The respect that I think I learned to have from
my experiences with
Baker and McReynolds.