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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Music Reviews »

Permalink The Story of the Christmas Albums of Nokie Edwards and Art Greenhaw by Noel

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The Story of the Christmas Albums of Nokie Edwards and Art Greenhaw by Noel

I first interviewed Art Greenhaw in 2012 about how he came to records an album with Bob Bogle of The Ventures. That interview is here. In it, Art not only provided very entertaining and informative insights into working with Bob Bogle, but also mentioned he made records with Nokie Edwards. A lot of records. All sorts of records. Making records with Nokie Edwards has to be on lots of guitarist’s bucket lists, and those experiences would have to be of interest to fans of Nokie Edwards. So the subject of this follow-up interview sort of fell into my lap. It’s currently nearing Christmas in 2013.

The various Ventures Christmas albums are world-wide classics. So what better time to discuss the Christmas records Nokie Edwards made with Art Greenhaw! They made two Christmas albums together. The first, A Surf “N” Swing Fret “N” String Christmas in 2001 and later, Christmas in Guitarland in 2006. I’m fascinated by the story of how these records came to be made, and how they were made. I hope you are, too.

I should add that is was very nice to be back in touch with Art Greenhaw again, and to be discussing one of my all-time favorite guitarists.

Part 1 - Meeting Nokie Edwards

Noel:
You mentioned you originally met Nokie Edwards back in the early eighties. It would help me get started to have a little more information about that occasion. Could you elaborate a bit on how you met?

Art:
I actually met Nokie during the 1981-1982 period at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth during The Ventures' 1980s tour revival. As we all know, The Ventures were somewhat mysterious and mystical (in a good way) to us younger fans because so many of us in the heartland USA had never seen them in concert until the 1980s. So when the announcement came that they were in Fort Worth, it was like a lifetime dream-come-true. There were actually 4 metro Dallas area concerts by The Ventures in the early 1980s from 1981-1984. I was at them all. There are photos at www.artgreenhaw.com from 2 of those concerts.

Noel:
Whose idea was it to record with Nokie Edwards?

Art:
While I've always been a working, gigging, combo musician, it wasn't until the 1990s that I had the Grammy resume and credits and so forth, so I waited until the 1990s to start attempting to work with The Ventures. When Nokie settled in Oregon I was able to get a fax number and an address for him, probably because he established an active fan club and website during that time. When I faxed a letter to him, I got an immediate response. My initial letter to him is now in the Dallas Public Library archives under the subject collection "ART GREENHAW RECORDS".

Noel:
How did the idea of the first Christmas album come up?

Art:
While I love so many of The Ventures' Dolton albums, probably my absolute favorite is the Christmas album. And so many critics think it's one of the Top 5 greatest pop-rock Christmas albums. Nokie just means "Christmas cheer" to music and record fans. I wanted to create Christmas music that moved others like the album had moved me. I thought we could put a different and unique spin on it, too: playing folk, roots, Americana, banjos. Plus add the Gospel and Christian element since that's the meaning of Christmas for a lot of people around the world. And the well is so deep with terrific carols, folk hymns, spirituals. The melodies are just terrific, and a lot of minor chords and keys are featured.

Noel:
What were your main impressions of Nokie Edwards? What do you remember about him that stands out?

Art:
Keep in mind when I first met Nokie and the rest of The Ventures it was before the days of email and direct websites and the rest. So if you wanted to correspond with The Ventures you basically had to go through their manager or their staff. Maybe if you were in their region, you'd run into them, but as a musician and producer in Texas, it wasn't that easy to connect. So the very first time I actually saw Nokie, he was on stage playing away. What impressed me the most was, of course, his touch and tone. Also very, very impressive was the fact that he so often didn't watch or look at his fretboard, but rather made eye contact with the audience and individual fans throughout the show. This is an amazing characteristic and one that I have tried to emulate myself as a player. Second contact with Nokie and The Ventures was backstage at concerts. Nokie would be very relaxed, others around him (like staffers) would be uptight----but not Nokie!

Now fast forward to the late 1990s, and the internet had brought about a lot of changes including more direct access to recording artists. Also, now, there were new and different opportunities to sell "direct" to fans. Nokie has always been right on top of the latest trends in music creation and music sales. He has a great instinct on where music is going. He "walks through the doors that open unto him", and the 1990s were the golden days of CD sales and direct-to-fan selling. The public also at that time was clamoring for CDs, CDs were new and exciting. There was still the mentality "Oh, I love vinyl albums, so I'll also love and collect CDs, which sound better and clearer than vinyl albums..." So all that 1990s CD "buzz" was still in place when I approached Nokie about recording together with me...

Nokie's and our first albums together were A SURF N SWING FRET N STRING CHRISTMAS and ADVENTURE IN COUNTRY SWING. I picked up Nokie recording his parts on a Carvin electric and a Santa Cruz acoustic-electric and an Ultrasound amp when I took all The Light Crust Doughboys to Oregon. One of the sessions was 13 hours straight, and Nokie was fresh-as-a-flower after 13 hours recording, what a gifted, skilled, powerful, superman-type player! Nokie and I both came up with our concepts and our album styles and our album themes. I must add that Nokie is very receptive to all styles and categories of music: Christmas, Gospel, Blues, Rockabilly, Roots, whatever, which is, I'm certain, a big contributing factor to his success as a recording artist over a 55 year period and in an industry that re-invents itself every few years.

Noel:
How did you make this record? Did you record all of it in Oregon? There are a lot of famous musicians on this record. How did you manage that? Was it recorded live or was it multi-tracked?

Art:
This was one of those occasions where timing is all-important. The year 2000 was the year of the NOKIE MUSIC FEST in Oregon, Nokie's home at the time. Nokie and his wife, Judy, had the noble dream of creating a really fan-friendly festival that would be strongly supported by the local motels, cafes and hospitality centers. I remember a real feeling of fellowship and brotherhood between the musicians and the local merchants. Nokie had contacts with a fine, specialized studio called Equus. We recorded a good portion of 2 albums immediately after the festival concluded. Via the magic of multi-tracking, we laid Nokie's parts over some existing multi-tracks, although we did some ensemble recording, also, in the Oregon studio. Also, due to the benefits of multi-track recording, we were able to record the 50 banjos and the tuba and so forth in a Dallas large sound stage/studio. The Jordanaires were recorded in Nashville. Tom Brumley was recorded in Branson. Can you believe 5-6 studios all over the USA were involved in a "Brian Wilson-style, multi-studio crossover album"? All this for $10.00 to $15.00 to the eventual album buyer! What can we do to convince new generations that recorded music is really the "gift that keeps on giving" and the "king of value entertainment and art"?!!

Noel:
Does anything stand out from those recording sessions?

Art:
At that particular time, late 1990s early 2000s, I was able to budget much more for recordings because we could get a higher price for our product, plus I had outlets such as Borders Books --which as we all know have vanished. It's almost unthinkable by today's recording budgets, but for the NOKIE sessions, I often had THE JORDANAIRES, THE LIGHT CRUST DOUGHBOYS, TOM BRUMLEY, THE DALLAS BANJO BAND. These superb, organic musicians and their organic sounds really gave a sonic texture to the records that were very beautiful and rich.

Critics and reviewers have said things like "sounds like the best of the Elvis-Jim Reeves-Chet Atkins sessions at RCA" and "sounds like the best of a mythical jukebox play list in the 1950s-60s American South". Another reviewer said about Nokie's playing on my record label, "… so pristinely played... Nokie's guitar-playing has never been twangier..."

I might also add for guitar fans that my guitar of choice on this particular album for both lead and rhythm guitar was a Mosrite M-88 with vibrato. Nokie played a custom Carvin electric and a custom Santa Cruz acoustic-electric. Nokie never recorded for this album directly to-the-board, but used a small, compact Ultrasound amp.
Noel:
You mentioned the 13-hour recording session. How long did it take to record everything with Nokie?

Art:
Our team recorded Nokie and a few other overdubs over a 2 1/2 day period in the Summer of 2000. The longest day was the 13-hour-day where we recorded much of Nokie's contributions to A SURF N SWING CHRISTMAS.

Noel:
Is there a special story about making this record with Nokie you’d like to share with us?

Art:
I think a whole lot of record fans will agree with me that the magic of records is not only in the audio sound but also in the packaging, the photos, the look, the feel of the album. In this regard, 12" LPs were even better, since they had a much larger format and canvas for the album art and the notes and the credits and the photos. Like so many of us, I had just loved, loved, loved the album photos found in WALK DON'T RUN, WALK DON'T RUN 2, IN SPACE, GOLDEN GREATS...In Oregon, I found the best photographer I could find, and we staged in the studio some neat photos, and we included a beautiful, all-American-type girl from the community to stand and pose with us. She was a calendar model for the Eugene, Oregon area calendar called "Women in Waders". I have in my collection probably 25 proofs from that photo session which would make a great calendar in itself, and I would be glad to make those photos available to Ventures' fans worldwide. In those shots, Nokie is a super good sport, standing-sitting-reclining, doing some great combo poses for the photo shoot in order to make the album as special as it can possibly be. And whenever you see the pretty girl in a red or a powder blue swimsuit in this CD artwork, it's the Oregon girl that we selected to represent the "all-American, boy-loves-girl, guitar-player-loves girl" image we were shooting for...

Part 2 - A Surf “N” Swing Fret “N” String Christmas

image

Noel:
A Surf “N” Swing Fret “N” String Christmas is the first Christmas album you recorded with Nokie Edwards. It was released in 2001. Listening to this record, I’m reminded so much of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Elvis and even Andy Williams Christmas albums. Maybe it’s the presence of The Jordanaires on so many songs. Was this a particular effect you were trying to achieve?

Art:
We weren't shooting specifically for that effect. I suppose the effect is the by-product of me being extremely influenced by Elvis and Tennessee Ernie Ford. And probably also by me being a product of the south and southwestern USA. Both Nokie and I like to explore new sounds and embrace different concepts and different themes. This particular album is possibly as much of a folk, roots album as any we've ever done. I felt it would be neat compliment to Nokie's solo catalog and also The Ventures' catalog of albums.

Noel:
Please tell me about recording with The Jordanaires. I know you still record with them. Had you recorded with them before? Had Nokie.

Art:
I began recording with The Jordanaires in 1999 and with Nokie in 2000. Recording at the high level that we record, while rewarding, is also tedious and expensive. I decided to spend my time and my money "soaring with the eagles" so-to-speak, recording with my mentors in music and my idols. I had also been taught early in life to honor my teachers and to honor my mentors and to honor people that had made a major contribution to my abilities. The Jordanaires were in this group. Nokie and The Ventures are in this group. James Blackwood is in this group. This philosophy became one of my label's calling cards: musicians-helping-musicians; sons honoring their fathers; proteges honoring their mentors; disciples honoring their teachers.

Noel:
It’s such a traditional Christmas album. I like it a lot. Do you have a favorite song on the record? Does Nokie?

Art:
I don't believe Nokie has mentioned to me a "favorite" on this album. And I am soulfully connected to every song on the album. If you haven't listened in a-while to "Bells of St. Mary's", "Peace In The Valley", "A Closer Walk", "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "Christmas Carol Rock", these songs and tracks would be a good intro to the album.

Noel:
I have to ask about the album title. You could have called it anything. Who decided to call it A Surf “N” Swing Fret “N” String Christmas?

Art:
I'll take credit for the album title: it seemed to have a nice ring to it...!

Noel:
You then recorded four more albums with Nokie, Guitar Band Classics, Adventures in Country Swing, Guitars Over Texas and Deep Ellum Blues before you recorded another Christmas album with him, Christmas in Guitarland, in 2009. How did you and Nokie decide it was time to record another Christmas album?

Art:
For me and for Nokie, and for many music fans around the world, the sounds of Christmas are some of the most-happy sounds in the world. There's just something about the cherished melodies of the carols, the sleigh bell effects, the tinkerbell and chime sounds, the joy of the "most wonderful time of the year". And don't we now need more than ever happy sounds and happy feelings...?! I'd love to record even more Christmas albums, and am very proud to have 2, count 'em, 2 Christmas albums recorded with a man whose guitar is so closely associated to the very best and most classic pop and rock Christmas music! We feel the time is always right for more Christmas records!

Part 3 – Christmas in Guitarland

image

Noel:
Christmas in Guitarland has a completely different sound and feel than the earlier Surf “N” Swing Christmas album. Can you explain the concept for this album?

Art:
You might find it interesting that what drove this album in large part was the famous Nokie Edwards' "warm-buttery-fuzz-tone". When we were in engineer Phil York's studio in Irving, Texas, Nokie happened to pull out a Red Rhodes' designed fuzz box from the early 1960s. Then I discovered it was the very same fuzz box that Nokie had used on FABULOUS VENTURES album and more of the 1962-1965 albums. I was thrilled, since I was so influenced by those lead guitar sounds found on FABULOUS VENTURES and WALK DON'T RUN 2 and KNOCK ME OUT albums.

Noel:
Would you talk us through the process of putting this album together?

Art:
So I immediately started conceptualizing an album that would be COMBO - COMBO - COMBO in order to utilize this warm fuzz tone to its fullest glory---and we came up with the COMBO-STYLE numbers of CHRISTMAS IN GUITARLAND. This album could rightfully also be called "hot blended, both live! and track-by-track", since some of the songs we recorded group-style, and some we recorded track-by-track. On some of the track-by-track numbers, I'm either playing or singing every instrument on the record, except for Nokie's lead guitar playing. Examples of this would be "JINGLE BELL FUZZ" and "LITTLE DRUMMER BOY".

Noel:
And the instrument selection and arrangements?

Art:
The Nokie "fuzz tone" legacy was a primary driver behind many of the instruments used on CHRISTMAS IN GUITARLAND, which were the Hitchhiker electric for Nokie and Mosrite M88 electrics and BURNS Marquee bass for me. When Nokie is playing acoustic-electric, often it's a LIGHT CRUST DOUGHBOYS' arrangement you're hearing. When we record from scratch, oftentimes it's Nokie's arrangement and his guitar that drives the arrangement. If the record is a "Paul McCartney-style thing" where I'm playing all the backing instruments (like Paul has been known to do), then it's my arrangement.

Part 4 – Conclusion

Noel:
Art, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Art:
I'd like to add that Nokie's and my recordings are such an important part of our life and work. The fans out there who buy these, they are the true-blue patrons of arts and records and the ones keeping the music playing and keeping us recording. Please consider completing your collection while there's still time and while there are still physical discs. Please consider buying every one of Nokie/Art Greenhaw Records CDs. And don't forget DVDs. You can order these from your favorite CD source. We musicians do even better when you order CDs, LPs, and DVDs directly from us, directly from the creators at www.artgreenhaw.com and www.nokieedwards.com. Give these CDs and DVDs for Christmas, they're the best entertainment value in the world.

And a big THANKS! to Noel for dedication to arts, music, the guitar and The Ventures' and The Light Crust Doughboys' family on records.

Noel:
Thank you very much, Art Greenhaw.

You can listen to samples of the songs on these records at the following links:

A Surf “N” Swing Fret “N” String Christmas
http://www.allmusic.com/album/a-surf-n-swing-fret-n-string-mw0000703014

Christmas in Guitarland
http://www.allmusic.com/album/christmas-in-guitarland-mw0001364608

Art Greenhaw’s recordings with Bob Bogle and Nokie Edwards are at
http://www.artgreenhaw.com/

Art Greenhaw is on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/mcwhortergreenhaw?fref=ts

Art Greenhaw Records are on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Greenhaw-Records/134528256707806?ref=ts&fref=ts

Nokie Edwards is at
http://nokieedwards.com/

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: Dec 07, 2013 14:24:25

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