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Interview with Joe Pickering, Jr.

An interview with Joe Pickering, Jr., Songwriter and Music Publisher, by Christian Lamitschka, Country Music News International.


Lamitschka:

There's a classic country song by Roger Miller called: "King of the Road". His destination was Bangor, Maine. Tell us about Bangor, Maine. Isn't it far from Nashville and the music scene?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Bangor is over 1,300 hundred miles from Nashville. Not as far as Europe, but a big distance. Still Bangor and Maine is a hot bed of Country and all kinds of music. Bangor and the State of Maine attract many people as it is a beautiful recreation area. As you point out, the King of the Road depicted in Roger Miller's wonderful song made its destination in Bangor, Maine! A couple of years ago a German tourist thinking he was going to Las Vegas ended up in Bangor, loved it, and stayed two weeks! He may like it more because now there is a casino! Although Bangor is a small city it has an international airport with the longest airport runway on the East Coast. Many Country, Pop, Folk and major Rock stars play in Bangor. At the Bangor Auditorium I've seen Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Rebe MacEntre, the Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers, and so many more. Kenny Rogers once played on a round revolving stage in the old Bangor Auditorium. It was raining hard and the roof leaked and Kenny danced and sang with an umbrella! What a trooper! Note: Bangor in October will open a brand new larger Auditorium which should attract more major Country and other music stars. There is also a famous water front music series which attracts major acts like Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Charie Daniels, Jason Aldean Sting, Phish and an equally famous international Folk Festival. Both draw tens of thousands of fans. The Country stars can be accessible in Bangor. I pitched one of my songs to the Oak Ridge Boys and personally met Ricky Skaggs just a few days after he won Country Singer of the Year. So the big stars do come, but is it easy being in Bangor or in Germany or other places far from Nashville? Of course not but, it isn't easy in Nashville either! Just before Ricky Skaggs shook my hand and spoke a few words someone approached him to give him some songs. Ricky politely declined by raising his hands up saying, ”I've got 5,000 of those in Nashville". If you're not a singer but do write songs the odds are difficult. They are even more so when you are primarily a lyric writer and you need to practice what I call the UP principle which is U..nrelenting P..ersistence. Passion and persistence is not enough, you have got to have a plan which starts with the song! Some thoughts below.

First, you need to learn how to write about the various structures of songs such as verse/chorus which is the most common song form.

Second, if you are a lyric writer pair up with someone skilled who writes melodies for your lyrics. Make sure that the song penetrates the heart of people. I have had more than 8 singers doing creative work on what is called a Work for Hire Basis. Simply put I pay them for their creative work and then I own the total rights to the song. Some of the singers have been on TV shows such as Laugh in, Movies, have 3 platinum records and two gold singles have been and members of the Grand Old Opry. I have two music publishing companies King of the Road Music which is affiliated with BMI (Broadcast Music Institute) and Paul Bunyan Music affiliated with ASCAP. I own the music publishing on nearly all of the songs I have written. I then put them out on single CD's through CD Baby which has affiliations with most of the major digital download companies such as Apple I Tunes, Amazon, Napster, Spotify and also physical CD's which I sell through CD Baby and Amazon.
Lamitschka:

Why did you make your destination Bangor, Maine? Why are you there?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

My family and I moved to Bangor from Bellevue, Washington, some 3,000 miles away back in 1978. I become the Executive Director of Community Health and Counseling Services (CHCS), a large home health and mental health organization serving over 8,000 children and adults yearly through much of Maine. I did it for more than thirty years but still managed to write songs and develop my music career.

Lamitschka:

It's tough enough being a singer/songwriter, you are a lyric writer only and living in Bangor . How difficult is that and why do you write?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Like so many others who write, the impulse to create is within all of us and it comes out differently with each one of us. Anyone who has a deep desire to write will do it regardless of whether fame knocks on their door or not. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort. You probably just described tens of thousands of your magazine readers who do not sing or are lyric writers only, but have deep within them a urge to create in words a story or a moment in time that brings us all together. I have been writing song lyrics for decades. All of us store up memories that sustain us in life. So I try to write song lyrics that penetrate the heart. Meaningful songs make us think. They make us feel. They make us be. By capturing these memories in song we are all brought together. I have written on many topics about Sports Heroes: baseball, football, and rodeo. Heroes too who have fought in wars or faced discrimination, war and peace, patriotism, personal tragedy, gospel, love, romance, loneliness and redemption, comedy fantasy and so many other subjects.

Finally, we all can't live in Nashville, but that should not stop any of us. It certainly hasn't stopped you from all your successful efforts in the music business nor should it stop anyone.

Lamitschka:

Tell me about some of your success in the music business.

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Songs of mine have been in an Emmy award winning HBO film narrated by Ben Affleck, played on national and international networks both radio and television. Four of the CD's are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sound Library.

The Ballad of Paul Bunyan" was named the Comedy Song of the Year by the Country Music Association of America in Las Vegas. This song is also the official song of the Bangor Chamber Region of Commerce. (Paul Bunyan, the mystical American folk hero, was born in Bangor). Bangor has a giant statue of him in which Paul stands 37 feet high including the pedestal.
The “bible” of the Music Industry, The Green Book of Songs by Subject (www.greenbookofsongs.com), is a resource book which has more than 116,000 songs and album track listings recorded during the past 100 years. Only a small percentage of the songs in their database are ever featured in their Lists of the Week . I am honored by their featuring six of my songs.

This is very rare but I have had one song lyric reprinted in the U.S. Congressional Record about the life of Harry Agganis, “the Golden Greek”, one of America's greatest all around athletes.

Two of my funny songs have played on the Doctor Demento show when at the height of its nationwide popularity. One of them was co-written with the late great songwriter Paul Hotchkiss who wrote a number of songs for Mickey Gilley. The song was a response Christmas song called "Reindeer Don't Run Over Grandmas!" I hope someone out there will cover this song! I bet there has to be a singer from Texas with a funny bone who will cover my co-written song with Joe Terry called "Santa, You're Just An Old Texas Cowboy!"

All of my single song albums and major albums are on major digital download companies such as Apple I Tunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Napster. CD Baby and Amazon sell my physical CD songs. My songs are available world-wide through these companies. Today more sales come from digital downloads then CD sales, so it is important for those in the music industry to adjust to that growing reality and take advantage of it!

I do have my own website www.kingoftheroadmusic.com and have gotten as many as 363,000 hits a year. Many come from Europe ,with Germany, France, and the Netherlands having the largest number of visitors. As I mentioned, I have two music publishing companies, King of the Road Music affiliated with BMI, and Paul Bunyan Music affiliated with ASCAP. Whenever possible if you can own your own publishing it can be helpful in negotiating for opportunities.

I am also affiliated with Music Supervisor located in Los Angeles which works to get songs into films. Through CD Baby I am affiliated with Rumblefish, the world's largest synchronization license company in film, TV and in other venues.

In addition, TouchTunes, the world's largest downloading pay-per-play jukebox network, also has my songs in their catalog. I appreciate all these business relationships. Reaching out to make people/music connections is vital.

Many other websites carry stories about my songs or interview me. This is an excellent way to help promote one's songs. I've also been interviewed on many TV/radio stations from many states. I really appreciate the opportunity to interview at Country Music International News.

Regarding your readers who are songwriters, I hope they try to be as creative as possible in giving exposure to their various songs. The internet is a vital present and future resource to showcase your songs. Your songs are your “creative imaginary children”, so give them the best chance that you can for them to succeed in the music world. If they do, you will too.


Lamitschka:

You have titled your main CD's after sports and baseball. Why? Many of your songs aren't about sports.

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Christian, there are multiple millions of songwriters out there writing a billion love songs. That's like a competition between one drop in the ocean and the rest! I try to separate myself by creating a relatively unique niche. There are many sports fans out there, so I put one focus on sports. Also, many people are interested in hearing stories about life, so I often use a sports background to tell a story about life. Furthermore when I put out a main CD I add many “bonus songs” with the hope that the listeners will come to love these songs that aren't about sports.

Lamitschka:

What's your latest CD?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

My latest CD is "Baseball Songs Sports Heroes 4" which is out right now! I've used Disc Makers to manufacture the physical CD, and the digital downloads are through CD Baby and their affiliates like Apple I Tunes, Napster, Amazon, etc. There are 20 songs in all. Many are written within the background of the beautiful game of baseball, but go well beyond any sport. Some songs on this newest CD I hope will more than touch hearts. Some I hope will bring smiles, laughter, or tears. All of them are about life.

One song asks Willie Mays, the Hall of Fame baseball player, to come back and play and catch and return to yesterday (when we were young). Another song refers to Hall of Fame Pitcher, Bob Feller, who says of those who have died in war, "Heroes Don't Come Back!". Then there is romance in "That Seventh Inning Stretch" at Fenway Park, to the sadness of suicide and the war machine. There are more tales of love of life songs and funny tales of Santa Claus. Many of these songs will make you feel, think, and pause. I love writing songs that inspire or contribute to life.

Lamitschka:

What impact do you think your songs have had Joe?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Lots of people have written, phoned, or emailed me about my songs. Over the decades I've received many letters and quotes on my songs.

Former President George H.W. Bush wrote saying the Bushes thoroughly enjoyed my Cowboy Santa songs, apparently, referring to my co-written song with Joe Terry, "Santa, You're Just An Old Texas Cowboy".

Mr. Marty Markowitz, President of the Brooklyn City Council, loved my songs about Ebbets Field, Gil Hodges, and Howlin Hilda. Mrs. Joan Hodges called to express her deep appreciation about my song about her husband.

Mr. Eddie and Ann Marie Feigner, of the world famous King of his Court, a four man softball team seen by millions all over the world, wrote and spoke several times to say they loved my songs about them.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins humorously wrote on a photo, “I'm humming your songs in the Halls of Congress.” I haven't seen or heard her “humming” yet but I hope she will one day!

Many members of the Agganis family have spoken and written about my song and how it touched them. The late great John Buck O'Neil praised my songs about the early black baseball players and the discrimination they fought against. Ed Rice, the author of the book about the great Louis Sockalexis, admired my song about him.

Major and award winning sports writers, such as the late great Maury Allan, gave great quotes on my songs about Ebbets Field and Gil Hodges. Nick Tsiotis, author of his great heart-felt book about The Golden Greek, and Jerrold Casway, author of his excellent book "Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball" admired my songs about each of those two great Athletes.

My song lyrics have been reprinted in several of Harvey Frommer's Sports Book, and the Toronto Star and other publications, including several articles by Juliana L'Heureux in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Even Mr. Francois Gauthier, the former Consul General of France in Boston, wrote in a letter to me, “Listening to "If This Rifle Could Talk" song is a moving experience and your song a beautiful tribute to those who liberated my country from tyranny. France will never forget the sacrifices of those American heroes.” I was deeply touched by Mr. Gauthier’s remarks.

The quotes are too many to mention here, but one will suffice.

Sean Holtz of Baseball Almanac (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/), whose comprehensive baseball history site receives more than 40 million hits per month said:

Honestly Joe, you are to baseball music, what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll. A true pioneer in a field full of controversy staying miles above the rest and creating a path all your own – a path many will try to follow and few will even come close.”

Lamitschka:

What has been your biggest failure in the music business?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

The one that got away!! Andy Wilson and I, a friend and co-writer and publisher of Nashville Sound Publishing, had a song called "Fallin' Out of Love (Can break your heart.)" It was a beautiful song and we had a song hold on it by the Garth Brooks office, but, alas Garth didn't select it!

Lamitschka:

What is your biggest music success?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

By far my biggest music success is the music my wife has made in my life since 1965. I wrote a romantic song about her called "That Seventh Inning Stretch" which is on my newest album.

Lamitschka:

What is your most imaginative and whimsical song?

Joe Pickering, Jr.: 

It's a tie!  One is the song "Ben the Bull" a whimsical piece about rodeo bulls standing up (or rather, sitting down) for their rights.  It strikes my funny bone!  The other is "The Cowboy With A Hundred Gallon Hat". There is a mystique about the cowboy. I remember when I was in France visiting John and Denise Simonot and their children Annick and Genevive. They asked me to make a lasso for them.  After all I was an American and didn't every American know how to do a lasso?  When I told them I couldn't make a lasso, disappointment spread rapidly over their their little faces.  That image of two disappointed little girls has stuck in my memory. Many years later I did write this wonderful zany tale about a Cowboy with a Hundred Gallon Hat who does far more than tie a lasso.  This Cowboy does the impossible!!! Both Annick and Genevive are grown up now, but wherever you are in Europe this song is for you!  May the song "The Cowboy With A Hundred Gallon Hat" make you smile like the two pretty little girls you were!!

Lamitschka:

Since you write many songs on many topics, are you open to co-writing with others?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

I am always open to new opportunities.

Lamitschka:

What would you like to say to all those country singers in Nashville, Texas and beyond?

Joe Pickering, Jr.:

Be open to all those songwriters out there. Don't be quick to close the door. That songwriter could walk in or send you an email and open a world of opportunity for you. Country music and all music is changing rapidly. The world is opening up to all kinds of music created by many people. Doing the same old, same old ...will take a toll! (of your career!)

Second, hope you all will consider singing/covering some of my great songs. I have many rodeo, love, country story songs, comedy, Christmas, sports songs etc. A couple of examples are: "A Home Full of Memories", a song about breakup, gathering strength from what was, and redemption. All the songs are on the CD "Sports Songs and Beyond" as bonus songs (partial song lyric below).

"A HOME FULL OF MEMORIES"

THE MOVERS ARE COMING THIS SATURDAY
TO TAKE ALL OUR FURNITURE AWAY
BUT THEY CAN’T MOVE WHAT THEY CAN’T SEE
NO MOVER CAN MOVE MY MEMORIES

HERE’S OLD LETTERS THAT PLEDGE LOVE ETERNALLY
HOW SHORT THE TIME ETERNITY CAN BE
WAS IT ALL THOSE ROSES I NEVER SENT
OR LATER ALL THOSE KISSES WE ONLY HALF MEANT?

CHORUS

I’M SITTING HERE ALONE IN THE FIRELIGHT
RELIVING MY MEMORIES TONIGHT
SOME HEAVY AS HEARTACHE, SOME LAUGHTER LIGHT
SOME WARM AS FIRE’S GLOW, SOME LIKE WINTERS’ NIGHT
BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE AWAY FROM ME A HOME FULL OF MEMORIES

Then there is the heart-warming Rodeo story. (Partial song lyric below.)


"RODEO CLOWN"

WHEN I WAS A LITTLE BOY MY DAD TOOK ME TO SEE
MY VERY FIRST RODEO IN ALL ITS PAGEANTRY
THERE WERE COWBOYS AND INDIANS, AND COWGIRLS TOO
WAVING FLAGS AND BANNERS ALL RED, WHITE, AND BLUE

CHORUS

HE’S A RODEO HERO THE RODEO CLOWN
HIS LIFE’S ON THE LINE WHEN THE COWBOY IS DOWN
THE RODEO CLOWN


THAT COWBOY’S IN TROUBLE BUT THE BULLS' CHARGE WILL FAIL
CAUSE THE RODEO CLOWN’S GRABBING ONTO HIS TAIL.
ARMED WITH BARRELS AND PLENTY OF GREASE PAINT
THE CHANCES HE TAKES MAKES A BRAVE MAN FAINT

I thought your readers might enjoy a few of the lines of "Santa's Red Long Johns" sung by the late Bob Stamper, a wonderful singer and friend. It is on my latest CD "Baseball Songs Sports Heroes 4" as a bonus song. Maybe a singer out there who has a sense of humor might want to cover it and defend and hail the value to Santa of his Red Long Johns!

It was first released by on King Records on Texas Greetings No 8. Compilation CD. Joe Pickering, Jr. is the song writer and he owns King of the Road Music, which has the music publishing and all other rights to this song. The song also played on the Doctor Demento show worldwide. The chorus and first verse will hopefully entice you to listen to this funny Christmas song. Just remember get BEHIND Santa's Red Long Johns he needs all the support we can all give him! (Partial song lyric below.)

"SANTA'S RED LONG JOHNS"

Chorus:
THERE ARE CHRISTMAS SONGS ABOUT CHRISTMAS SNOW
REINDEER, ELVES, AND EVEN MISTLETOE
WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE WRITE A SONG ABOUT ME?
I'M SANTA'S RED LONG JOHNS, I SERVE FAITHFULLY

WHO'S THE CLOSEST TO SANTA'S BIG HEART
WHEN DOWN THE CHIMNEY HE GOES WITH A START?
IT AIN'T THOSE REINDEER HIGH ON THE ROOF
ASK MRS. SANTA CLAUS, SHE'LL SHOW YOU PROOF

A Special Note about the late Bob Stamper. Bob was a dear friend to me and all who met him. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry widely respected for his voice and the quality he gave to his thousands of recordings for thousands of songwriters.

A great songwriter and friend, George LaFlame, and I wrote "Johnny Silver". (Partial song lyric below.)

"JOHNNY SILVER"

WRITTEN FROM SOMEWHERE HE DROPPED HER A LINE
JUST WHERE DOESN’T MATTER HE HAD SOMETHING ON HIS MIND
ANOTHER WOMAN’S IN HIS LIFE, THE ONE HE NEEDS SO MUCH
HE THOUGHT SHE SHOULD KNOW HE’S BEEN LOVIN’ LADY LUCK

HE SAID, DARLIN’ DON’T CRY JUST TRY TO UNDERSTAND
THERE’S NO WAY ON EARTH TO CHANGE A GAMBLIN’ MAN
GOD KNOWS SHE TRIED BUT THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH
BECAUSE HE LET HER DOWN AND TURNED TO LADY LUCK

CHORUS

JOHNNY SILVER IS HIS NAME KING OF THE GAMBLIN’ SCENE
HE NEVER CHASES WOMEN HE ONLY CHASES GREEN
A DECK OF CARDS, A ROLL OF DICE, HE’S GOOD AT ANY GAME
HE LOVES LADY LUCK JOHNNY SILVER IS HIS NAME

One final note: King of the Road Music is the music publisher on Those Old Forty Fives. Just wanted to introduce this song to the world via Country Music News International 1.

The song "Those Old 45's" is wonderfully sung by Jim Davis. He and George La Flamme are the co-songwriters of this Traditional Country tune which has echoes of Crossover Country and Country Pop. The instruments are varied and include Piano (Upright), Keyboard/Synthesizer, Drums, Saxophone, and Guitar (Electric). King of the Road Music is the music publisher of this song.
"Those Old 45's" song vibes are Heartfelt, Nostalgic, Heartwarming, Reminiscent, and Romantic. The main band track recorded & mixed at Dixiana Studio Nashville, Tenn. Vocals and some instrumentation and engineering and further mixing at Smoke House Studios Nashville, Tenn. Produced by Lonnie Ratliff Steel Guitar player Perley Curtis played and was in Loretta Lynn's Band. Jim Davis was once a backup singer for Country Music Star Connie Smith. Jim Davis and his wife Linda Davis also make up a duo called Hearts in Harmony.
Song lyric below:
"THOSE OLD 45's"

I WAS SURE FEELING LONELY ON ONE SATURDAY NIGHT;
SOFT RAIN WAS FALLING, AND THE SETTING WAS JUST RIGHT.
THOSE OLD SONGS WERE PLAYING FROM OUR RECORD ARCHIVES.
THEY BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES OF YOU DEAR
WHILE PLAYING THOSE OLD 45'S.
JUST LISTENING TO ELVIS AND THE KINGSTON TRIO
MADE ME THINK OF ALL THE GOOD TIMES DARLIN’
WHEN OUR LOVE WAS REAL.
THOSE WORN OUT SCRATCHY RECORDS KEEP THESE MEMORIES ALIVE.
HOW WE LOVED DANCING AND ROMANCING TO THOSE OLD 45'S.
YOU LOVED MOST OF THE POP SONGS WHILE PURE COUNTRY WAS MINE.
WE BOTH HAD OUR FAVORITES WHEN YOU WERE MY VALENTINE.
YES, I WILL ALWAYS THINK OF YOU DEAR SEARCHING THROUGH OUR RECORD ARCHIVES.
WHAT A WONDERFUL PASTIME WE HAD DEAR, SPINNING THOSE OLD 45'S.

JUST LISTENING TO ELVIS AND THE KINGSTON TRIO
MADE ME THINK OF ALL THE GOOD TIMES DARLING WHEN OUR LOVE WAS REAL.
THOSE WORN-OUT SCRATCHY RECORDS KEEP THESE MEMORIES ALIVE.
HOW WE LOVED DANCING AND ROMANCING TO THOSE OLD 45'S.
Jim Davis Artist. Jim Davis and George La Flame co-writers and owners of the song. King of the Road Music, music publisher C 2007.

Thank you, Christian, for the opportunity to interview with your great Magazine!

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