Today's Featured Biography
James (Jim) Chesnut
In his early career, Chesnut thrilled music industry insiders and audiences across the nation with his songwriting and vocal talent. Wesley Rose, President of Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., signed him in part because Roy Acuff was willing to allow Jim to take his place on the full roster at Hickory Records (distributed at the time by MGM).
When Charley Pride endorsed Chesnut's first album (Let Me Love You Now on ABC/Hickory Records) he said, "He has a tremendous talent for writing, and as you can see from this album for delivering a good country song, also."
Pride was the first major artist to record and release a Chesnut song (Oklahoma Morning) shortly before Jim was signed as an exclusive staff writer for Acuff-Rose, the firm that produced such songwriting greats as Hank Williams, Mickey Newbury, Eddy Raven, Don Gibson, Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers.
From that point, Chesnut, in what proved to be an unwise career decision, reserved all of his material for his own use as a recording artist. He wrote most of the songs for the 15 top-100 singles and two albums he released in the late 1970s. One of those songs, Show Me a Sign, was nominated for a Grammy in 1979 by his record label.
Chesnut, represented by Bob Neal (Elvis Presley's first manager) and the venerable William Morris Agency, performed in nightclubs and concerts, appearing with such folks as Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Rodney Crowell, Mickey Newbury, Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, Con Hunley, Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass, Sammi Smith, Don Williams, Ed Bruce, Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Don Everly, Eddie Raven, Larry Gatlin, Dottie West, Reba McEntire, Janie Fricke, Lorrie Morgan, B.J. Thomas, Pat and Debby Boone, Ernest Tubb, Grandpa Jones, Jan Howard, Helen Cornelius and a number of other Grand Ole Opry stars.
Chesnut's emerging career was muted in the early 1980s, when he returned to Texas. Battered emotionally by divorce and a changing landscape in Nashville and country music, he began a new career in marketing communications apart from the music industry.
Since 2006, Chesnut has released two volumes of his Nashville recordings, as well as Reflections, a CD with original songs about life experienced, observed and imagined.
"The new material offers great variety. It has humor, joy, pain, rhythm, melody, harmony . . . all the stuff I like in music. I'm finally able to make music the way I feel it. My primary purpose is to make the best music I know how," he explained.
In the summer of 2012, Chesnut began work on a new CD, a roots music anthology entitled, “J. W. Chesnut’s Sippin’ Whiskey,” which presents a different view of his musical tastes. “I attended a music workshop at Trinity University several years ago that dealt with authenticity in music. I then realized that most, if not all of my previous work lacked a certain amount of authenticity. Each arrangement lay within a well-constructed box called “The Nashville Sound.” Each song, while original in every respect, had already been expressed musically thousands of times.
“My early work in Nashville reflected the pop country tastes of the time, and the complex arrangements included section sounds of multiple guitars, strings, choruses, etc. While those things are beautiful, they almost always get in the way of an authentic performance of a song. So, I have tried to remedy that with this project.
“This album starts with a simple bass, acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement of ‘Copper Kettle,’ a folk song made popular by Joan Baez in the 1960s. I first recorded it in my late teens in 1965 or so. One might notice that I have used the bass as a lead instrument to some degree. Since the acoustic guitar is taking care of the root and fifth accents, it leaves an opportunity for the bass to be more expressive.
“The arrangements on the CD evolve somewhat on successive tracks with fuller vocal harmonies and tasteful percussion added to subsequent selections. The last song on the CD, “Get Aboard A Catamaran,” is what I call Caribbean country and reflects the influence reggae and Latin music have had on me through the years. Some Florida programmers are calling it Trop Rock. Go figure.
“Like the album jacket says, ‘J.W. Chesnut’s Sippin’ Whiskey’ should be consumed slowly to receive the full benefit.”
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