“The Wrong Way to Do it Right”

Songwriter Joel Lindsey, remembering a tragically talented friend and the power and paradoxes of creative genius:

For all I know he may still be trotting up and down music row pitching his music but the sad thing is, if I had to guess, he probably drank himself to death.  His life was a country song and so that would only be fitting.  He once spent a few weeks sleeping on a mattress in my living room (like he did everyone he knew) and after he left (because I caught him buying beer with my Texaco credit card) I found empty Jack Daniels bottles in just about every possible hiding place you could imagine.  I don’t know why he didn’t just put them in the trash but I guess he was embarrassed about how much he drank.

He had a bunch of songs on hold for major artists and was always on the verge of the big break but he would inevitably do something to mess it up.  He had a real talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.  I remember once he had a song on hold for The Judds when they were at the height of their career and he showed up drunk at the session when they were cutting his song and demanded that he have a say in how it was produced.  Of course, he got tossed out along with the song, adding another “what if” to his many stories.  That was typical.  And he felt justified in doing it because, in his mind, who better to know how the song should be recorded than the writer.


Drinking wasn’t really to blame because he’d be just as likely to tick you off sober as he would drunk, but it sure didn’t help matters any.  Because of his talent, people would line up to help him but he’d eventually say the wrong thing or hit on the wrong person’s wife and he’d be back on the street looking for a foot in the door.  I remember once, for no reason at all, he told a very popular country singer’s husband that the man’s wife “must have slept her way to the top because there was no way she could have made it on her talent.”  Yeah - that was Hoss.  Charming, eh?


But when he picked up his guitar…and started singing something brilliant off the top of his head, you forgave it all.  Some of my fondest memories of my early years in Nashville are of following him into studios and offices and seeing the effect his music had on people.

The whole thing is well worth your time.

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  1. Snowy wrote:

    Sad…hurts my heart

  2. NonInsider wrote:

    It was quite painful and sad to read that… But we pay for our mistakes…

  3. Randy wrote:

    Not trying to make a big deal out of a sad story, but from a different approach, how do we know the guy in this story wasn’t just a drunk who was all “talk” about his experiences, yet his songs were pretty good, so people just believed him?

    Wish I had a dollar for all the talented Nashville people I know/knew who have at one time had their “foot in the door” and had connections with huge artists, yet didn’t go or aren’t going anywhere.

    Based on the story, if this writer had previous success in country music, then his career was shut down by his excessive love for alcohol, I think it would be more believable that he could’ve done something amazing in the future. But, unfortunately, Nashville is full of wanna-be’s and those always “on the verge” of success.

    Yeah, I’m the next Garth Brooks. I just gamble too much. When people hear me sing it’s undeniable that I could make it. I just love poker. Proof is in the pudding.

  4. Wade wrote:

    Great Story… it is well worth reading. I saved the link to my fav’s. Some other good stories & thoughts too!!

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    I read it the other day and thought how sad. I don’t see an open thread, but thought this is interesting:


  6. Joel Lindsey wrote:

    Randy, nothing I wrote about was hearsay. I was there. It was in my living room where he told Jon Vezner (Kathy Mattea’s husband) that she must have slept her way to the top (my roommate at the time, John Mock, was Kathy’s guitar player.)

    I’m the one who drove him to the studio in Berry Hill where the Judds were recording.

    I didn’t write about anything he told me. I only wrote about what I saw and heard myself. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or not.

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    So, Joel, you DID “hear” them “say” it. JUST KIDDING. ;-)

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