Conductor: Carla Olson Leads ‘Americana Railroad’

Carla Olson’s credentials read like the title cards under the glass of the world’s coolest jukebox. She’s been a Violator in Austin, a Textone in Los Angeles, traded solos with Mick Taylor, written for Percy Sledge, enabled genres with Byrds co-founder Gene Clark, and all while championing quality, never-goes-out-of-style rock n’ roll across five decades.

Inspired by the late Clark’s passion for trains and her own romantic notions on the subject, Olson and her husband Saul Davis developed the idea for a project dedicated to the locomotive and showcasing a pantheon of contributors. The sixteen (an auspicious number in train song lore) tracks collected on Americana Railroad explore the mythology of the train and the impact and influence it’s had on our culture since the first steam engine cannonballed down the Baltimore & Ohio line.

Featuring an array of artists including John Fogerty, Dave Alvin, Dustbowl Revival, Mickey Raphael, Peter Case, Dom Flemons, John York, Gary Myrick, Rocky Burnette, and of course, Olson herself (Carla also serves as the album’s producer), Americana Railroad honors not only the nostalgia of a fading institution but the many artists who have remained inspired by the train’s immortal rhythm.

In a conversation that delightfully defied structure, Carla shared tales from her many collaborations and friendships, the details of her latest projects– a thunderous cut of The Who’s “I Can See For Miles”, an album of duets with Stephen McCarthy, and a new guitar-centric solo effort– and delivered the stories behind some of her favorite tracks on the record. It was a pleasure.

AI- Last year, I spoke to a fella outta Wisconsin named Erik Shicotte, and he is a train song enthusiast. We got to talkin’ about the universality of train songs, and he said, “That’s something that won’t ever go away. There’s always gonna be a lonesome whistle whinin’ somewhere, and someone’s gonna have to sing about it…”

CO- I sure hope to heck he’s tellin’ the truth because it’s fewer and further between that you see trains– and more so now, you see abandoned tracks.

Well, I’ve never lived anywhere where I couldn’t hear a train at night or probably wait on one at least once a week or at least once a month! This idea of a collection of train songs had been rumblin’ around for you– partially inspired by your friend and collaborator Gene Clark and his love of train songs, right?

Absolutely! Of course, I’m one of those people that lived real close to the tracks in Austin, but the trains we got in Austin were all freight– there were no passenger trains at all until the mid-’70s. Mid-’70s, the Texas Eagle came through, but it was all freight trains. You’d run home from school– I mean, we used to run home from school so we could see Where The Action Is with Paul Revere & The Raiders at 3:30! You’d get outta school at 3:05, and man, if you didn’t race home, you didn’t catch the opening theme of Where The Action Is

I would always sorta dawdle a little bit with my friends when we were really younger, out around the train trestle because it was cool. (Laughs) It was a cool thing to do! And if you did, by chance, catch the slowdown of [the train], the conductor, if he was in a mood, would wave to you. It was really exciting (laughs)! The trains, you could hear ’em well into the night from our house. We also never had air conditioning, so the windows were always open– except for wintertime– and you could hear those trains slow down and the dang-dang, dang-dang, dang-dang… There were no– that I remember in my neighborhood– barriers, they just came through. If you got hit, you got hit (laughs)! Yeah, I’m hoping that your friend is giving us a vision for the future, but I’m afraid we’re lookin’ at the last maybe fifty years of trains. That’s sad, but I’m thinkin’ that’s what we’re lookin’ at.

You and Stephen McCarthy kick off Americana Railroad with “Here Comes That Train Again”. I love the Long Ryders version, but I actually think I like this one better! Who’s idea was it to invert the guitar tones on the solo?

Oh, Stephen all the way (laughs)! Man, he is Mr. B-Bender-Baritone Guy! The Long Ryders did a really great version or I would never’ve heard the song. We did some shows with them, and we put Gene Clark together with them to record on their album [Native Sons]. Before Gene had passed away, we had always thought of doin’ somethin’ with “I Remember The Railroad” and “Train Leaves Here This Mornin'”– and then the Long Ryders come along with Stephen’s song, “Here Comes That Train Again”! I asked Stephen about the song and he said it was trains from years gone by, more of a pipe dream than actually seein’ em. I think it was more of a wishful thought than a memory– a bit like “City of New Orleans” was, the Steve Goodman song, that wrote about the demise of the trains. In the last verse, you can hear it in the lyric. It’s sad.

Since you bring it up… How did John Fogerty get put together with that song?

That was through BMG, our publishers– although, I know John. I had recorded with John back in the ’80s on his album Eye of the Zombie. He recorded one of the songs that The Textones had on their first album, a song called “No Love In You”. He loved that song when he heard the album, so he worked it up with his band and they actually performed it on Showtime [John Fogerty’s Rock & Roll All Stars]. He performed that song with Terry Evans and Bobby King singin’ the background parts, and he played and sang it pretty much the way The Textones did it. 

I got a call from him when his second album was into its maybe third single, and he said, “I wanna B-side to this third single, and I want you to record this with me.” I went over to Capitol Records where he was recording the extra songs for it, and we recorded “No Lovin’ You”. I played the guitar and the solo on it, and he sang it and played guitar– and he said I was the first woman he’d ever sung with! I was really impressed with myself because of that (laughs) ’cause when I went to Europe in 1970, I took four albums with me and Green River was one of ’em!

What were the other three?

Completely Well, BB King; and CSN, Déjà Vu; and– my sister wanted it– the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

(Laughs) Go ahead and qualify that your sister wanted it!

She liked to clean house with the instrumental things on! Anyway, [Green River] was one of the records ’cause I was movin’ there. I took my guitar and my suitcase with a couple pairs o’ jeans in there, a swimsuit, and some shirts to tie-dye and sell up on the Spanish Steps– which is what I did to make a little extra money– and those four albums. That was one of my favorites! I love John Fogerty, and I love [Creedence Clearwater Revival]! I saw Creedence, actually, in their three-piece day– when they were feuding– in San Antonio (laughs)!

During COVID, John was with his family not far from here– it’s just a couple miles– up in the hills where he had a little ranchette, and he had his donkeys and a couple o’ cows. They were sittin’ around with the kids just goin’ through his songs and somebody just decided, “Well, let’s record this stuff,” and I’m not even sure what they recorded it on was any more sophisticated than an iPhone. So when he recorded it, BMG had known that he was puttin’ this record out that was gonna be the “backyard sessions” kinda deal, and when they heard he was doin’ “City of New Orleans”, they let us know about it ’cause we were approached by them to release what we had. We had eleven tracks ourselves that we’d produced or co-produced and he said, “I’ve got this chance to get John Fogerty on the record– would you wanna give it a listen?”

I gave it a listen and I said, “It’s really cool that it’s stripped down and organic, but I would like to see if Mickey Raphael would play harmonica on this.” As a conversation, you know? Like Mickey or love Mickey? I love Mickey! He’s [Willie Nelson’s] guy, and he’s been playin’ with Willie since he was in his late teens…

He’s one of the greatest harmonica players of all time! I put him right up there with Charlie McCoy!

Absolutely! And they play that song every night, so I asked him about it and he said, “I’d love to play on it!” John agreed, and we sent [it to Mickey]. We were locked down at that point, everybody was locked down. This was in the summer of 2020. Even though Nashville, I’m not sure how locked down they were, but L.A. County was totally locked down. If we went out for toilet paper and Kleenex, it was a good day! But [Mickey] played harmonica on it and sent it back to me. I had my engineer insert it, and then when we were able to get back in the studio and mix it in with the other stuff they had done, that’s how that came about.

For [Fogerty] to do such a stripped-down version of anything, I found it a bit strange…

Amusing (laughs)!

But in a good way! As the producer helming this thing, I had read an interview you did specifically talkin’ about working with Mick Taylor and his solo on “Sway” fading out and always wanting to hear what came next on that song. For you, when you were puttin’ this all together, how much of this was just wanting to hear what came next?

(Laughs) Well, some of it is definitely that! A lot of these were two and half minute songs and you just have to go with that. We obviously knew we had a lot of tracks, so I couldn’t do any extended guitar solos at the end like I would love to have had on some of these things– or harmonica or somethin’!

With Mick, that particular instance, he told me that there was a lengthy, lengthy outro on the Stones’ version of that song, but Mick Jagger wanted to fade it and he wanted to fade it early. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the song when we decided we would do that live album at the Roxy. I told him, “I’m gonna give ya’ the lead here– just go for it!” You don’t really tell him anything. He’s kinda like a savant, you know? He just says, “Look at me when you’re gonna change chords so I know where I’m gonna take a breath.”

I’ve always been obsessed with the fade-out. I’m a big Waylon Jennings fan and so many of those studio recordings just keep goin’ and it’s that space after the fade-out where I’ve always been sure was the even better stuff!

For sure! Especially with some o’ these guys that were real pickers– like Waylon and his guys. They could really go! That’s definitely always intrigued me– course, I did a whole album with Mick Taylor in 2000 where I just said, “This is my indulgence. I’m paying homage to my favorite guitar player,” and I just let him go! We just kept it! I figured, “We got a CD, we got 80 minutes– let’s just go for it!” 

I brought up Gene Clark earlier, and I was curious if Gene could’ve been a part of this project, what would you have encouraged him to do? And is that something that you talked about with his son, Kai?

When I met Kai, he was 13 or 14. He and Kelly, his older brother– you knew he passed away, right?

Yes. [Kelly Clark passed away on May 10th, 2020.]

He just didn’t wake up one day in San Francisco, and it took ’em a year for the coroner to even release the information. It was so sad… But Kai was always into bein’ a chip off old dad’s block! I just wanna say this: Gene would be so proud of Kai for having his own sound. When you’re born with the Clark genes– no pun intended– you’re gonna have that musical voice, but Kai has more of a resonance in his voice, more like the late Chris Cornell. He’s got a deeper voice and it’s got a lotta timbre to it. So when you hear him sing “Your Fire Burning” or “Gypsy Rider” or one of the other songs that Gene and I cut together, it’s a different animal. I think Gene would be extremely proud that Kai included [“Train Leaves Here This Mornin'”] on this album. I always loved Gene doin’ “Train”, and I did it with him many times. I also sang it with John York, and I sang it with Rick Clark, his brother, and “Train” was always one of Gene’s best! Him and Bernie Leadon, they used to write together and this was one of the better songs. That was one of the cornerstones of this album as well. Saul and I put this idea together with a couple o’ songs, and then just cobbled the rest together to make a full album of our favorite songs and some of our favorite performers and voices. Just great voices! 

First of all, Rocky Burnette! Come on, that’s a no-brainer! We call him the “Rock Man”! You ever hear Rocky sing? He is so much like his dad– just as Billy Burnette is so much like Dorsey, voice and everything! It’s just fantastic that we were able to actually go out– Rocky hadn’t been feelin’ too great in the last few years– and we took a laptop out to his house and a big microphone and some headphones, and he went for it with total reckless abandon! I just loved it! And at the end, I like where he goes (imitates Rocky’s laugh)! It’s just so Rocky!

[Rocky] doin’ “Mystery Train”— great version– you brought up Mickey Raphael earlier, who just slays the harmonica part on that song… I’m sure it was considered to be rather on the nose for Rocky to do “Train Kept A-Rollin'” but that honor actually landed on Gary Myrick!

Gary had already committed to that song! Gary I’ve known since I was 16, he was 17, and we were both comin’ up in Austin. He had a three-piece power trio– they were a little more, I would say, T. Rex than it was T-Bone– but he was a great guitar player and a great frontman. Both of us were big Yardbirds fans, so that song was one of our favorite live show songs. All the cover bands in Austin did that song! 

That Paul Burlison, double-string bounce is one of my favorite guitar solos of all time!

Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? So Gary did that one, and I thought, “Well, I know Rocky’s dad, in his set, always had ‘Mystery Train’.” I gave Rocky a lyric sheet– I didn’t figure he would need it, but he said, “I’m so glad you did because the song needs structure and a lotta guys’ll just do arbitrarily whatever verse they feel like singin’.” He said, “I’m glad you gave it to me because it reminded me that it does tell a story, and you need to keep with the story.” It was really great goin’ out and havin’ him do that! 

What’s your favorite interpretation or song on the album?

Well, if you wanna go real story or metaphor?

I want whichever one you wanna tell me.

I’ll go with real story. I will go with the Dave Alvin song, “Southwest Chief”.

Oh, I’m so glad because I was gonna ask you about that!

That’s a true story. Dave is a train guy from way, way, way back, but he did these train junkets– what we used to call the “whistle-stop tours”, where he’d go with a handful o’ people and they’d get on in L.A., go to Chicago, and come back, and wherever there was a long enough stop, they’d get down in front of the people and play! That was what caused him to write that song about Southwest Chief. As it says at the end of the song, [“I’ll jump back on and ride you one more time,” that was one of his favorite things to do. And of course, the Bill Morrisey reference was his friend who died. It makes me cry every time I hear the song because Dave talks about how they always meant to write this song and Bill said, “Make it a blues,” because we’re not gonna come around again, this is it! Every time I think o’ the song and the sentiment, it makes me sad, but also joyful that he was able to write it. He was literally writin’ it on the way to the studio and walked in, it was a whole bunch of us in the studio that day– we were doin’ multiple tracks with the same bass player and drummer– and Dave said, “Yeah, I don’t quite have this one together yet…” (Laughs) He was just writin’ lyrics, scribbling on a piece of note paper, and with some gaffer tape stuck it up on the mic stand so he could sing and play it! That kind o’ stuff is what people spend half their life tryin’ to write– and he wrote it in about fifteen minutes!

From left to right: Bassist Paul Marshall, Dave Alvin, Carla Olson, and drummer Ben Lecourt.

Dave Alvin, man!

I know! This particular song, the imagery of it is so real if you’ve traveled by train. I’ve not traveled in America as much by train, but I did travel a lot in Scandinavia and Europe by train. You’re lookin’ out the window, and you’re seein’ what the country has to offer whether it’s mountains or streams or cities or cars or other trains. The imagery is so powerful, that probably is my– I don’t even wanna say my favorite song on the record but it probably is! I don’t know if you remember Rank and File?

You know, my very favorite thing about this album is that I’m digging into it and I’m discovering bands that I missed the first time around, and I love when that happens! I’m just now diggin’ into Rank and File thanks to “The Conductor Wore Black”.

Unfortunately, Tony Kinman passed away two years ago before COVID, and Chip, his brother came and played guitar on this. Tony sang that on [the album, Sundown]. It’s just a great song! Rob Waller from I See Hawks In L.A. has a baritone– he’s big guy! He’s 6’4 or 6’5 and sings really deeply. He also has a nice low tenor, but he sings this song just like Tony was there! It was just so great! And I think, Chip, it touched him deeply to play guitar on this and means a lot. Peter Case I’ve known since we were in our twenty-whatevers…

I would not have pegged him to do the Sister Rosetta Tharpe song [“This Train”].

Well, he is a one-man-band! He gets out there and he does some standards and he does mostly his own songs, but his own songs of the last twenty or thirty years are kinda what we call the “troubadour kind.” He’s singin’ and playin’, tappin’ the floor for the beat himself, and every once in a while, he’ll play electric alone. I’ve played gigs with him where we played Plimsouls songs– I’d play guitar and sing with him– so he can still do it, He can rock out like the best, but it’s easier to go out on the road by yourself with a guitar and a suitcase.

Speakin’ o’ rockin’ out, I wanted to bring this up because I thought it was so wonderful– your version of “I Can See For Miles” that just came out. Man, you wanna talk about rockin’ n’ rollin’! Carla, that’s fantastic! Tell me about comin’ together with that song for The Who’s charity.

I would be remiss [if I didn’t] say too that I need to mention that “Whiskey Train”, that’s a metaphor for alcoholism. That song, I did with Brian Ray. He produced that and we performed it together. I went to the studio thinkin’ he was gonna sing it and I was gonna produce and play guitar, and he informed me as I walked in the door, “Nope, you’re singin’ it!” And I went, “Okay!” (Laughs) We just did a video of that, which it’ll come out, I think, around the fifteenth of June, somethin’ like that.

But the story behind “I Can See For Miles” is I bought the single when it came out when I was a kid and was hangin’ out with my friend John Staehely. I don’t know if you remember Jo Jo Gunne? He ended up in Jo Jo Gunne and taught me how to play guitar and got me started. I used to hang around his band all the time and learn how to get feedback and windmill (laughs), you know, stuff like that!

I still practice the windmill (laughs)!

Yeah, my rotator cuff says, “No! I’m not doin’ that anymore, and I’m not playin’ tennis anymore!” I can do a half of a windmill! But the reason that I recorded [“I Can See For Miles”] was because my husband, Saul, has been involved with The Who cancer charity, Teen Cancer America, for the last five years or something like that. We had this idea, Women Sing The Who, and do it as downloads and that way, all the money would go to the charity. We just couldn’t get anybody motivated to get it done. There were thoughts of having Adele and Joan Jett and some bigger names where you’d see the numbers roll in for the downloads, of course, now it’s a different story. There’s so many outlets that they’re lookin’ for more content and are little more receptive to somebody not as well known, like me. I recorded it with Gary Myrick and this drummer, Ben Lecourt, who’s all over the Railroad album. He plays drums on about half of it! He’s a French drummer that lives in Los Angeles– he’s a younger generation– but he just played the heck out of the Moon solo! But he makes it his own too! Gary, of course, and I are both huge Who fans, so he played guitar, I played guitar, and then Lou Castro, who plays with me, [played bass]. I have an acoustic and electric band with my buddy Todd Wolfe from Sheryl Crow’s band– well, he was with me before he was with Sheryl Crow, so I’ll toot my horn there!

We had fun just throwin’ it down! We threw it down in about… I think it was two takes we took and took the better one. Obviously, when COVID came around, it kinda slowed everything down to a trickle, but I went into the studio where I could [isolate] and did all the vocals myself and just took it to The Who’s Teen Cancer America office here in L.A. and said, “Well, we did this, and we just want you to see what we did. This is what can be done, but then you can use people that are bigger names.” They loved it! And then we didn’t hear anything! It was like, “Okay…” So we sat around and sat around and sat around! Finally, once the woods started clear a little bit, the COVID ramped down a little bit, we approached ’em again and said, “Well, you know, this is done, it’s mixed, we’re gonna put it up on the Internet. If you guys want the money, we’ll channel the money to you.” They are a 501(c)(3), so they’re equipped to handle that. They listened to it again and they said, “Wow! That’s really rockin’!” It’s all of sudden just lit up the phones as they used to say in the old business! Well, it hadn’t lit up the phones, but it’s lit up the keyboards!

You’ve got that, we’ve talked about you and Mick Taylor, and Sway, the best of album that just came out last month...

Yes, thankfully!

You’ve got a vinyl reissue on the way of So Rebellious A Lover that you did with Gene Clark– and you’ve been extremely busy producing! Can you tell me about some of the other things you’ve been workin’ recently now that the world is opened up?

Absolutely! I started last June workin’ on a couple o’ things for myself and also for other projects. I found a huge studio and felt like, “Okay, if we’re all gonna be masked up and when we go to sing or play, we’re not gonna be masked up, let’s get the biggest, tallest room we can find!” Robby Krieger from The Doors has a studio in Glendale that has a ginormous room, and iso’s for the guitar and the vocals. People, if they wanted to be safe, they could wear their mask. We were safe– I think it was a big enough room, plenty o’ air. We went in last June and started tracking several projects, one of which is for myself. It’s gonna be called Guitars, Guitars, Guitars.

I don’t know if you remember a band called Broken Homes, but they begat Craig Ross, the guitarist who ended up with Lenny Kravitz– and still is with Lenny Kravitz! He played in the band with Kathy Valentine, and he played guitar on one of the songs that I recorded. Eric Johnson, who I went to high school with– we were buddies since he was 10th grade and I was in the 12th grade– and I wrote one of the songs on his first album, Tones; I wrote most of the words to “Trail Of Tears”, which is a song he still performs live today– he plays guitar on a song from the ’60s, a local band from Corpus called The Zakary Thaks. He played guitar on that, and then Gary Myrick’s gonna play on somethin’ else. Just tryin’ to get keep busy and do things I’ve always intended to do and kept procrastinatin’ and not gettin’ it done!

I just produced an album for Stephen McCarthy and I, a duets album, which is done. We are mixing the last song today, and we’ll be mastering that for release, hopefully, before the end of this year. It’s all songs we’ve written together– some of it’s country, some of it’s rock, and some of it’s… I don’t know? It was bizarre (laughs)! Do you remember George Green? He’s been gone for a number of years, but he wrote the lyrics to half a dozen Mellencamp songs– they went to grade school together. He wrote “Minutes To Memories”, [“Rain On The Scarecrow”], “Crumblin’ Down”, “Hurts So Good”, [“Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)”]… In the ’80s, we got together in Nashville and worked on a half dozen songs, and I recorded two of those songs– one with Percy Sledge and one for my solo album in Sweden. There’s a lyric of his on this called “The Bell Hotel Is Burning”. Stephen and I finished the song and the music to the song, and it’s not country… I don’t know what it is! It’s kinda bizarre! It has Mellotron on it, it’s kinda weird, but it’s beautiful lyrics and beautiful imagery, and the Bell Hotel was a real hotel. It was in Indiana, and I guess George Green wrote these lyrics [because] the imagery was too powerful to ignore. Mellencamp did not record that one, so we finished it and recorded it. We’ve got one cover on here by Desert Rose Band, which was on their first album, called “One That Got Away”. Chris Hillman and John Jorgenson and Herb Pedersen and JayDee Mayness recorded that one. It’s a really cool song. That’s the only cover– other than we did a Beau Brummels song– and the rest of ’em are all songs that we wrote together.

I’m really glad you brought up Percy Sledge. I’m so far off my notes right now…

(Laughs) Sorry about that!

Not at all! I love it when a conversation can live and breathe and do what it’s gonna do! But I am in Macon, GA, and Percy’s relationship to this town and the artists here– and of course, it’s not a completely pretty history with his house being set on fire when he was supposed to be moving here. You have written for and with and performed with Percy, and I wanted to specifically ask you about your time with him.

He was such a delightful person! My husband produced two albums with Barry Goldberg for Percy. We were drivin’ around one day and on Top 40 radio, you always hear “When A Man Loves A  Woman”, and we happened to hear “Warm and Tender Love” instead! I said to Saul, we were at the stop light, “Man, it’s so good to hear somethin’ else Percy sings besides ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’!” And Saul says, “Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if we heard him do somethin’ totally new?” So we got a hold o’ his booking agent and found out his schedule, and we drove down to Normandy Casino, which is down South Bay between L.A. and Long Beach, and went to see him play in a showroom there. Afterwards, we came up to him and said, “We’re just a couple o’ guys from L.A. and we were really wantin’ to make a record with you.” And he says, “Well, sure! Come on, let’s go!” So that was it!

Saul picked the songs, and one song that was kind of a soul song, I had already recorded myself– it had a horn section– and we recorded that with Percy and also “The Grand Boulevard”, which was a George Green lyric that was on the album Blue Night. I got to tour in Sweden with him ’cause I have a fanbase in Sweden, and we went over there and did some TV shows. But goin’ in the studio with him– I wasn’t producing but I was a songwriter– and I had a car and when he would get tired and the rest of the musicians would be hangin’ around, I’d say, “Come on, Percy, and I’ll take you back to the hotel.” We would get in the car, my little twenty-year-old Acura, and Percy would say, “Hey, can we stop off at Popeye’s and get some chicken? ‘Cause I’m really hungry,” and I would say, “Sure!” We would pick up some chicken and some dirty rice, and I’d take him back to the hotel. On the way he would say, “Carla, how do you write? ‘Cause I don’t play an instrument. I can’t write because I don’t play an instrument.” I said, “Well, Percy, you can hear the melodies in your head. You can sit down and just with a piano pick out one or two notes that go with what’s in your head, what you’re thinkin’ about.” He was just so genuine and sweet. I remember him tellin’ me, “I never wanted to follow anybody on stage. I was always afraid that I wouldn’t measure up.” Like Joe Tex! He said, “I never wanted to follow Joe Tex!” He was just a very humble guy, just as humble as you could possibly imagine. There were a couple times when we would be overseas and people would just swamp him! The Swedes and Norwegian people would come up and just swamp him, and you’d have to kinda protect him a little ’cause I’m 5’3, and he was probably only 5’4, believe it or not! And he was a prize fighter when he was a young guy, so he could take care of himself, but you didn’t want him to have to. He was just a wonderful person. I really miss him.

We were at Sound City, which you might know from the movie. You know, they never mentioned a Black person in that movie? I was rather miffed that they didn’t mention Percy because he recorded a whole album there in 2004– and the guys that were in the studio next to us were no lightweights either! It was Ry Cooder, and in the next studio was Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers! They came into the lunch room when Percy was havin’ a little bite to eat, and Saul said, “Tom, I want you to meet somebody.” Tom knew who it was and he kinda walked behind Saul, and Saul says, “Percy, I want you to meet my buddy, Tom,” and he said, “Tom Petty? Percy Sledge!” And Percy was just as sweet as he could be! Tom sat down at the table, and they sat there and talked for about ten minutes about music and different stuff, and then Tom says, “Well, I guess I better get back to work,” and Percy says, “Now, son, what was your name again?” And Tom was so thrilled! “Why would he even know who I was?”

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Thee Aaron Irons is a music commentator & radio personality for 100.9 The Creek where he hosts Americana Madness weekdays from 10am-3pm and Honky Tonk Hell, a Rockabilly/Rhythm & Blues retrospective that airs every Tuesday evening at 7pm. He lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife and daughter.