Cornell Hurd talks about the elements of western swing and being inducted into the Cow Town Society of Western Music’s Hall of Fame. He tells the story of his first bands in high school, how Leroy Van Dyke’s “Walk On By” got him interested in country music and how we considers himself to be a “direct linear descendent of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.” He also says “I saw Dan Hicks in a white sport coat with two girls singing ‘How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away’ and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Cornell gives us a peek at what it was like trying to promote your music in the pre-internet era of 1977. And he wraps up singing the praises of the Broken Spoke, “the last of the great Texas Dance Halls.”
Cornell Hurd talks about western swing band music. Cornell Hurd’s been inducted into the Cow Town Society of Western Music’s Hall of Fame. So he knows a thing or two about western swing music. He says that western swing is an amalgam of styles. He notes that Bob Wills borrowed from the blues, borrowed from Mexican music, borrowed from big band music. Cornell Hurd says that in Texas it’s all really about whether you can dance to it or not.
Calvin notes that he’s got a good crooning sound on several tracks and asks Cornell Hurd if he is trying to sound like Raul Malo. Cornell Hurd laughs and says he takes that as a compliment but no, he’s not trying to sound like Raul. Cornell Hurd says he is more comfortable than he used to be singing in lower registers and some of the songs on the CD are in lower keys, so that might be what makes it sound like he’s crooning.
Cornell Hurd talks about how this collection of songs came to be. Cornell Hurd says that a year a go the band found them without a weekly gig. His engineer, Allen Crider, suggested they start working on a new set of songs so Cornell and Allen met every Thursday for a year writing and arranging these songs.
Cornell Hurd set us “The Bad Girl I Keep In My Heart.” He says it’s a story about a guy who has an affair with a woman. He realizes after it was over that there was some good in it even though what they were doing was wrong.
[Calvin plays “The Bad Girl I Keep In My Heart” from Drop In On My Dream.”]
Calvin asks Cornell Hurd about the first time Cornell Hurd played on stage. He say it was 1964. He played drums in a surf band, playing songs like “Pipeline.” That was the time that the Stones and the Who were big. But the song that got him interested in country music and playing guitar was “Walk On By” by Leroy Van Dyke.
Cornell Hurd tells the story of the first band he put together and played guitar in. That was in 1968 for a senior talent show at his high school. The band was the Milpitas Submarine Band and Cornell Hurd tells the story about the joke in the name. The band only played one song on stage, but he was one of the guitar players and it transformed him from being a nerd to being one of the cool guys at his school.
Cornell Hurd talks about his college era bands also. One of the bands was the Rag Brothers. The bass player in that band was Frank Roeber who ended up playing with him for 37 years. The Rag Brothers was largely inspired by Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. Cornell says. “ I saw Dan Hicks in a white sport coat with two girls singing ‘How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away’ and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Cornell Hurd talks about how he read about a band called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airment in Rolling Stone, “which was a cutting edge publication at the time.” He went to seem the band play at a bar in Berkely and eventually switched schools so he could be near the band and the music scene there ate the time. Cornell Hurd says he prides himself on being “a linear descendent of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen” because “they put Hank Williams and Elvis Presley on the same page for me. Cornell says that’s why his band is not afraid to play a rockabilly song followed by a western swing song. Cornell Hurd says he has a tribute record to Moon Mullican, “the king of hillbilly piano,” and discusses the story of the Berkeley scene in the liner notes of that record.
Cornell Hurd tells his vision of having a band show up at a gig and do three sets of three different styles of music. They’d play a set of Fifties music, then a set of hard-core country, and close with a set of 30’s era swing. The band name he was using for the 20’s era music was called The Mondo Hotpants Orchestra. The other two “bands” didn’t pan out. But the Mondo Hotpants Orchestra eventually morphed into the Cornell Hurd Band. This was in about 1977.
Cornell Hurd talks about what bands did back then to build a following. He says they relied on newspaper coverage, flyers, posters, word of mouth and the occasional air play on the radio. He tells the story of knocking on the door at a radio station late one night and the DJ auditioned their record right then and started playing it on the radio. Cornell says that would be impossible today because all the music is programmed.
Cornell Hurd sets up “Whiskey Drinkin’ Women.”
[Calvin plays “Whiskey Drinking Women”]
Cornell Hurd tells us why the Broken Spoke is his favorite place to play. He says it’s the last of the true Texas Dance Halls. He says it’s all about “real man and woman dancing.” He says the owner’s daughter has dance lessons early in the evening.
Cornell Hurd sets up “The Old Part Of Town.” He says it’s about wanting to live in a simpler era.
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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.
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