“Mr. Honky Tonk Piano” – Earl Poole Ball – announces the July 9 release of a special album titled Pianography on Tin Tube Tunes, a deluxe package that includes seven new recordings, four live tracks and vintage recordings from 1967 and 1977. Pianography highlights not only his talents as a keyboardist AND singer, but also reinforces the many facets of Earl’s storied career, which includes 20 years as the piano player in Johnny Cash’s band; recording on The Byrds’ landmark album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and a host of other legendary sessions with Wanda Jackson, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Jo-El Sonnier; and recent recording/touring with groups such as Heybale! and The Lucky Tomblin Band.
Earl Poole Ball will celebrate the release of his new album with several special CD release shows in Austin and the surrounding areas during the month of July. Radio promotion for Pianography is being handled by Jenni Finlay Promotions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A mainstay of the Austin recording and live music scene since moving there in 1999, Earl Poole Ball has become the go-to-guy for any local, regional or national artist craving the excitement of a real honky tonk piano style in their music. His resume not only includes a laundry list of session credits as a musician, but also laudatory work as a writer/arranger/producer with Phil Ochs, Linda Ronstadt, Wynn Stewart, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Terry Stafford and Freddie Hart, plus extensive work in film and television.
“The song Pianography (And Then Some) is the story of my life and adventures while making music, traveling from Mississippi to Texas – Texas to California – California to Tennessee – and winding up here and now in Austin, Texas,” Earl says. “Many of the other songs are original musical vignettes that can apply to anyone and everyone caught up in the flow of life. We have all experienced and shared – happiness, hope and joy as well as sadness, heartbreak and the blues. For over half a century I have traveled about and played the piano with the famous and the not-quite-so famous, always making good music wherever I could. I have chosen now to take my turn in the spotlight. So choosing from the top shelf of songs I have written, co-written, or collected, I present to you this EPB recording that so many of you have asked for.”
The seven new tracks on Pianography feature Ball’s keyboards and vocals backed by a core band of Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Dony Wynn on drums and Casper Rawls on guitar, with special guests including Cindy Cashdollar, Jay Dee Maness, Gene Elders, Bert Colwell and Jon Blondell. All are top-notch session musicians on the Austin music scene — many of whom play with Earl on his busy live performance schedule.
“Many times in recording you are pushed for time and on other people’s budgets and schedules, making compromises, and it would sometimes feel like making music by the pound. This music– PIANOGRAPHY— was done slowly, over an extended period of time, giving it a chance to simmer and sizzle and organically become its own work of art—-the way I always wanted to present my music — to at least once and finally get it right,” says Earl about the sessions.
The four live cuts on the new CD were recorded at Austin music club Emo’s in 2010 as part of the “Johnny Cash Bash” tribute to “The Man in Black” with Casper Rawls (guitars), Tom Lewis (drums), Kevin Smith (upright bass) and Lisa Mills (vocals). Earl puts his own spin on rockabilly classics “Big River,” “Down the Line” and “Mean Woman Blues,” and offers a down-home gospel version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
A special bonus is the inclusion of two songs Earl Poole Ball recorded in 1967 “Second and Antone”) and 1977 (“Flowers on Papa’s Grave”). “On ‘Second and Antone’ you will experience the enthusiasm of a young Earl on a recording in Hollywood, California, at about the same time the joined use of the words ‘country/rock’ came into the culture,” Earl states. “It was written by my California musical mentor Vern Stovall and the legendary Don Pearce (Tex Williams-Gary Paxton) and I felt it was a fit for me to sing as I wanted to do a rockabilly number for one side of my recording at the time. ‘Flowers on Papa’s Grave’ is the original song demo I recorded in Nashville. I wrote it about a visit I had with my aunt and uncle to their grandfather’s grave site (my great-grandfather) in an old country cemetery when I was a teenager. It is one of my favorite memories of them.”
Earl Poole Ball (Jr) was raised in Foxworth, Mississippi, in a home that his grandmother had formerly run as a boarding house and while his name sounds like a stage moniker, it is his given family name As if to make things even more interesting, his father ran a pool hall! Starting with piano lessons from his aunt, Earl was soon playing songs by Hank Williams and Webb Pierce by the time he was 14. He also soon began developing a soulful, rockabilly singing voice that combined with his playing chops stamped him as a double-threat performer.
“In 1957 at the age of 16, I wrote my first song, ‘Lost Love,’ that I brought to the attention of Governor Jimmie Davis of Louisiana, for whom I was playing piano at some catfish fries and shrimp boils as he was beginning to campaign for his second term as Governor of Louisiana,” he recalls. “He recorded it on Decca, and I was on my way–or so I thought.”
Knowing his son’s drive to become a musician, in 1961 his father gave Earl two crisp $100 bills, two new suits of clothes, one new leather suitcase and a one-way bus ticket to Houston, Texas, and told him to seek his fame and fortune. It was there that his musical odyssey really began, playing in honky-tonks at night and selling sewing machines by day. One of his first mentors there was Mickey Gilley.
“Years later on in California after meeting Cliffie Stone and playing demos for his publishing company, Central Songs, I learned more from him and others regarding the finer points of songwriting–much of which came naturally to me,” Earl remembers. “I later worked as a song plugger for him and was hired to produce recordings across and down Vine Street from his offices.”
Earl then began working at Capitol Records – first doing session work and as an associate producer under Ken Nelson, who was then vice-president of the label’s country division. After leaving Capitol Records in Nashville, where he had produced three #1 singles and albums on Freddie Hart, the tribute to Bob Wills by Merle Haggard and the great under-promoted Stoney Edwards, he decided to form his own publishing company and independently produce other acts and concentrate on writing songs.
It was during this time that Earl was also introduced to Johnny Cash and first recorded with him in 1973, a meeting that would lead to a 20-year stint both touring and recording with the iconic star. He would go on to produce Cash’s Rockabilly Blues album in 1980 and stayed with the band until Cash’s retirement in 1997.
“During the time span between 1976 and 1986, Jo-El Sonnier, the great Cajun accordionist and singer, and I teamed up to write songs which were used in movies and recorded by him on Mercury and RCA – when he had deals on both labels — and also recorded by Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown,” Earl adds.
Earl Poole Ball continues to write songs, perform and do session recording work. He plays live with several bands, including Earl Poole Ball and the Rockabilly Bluze Band, Earl Poole Ball and the Cosmic Americans and Heybale!
For more information, visit www.earlpooleball.com.
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