Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"He'll Never Be Another Casey Jones"

Category: Obituary

Most of the music that came out of the early era of "the Nashville Sound" in the late 50s and early 60s had one man in the engineer's booth: Bill Porter. Porter died July 7th after years of suffering with Alzheimer's disease.

Most of the obituaries focused on the big rock hits such as the Elvis recordings or Roy Orbison's hits. Porter, however, was behind the glass for nearly everything Chet Atkins produced at Studio B through the heyday of the "Nashville Sound," which included "The Three Bells" by the Browns, "He'll Have to Go" by Jim Reeves, and "Please Help Me I'm Falling" by Hank Locklin. When Owen Bradley asked Atkins what the secret was to the new sound, Atkins simply replied, "It's Bill Porter."

Porter's voice actually made it to one recording: the 1961 album Songs My Mother Never Sang by Homer and Jethro. Atkins instructed Porter to record everything, including between-take banter, so the tape was left running throughout the sessions. At one point Jethro commented on the silence following a joke, "Let's don't quit while we're ahead."

Porter turned on the microphone from the booth to the studio and said, "Did we say we were?"

"That was a joke," Jethro said.

Chet chimed in, "You know how these engineers are."

Jethro answered his brother-in-law in his typical dry tone, "Yeah, well, he'll never be another Casey Jones."

Bill Porter was 79.

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