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Stacy's Book Reviews
(author of Comedians of Country Music, The Carter Family: Country Music's First Family, Classic Country and The Best of Country: The Official CD Guide and contributor to Country Music Stars and the Supernatural and The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture)
A Cincinnati-born songwriter/music publisher/producer/singer and current Nashville radio show host, Even Stevens turns memoir author with the publication of this short (198 pages) but compact hardback (or kindle edition, if you prefer).
With a foreword by Duane Allen (an early and influential player in Stevens’ career) who, referencing the title of this book, opining that Stevens already “owns this town,” the author takes readers on his path to Nashville, beginning with the circuitous route, years prior to Stevens' career change, as a barber, first in Springfield, then in Lima, and Lakeview, Ohio.
Turning 18 during the Viet Nam war, and faced with the prospect of being drafted, Stevens hung up his clippers and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.
While an escape from the front lines, the move was insufficient to keep the enlisted man from being targeted by "Crazy Darleen," his high school sweetheart, who attacked Stevens with a knife- but not before she talked him into marriage and cheated on him, prompting a final separation after Stevens' several attempts to break up with her.
Bruce Noel Stevens' Coast Guard adventures took him to Groton, Connecticut, and then San Francisco where, intoxicated by the city’s music scene, during his off-duty hours the serviceman became a “full-fledged stoned hippie.” While in the famous City of Love, Stevens immersed himself in the San Francisco music scene, variously writing poetry, dabbling in songwriting and becoming a roadie, of sorts.
Arriving in Nashville, apparently at some point with a nickname/stage name, presumably and playfully derived from the idiomatic expression for a equal division or otherwise fair transaction, the transition is one, unless I missed it, Stevens does not disclose in this book, as he apparently omits any mention of his given name in these pages. (Lacking an index, reviewing a memoir, autobiographical is spots, that is not strictly in chronological order can be frustrating, as it must be to the many, mentioned by name, who have impacted Stevens' life; book browsers who may seek to confirm that they are mentioned in in the pages of Stevens' story before they invest in the printed version.)
At any rate, Music City appeared to be welcoming and Music Row fast and easy to navigate: At least that's what Even thought when an introduction to Webb Pierce was soon followed by Pierce's daughter, Debbie, an aspiring singer herself, making Stevens' day by indicating an intention to record one of Even's songs. Pierce's plans took an unexpected turn, demoralizing Even, when, as Stevens was learning instant success as a Music Row songwriter is largely an anomaly, no less than Norbert Putnam considered the young hopeful's prospects and concluded Even should "Go back to Ohio."
While Stevens' songwriting ability was not immediately evident to Putnam. Even found a mentor in another Music Row stalwart, Jim Malloy. Through the music publisher and Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Even eventually developed a professional partnership with Jim's son, David Malloy. David, who carved an impressive career as a songwriter and producer, served as Stevens' introduction to one of the artists he produced: Eddie Rabbitt.
Even and Eddie briefly roomed together as they attempted to reach their respective professional dreams as singer/songwriters. While Eddie's recording career took off, Even's lukewarm reception doing "the artist thing" convinced him he should stick to writing songs.
Stevens wrote or co-wrote nearly 60 of Rabbitt's recordings, including Eddie's biggest hits. Even's songs have been recorded by 55 other artists (including Stella Parton, who was once married to Jim Malloy). Each of the artists, and the names of the Even Stevens songs they recorded, is documented on these pages.
Dubbing themselves "the Trinity," (Stevens and David Malloy bought Music Row's Emerald Sound Studio in 1983), Even, Eddie and David enjoyed a comradery lasting until 1984 when Malloy was no longer interested in producing Rabbitt's records.
Malloy's reasons became more apparent two years later when Emerald Studio was sold and David moved to Los Angeles, selling his Nashville publishing interests that, thanks to a lawyer's intervention, impacted Even's income as a music publisher when Stevens was not allowed to buy out his business partner. The publishing company was sold, and then resold, before being absorbed by Sony/ATV Music. (After scaling down during a period in the mid-90s when Even stopped producing records and sold the two office buildings and recording studio he owned at the time, Stevens leased The Garage studio and formed ESP Music.)
When Even wasn't writing a song with Eddie Rabbitt, he co-wrote with several other songwriters who are named and whose work is credited in this book. But there is another instance, mentioned in Stevens' memoir, in which, thanks to Phil Ramone,A World Without Love, a song Eddie and Even co-wrote, resulted in the unwelcome addition of an unnamed third co-writer and a rift with Rabbitt.
Stevens is forthcoming about names(he generally speaks in superlatives when describing people he says he admires- which evidently doesn’t include Richard Landis)
and dates in these
pages, when he wants to be, (such as in his description of
the circumstances leading up to the distance created between he and
Eddie, though Even's was a welcome presence at Eddie's
funeral) and while it is understandable why, in an increasing
litigious society, Stevens' omits "Crazy Darleen"'s surname, though
Stevens elected not to acknowledge same, it is
public knowledge that Even's unwanted co-writer was Phil Galdston.
Similarly, Stevens shares only a little information about his oldest son, Seth, the result of a relationship between Stevens and a woman he identifies only as Lynn (again, perhaps for obvious reasons).
Even identifies his wife only as "Korene," mentioning that Korene gave birth to the Seth's half-brother, Luke in 1997.
On balance, Even Stevens' memoir is informative and, at times, humorous and insightful.
It is an honest read, as far as it goes. The book lacks an introspection that might be remedied if Even chooses to write an autobiography- including a foreword written by a mental health professional!
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