All a-flutter

Another local songwriter has a cut on a major-label release

When the Dallas Observer ran a preview a few weeks ago announcing an upcoming Monte Warden show, said preview mentioned that Warden--like our own Colin Boyd--seemed to be haunted by the ghost of a certain bespectacled pop genius named Buddy. It was a nice bit of affirmation, then, when Boyd called the other day to report on the progress he's been making in a songwriting partnership with none other than the like-minded Warden.

It all started a couple of years ago when Bonnie, Warden's wife, was given a copy of Boyd's much-lauded self-released Juliet album. "She really liked it," Boyd says. "She played it over and over again, and finally told him 'you write with everybody else in town--why don't you write with this guy?' After two years of that, he gave me a call."

The songs reveal a good mix of the pair's love of pop perkiness, Boyd's romantic sense, and Warden's darker vision. Boyd in particular seems to have risen to the challenge of the collaboration, showing a lot more finesse and growth than his stop-gap cassette Peggy Sue Went Surfin' might indicate. "I basically made [Peggy Sue] just to give my fans something to listen to until the new album is done," Boyd explains. "Some songs we write together; others are based on ideas either Monte or I bring in and the other helps."

Listening to some of the songs the pair have written (as well as one with the irrepressible Sara Hickman), it's easy to pick out each artist: "I Think About You" (written with Hickman helping) and "This Kiss Means I Love You" are plainly Boyd's, and "Not Finished With You Yet"--which starts out with a most un-Boydlike "Last night I put a pistol in my mouth"--is Warden's.

Boyd is trying to work "as much as possible," figuring that the results can only be good. He's still driving a school bus, but dropped the morning runs so as to accommodate more gigs; he's also considering the pros and cons of a regular songwriting contract, although he really doesn't want to leave Dallas and his loyal fan base.

The appearance of "Flutter" on Jack Ingram's new Steve Earle-produced Livin' or Dyin' might help him in that direction. A longtime show-closing staple for Ingram, originally titled "You Make My Heart Flutter," "Flutter" has also been trimmed from its Skynyrd-esque seven-minute length to a less-epic two-and-change; Boyd is hoping it might be one of the album's singles.

In a related bit of news, Boyd--one of the acts dropped from the MARS store's gala grand opening in what appeared to be some sort of communications snafu--reports that he went back to the "Musicians Planet" and picked up $150 worth of free gear the store offered in compensation. "It was very nice of them," Boyd said.

Bootlegger's blues
The blues community chalked up a second victory over bootlegger Roy Ames, capo of Houston music company Home Cooking. The first time, a gang of Houston bluesmen including Pete Mayes, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Jimmy "T-99" Nelson, and Walter Price took him to court and won a tad less than a quarter million in judgments against him. This time it was Wanda King--daughter of the great Freddie King and in charge of the bluesmaster's estate--who accused him of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

Ames' MO is to scarf up master tapes of shows and lease them to record labels, most notably Home Cooking and an ask-no-questions outfit out of Pennsylvania called Collectables [sic]. He has surreptitiously taped shows, sold music that was not his to sell, taken outtakes from beer commercials, according to court records; the artists involved rarely see a cent. Wanda King's lawyer on the case was David Showalter, who also represented the Houston artists. Ames had acquired tapes of her father playing, and out the performances came--sans permission--onto two CDs on Collectables (whom she took to court along with Ames). With practiced evasiveness, Ames tried to claim that he'd gotten the tapes legally, but when Showalter killed his credibility with testimony from rebuttal witness Benny Turner (long-term bassist for Freddie), the federal court of Judge Joe Fish found him liable.

One would think this might put him off the scene, but he's weathered worse and not gone away. In 1974, Ames was indicted on 10 counts of mailing obscene material and one count of conspiracy; in 1975 he was arrested for sexual abuse of a child and charged with six counts of compelling the prostitution of a minor. The charges were later dismissed, but by this time (1979), Ames was already in the federal prison in Springfield, Missouri, for mailing obscene material and other conspiracy charges. In 1981, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of mail-order child pornography, charges that netted him five more years; he was paroled in 1986.

Next to such epic malfeasance, the fact that Ames has left scores of outraged musicians and their families in his wake seems relatively minor, but he has been an overachiever in that realm as well. The man that Johnny Winter describes as "the worst" and Joe "Guitar" Hughes calls "The Texas Music Rapist" certainly knows how to inspire emotion. The Houston Press' Jim Sherman described bluesman Kinny Abair's reaction in a 1994 article on Hughes: "Although he was interviewed at length, the normally coherent Abair could not be quoted for this article because whenever anyone mentions Roy Ames he lapses into a loud, frenzied patois that is completely incomprehensible, aside from frequent use of the word 'motherfucker.'"

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