How Merle Haggard Turned Me On To Bedhead

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I was fortunate enough to speak with legend Merle Haggard for this week's print edition of the Observer. Aside from being in awe each time he mentioned Willie Nelson, Lake Shasta (his home for many years, which he refers to in multiple songs) or Johnny Cash, I was particularly struck by our quick discussion regarding the way major labels of Nashville have never seemed very fond of letting treasured, aging artists grow old with dignity, even though that artist helped make tons of money for that label in the past. (See: the way in which Columbia Records dropped Johnny Cash after almost 30 years.)

In conversation, I was fairly certain The Hag, who has recently recorded for indie label Anti-, would be quick to rail against the current snake-oil salesmen of Music Row. I didn't get the venom I had expected. What I got was a simple and terribly logical reply regarding how the Internet will help generations to come find the most vital music American history has to offer, regardless of what's being played on Top 40 radio at the time.

As I got over my disappointment at not being proffered a fiery Haggard-style filibuster on all that is wrong within the current workings of modern pop-country, I started thinking about the bands I've recently discovered or learned a great deal more about, thanks to our friend the Interweb. We look to taste-making blogs for the latest clips and videos from current acts, but that's not what Haggard was talking about. What have I been able to really dig into now, that I couldn't in years past?

As it happens, the treasured Dallas band Bedhead is the most recent example, thanks to a great deal of virtual gold-digging. Spotify, eMusic, Wikipedia and the online archives of the Observer (hat-tip to D-Hop) have brought me closer to our very own slow-core pioneers.

On a personal note, I was too sheltered as a young teen at Keller High School to really get to know a ton of local bands in the pre-Internet era, including the mid-'90s, when the Kadane brothers really got rolling. By the time their insanely brilliant What Fun Life Was came out in 1994, I had just graduated high school, but again, the Internet wasn't the vehicle it is now, and without any friends that were into the band, a relationship with a living, breathing Bedhead just wasn't meant to be for me. As the '90s progressed, I had friends turn me on to Doosu, Toadies, Funland and Caulk, but I didn't know what I was missing by not knowing Bedhead.

Thanks to growing older and wiser, and the publicity that's surrounded the Kadanes' more recent project, The New Year, it hasn't been difficult to realize Bedhead's catalog isn't only a must-have for fans of Dallas music history, but the songs themselves stand the test of time and escape the dated feel of so many '90s indie bands. Songs such as "Bedside Table" still resonate in a moody, atmospheric and primal manner, thanks to the minimal touch applied by the band. The crawling, continual build-up that fills their songs is a thing of pure beauty.

Given that Bedhead's peak was before YouTube, there are precious few clips of them performing live. At least there's one fascinating clip to be had of the band performing "Bedside Table" at what commenters think is Club Clearview, but might've been at the now-defunct (but no less awesome) Deep Ellum Live.

So, there you have it. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was blind to Bedhead, but now I see, thanks to my wireless connection and the Okie from Muskogee.

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