A “Cool Evening” Conversation with Texas Troubadour Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

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Cover of “Cool Evening” CD; Singer-songwriter Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

There is a scattered treasure trove of singer-songwriters from a generation before mine, those who experienced the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s as teenagers and young adults, who are gradually making the move into the outskirts of once music-friendly towns undergoing gentrification. One can still find these artists by seeking where they congregate, or simply enough, looking online through social media.

One such artist is Texas singer-songwriter Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber, whom I initially met online via Facebook, then at the Elgin Farmers Market in Elgin, Texas over a year ago. Formerly a resident of Austin, Texas, Weber recently completed his debut nine-track album “Cool Evening.” To clarify, the cover of his debut album says “Cadillac Drive and the Outlaws with Strings Present Cool Evening,” exemplifying that this was a coordinated effort between Weber and many of his caring musician friends, who participated in various ways, such as, but not limited to, session musicians, sound engineers, visual artists, and so forth. Weber’s CD is a compilation of his title track original, cover songs highlighting mostly Texas music written by an impressive roster of fellow singer-songwriter friends, and Weber’s covers of the Richard M. Jones classic “Trouble in Mind” and “Run, Run, Run” by Paul Kirby, Herb McCullough, and David Schnaufer.

It took some time for Weber to complete “Cool Evening” but it was worth waiting for, and after having the chance to hear his album, we had the opportunity to talk about his CD, and the effort it took for him to see his project through to fruition. The official release date for “Cool Evening” is Monday, February 6, and coincides with the airing of some of the tracks during the online and ground radio broadcast of Dublin, Ireland radio show “After Midnight with Noel Casey” on 103.2 DublinCity FM (midnight – 2am UK time).

 

Your album consisted of an enjoyable selection of nine tracks – how did you go about selecting these particular songs? It’s mentioned on your CD that most of the songwriters and musicians are personal friends/peers of yours – how were they involved with the song selections?

I have great friends who write very good material, and I more or less cherry-picked songs that I truly liked from them, but of course I took a different direction in style and sound for the purpose of showing what great work they do. I find it not the least embarrassing to do covers, as long as I put something into them. Think of Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails with their song “Hurt,” or of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s cover of Richard Dobson’s “Baby Ride Easy.”

Never satisfied with my own writings, I included only one of my songs, which is the title track “Cool Evening” on the album. I added a public domain blues track, “Trouble in Mind,” which has been covered numerous times by many artists; I was influenced by a friend who plays this song in the key of C, and blues songs are almost always composed in a minor key. Funny story: the seventh track “Run Run Run,” which I have loved for many years, I mistakenly thought was written by Gwil Owen. When I could not find the publishing information, I contacted Gwil, only to find out he was not the writer; an embarrassing moment, but I got over it and Gwil got a chuckle I think!

The end result was the song selections for the album and its range of styles represented on the tracks. I obviously am drawn to works that have a story to tell.

Are all of the contributing songwriters and musicians your Outlaws with Strings?

No, Outlaws with Strings is not an official band, but rather it is my own “shout out” for such a nice circle of performing and writing musical friends, who are all well-scattered about Texas, and one who is expatriated in Switzerland. I was fortunate to have many, many offers from them to assist with the CD, and I find all of them to be top notch five-star performers… Lucky me! In a sense they are all their own outlaws, each expressing their unique creativity without conforming to boundaries…and it’s an honor for me to know each of them.

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Guest musicians on “Cool Evening” (top row): Lisa Beck Crawford, Clare O’Riordan, Pat Harris. (center): violinist/”Cool Evening” producer Javier Chaparro. (lower row): Laura Mordecai, guitarist/”Cool Evening” sound engineer/mixer Jimmy George, and Jonathan Carbin.
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Some of the songwriters covered on “Cool Evening”: Frank Conroy, Mike Blakely, Bill Cade, Richard J. Dobson, and Connie Gatling

How did you and your guest musicians coordinate the recording sessions? Were you all in the studio(s) together most of the time, and/or was it a long distance coordinated effort? Regarding Irish musician/singer-songwriter Clare O’Riordan, did she record in Ireland for your cover track “Balloon Man”? How did you coordinate across the pond?

Good question… I left the Austin area in my retirement; it just became too large of a megaplex for me. I relocated to a place that reminded me of Austin long ago, with a decent cost of living and affordable housing with a friendly property tax rate. Having everyone in the studio at one time requires a large studio and was more costly than I could afford. I was in the studio for all of the sessions, as well as violinist Javier Chaparro, (at Jimmy George’s Roost Studio in Manchaca, Texas). Being retired, I could wait ’til Javier had an open spot, then get the studio booked and drive down. Javier is always busy and in great demand, doing many performances, and he is found on many, many records.

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Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber in studio with producer/violinist Javier Chaparro. *Photo courtesy Jimmy George, The Roost Studio, Manchaca TX

We prepared the rhythm tracks with a scratch vocal and then called folks in to the studio to track with that. Clare, who is a wonderful musician with a sweet voice, was in the studio in Cork, Ireland, working on her second album. My friendship with her coincided with the release of her first album. I asked her for a piano track and she said yes, creating a piano track in the key which I requested. Eventually we received her recording in 32-bit format. We then built the song around her work. Working “across the pond” was actually an easy task; it just took some communication between studios. It truly shrinks distance.

The recording is exceptional; did you produce the album?

I am very glad you asked that. I discovered in the last couple of days that in the excitement of checking the cover credits for punctuation and spelling, that the Production Credit was mistakenly omitted. Javier Chaparro produced the album, with the exception of “So Have I,” where I produced the guitar and vocals. The final production was by Javier in The Roost Studio.

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“Cool Evening” album producer and violinist Javier Chaparro. Photo courtesy Keith Weber.

If you check out Javier Chaparro’s bio, you’ll see that Javier is found on many albums and has been sideman to many a national act. Add producer to his ever growing and extensive list of accomplishments.

You encountered obstacles along the way of getting your album completed, yet you accomplished your goal of self-financing your album. More and more musicians in this slow economy have had to deal with similar circumstances; some have stalled or given up completely. What did you do to keep on track to succeed and keep from getting discouraged?

What a fun question, the album was born via obstacle. Though I had given some very fleeting thoughts to the idea of recording from time to time, I never considered doing an album project. I gave it much more thought during a time when I had fallen and broken my left heel bone, leaving me at home in a wheelchair for approximately nine months. It was during that time period, when I was not very mobile, that the very idea of recording took on more shape. Going in to record those few songs just blossomed into an album project. I could write a chapter or two about this time in my life.

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Keith Weber with Richard J. Dobson (Weber recovering from his leg injury)

It’s true I faced a few other things that caused some delay; a facial surgery, and not a real long time after that, a dental failure that required an implant. That took my extra funds for a while. Projects have their own life; you commit and work on them as you can. And sometimes you delay for various reasons such as funding or scheduling issues, or just life in general.

During this particular time I continued to practice and waited for the return of my ability to pay for the project. We completed eight tracks and had them mastered. While I was considering the art work, I began to delay not knowing why. I don’t know that I got discouraged; I’m happy to be able to get up and go do something, anything, after being off my feet for so long. I merely continued to practice, and to wait for the return of my ability to pay for the project.

In the spring of 2016, I pulled this song out and performed it for Ricardo (Richard J Dobson), and via that experience a conversation about track nine came about. It was also at that time that I realized through our discussion about the song that it was a co-write effort between Dobson, Guy Clark and Susanna Clark. I then knew that this was to be the final song for the project, and things began to move forward again. Thus “So Have I” became the final track on the project. It was at that moment that I knew this particular song was what I was waiting for to wrap up the album.

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Richard J Dobson and Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

As mentioned on the album credits, I did spend a weekend with Richard (Dobson) and Edith in Ben Wheeler, Texas. Richard was there selling his books at a book fair and had an evening gig in this little town. I quizzed him some about the (recording) process as he has produced many albums over the years. He made it very clear: don’t do it if you are expecting to make money. I did not give it much more thought until the following spring, when I had made my way to a spring picking party. I was still impaired and I pretty much stuck close to a table on the back porch.

While there, I was playing a song for Carmen Chaparro, one she really likes, which is now track seven, “Run Run Run” on the album. I wasn’t very far into the song when Javier came by and sat in. At the end of the song, Carmen just said “…you guys have to go record that.” That became the starting point that took us to the studio. Thank you Carmen!

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Javier Chaparro and Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

Just to fill in the background prior to making “Cool Evening,” what is your musical history? When did you start playing music and writing?

I’m the youngest of three boys, so I was exposed to the Ventures, Beatles, and 50’s music, and of all things, Jimi Hendrix. As a teen I relocated to Austin with my folks in 1969. I stumbled upon the Vulcan Gas Company (infamous Austin live music venue) where I saw Johnny Winter; then things changed for me. And blues music: the Rolling Stones, typifying that British Invasion genre, really grabbed my attention as well. The Vulcan Gas Co preceded the AWHQ (Armadillo World Head Quarters) and what a place that was in my youth! So many artists wanted to play there, and did. I got to see many of the acts. I did a little bit of volunteer work there, and in ’78 even earned a couple of paychecks which caused them to issue me a W-2 form; I’ve saved that in a scrap book. Wish I remembered more! (laugh )

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Vulcan Gas Company. Photo taken by Austin photographer Belmer Wright.  Source: Johnkatsmc5 Blog

That experience opened me to a wide range of musical styles that I still enjoy today. I bought a guitar in high school, learned a few chords, and tried to play along with some of my favorite records. I was able to figure a few of them out. When I joined the service, I put the music down ’til my mid-twenties when I purchased a guitar and just started the same process over again.

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Armadillo World Headquarters, in the 1970’s, at 301 West Riverside, prior to being purchased and modified in 1996 with the rise of the Threadgills World Headquarters building next door.

You live away from major cities in Texas, but you are still very active in the Texas songwriter scene, driving long distances to participate in singer-songwriting events in and near popular haunts such as Austin and Luckenbach. How long have you been doing this, and do you have any interesting experiences to share?

As before mentioned, I lived in Austin since a teenager; over the years I have made and kept so many good friends. I left Austin for my current residence some five years ago. I lived in Elgin, Texas for twenty years, been gone from Elgin now for twenty years, and still have too many friends in the area to count. Besides them drawing me back, I purchased a building in historic downtown Elgin in the mid ’80’s, and still having that building also draws me back for some regular visits including the towns of Luckenbach, Kerrville and Bandera. As a single man, I was drawn down that direction in a couple of different dating experiences; I’m still single, ladies!.. (laugh)

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Travel, music and friendships: Cities of Elgin, Bandera, Kerrville and Luckenbach. With Keith (rt.), Lew Andre Matthews (lt.) and Richard J Dobson (ctr)

It was natural for music to be a part of that. I met Art and Lisa Crawford in Bandera where they live. They are some fine folks and musicians. I have this saying, It’s all about the family that music makes. It’s a personal experience thing… I guess I should attempt a song on the subject, as I have made some wonderful friends along the way whom I never would have otherwise. We are musicians; we learn to sleep on couches if that is what it takes.

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Illustration inside CD packaging of Weber and friends jamming, drawn by Weber’s friend artist/musician Doug Bowman. Pictured at right with wife and fellow artist/music fan Nancy Terrill-Bowman; both are avid supporters and friends of local musicians throughout Texas.

You’ve lived in the Austin area long enough to see how the music scene has transformed over the years. What’s your take on the changes happening in Austin and in other cities, and how gentrification has affected live music? Has this affected you in any way as a singer-songwriter?

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6th Street, Austin, Texas 1970’s. Photo courtesy Austin Public Library

The changes in Austin… It (Austin) used to be a very music-friendly city, and full time artists could afford to live there; I am afraid that this only remains true for a select few, but not many. There are plenty of gigs, but the musicians must practically give themselves away. I think the paying gigs are out of the area now. I don’t expect things to get much better for those who are not well established. Nothing stays the same; I don’t see Austin as the “Music Capital” anymore, and I think the change in city leadership reflects that. But it has not affected me. I like to say now that I am well-retired; I can afford to be a musician. Having said that, I do see that it has affected many, including folks that I know.

Using online social networking platforms such as Facebook, Weber has enjoyed making new friends with fans and with others in the music industry such as other songwriters, musicians, and radio show hosts, most notably from Ireland. Two of his friends from Ireland are involved either with the recording of his CD (Clare O’Riordan) or with radio and airplay of “Cool Evening” (Noel Casey of DublinCity FM).

Actually, I have not spent time in Ireland other than in spirit. I could talk about this for days, but I’ll just try to highlight. During the time I was not able to put any weight whatsoever on my left leg, I turned to social media. I was browsing Richard J. Dobson’s feed one evening and saw an announcement from Noel Casey that he would be playing something of Dobson’s music on his radio show After Midnight. I looked up that show and streamed it, and of course found the social chat portion of the show (on Facebook), and I messaged Noel about Richard.

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A discussion of Texas music ensued between Noel and I, and with just about everyone I mentioned whom I also knew, or was acquainted with or liked; it would not be long before a sharing of autographed memorabilia ensued. A friendship between Noel and I formed, and it’s been going on three plus years now. That expanded into many other friendships across the pond, and you see it has its ties that lead not only to friendship with Clare, but also to many others.

In a previous question and in this one, you asked if I had any experiences to share, so please allow me to answer that part of your question here, since they involve both Austin and Irish ties to my friendships and the making of my CD.

Many years ago I met singer-songwriter Mo McMorrow when she was fairly new to Austin, at an open mic. I had not seen her in over a decade I think, and I saw a social media post by her posted to a mutual friend.

It was a YouTube video of Frank Conroy from Galway, Ireland performing a song he had written. The video was created by Mo from a cellphone recording that the artist made and had sent to Mo. Once she posted the video to YouTube and Facebook, I saw it and thought it was cool, so I passed it on to Noel Casey, asking if he knew the guy. He did not, but he would try to find something about the artist. In the meantime I sought to get in touch with Mo.

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Frank Conroy

By the next week, contact was made with Frank, and Noel played his song on his show the following week. I contacted Frank about recording that song, “A Life That I Could Borrow,” and the friendship was on. I could probably write a book about my song selections for this project!

**Both versions of “A Life That I Could Borrow,” the original recorded by the writer, Frank Conroy, and Weber’s cover of it, will be aired on Noel Casey’s “After Midnight” on 103.2 DublinCity FM as part of the “Cool Evening” release on Monday, February 6.

I must go to Ireland! I got my passport last year with the intent to go, but that was delayed. It’s neither a matter of “if,” nor of “when” I will visit Ireland, for I currently expect that it will be this year. Just like the album, if you continue to work at it..it will happen.

Social media such as Facebook is a recent discovery for me. It just seemed to be a natural way to discover and connect with artists, whom I find to be a special kind of folk. I support those whom I like, and along the way friendships and family are made if you let it. It just seems to naturally connect people, whether they are artists themselves, or if they are the ones who appreciate the art. We seem to naturally find where we are supposed to be.

The artwork for the CD tray inside the packaging is a beautiful memorial for your late son Claude Von Weber. Please feel free to express anything you would like to say about this beautiful memorial to your son.

I don’t mind at all. Firstly, the name Cadillac Drive. If you have lived in Travis County for very long, you know that east of Austin, out on FM 969, there is a Cadillac Drive. My son, in his late teens, worked very hard to steal that sign. And he loved Caddys. He had bought one to restore prior to his passing. I originally adopted “Cadillac Drive” as my Facebook name in memory of him. I got by with it for three years before (my alias) caught some attention, and I was forced to convert my profile to a band page. The memorial artwork, created by my late son’s tattoo artist Gabriel Hunter, is similar to one of his tattoos. The only way I could figure out how to fit it in was to put it under the CD itself as a surprise; my heart told me to put it in there somewhere.

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Memorial artwork inside CD packaging, commissioned from tattoo artist Gabriel Hunter

 

Keith’s CD “Cool Evening” is a wonderful album from an artist who was adamant about creating a top-notch production with top-notch musicians, on his own terms creatively and financially, after overcoming health issues that delayed the completion of his CD. Inside the packaging, Weber gives his recognition to, and appreciation for, his multitude of friends who have helped him along the way. Even before I listened to his album, just seeing all the amazing artwork and reading his warm message of thanks to his musician friends on the inner panel made me happy to have received his “Cool Evening” CD – good vibes all the way around!

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Here are some details about “Cool Evening”:

Created by singer-songwriter Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

Produced by Javier Chaparro

Sound engineering, recording and mixing: Jimmy George, The Roost Studio, Manchaca Texas.

(*Recording of track 9 “So Have I”: Jerialice Arsenault, Riversounds Recording Studio, Mason Texas.)

Mastering: Jerry Tubb, Terra Nova Digital Audio, Inc., Austin Texas.

Tracks on “Cool Evening”:

1. “Cool Evening” written/composed by Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber

2. “A Life That I Could Borrow” written by Frank Conroy

3. “Night Train and the Moon” written by Mike Blakely

4. “Balloon Man” written by Bill Cade

5. “Homemade Kites” written by Richard J. Dobson

6. “Take Your Babies Home” written by Connie Gatling

7. “Run, Run, Run” written by Paul Kirby, Herb McCullough, David Schnaufer

8. “Trouble In Mind” written by Richard M. Jones

9. “So Have I” written by Richard J. Dobson, Guy Clark, Susanna Clark

 

Musicians:

Keith Weber – Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Javier Chaparro – Violin, Harmony Vocals (“Balloon Man”)

Pat Harris – Double Bass

Laura Mordecai – Percussion

Clare O’Riordan – Piano (“Balloon Man”)

Jonathan Carbin – Violoncello

Lisa Beck Crawford – 2nd Guitar, Vocals (“So Have I”)

Jimmy George – Melody, Guitar, Harmony Vocals (“Homemade Kites”)

 

Artwork:

Cover Art: Jimmy George

Illustration inner sleeve: Doug Bowman

Yellow Texas logo, inner sleeve: Doug Bowman

Memorial artwork: Gabriel Hunter *currently at Lost Art Tattoo, Salt Lake City, Utah

 

How to find Keith ‘Cadillac Drive’ Weber and his music:

Official website: ‘Cadillac Drive

Keith welcomes all fans of his music to join his Facebook group Friends of Cadillac Drive.

To purchase “Cool Evening” you can visit his official Cadillac Drive website merchandise page,  contact Keith Weber directly via his “Friends of Cadillac Drive” Facebook group, or email CadillacDrive@aol.com.

His CD is also available wherever he gigs; for more info regarding his gigs, contact him via email.

Keith also can be contacted regarding booking for gigs and events via email or Facebook.

LINKS:

Official website: ‘Cadillac Drive

Friends Who Like Cadillac Drive Facebook Public Group page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/593087200845276/

Cadillac Drive Facebook music page:

https://www.facebook.com/Cadillac-Drive-437916216417395/

After Midnight with Noel Casey Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/AfterMidnightDublinCityFm/

Friends Who Like After Midnight Facebook Public Group page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/981454025281984/

Credits (Photography):

Laura Mordecai’s photo courtesy Fable Records

Connie Gatling’s photo courtesy MySpace for Gatling Hoffpauir

Jonathan Carbin’s photo courtesy Suzuki Association of the Americas

Lisa Beck Crawford’s (of duo Art and Lisa) photo courtesy Lisa Beck Crawford

Mike Blakely’s photo courtesy official website of Mike Blakely

Clare O’Riordan’s photo courtesy official website of Clare O’Riordan

Bill Cade’s photo courtesy Ghost Ranch Films official website for the documentary film

“For the Sake of the Song: the Story of Anderson Fair”

Richard J Dobson’s photo courtesy Dobson via Reverbnation

*Most photos of Keith Weber and friends, including artwork, courtesy Keith Weber

 

Sources for some of the photography:

Vulcan Gas Company 1960’s. Photographer: Belmer Wright.

source: johnkatsmc5 blog (url: https://johnkatsmc5.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-conqueroo-vulcan-gas-company-1967.html)

City of Elgin

source: Movoto.com site (url: http://www.movoto.com/guide/austin-tx/best-austin-suburbs-to-retire/)

Luckenbach, Texas

source: TripAdvisor website (url: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g56209-i33065547-Luckenbach_Texas.html)

City of Bandera

source: Texas Hill Country website (url: http://texashillcountry.com/bandera-texas/)

City of Kerrville

source: Texas Hill Country website (url: http://texashillcountry.com/retiring-kerrville-tx/)

6th Street, Austin, Texas 1970’s

source: Austin Library (url: http://www.austinlibrary.com/ahc/streets/6th.htm)

Armadillo World Headquarters (AWHQ)

source: MusicTrekker blog (url: http://www.musictrekker.com/rockpop/zztop/zz_top.html)

 

Article written by Blueflower Skye.


 

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