Country music singer, songwriter and record producer Rodney Crowell brings his Houston via Nashville compositions to the Temple Cultural Activities Center stage Saturday as part of the Texas Singers-Songwriters concert series.
Crowell was raised in Houston, put together a band while still a high school student and moved to Nashville at age 22. He made friends with fellow musicians/songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, and moved to Los Angeles to play guitar for Emmylou Harris. Crowell released his first album in 1978 and also produced tracks for Rosanne Cash’s debut album.
Crowell’s 1979 marriage to Cash landed him in country music royalty; they divorced in 1992 and he married another songstress, Claudia Church, in 1998.
Top 40 success was achieved in 1980 with Crowell’s crossover hit “Ashes By Now” and arguably his magnum opus, the 1988 “Diamonds And Dirt,” which spawned five consecutive No. 1 singles, including “It’s Such A Small World,” a duet with Cash. His memoir, “Chinaberry Sidewalks,” was published by Random House in 2011.
Crowell said the book tells of his childhood in Houston during the 1950s. With “a hard-drinking father and a Pentecostal mother,” money was tight. “Mom cooked scrambled eggs in a pie tin using an iron (for heat) when the gas was turned off,” Crowell recalled. The country music thread ran through the family; his parents met at a Roy Acuff concert, and young Rodney was pressed into service as the drummer for his dad’s bar band.
“He didn’t have to pay me — that was the upside of having a child drummer. We’d play things like ‘No One Will Ever Know,’ the old Hank Williams song,” Crowell said. “You throw in a room full of Scot-Irish wage slaves, you know -— that kind of music — and they’re good and drunk, a lot can happen. A ‘belly-rubber’ (slow song) — that’s when fights would break out, because that’s when the improper passes were made.”
Crowell was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting in 2006. His latest album, “Old Yellow Moon,” is his first official collaboration with Emmylou Harris since his stint with Harris’ Hot Band in 1975.
A busy tour schedule keeps Crowell on the road: Saturday’s gig at the CAC is sandwiched between performances today in Gruene and Sunday in Plano, while November finds the singer/songwriter traveling to Seattle, through Canada and back to Georgia. The lyrics of “Many A Long And Lonesome Highway” say it best: “Look for me where the four winds blow.”