Many fond memories come to mind regarding the 2002 release of my Christmas on the Coast CD. I had such fun recording with the great musicians who played the songs and The Jordanaires, who sang with me on four of them. The contributions by my friends Tammy Vice, Brent Stoker, Caroline Stoker, Shannon Williford, the ever-fabulous “Bayou Babes Holiday Chorale,” and the late Eddie Jones (the former Nashville Banner editor who typed us in and out of Yes, Virginia) mean so much to me.
This blog is officially called “Les Kerr’s Liner Notes,” so here are the liner notes from Christmas on the Coast, written in New Orleans in 2002. I had travelled from Nashville to New Orleans via several cities that held special Christmas memories for me. Enjoy!
29 September 2002, Acme Oyster House, New Orleans, Louisiana
The sun is out again in New Orleans. Tropical Storm Isidore moved through this week dumping water, starting here in Louisiana before washing into Mississippi and Tennessee. It went north just before I headed south. Now I’m in the French Quarter writing liner notes for a Christmas album.
From Jackson to Jackson
The trip that found me finally in New Orleans wound through old hometowns and fond memories. My first Christmas memory is of Jackson, Tennessee, where my grandparents
lived. Granddaddy worked on the GM&O Railroad and I remember going to the shop with him, climbing into the cab of a diesel locomotive and blowing the whistle. That’s Christmas, anytime you can do it.
I drove through Jackson, Tennessee on the way to Jackson, Mississippi, my first hometown. Memories of junior high Christmas dances came to mind. The girls were patient with the boys who couldn’t dance and our jackets always got covered with the fake snow sprayed on the windows. We “danced ‘til the midnight hour,” or at least until our parents came to take us home.
Christmas on the Coast
My itinerary took me from Jackson to Mobile, Alabama. Most of my Christmas Days there were spent at radio stations. I’d work Christmas so I could have New Year’s off to play music. One of the coldest mornings I ever spent happened when the heat failed. At 6 a.m. on Christmas Day, the only thing we could do about it was drink coffee and think warm thoughts. Announcer Scott O’Brien and I met in the hallway and toasted each other with some strong station java.
Last night, I drove from Mobile to New Orleans. At twilight, I crossed the I-10 bridge over the East, Middle and West branches of the Pascagoula River. South, toward the Mississippi Sound, “brightly burning shipyard lights” began to glow. Warm Pascagoula Christmases really were vacations, with time off from school to sail and to shoot New Year’s fireworks off the seawall and into the water.
Christmas in New Orleans
During the holidays of 1987, I was in New Orleans to play the Maple Leaf Bar as a guest of the late poet Everette Maddox on a Sunday afternoon. The streetcars seemed to say, with New Orleans accents, “Sleigh bells? We got our own Christmas bells right here on the St. Charles Streetcar!” Yeah, you’ right.
Years later, I’m in New Orleans on another Sunday to join Nancy Harris and more poets at the Maple Leaf. Nancy has kept the readings going since Everette’s death and I’ll soon be on my way to join her and other purveyors of verse and rhyme to perform my original songs. I have finished my smoked sausage po’boy, the Saints game is starting on television and my space at the Acme bar is becoming a marketable commodity.
I hope the songs on this album bring thoughts of your favorite Noel. These days, I look forward to spending every Christmas with the love of my life, Gail. It is my wish for you and for us that our best Christmas memories have yet to be made.
The finished products!
All text and photos copyright 2012 by Les Kerr. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com!