5417, Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Want to hear it? Here’s the YouTube link: Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Rick Minogue, Ray Duerr Band
Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Got time for a story?
Maybe it was ’76, or maybe ’77. I was a guitar player playing banjo in a bluegrass band and I already knew how to hear more than 3 chords. It was late at night at a local bluegrass festival and this guy came up. He had a strong voice and I joined into the group, late though it was. I improvised banjo breaks anticipating the changes and before we parted, he’d penciled his number and asked if I’d be interested in joining a new band. That was how I met Ray Duerr.
Country Rock was still a fresh genre.
Ray was a talented and prolific songwriter. We called ourselves The Ray Duerr Band. We practiced hard – all day Sundays, usually Tuesday and Thursday nights until we were booked those nights. The band members liked each other, we worked collaboratively on each new song, and one thing led to another…
We never turned down a job and played steady gigs. Soon we were selling out the houses where we were regulars.
Then we were selling them out early.
Then we had a Winnebago.
Then we had a Winnebago and a sound truck and a sound team.
Then we had a Winnebago, a sound truck and team, and a light truck and team.
We got signed to an independant label.
We went to Nashville and cut 2 sides, 13 tracks, at CBS/Columbia Records.
We had an experienced engineer.
We toured all over. It was still the days of independent AM radio, and sometimes we would be driving to the next gig and hear our single on the local station. We would pull off on the shoulder to dance, clap, and hug. Those were heady days. Country Rock was dominant on the charts. The Eagles, America, Poco, Pure Prairie League… We had strong original material and great vocal combinations. We knew we going to chart and knew we were dominating. It was an amazing time. You could signal to the board guys when you needed more of yourself in the stage monitor. What crazy coolness that was.
In the middle of it, it never occurred to me that it would run out. A lot of gigs went by and we didn’t get the Breakout Single we needed. Gradually, all the gigs seemed alike. I was lonely, the between-set girls left me feeling empty, my ears were ringing 24/7, my instruments smelled like cigarettes and booze… One day, the Great Tetons called and there was no turning back. I’ll link another song at another time but suffice to say, I got off that ride.
A wedding in Pennsylvania 35+ years later…
Ray Duerr was in poor health, too sick to show. The things we do to ourselves had taken their toll. The rest of us were there because the daughter of one of the band members was getting married. The picker who replaced me on banjo was there, so he played the 5 string and when my turn came, I strapped on a ’39 D-28, stepped up to the center mic, and played and sang Ray’s parts. That night we called ourselves the x-Rays. There was deep emotion in all of us.
We played and people danced, yelling for more at the end of each song. They were dancing with the same enthusiasm we had playing for them. The 6 or 7 of us on stage occasionally high-fived and teared up, and no one but us took note. Some of those same musicians had recorded with me on solo projects, and we played those, too.
Way back then, no one knew how it would all work out.
Some things I learned:
- It doesn’t always matter if you get what you thought you wanted. Friendships, laughter, and a shared history are every bit as important as the prize
- Sometimes, the biggest prize is what you didn’t win
As I mentioned in a different post, I found this music in a mislabeled cardboard box in my barn in 2014. I thought it was lost forever. The oxide had deteriorated but I converted what I could, and that became the impetus for this website. So much great music was played and lost in the 70s. I can’t find a trace of the Ray Duerr Band on YouTube. I have the whole tape from Nashville, but not the Intellectual Property Rights to post it. Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms is public property so I think its okay if I post our arrangement of it here.
If someone from the Ray Duerr family hears this and gives consent, I’ll post the other tracks from the sessions.
Ray Duerr is gone.
Know that you are bound by the same rules. If you make something, share it. Know that what you send out into the Universe comes back tenfold.
Cheers, Ray, wherever you are. I hope your current adventure beckons as eagerly as the best of our audiences.
I love you and thank you for listening,
PS: Damn I loved that quilted shirt, the bellbottom flairs, and those vinyl platform shoes…