A TIP FOR WOULD-BE SONGWRITERS
BY DAN MILLER
June 19, 2006
Over the years I've interviewed dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of songwriters.
I've talked with some of the best.... songwriters like Henry Mancini, Harlan Howard, Ray Stevens, Marvin Hamlisch, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall, Bill Anderson, Roger Miller, Cheryl Wheeler, Matraca Berg, Gene Autry and so many others.
I always like to ask, "where do the songs come from?", or, "what tip can you give to aspiring songwriters?"..... and there's usually one common denominator when it comes to advice....
It's this: "Make sure you always have a pen and paper, or tape recorder, so you won't forget song ideas when they come to you."
It seems every songwriter can relate to the frustration of waking up with a great idea.... but not writing it down.... and then, the next morning, not being able to recall anything about, what surely would have been, a future #1 hit.
With that in mind, one of my favorite songwriting stories came from Bill Anderson, concerning the beautiful country classic "When Two Worlds Collide", which he co-wrote with Roger Miller.
I emailed Bill the other day and asked him to refresh my mind on the circumstances around writing that song.
Here's (part) of what he wrote me back:
"It was around 1960, and Roger and I were on our way to San Antonio, Texas, along with another young singer named Johnny Seay. We were traveling in Roger's Rambler station wagon."
"Somewhere around nine o'clock at night, we got to talking about a hot science fiction movie at the time called "When Worlds Collide."
Roger said that would make a great title for a song.
I insisted that we couldn't use the title of a movie to write a song. So, we thought a bit and came up with "When TWO Worlds Collide."
"We turned the driving over to Johnny Seay, and the two of us climbed into the back of the station wagon with a guitar.
We started composing the song, but we had nothing on which to write the words down and, in those days, of course, no cassette recorder on which to put the melody."
"So, we just sat up all night long singing the song back and forth to one another so that we wouldn't forget it.
We would doze awhile then wake up and sing awhile.
We were determined not to forget this song."
"Finally, we arrived in San Antonio around eight o'clock the following morning, still singing the song.... at the check-in desk, in the elevator, all the way up to the room.
When we got to our room, Roger called a local disc jockey named Neil Merritt and asked him to come over to the Gunter Hotel and bring a tape recorder from the radio station.
We kept singing the song until Neil got there and we safely had it preserved on tape. Only then did we feel secure enough to fall asleep."
Thanks Bill... that's a good story.
Roger Miller recorded "When Two Worlds Collide" in 1961 and it was his first hit.
It later became a big seller (posthumously) for Jim Reeves, and has been recorded and performed by many others.
And, by the way, Bill tells me Neil Merritt (the DJ) later wrote the song "May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose", that was a monster hit for Little Jimmy Dickens.
I wonder what could have inspired him to write such a song?
Could it have been the two young songwriters calling and waking him so early in the morning?