Gustav Flaubert, the 19th-century French novelist, once said that talent was nothing but long patience. And, while Tulsa’s Scott Musick showed plenty of musical talent at an early age, the virtue of patience has also served him well.
Take, for instance, a time back in the early ‘70s, when drummer Musick returned to Tulsa after a stint with a hard-working West Coast band called Broken Arrow. He’d decided to enroll in the music program at North Texas State University, which he figured would help him crack the studio-musician scene on the West Coast. But then his friend and former bandmate Danny Timms rolled through town and told him about a new band that was starting up in California.
“He’d gotten to be friends with [Oklahoma City native] Michael Been, and he told me, ‘Hey, we’d better play with this guy. We can probably get a record deal,’” recalls Musick. “So without too much arm-twisting, I went back. And Danny wasn’t with us by then, but sure enough, 10 or 12 years later, we got a record deal.” He laughs. “Nothing to it.”
The band that got the deal was The Call, which became a presence on MTV and radio and in concert halls for the whole of the 1980s. The 10 discs recorded by the group yielded such album-oriented rock favorites as “Let the Day Begin” (later used by Al Gore in his 2000 presidential bid), “The Walls Came Down” and “I Still Believe.”
Then, after his time with The Call had run its course, Musick and Timms reunited as Kris Kristofferson’s touring band. That job, which Musick calls “the favorite gig I ever had,” lasted for four years in the mid-1990s, indirectly leading to the latest milestone in Musick’s career.
“While we were with Kristofferson, we had built a studio in Danny’s guest house,” says Musick. “It sounded great, and Danny thought Kris should record there. So he played Kris a song that we’d recorded at his house; it was ‘Foolish Thangs,’ one of my songs. While Kris was listening to it, Danny said, ‘Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?’
“Kris asked, ‘Whose song is that?’ Danny said, ‘Scott’s.’ Kris looked at me and said, ‘Are you singing that?’ And when I said yes, he said, ‘Well, you’re the one who ought to be making a record!’”
“So now, in less than 20 years,” he concludes, “I’ve gotten it done.”
Musick’s new CD – his first as a solo artist – is the impressive Americana Gold, an eight-song set of solid singer-songwriter tunes, nicely crafted, lyrically strong and presented with subtle, sure-handed authority by Musick and his cohorts, which include Timms and another longtime California friend, guitarist-vocalist Jim Lewin. Tulsa musicians Randy Ess and Alan Ransom are among the disc’s other contributors. In addition to the Musick originals, Lewin contributes the wistfully nostalgic “Olden Days,” and Kristofferson “The Promise,” an exquisitely sad song about the moving on of a loved one.
“I sang that song at my daughter’s wedding, just a little over a year ago, so in that case, it wasn’t all that sad,” notes Musick. “It was just, you know, a letting go, so she can go on to her future.
“When I was with Kris, he played that song every night. It was the only song of the set I didn’t play on; it just didn’t need drums. Danny and Kris played it, and it was beautiful every time.”
As Musick implies, Americana Gold was recorded over a period of time, mostly utilizing Lewin’s studio in Santa Cruz, California, as well as the Penthouse, Musick’s own Tulsa operation. And now that the record’s done, he knows that some of The Call’s still-active fan base may be surprised by its acoustic approach.
“I’d imagine that will happen, because more people relate me to a rock ‘n’ roll band,” he muses. “It’s definitely a departure from that kind of sound. There hasn’t been too much said about it yet, but there’s been a little more notice since The Call played a couple of reunion shows in California a few weeks ago. A few people have mentioned it, but not too many have heard it, because it hasn’t come out yet.” (At this writing, a June release was planned.)
Musick has been road-testing the material for a while, however, in Tulsa and elsewhere. He’s done the local gigs with his old partner Timms, who’s originally from San Pedro, Calif., moving to the Tulsa area a few years after Musick returned from the West Coast. Timms has been active on the local scene ever since, both with and without Musick.
“Danny and I started doing a duo probably two years ago, and when we’d play a pub or whatever, we’d do an acoustic set of our own songs,” he says. “That’s when I first started singing and playing guitar around here, and it went really, really well. We also play as a trio with [guitarist] Steve Hickerson: Danny, Doc and Scott. That’s a good band, really fun, and hopefully we’ll be doing more of that.
“Other than the acoustic sets with Danny at gigs around town here, I did the debut of Scott Musick songs in California with Jim Lewin. We did some Jim songs and some Scott songs at a show in Monterey and a show in Corralitos, which is just outside Santa Cruz. We packed that place, the Corralitos Cultural Event Center. It was standing room only. If they were into culture, they had to have us, of course,” he adds with another laugh.
Santa Cruz, as The Call aficionados know, is the home of that band, and Musick spent nearly three decades as a part of the area’s music scene. He’d moved to California in 1970, at the age of 17, after graduating from Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa, making the trip with fellow Edison musician David Tanner.
“People still mention our high school band, Thunder and Lighnin’,” he says. “We were all in the Edison stage band, the Screaming Eagles, and we started a rock band on the side. David Tanner played electric bass and occasional piano, and he was the lead singer. It was pretty much all his fault; he got everybody together. Pat ‘Taco’ Ryan played sax, and Tuck Andress [later of the internationally known jazz act Tuck & Patti] was the guitarist. He just blew me away.”
And while he would go on to achieve his greatest fame as a rock drummer, the seeds for Americana Gold and Musick’s future as a vocalist were probably sown in those long-ago high school days.
“I sang lead on a couple of songs with Thunder and Lightnin’, and they were kind of country-sounding songs by the Beatles: ‘What Goes On’ and, maybe, ‘Act Naturally,’” he recalls.
Decades later, Americana Gold tracks like “Foolish Thangs” and “Blue Highway” echo the countrified elements of those tunes, bringing Musick, in a way, full circle. And while his new CD can been seen as a reflection of his musical journey, it’s also a harbinger of the way he’d like his musical future to unfold.
“I hope that it gets me started playing my own songs more, and being a bit of a front man,” he says of the disc. “That’s what I like doing these days. I still have a good time playing drums in other people’s bands – I play a lot with a band called Easy Street, which is a really fun party band – but I get a kick out of singing songs and playing guitar. Now, I’m just more into the acoustic approach.”