My View of the Seminar Weekend

By Ronnie Dee

First of all, I'd like to address a statement to all of you members who are constantly asking what the LASC can do for you. This is it! Two days with over a dozen of Nashville's publishers, producers, songwriters, reps from BMI, ASCAP and SESAC and other music industry executives who gave up their weekend to come up here for you.

Grand Prize Winner Gene Adams. Photo by Greg Black

These people were there to listen to and critique your songs; they answered questions about songwriting and the music industry and held small discussion sessions to help you out.

Then there was a chance to display your talent for them on the showcase where you could perform your own or somebody else's songs, and if that wasn't enough for your money, there was a dinner and a songwriting contest with over $1,800 in prizes.

LASC President Moffett hands Gene Adams the $1,000 Grand Prize check for 'Ship Soon to Sail.' LASC Secretary Diana Black holds his certificate while Vice President Jean Metcalfe looks on. Photo By Tom Metcalfe

All we can do is give you the opportunity: you have to capitalize on it yourself. if you don't take advantage of it, don't whine to us.

Saturday Morning and Afternoon

It's really tough for me to arise early on a Saturday morning, but I did just that on November 3 to get to the Holiday Inn Downtown before all the doughnuts were gone. I made it all right and had a few cups of some real good coffee before the opening session started.

Jeff Carlton had the floor in the beginning to explain and answer questions about copyrights. l think we could do a whole seminar on copyrights alone. Some tips: Copyright each song individually.

If you register a collection of songs under one copyright number, it would create great difficulties if just one of those songs was published.

Don't be afraid to let your songs be heard. I once offered to help an LASCer with one of his tunes. but he wouldn't let me have a copy of it. l found it rather amusing that he thought l might steal it. I didn't even like it all that much; I was merely trying to help.

Think about it why would anybody want to steal your songs'? Have you had any hits? Have you even had any published? lf you're going to something, wouldn't you try to steal something worthwhile? I don't think anyone I know will write anything comparable to Woody Guthrie, and he had the right attitude. When a friend approached him in California and excitedly warned him that folks in New York were singing his songs, Woody drawled, "Well, hell, what do you think I wrote 'em for?"

Other advice handed out by Tom Casey, Maggie Cavender, Lisa Palas, Tom Long, Kurt Denny, Russ Zavitson, Debbie Hupp, Katherine Dines, Clarence Spalding, et al, was to make sure you are dealing with a reputable publisher by checking on their credentials; be persistent in your efforts to contact a publisher (but don't be obnoxious); make sure your song is as good as you can make it before showing it around (or they won't acknowledge you the next time); don't over demo (you can't hide a bad song with orchestration).

After the morning question-and-answer session broke up, we headed for some more Q&A, but in a more up-close-and-personal setting. A group of writers set up in one room and just down the hall some of the publishers held court so one could ask more specific questions. An intermission was called halfway through so anyone could switch rooms if they desired and the session ended at noon for a lunch break.

Georgia songwriters Ross McCort, left, and Eric Johnson picked up $100 for Third Place overall for 'Dellinger Park.' Photo By Tom Metcalfe

At 1:15 five different critique sessions were held. These seem to be the most popular spots in the program and over two hours were allowed for them.

In the Hunt Room, Charlie Walls and I presided over a most pleasant and productive critique session. Tony Hazelton (writer of "Mama Knows," among others), Andrea Whittaker of Benson Publishing, and Mark Ford of NSAI, made up the panel and did a wonderful job of balancing compliments, advice and criticism so as not to make you want to flee the room in shame and vow never to write another song as long as you live.

One thing all three pointed out with the songs they critiqued was the way amateur writers mix good lines with bad ones. They would take a good line and their eyes would light up as they elaborated on possible succeeding lines or thoughts, discarding the mundane or meaningless lines, and encourage the writer to do the same. Sometimes the writers seemed surprised at the possibilities of their own words and thoughts. The panelists would collaborate by taking some fragmented phrases and build up some intriguing images right before our eyes and cars. Even though it was near the end of the session, their enthusiasm was evident every time they heard something they liked. As a matter of fact, at 3:30 I asked the panel if they were ready to quit and they said no, that they would stick around and do one more. I thought that was a very nice gesture on their part.

As the afternoon's business came to an end, the only negative thing that stood out with me was the trade room. I don't know if everyone didn't show up or the room was too big for what we had, but it didn't appear to be very diverse. Otherwise it was a scintillating day with another night of excitement still ahead.

Saturday Evening

(Plus Bonus Special: "Is That Carpet Lint On My Roast Beef?")

After a short rest, half a football game, and a few beers, it was time to clean up, change clothes and head back to the scene of previous proceedings. All most of us had to do for the rest of the night was relax, eat, drink and applaud. A few of the lucky ones had to put up with sweaty palms for a while because there was a lot of money and prestige on the line in the awards ceremony.

A festive mood prevailed as light conversation carried the early part of the evening and then they brought on the food. It was the usual Holiday Inn fare: chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, two salads and pie. Somewhat bland and nondescript, but quite edible. The highlight of the dinner hour, however, was the roast beef caper.

My wife Donna and I were seated quite by chance at a table near the buffet. When the dinner bell rang we demurred in seeking culinary satisfaction in order to avoid being stampeded by the first wave of diners.

As they started moving through the line, I heard a dull "thud" and turned around just in time to see a six-pound chunk of juicy roast beef gently rocking back and forth on the red carpet. The attendant was momentarily stunned, but quickly and slyly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. As a few of the witnesses gaped in horror, he deftly KICKED (soccer style) the NFL-sized roast UNDER THE TABLE. All that remained was a softball-sized piece of too-rare meat that wouldn't last three minutes. I was mortified. I didn't want chicken. I wanted roast beef!

Well, maybe something like that had happened before, because just about the time I was resigning myself to load up on mashed potatoes and pie, the chef appeared with another sizzling chunk of roast and the evening was saved.

As the last vestiges of pie crust was consumed, Eddie Hager from West Virginia entertained the crowd with a few songs and ended a fine set with last year's contest's second-place winner, "Once Love Goes It's Time to End." Not content with second best, Eddie entered it again this year and, although it won top position in the rock category, it only got an honorable mention in the finals.

Then President Paul Moffett, Vice President Jean Metcalfe and Secretary Diana Black, the folks most responsible for putting on the weekend, began handing out the door prizes (of which I won none) and announcing the contest winners (for which I was ineligible). What was I doing there? A number of folks at our table picked up some prizes as Marian Maxwell and Ron Allgood each got an honorable mention in the contest, and Ron also won a door prize (a framed horse print donated by the artist Joyce Trammell). Top stagehand Tim Lynch had a tape of his song "The Terrible Twos" taken back to Nashville by one of the producers in attendance and, although Tim modestly plays it down, it's something positive. They aren't going to take a song to make you feel good; they're going to take it because it has possibilities. Let's hope for the best, Tim.

In the meantime, a plethora of honorable mention recipients paraded before the throng to pick up their certificates while Greg Black and Tom Metcalfe snapped away. Debbie Tuggle had more pictures taken than an Alix Adams model, and the fine folks from Atlanta collected a basketful of awards. A transplanted Californian took third place and one of the Atlanta contingent captured second, but the top banana came from right here. The LASC'S own "Papa" Gene Adams' "Ship Soon to Sail" took the honors, $1,000 and a beautiful leaded crystal fleur-de-lis trophy.

A personal aside: I was thrilled when Gene Adams won first place with "Ship Soon to Sail" because I fell in love with the song the first time I heard it at one of our regular meeting critique sessions.

Before it was over a lot of us began singing along and I asked Gene for a copy so I could sing it on my own. He kindly obliged (and you'll notice I didn't steal it) and I thank him for it.

All the excitement made me forget about the roast beef. Boy, all you had to do was brush it off a little, heat it up and there was Sunday dinner for eight. Oh, well, it was a heck of a weekend anyway.

See you next year.