Hark hallelujah, it’s that time of year! Christmas time is full of stories. Our tune, “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues” has a very interesting story of its own.
Back in the spring of 2019, we were in the studio tracking the songs that would become our debut album, Walk that Walk. Upon the completion of our studio session, we were pleased with the music magic we had created. We were able to get seven tunes in the can, but there was one more tune I really wanted to try. We just ran out of time. Regardless, our studio time was outstanding and very productive. Jamie, Josh, Randy, Greg, and Adam totally knocked it out of the park.
I just could not get the other tune out of my mind the whole ride back to the nursing facility where I was living in New Braunfels. Yes, a nursing facility in New Braunfels. We were tracking at Space Rehearsal & Recording, now Space ATX, in Austin. The two are about 45 miles apart. I had to hire wheelchair transportation to get back and forth to the studio. A lot of planning and extra cost went into just getting me back and forth to the studio. Even with that, I knew I somehow had to get all of us back in the studio to track this other tune. I felt it was that special. When I pitched the idea of going back in the studio to track this other tune, there was no hesitation on the guys’ part. I was able to schedule more time in the studio and set up transportation without any problems. Everything falling into place made it feel like this tune was really meant to be.
We made it to the studio and tracked more music magic. “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues” started to breathe life. All that we needed was to track final vocals. Not a problem? I still needed to track final vocals for the Walk that Walk tunes. I figured I would just knock them all out at the same time. Again, giving what all it took me to get back and forth to the studio, I would make the most of each trip.
I made it back in the studio to track final vocals. It quickly became evident that we were going to be doing well just to get through the Walk that Walk tunes. Since they were the priority, and really there were several months before we felt we had to finish a Christmas tune, the final vocals for “You Can’t have Christmas Without The Blues” were put on the back burner. Adam and I decided that we would just get back together sometime in the next several months. Easy enough? Well, this is where ol’ Murphy started making an appearance and the story starts taking a twist.
About a month and a half went by. I sustained a leg injury that would ultimately require two surgeries, a lot of care, and recovery, totaling about two and a half months – including two hospital stays for different surgeries, as well as three stays in two different rehab hospitals for all that care and recovery. It was the first part of October when I discharged from the hospital where I had my main surgery. I had been holding out hope that somehow I would be able to get back into the studio to track the final vocals for “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues.” However, reality was setting in. As part of my recovery, I had to complete 28 days on a sand bed. According to the recovery plan, getting out of bed was out of the question. I could not even get out of bed to just sit in my wheelchair, let alone go anywhere. So the idea of getting out to get back in the studio was just not going to happen. That was in the first part of October. The optimal time to finish up a Christmas tune to have ready for play during the Christmas season had past. Even the window for what we felt was crunch time to finish and release a Christmas tune was quickly closing. Even under all these circumstances, the thought of not being able to share our Christmas magic with you all just did not feel right. I think you all know by now that my fire burns even more brightly when the odds are stacked against me. There just had to be a way.
I touched base with Adam. He was totally aware of the situation. He also knows my drive and determination to overcome what ever is in my way. That is when Adam suggested putting together a mobile recording rig, which he could use to come up to the rehab hospital to track my vocals. That was music to my ears. At that point it seemed inevitable that we were on our way to tracking vocals. Plus, I want to mention that one of my therapists told me about James Cotton spending time there at that very rehab hospital right before he passed away. He told me that Cotton could still blow his harp. He said the sound of Cotton’s harp would fill the facility. So, I felt in a way that we even had Cotton’s mojo on our side.
Let me tell you, Adam deserves many kudos for making this happen. About a week later, after putting in a lot of hard work, he had the mobile rig and everything he needed to record vocals in my room.
Now, in a sand bed, the top half is filled with air and the bottom half is filled with sand. That 92 degree air is continuously pumped through the sand, creating a feeling that your legs are floating. Basically, there is almost no pressure on your legs which is critical for healing major leg surgery. However, it is hot and noisy, both of which you will read play a role in the not-so-optimal conditions for recording vocals. I had to lay flat rotating every two hours from my back to my right side. I was only allowed to raise the head of the bed to 30 degrees for thirty minutes to eat during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Needless to say, I was not real comfortable or well rested.
Adam came in with his mobile rig. He got everything set up, and then we started analyzing the scene to figure out how to make the room as quiet as possible for recording. The obvious was that we would have to turn off the bed air pump. When we did that, the mattress deflated to the frame. That meant that I had to turn onto my right side so I would not put any pressure on my left leg. Then we noticed the air conditioner that was running full blast trying to cool down the room from the hot bed so we turned it off. Now we were set. The room was as quiet as we could get it. I was on my side laying on basically the frame of the bed. Adam positioned the microphone, and we were ready to record.
Not so fast.
The laptop kept crashing. After several attempts to get the computer going, we had to call it. Man. We both worked through all of the odds to make recording vocals happen under the circumstances. It seemed like it only lit Adam’s fire even more. As many of you know, it does not take a lot to light my fire. I am also a realist. Things were not looking like they were in our favor. Adam was a man on a mission though. As he left that day, he said I WILL get this figured out.
Within the week, Adam and I started down the list again of preparing my room to record. We were set for our second try of remotely recording my vocals. The recording program loaded up. Yes! The computer did not crash this time.
Yes, once again overcoming the odds, I ended up tracking vocals on a mobile rig with me on my right side on the metal frame of a sand bed not being able to fully breathe in my room at a rehab hospital. Definitely not optimal conditions for tracking final vocals. Not optimal, but nothing was going to stand in our way from spreading cheer by releasing “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues.” We did it! We squeaked in a December 1, 2019 release. Now you know how special the rest of the story is.
Yes, the story behind You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues is one of overcoming the odds with courage, drive, and determination. However, the ultimate story is everyone coming together. Music is magical. Music makes the world go round. No matter how near or far each of us are, no matter what each of us are facing, no matter what beliefs each of us have, music can and does bring us all together. There is so much joy and cheer when we all come together through music. So today, take a moment to listen. You will hear it too. “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues!”
Peace and Love, Keith
Just in time for Christmas. You can help Jack and the Box keep spreading the news. For as little as a dollar or more if you care to make a donation, you can get your very own electronic copy of You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues on Bandcamp.
Also stop by our Merchandise Store where you can get your very own “You Can’t Have Christmas Without The Blues” T-Shirts, hoodies, and coffee mugs. Any and all purchases and donations will help us keep telling our stories and spreading The Blues. We greatly appreciate you all!