Tag Archives: Local 257

Local 257 Musician's Emergency Relief Fund

Local 257 Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund Receives More Than $28,000 in Donations

Jeannie Seely and Bill Anderson

The third annual Dottie West Birthday Bash recently raised more than $28,500 for the Nashville Musicians Association Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund. The event, hosted by 52-year member of the Grand Ole Opry Jeannie Seely, included musical performances by Seely and Local 257 members Tim Atwood, Jon Randall Stewart, Buddy Cannon, Michele Capps, and Danny Davis.

In addition to celebrating Dottie West’s birthday and honoring her, the event also honors a musician or artist who has made an indelible impact on country music.

This year the event honored Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson.

Nashville Musicians Association Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund helps Local 257 members in financial need due to medical and emergency issues that prevent them from working.

Donations to the Local 257 Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund can be made online at www.nashvillemusicians.org.

Joint Venture Agreement

Are You Using the AFM Joint Venture Agreement to Protect your Intellectual Property?

dave pomeroyby Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

How does it work?

The AFM Joint Venture Agreement is designed for self-contained bands who want to document their recordings and business relationship with a no-cost contract that protects everyone involved. For every successful band, there are many more who don’t make it, and loose ends can come back to haunt you. When you are in your creative and exploratory mode, it’s not always easy to talk business with collaborators. But at some point, it is important to make sure you are all on the same page. A handshake agreement is great until it doesn’t work, and then it really doesn’t work! Along with completing the process of publishing your original tunes, you need to protect the intellectual property rights of your musical performances as well.

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Community Engagement Is Essential to Our Mission

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

dave pomeroyIn these complex times, it is more important than ever for all musicians and concerned citizens to remain engaged in our communities—and if possible, take things up a notch. We live in a world where so many people are hiding behind cell phones and iPads that face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art. If you are on social media at all, it’s hard not to notice that people will say things to each other on that platform that they would never say to anyone in person. This disconnect is a real problem in our society, and as technology marches on, it is up to those of us who care about each other to let voices of reason be heard and not drowned out by the background noise that surrounds us every day. What can we do to tear down this imaginary wall between us?

Let There Be Music

There was a time when music was the only entertainment option available. Today there is a glut of “entertainment” options, yet music survives as the universal language and a positive force in the universe. It has the power to unite, heal, and bring out the deepest and most real emotions that we have as humans. The self-expression and emotional release that musicians experience through playing is one of the things that is easy to take for granted, but its net effect can be bigger than we realize. Music is a subtle but effective way to get a message across that would get lost if it was just another rant on Facebook. Great music brings people together in many different ways, all around the world. The result is enjoyment and release, and the realization that we may have more in common than we realize. Many AFM members are also teachers and mentors, and are passing along the precious gift of music to the next generation.

It Takes a Village

In my time as president of AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN), we have made an effort to be proactive members of our city and community in every way possible. For example, our rehearsal hall is not only used by members who are rehearsing, auditioning, or collaborating, it is the setting for a wide variety of activities. We hold our quarterly member meetings there, a weekly AA meeting, a monthly songwriter/musician jam, music therapy workshops for military veterans, networking events, and much more.

We recently hosted a “Musicians’ Guide to Buying a Home” seminar that was very much appreciated by our members who are beginning that process. We have hosted local neighborhood association meetings and have had memorial services and weddings in that space as well. We also open up our boardroom for our members who need to take a business meeting, write a song, or whatever helps them take care of their business.

We see our building as a community space. We are not in an ivory tower; our building is a living, breathing center of creativity and common goals that demonstrates what we do and what we stand for.

Solidarity Is Trending

I spend a lot of time and energy debunking the many myths of what a union does and how we do it. The many “thug” jokes I have endured are almost funny, but not really. That stereotype is not who we are or how we do things. Although an arts union has some unique qualities, we have much more in common with other labor unions than we have differences. It’s all about respect for workers. After many years of little or no interaction with local labor organizations and the AFL-CIO, we have increased our participation and involvement with our fellow unions. They are always glad to see us, and it gives us valuable perspective to learn more about what the labor movement is all about. Even though you may love what you do as a musician, you still deserve to be paid appropriately for what you do. There is no shame in standing up for yourself, in fact it is a necessary step in creating solidarity among our members.

There is no other organization looking out for professional musicians. It is an honor to serve and protect our members from what can be a very unscrupulous business. The AFM has your back and we are your first—and often last—line of defense. Let us help you help yourself. That’s what we are here for.

2018 Brings Group Health Insurance Plan and New Members to Local 257

Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy (left) worked out a deal with RJ Stillwell of Sound Healthcare to offer reduced rate health insurance to Local 257 members who live in Tennessee.

In December, AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN), working with longtime health insurance advocate RJ Stillwell and his company Sound Healthcare, introduced three Blue Cross Blue Shield group health insurance plans available to members. The plans are all ACA compliant—one HSA qualified bronze plan and two silver plans.

“The rates are very competitive and much better than most options out there,” says Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy. “This is something we have been discussing and working on for a long time. We are very excited it has finally come to fruition.”

This unique and exclusive plan is only available to Local 257 members in good standing who live in Tennessee. Because the Blue Cross Blue Shield network we are using is a nationwide PPO (Blue Network P), it will be especially helpful for touring musicians, as many marketplace ACA plans do not have coverage outside your local area, unless you have a life-threatening emergency.

Local 257 is also offering a reduced rate to join or reactivate during the membership drive in progress now through the end of March 2018. Currently, new and returning members can waive the local and Federation initiation and reinstatement fees when joining Local 257.

The combination of the 2018 membership drive and the new health care plan has resulted in a dramatic increase in member applications since the announcement in mid-November, with more than 100 new members already signed up. This member benefit is one more tangible thing that the Nashville Musicians Association offers its members. For many who have been on the fence about joining in the past, this is already proving to be the tipping point to finally join the AFM.

As our membership numbers increase, so does our collective voice, and this creates the rising tide that lifts all boats. Solidarity rules!

Reggie Young

American Original: The Storied Career of Reggie Young

Reggie Young

Reggie Young of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) with his 1957 Stratocaster at Jackson Highway Studio, Florence, Alabama.

Few session musicians can lay claim to the deep roots of Reggie Young. Among guitarists, he is revered. His instinct for phrasing has consistently rendered artful licks mimicked by hundreds of other players. The now 80-year-old musician of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) crafted some of the most famous guitar riffs in history. Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” James Carr’s “Dark End of the Street,” Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) member Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” Dusty Springfield’s classic “Son of a Preacher Man,” and Elvis Presley’s comeback hit, “Suspicious Minds.” The list goes on.

In the 1960s and early 1970s Young and the rhythm ensemble known as the Memphis Boys were at the heart of the American Sound Studio at 827 Thomas Street in Memphis. What followed in that five-year period, between 1967 and 1972, was an unparalleled run of more than 120 Top 40 hits.

“We thought it was normal,” Young says, “but it was extraordinary. The talent of everybody combined contributed to the success.” Session work would take Young from Memphis to Nashville and corridors along the way at FAME Studio, Muscle Shoals Records, Stax Records, and Royal Studios. The work led to major tours around the country and Europe and as an opening act, witnessing Beatlemania. “I feel like I was in the middle of the peak of the session world as a studio player.” Of those days, he says, “It was rewarding. There was a lot of camaraderie.”

The story of Reggie Young may well be the story of Southern soul music. He was born in Caruthersville, Missouri, in 1936, and raised in Osceola, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. His father played Hawaiian guitar—old music like “Sweet Lelani,” Young recalls—and bought him a National flat top when he was 14 years old. Young was fueled by the Delta blues, as well as Django Reinhardt and B.B. King. Most of his musical education came by way of radio, inspired by the Chet Atkins and Jerry Byrd show, Two Guitars, which aired on the now famous WSM radio out of Nashville.

By 1955, Young got his first break with Eddie Bond and the Stompers, which recorded the rockabilly song, “Rockin’ Daddy.” The song charted quickly and Mercury Records signed the band to a deal. A local disc jockey promoting tours hired them to join a tour that included Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, and Roy Orbison.

In 1959, Young was working at Royal Studios cutting records, expanding his range with saxophonist Ace Cannon, trumpeter and bandleader Willie Mitchell, and drummer Al Jackson. Young wrote several instrumentals with Mitchell, who would later produce Al Green’s most successful albums. Young recalls playing the Plantation Inn in West Memphis with B.B. King’s band. “A white guy couldn’t sit in with that band. The crowd wouldn’t go for it. So, I’d do it, but I’d be behind the curtain,” he says.

Young says, “You could sell instrumentals in those days.” He was just practicing on his old ’59 Gibson when, he says, “I tuned the guitar down two whole steps, striking the loose strings with a pencil in a rocking rhythm. The strings were heavier back then and it sounded real good when I played a shuffle beat.” It was an old jazz trick the drummer would use with his sticks on the upright bass. The record was signed and the tune “Smokie Part 2” became the number one R&B hit and rose to number 17 on the pop charts. Instrumentals would set the standard for the label for several years and Billboard voted Bill Black’s Combo the number one instrumental band from 1960 to 1962.

Young was drafted into the Army in 1960 and served for almost two years at Kagnew Station in Ethiopia. When he returned, “Smokie” was still on the charts. Fortunately, Young says, “The studio gave us a choice of paying us scale or letting us have a piece of the record. We all took a cut except for the saxophone player. He got scale—$41.25—and we made a lot of money.”

In between sessions, Young often traveled to New York City to work for Atlantic Records, adding guitar to releases by R&B greats Don Covay and Solomon Burke. Because of their success putting out smash hits, Bill Black’s Combo got an offer to be an opening act for the first American tour of The Beatles. Thirty days in the states and 30 days in Europe. It was in 1964 and “A Hard Day’s Night” was a hit.

At the time, Young says, “The union had a trade agreement with England and we were the trade band for The Beatles. In Europe, we backed up The Ronettes, who had the hit, ‘Be My Baby.’ Lulu was there, and The Kinks.” The tour yielded great music, long jam sessions, and new musical partnerships. Young became good friends with George Harrison. On the second leg of the tour, he met a 20-something Eric Clapton (then a member of the Yardbirds). “He was a blues player and I was too, so we hit it off pretty good. We learned from each other,” Young says.

In 1967, Young joined the house band of guitarist and producer Chips Moman (of Stax Records fame) as part of The Memphis Boys. at American Sound Studio. With Young on guitar and fellow Local 257 members Gene Chrisman on drums, Bobby Wood and Bobby Emmons on piano and organ, and Mike Leech and Tommy Cogbill alternating on bass, they ushered in waves of rock and roll, soul, and early R&B. In fact, it was one of the few studio bands at the time to play both pop music and R&B.

Many musical collaborations would change, seemingly overnight, when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis April 4, 1968, according to Young. Big acts, like Aretha Franklin, canceled bookings at American Sound Studio and worse—although musicians had long integrated—Young felt in the aftermath, even good friends became distant.

Hi Records and American Sound Studio came to an end, and Young moved on to Nashville in 1972, where he quickly became an integral member of the Nashville studio scene, playing with J. J. Cale, Cat Stevens, George Strait of Local 433 (Austin, TX), Paul Simon of Local 802 (New York City), and Merle Haggard, among others. In 2014, Young contributed to the album, The Breeze: An Appreciation of J. J. Cale, produced by Eric Clapton and Simon Climie.

In the mid 1980s, Young hit the road with The Highway Men, which comprised Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson of Local 433, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson of Local 257. He says, “It scared me at first to leave my main job, doing studio work. But we’d go out in fall and springtime, all over the world for five years.” Young remembers each star trying to outdo the other on stage at night. He says, “Everybody had a bus. It looked like the Ringling Bros. Circus.”

Of his distinctive sound, his wife, Jenny—a classically trained cellist and member of Local 257—says, “It’s his tone; even at 80, he has beautiful tone.” Young adds, “I was never trying to be somebody else.” Eric Clapton famously singled out Young in his autobiography as one of the best guitar players he’d ever heard.

Earlier this year, the musician who was responsible for scores of hits by other artists finally recorded his first solo record, Forever Young. In his golden years, the master of session work finally found time to record his own solos. Everyone who has heard the classic songs he made famous over a 60-year career will recognize the soulful, lyrical strains of Young’s genius.

Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz: Young Talent Now Performs with Her Heroes

At age 26, Sarah Jarosz now regularly performs with her childhood influences. As a solo artist, the Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member took home two 2017 Grammy Awards from her fourth full-length album Undercurrent, released in 2016. It was also selected International Folk Music Album of the Year.

Growing up in the Austin suburb of Wimberly, Texas, Sarah Jarosz frequently attended live shows with her family. “I was definitely affected by the Austin music scene,” she says. “Basically, for as long as I can remember, my parents would take me into Austin to see live music pretty much every weekend.”

As a youngster Jarosz began playing piano, then added mandolin at age 10. Later she picked up guitar, clawhammer banjo, and octave mandolin. One big childhood influence was the band Nickel Creek—siblings Sean and Sara Watkins of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and Chris Thile of Local 257—who were just kids themselves when Jarosz began following them.

“Nickel Creek was huge for me. Right around the time I was getting into mandolin I saw their music videos on CMT and I remember thinking that there are cool young people doing this, too,” she says.

Jarosz says that one reason she is a proud union member is because of the sense of community the union provides. “Part of why I fell in love with music is because, when I was 10 years old, I found a weekly bluegrass jam and fell in love with the community of that. Any time you have a chance to continue this community experience with something like the union, it’s super positive for everyone involved.”

In addition, she says, “I feel like we have a support system, especially as hard as it is being a touring musician. I think that’s really important for people who do what we do.”

Doors Opening at Telluride

By age 12 Jarosz was performing regularly at local events. In 2007, she took on her biggest gig to date: the Telluride Music Festival in Colorado. That’s where, at age 16, she met producer Gary Paczosa, who regularly works with people like Local 257 members Chris Thile, Gillian Welch, Dolly Parton, and Alison Krauss. Impressed with Jarosz, he invited her to visit his Nashville studio.

“I was definitely super green in the studio,” recalls Jarosz. “We did some low-key, no pressure demos. It was my first time laying things down solo.”

The following spring, Jarosz signed a record deal with Sugar Hill and began working with Paczosa on her first album, Song Up in Her Head, released in 2009. With that came her first opportunity to record with some of the musicians she’d been watching for years at festivals. Guest appearances included Thile, Stuart Duncan, and Jerry Douglas of Local 257. 

“Gary always encouraged me, from the very beginning, to reach for the stars, and ask the best people we could think of to be part of it,” says Jarosz. “I think working with him, those musicians realized I was taking it seriously.


“One of the things that was so exciting as a young musician was having the opportunity to attend music festivals during the summer break from school, and not only seeing many of my musical heroes perform live, but often times getting to jam with them backstage or sit in during their sets,” she says. “Thinking back on it, I am so thankful to all of those people for being so generous with their time and wisdom to contribute their musical genius to my albums over the years, especially the first one. It was a dream come true for those musicians to believe in me at such an early age.”

After high school, Jarosz headed straight to the New England Conservatory where she balanced studying and her career while earning a degree in Contemporary Improvisation. “It was tough, especially in my sophomore year when I was working on my second record, Follow Me Down,” she says. “I wanted to have the experience of moving to a new city and doing the college thing. I think it was important for me to have the time and the ‘buffer’ of not going directly on the road after high school.”

“Psychologically, it had a positive impact on my life, and maybe even the longevity of my career,” she explains. “Musically, it exposed me to different styles that I hadn’t been exposed to before—a lot of jazz and free improvisation, and more in-depth work on my own music. Those musical experiences expanded my ear and prepared me for the different musical situations that I find myself in [now]. To be thrown into something completely different makes you look differently at what you do.”

Meanwhile, the acoustic world was already taking note of her talent. She received a Grammy nomination for “Mansinneedof” off her very first album. Her third album, Build Me Up from Bones, was nominated Best Folk Album and its title track was nominated Best American Roots Song in 2014. The Americana Music Association’s American Music Honors & Awards nominated her for Emerging Artist of the Year (2010) and Instrumentalist of the Year (2011). In 2012, her song “Come Around” was nominated Americana Music Association Song of the Year.

Upon graduation in 2013, it was a relief to finally be free to focus on music. “Now I feel fully settled into my life and I am sort of honing in on what I want to do as a musician,” she says. As she’s matured and relaxed into her true musical self, she says Undercurrent, takes a fresh approach compared to her previous albums, which relied heavily on her instrumental virtuosity.

Paring Down

“The longer I do this, the more I think that simple is sometimes better and I don’t need to prove my musicianship within the songs themselves,” she says. “Undercurrent is the simplest album both in terms of songs and the way it was recorded. I’m trying to get closer to the ‘marrow’ of the song.”

One of Jarosz’s greatest learning experiences has been the opportunity to work with Prairie Home Companion, first with Garrison Keillor’s The America the Beautiful—Prairie Home Companion show tour and now with Chris Thile’s weekly broadcast.

“It’s been a really great outlet to sing harmony on this person’s song or play a little mandolin to back up an arrangement. It forces me to be a listener in a more supportive way. I’ve learned such great lessons from having the opportunity to do that,” she says.

Another project that got its start a couple years ago is a trio she formed with fiddler-singer Sara Watkins (from Nickel Creek) and singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan of Local 802 (New York City). During an impromptu opening set they did for the Punch Brothers at the 2014 Telluride Festival something clicked and the musicians made it a priority to get together again.

This summer the band they formed, I’m With Her, is doing a series of concerts as part of the American Acoustic tour with the Punch Brothers. The trio of ladies is somewhat of an anomaly in the acoustic world. “In some festival settings there are a lot of dudes in the line-up,” says Jarosz, though they do not dwell on the negative energy of that reality. “I know that Sara and Aoife feel the same way. If you are the best at what you do, are genuine to yourself, and do it long enough, the cream will rise to the top. Hopefully, as time goes on, those [gender] lines will continue to blur.”

“I’m really excited about this project with Aoife and Sara, and I feel like it will play a bigger role in my life and career over the next couple years,” she says. The group released its first original song, “Little Lies,” in July.

“I’m happy to say that some of my biggest influences I now consider friends. They were heroes, and then mentors, especially Chris. He’s put in so much time to teach me over the years. Now I have the opportunity to work with him on Prairie Home Companion. It’s kind of cool to look over the last 15 years and see that progression,” she says.

“I think it’s really kind of special within the acoustic scene, and I know that Chris had that as well with people like Belá Fleck and Jerry Douglas [both members of Local 257] mentoring him from an early age,” she says. “You are inclined to do that for younger people who are coming up after you.”

Just 10 years into her career, Jarosz can already name dozens of big name collaborators. This summer Jarosz will also be doing shows with Mary Chapin Carpenter of Local 161-710 (Atlanta, GA).

“The nice thing about working with Sara and Aoife is that we tend to have similar instincts when it comes to music, so working on a song we all sort of fall into the same way musically. It’s also nice to work with someone who doesn’t think the same way. That’s happened a lot on Prairie Home Companion where we are working out other peoples’ songs and seeing other approaches. Sometimes that can lead to really beautiful things because it’s not necessarily the obvious outcome. It’s important to put yourself in musical situations where you have a good balance of both,” she says.

Jarosz advises young people considering a career in the acoustic world to follow that path. “Growing up, if I was scared to sit down and jam with someone like Chris Thile, or any of my heroes, ultimately, I got the nerve to do it and it was always rewarding. Finding those situations and embracing them makes you grow as a young musician, even if they scare you a little bit. If you are constantly doing things within your comfort zone, you are not going to grow,” she says. “I attribute a lot of the work I’ve done to having great heroes to look up to.”

She concludes, “Also, finding people you love to play music with and finding ways to keep it fun is all important for a long-lasting career and love of music.”

help us, help you

Help Us, Help You

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

help us, help youMost musicians don’t fit the stereotypes that some people like to place on us. We are hard-working, productive members of society who provide a soundtrack to the lives of those who may not know what it means to be creative or to try to and make a living in the arts. Many of us are involved in our community as teachers, volunteers, and mentors to the musicians of the future. Musicians often have more obstacles to overcome than the average worker could imagine—yet, somehow we persevere.

The fact that we love to play should never be an obstacle to taking care of business. The major reason why the AFM exists is to help you navigate through the challenges of a constantly changing music industry.

I come from a family of nonmusicians, but I fell in love with the bass at age 10. My love for playing and determination to succeed have helped make many of my childhood dreams come true and I am very grateful for that. I only knew one person in Nashville when I moved there at age 21. I joined AFM Local 257, which helped me connect the dots and have a successful career. My first gigs were as a touring musician. Then I made a gradual transition into studio work, as well as writing, producing, and releasing my own musical projects. For years, my dad would ask, “Are they paying you, son?” And the main reason I could say to him, “Yes, they are,” was because of the AFM.

As I got more involved in my local, I began to see the administrative side of the equation, and recognized the importance of getting employers to sign AFM Agreements in advance of a session or engagement. Nothing is more effective than a bandleader, session leader, or sideman asking that all-important question, “Is this a union session?” and helping to get a signatory agreement in place before the gig happens. Once the gig is over, it is much more difficult to get people to take responsibility for doing things the right way.

Our job is to arm players with the right information, and to help explain to employers that an AFM contract protects everyone involved. For example, when a record is used in a TV show, film, or commercial, the new use payment comes from the third party that is using the recording, and not the original employer. Otherwise, it becomes a game of cat and mouse—the employer hopes the musicians don’t find out about the new use, and the musicians can do little but complain and try to get a piece of the license fee. Without an AFM contract, the chances of that happening are almost nil.

Unfortunately, at almost every turn, there are unscrupulous employers who will try to take advantage of musicians who take them at their word. When these people sign an AFM agreement—whether or not they ever intended to follow through—we have the leverage to make it right. I recently concluded a 4 1/2-year quest to get musicians paid for reruns of TV shows done under an AFM Agreement more than 20 years ago. I have been chasing another deadbeat musician/producer for nearly 10 years, and have recovered more than 25% of what is due, with more coming.

This is all because of the legal protections our contracts give musicians who do AFM work. If these projects had not been done under AFM agreements, I would not have been able to get the musicians involved paid for their work. This has not been easy, but it is important to stand up for treating musicians with respect.

Here’s the bottom line: for 120 years the AFM has been looking out for musicians. Help us, help you, and let’s work together to make things right. If we don’t have your back, who does?

Brent Mason

Behind the Scenes with One of Nashville’s Most In-Demand Players: Brent Mason

Brent-Mason-by-Marc-Quigley-PRS-GuitarsOne of the most in-demand Nashville session guitarists of the past 30 years, Brent Mason of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) advises young players who would like to become a part of the Nashville music scene to do as he did: Come to Nashville, hang around, pay your dues, and learn the ropes from today’s hot players.

A self-taught guitarist, Mason grew up playing in a family band with his parents and brother Randy, a drummer. As a youngster, he says he was always reading liner notes to find out who the instrumental heroes were who accompanied the named artist on his records. He hoped to join their ranks one day.

Eager to bring home a steady paycheck and save money, Mason took a job in a toolbox factory when he finished high school. One day he put a rivet through his thumb and realized that, if he stayed in the factory, he might lose his chance to use his natural talent.

Fortunately, his mom was already on it. She always knew her son’s future was in Nashville and had connected him with steel guitarist and Local 257 member Paul Franklin. After hearing a recording of Mason, Franklin offered to introduce Mason to the Nashville music scene.

Arriving in Nashville, Mason was suddenly thrust into a world where he was meeting his liner-note heroes face to face. “I was a nervous wreck,” he says. “I was around all these guys who were playing on records, names like renowned session drummer Larrie Londin and bassist David Hungate. In my eyes, they were stars; when I was around them, I had butterflies. Truth is, they were nice and they could see a musician’s talent and potential from the first few notes.”

One of the most important things Mason learned from the session players is the importance of the union and union contracts. “Pandemonium would occur if things weren’t run through the union,” he says. “Like all unions, there’s strength in numbers. It sets a precedent for pay, a scale. Somebody trying to do it alone could be quickly taken advantage of.”

“The pension is something I’m really happy about. I’m 57 now and I’ve got a pretty good pension,” says the 35-year AFM member who adds that he’s also benefitted from the Special Payments and AFM SAG-AFTRA funds. “They can tally up what you’ve played on only by pulling union contracts.”

“If a guy just hands you $100 when you play on something, then later you find out it sold a hundred million records, there’s no proof you played on it,” he says. “Musicians need to be respected and compensated for their playing and intellectual contributions to songs. We want to know that our history of work is well documented and compensated fairly in retirement.”

A couple years after arriving in Nashville, Franklin’s brother-in-law, Gregg Galbraith of Local 257, helped Mason land a steady gig at The Stage Coach Lounge honky-tonk with the Don Kelley Band. For the next few years, Mason paid his dues, gigging until the early morning hours, then often heading out to Music Row around 8:30 a.m. for his growing session work, sometimes followed by a co-writing at the Monk Family Music Group where he
also worked as a songwriter.

“It was kind of an ambiguous time for me. It was starting to wear me out,” he recalls. That’s when Chet Atkins called him up. “He said, ‘I’m going to come tomorrow night to hear you play and I’m bringing George Benson. I was nervous, not only because they were going to show up, but also because it was a pretty dangerous redneck bar!”

“But, I thought it was a chance. When I looked over and saw they were digging it, that kind of calmed me down,” says Mason, who got his big break shortly thereafter when Atkins phoned him and said, “I’d like you to be on my record on a song with Mark Knopfler.”

The album, Stay Tuned, was a compilation featuring many guitar players. “I remember going into the record store when it came out to see if my name was on it. I thought I would sneak and open the wrapper,” says Mason. The staff was on to him and kicked the 27-year-old out, doubting his claim of being on the record.

Brent-Mason-Marc-Quigley,-PRS-GuitarsEager to be discovered, Mason put everything he had into every job. Working as a songwriter, he frequently recorded demos. “I knew the recording would get pitched to the artist and the producer; they would say, ‘Who’s playing guitar on it? We need him on this,’” says Mason.

The strategy paid off when Keith Whitley decided to cut Mason’s song, “Heartbreak Highway,” and requested Mason play guitar on it. “That was Whitley’s last album [I Wonder Do You Think of Me]; he passed away before it was released in 1989. The album became legendary, and everybody started calling me,” says Mason.

Aside from always putting his best foot forward, he also credits his success to timing. “At the time, the studios were all running the instruments direct. It was very pristine, with no amps,” he says. “While Dwight Yoakam was already doing the live roadhouse kind of honky-tonk music on the West Coast, they weren’t really doing it in Nashville. We—Glenn Worf, John Jarvis, Lonnie Wilson, and myself, just to name a few—were sort of pioneers of that sound. I drug my smokey, buzzy, Stagecoach Lounge Fender amp to the studio to record with.”

Among the earliest sessions Mason recorded in that way was the very first Brooks & Dunn album. “It was like an evolution of music—rock and roadhouse, rather than urban cowboy,” says Mason. “Alan Jackson followed. His songs are a lot of my Fender Telecaster. I gained a lot of fans through Jackson’s stuff.”

By the 1990s, Mason was working around 23 sessions a week. To date, he has played on well over a thousand records and is a 12-time winner of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Guitarist of the Year Award and two-time winner of the CMA Musician of the Year Award. Among the long list of artists that Mason has recorded with are country legends like Josh Turner, Dolly Parton, Travis Tritt, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Shelby Lynne, Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, and Trisha Yearwood of Local 257; George Jones; Merle Haggard; Willie Nelson of Local 433 (Austin, TX); plus artists in other genres such as Alabama, Natalie Cole, and Neil Diamond of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA).

In addition, Mason has a catalog of more than 100 original instrumentals heard regularly on television, in movies, and on commercials. He’s played on many movie soundtracks, including A Few Good Men, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, and Indecent Proposal.

One of the things Mason loves most about session work, particularly in Nashville, is the creativity involved. “In Nashville there are a lot of creative juices in the studio; musicians throw out their ideas for what are often just shells of songs,” he explains. “In L.A. or New York all the arrangements are pretty much written out for you, but in Nashville we sometimes don’t know what we are going to play until we show up in the studio. I really love to be part of the creation of a song.”

He also welcomes the variety in session work. “You may do one thing for Shania Twain, but it’s going to be different when you go in for George Strait. It’s fun to have that challenge. There is an art to being a chameleon. When you walk out of the studio, you want to leave the impression that you’ve played that style of music since you were five years old,” he says. “You try to leave them with their jaws dropping and thinking they couldn’t have gotten a better part.”

Mason says he often brings a whole arsenal of guitars to the studio. “If we don’t have the luxury of hearing the stuff before we get there, I’ll bring the whole kit and caboodle—20 to 30 different guitars—a couple Fender guitars: Stratocasters; some PRS guitars—a baritone; some Gibsons—a Les Paul, a 335. You may run into something where you want a hollow-body sound, so a Gretsch with a Bigsby. I’ll bring a Rickenbacker, a 12-string, and maybe a sitar.”

Mason says the industry has changed fundamentally in the years he’s done session work. “Moving from analog to digital has flipped it over sideways. Music is done a lot more expediently now. You don’t have to slave over it and play something just right. Give them a bunch of takes and they’ll put it together. It’s endless what you can do now by manipulating the music with software such as Pro Tools and Nuendo; you can even change the key of the song without changing the tempo.”

It also makes music more accessible, he continues, “Somebody can sit in their living room and play an amazing guitar solo, or write something, and the whole world can see it. The kid in the middle of Iowa can become a star, and rightly so. On the professional level, somebody can send me a track from London or Brazil, and I can play on it, and one of the top musicians in L.A. can be on it, then somebody from Cuba can be on it. We are all playing ‘together,’ but we didn’t ever look anybody in the face. While there are good things about that, I’m always looking for the human element of playing off each other.”

Another benefit is having more time to create the music. “I can take the time to do the best solo that I can do, while back in the old days, we only had like 15 or 30 minutes to get the solo and move on,” he says. “The drawback is that the music can be manipulated so much that somebody can ‘play god’ with it and it becomes fairly mechanical, stagnant, when you can hear the hard tuning.”

“I never thought music was about perfection. If you took Ray Charles and tuned him up, would that be Ray Charles anymore? Would that be soul music? How did The Beatles sound like they did? By not making it perfect; it was a time of invention,” he explains.

Though the industry has changed, and there may be less work, Mason says that the best way to become a Nashville session player remains the same. “Hang out; come into a session and watch. Be a good listener and learn how Nashville works. Be friendly and not arrogant. Find someone you can hang out with, but don’t be too aggressive. Be patient and persevere. Find out what equipment guys are using to get a certain sound, and learn all the tricks of the trade firsthand.”

Though Mason is far from retirement, he says that he feels secure enough with his AFM pension that he can relax and focus more on teaching and creating some of his own music. “I’m a pretty good example of what the union can do for a guy—taking the pressure off him as he gets older,” he adds.

It’s surprising that one of the most recorded guitarists of all time has only done a couple solo projects. His first album, Hot Wired (1997), was nominated for a Grammy. In 2006, he released the jazz and Western swing album Smokin’ Section with his brother Randy, also a member of Local 257. Mason will finally find time to begin work this fall on a second solo instrumental album.

Lately, he also enjoys sharing his knowledge with the next generation through teaching clinics. “I’m able to have a little more fun now, rather than working myself to death!” he says.

Local 257 All Stars a Hit at Nashville Summer NAMM

The National Association of Music Manufacturers (NAMM) held its summer trade show at Nashville’s Music City Center in July. NAMM, comprised of 9,200 member companies from 99 countries, is no small venue, and there were almost 500 exhibitors, 1,600 brands of instruments and accessories, and talent beyond belief. This year more than 13,000 people attended, including more than 500 Nashville Musicians Association Local 257 (Nashville, TN) members. Saturday July 11, NAMM opened its doors to musicians, songwriters, and sound and recording professionals during its Music Industry Day.


Local 257 NAMM booth with Danny Gottlieb, Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy, Membership Coordinator Rachel Mowl, International Musician Managing Editor Antoinette Follett, Bob Popyk, and Beth Gottlieb.

One of the highlights of the show was hearing the “Local 257 All-Stars,” a group AFM Executive Board Member and Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy put together for the NAMM Top 100 Dealers Awards program. The group consisted of Pomeroy on bass, super drummer Steve Turner, cool sax man Denis Solee, funky keyboardist Will Barrow, and versatile guitar and harmonica stylist Pat Bergeson, who was invited to Nashville many years ago by Chet Atkins to play in his band. Pomeroy is a kick-ass player himself and the group  rocked. The special guest star was Local 257 member Duane Eddy, who had a string of hits in the late ’50s (“Rebel Rouser,” “Movin’ n’ Groovin’,” “Peter Gunn”), and still plays great to this day. The dealers loved it, and the Local 257 All Stars received as much applause and recognition as the dealers that were acknowledged.

The Nashville Musicians Association booth on the show floor drew a lot of attention. This was the perfect venue to educate people about the union. Pomeroy’s staff and volunteers answered many questions about the AFM and Local 257 and created a lot of buzz and interest in our union. AFM members did their part to make the AFM’s presence known and create some real musical excitement. NAMM CEO Joe Lamond said he was delighted to work with Pomeroy and Local 257, and looks forward to working with them again at next year’s summer show.


Local 257 All Stars, the house band at the Summer NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards, consisted of (L to R) Denis Solee on saxophone, Will Barrow on keyboard, Steve Turner on drums, Dave Pomeroy on bass, and Pat Bergeson on guitar and harmonica.



Apple Makes Swift Change in Plan

taylor swiftLast week, indie labels and artists put pressure on Apple to compensate artists during the three-month trial period for its new streaming service. Musicians feared, in particular, that they would miss out on opportunities to get financial return from new music launched during Apple Music’s free introductory period, beginning June 30.

This weekend, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member Taylor Swift posted an open letter on her Tumblr page saying she would withhold her latest album, 1989, from the service because of this situation. The letter read, in part: “I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company … This is not about me. Thankfully, I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team, by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt … We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers, and producers for the three-month trial period.”

According to Billboard, Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue reached out to Swift, letting her know he had heard her concerns, as well as the concerns of indie musicians across the country. Apple also announced that it will now be paying royalties to artists and record labels during the introductory first three months.