GOODY BOY: FIRST RECORDINGS FROM PRAGUE, 1992
STREAM SIDE 1 OF THE CASSETTE RELEASE ON BANDCAMP HERE:
In 1990 I was working as an au pair for the French Minister Of Agriculture's family in Paris. The Berlin Wall came down just before that and the Prague chatter was coming on strong during my time in France. A busking buddy had just returned from a trip there and his stories from the heart of Bohemia grabbed my attention. I had never been behind the Iron Curtain before. My obsession picked up steam and in the Summer of 1992 I found myself on a train to Czechoslovakia. I had read Kundera, and I knew who Vaclav Havel was, but I had never been to a place that the Russians had once controlled. The Velvet Revolution was only a few years old.
The Eastern bloc vibe was strong right out of the gate. Everything felt a little more rustic and lines in shops and banks moved a little slower. There were hardly any advertisements or billboards on the streets. McDonalds had only just beaten me there. Beer was still .25 cents a glass and the Bohemians had more or less invented it so I was off and running.
On day one I got a hostel right near the Charles Bridge and began busking on it that afternoon. In the first hour of busking I met a girl named Nadia Strakova who was wearing a wooden beaded necklace. I was singing “Outlaw Blues” by Bob Dylan when she stopped to listen as I faced North over the Vltava River. We went for lunch—knedliky—traditional Czech dumplings and meat—and a few beers. I remember the pupils of her blue eyes dilating as we looked at each other. She spoke of her life “before the Revolution.” I had never met a girl who had lived through a revolution before. The entire experience was all revolutionary to me. I cannot contemplate that meal with Nadia without admitting that I immediately fell in love on my very first day in Czechoslovakia.
Our Summer romance did not last very long as I was only there for a few weeks on that first trip—long enough to meet some other expats and record what would be my very first collection of songs. A polish man by the name of Jurek Podulka ran a small shop of cassettes and CDs and he also had a home studio which consisted of a microphone or two and an 8-track cassette recorder. I remember someone talking about him, and the next thing I knew I was at his place and recording songs. I basically delivered my street set at the time and the material selected says everything about my starting place and my direction as a songwriter. It was Folk Music 101, with songs by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Doc Watson, and a few tunes by my friend and mentor JP Olsen, who I would go on to cover on my commercial albums, and who I remain friends with to this day.
I named the album “Goody Boy,” after a rambling Delta style blues tune I had written which used the name of a diner in my college town of Columbus, Ohio. I was living the life that would lead to the personal and often confessional songwriting ahead. A photograph taken later that Autumn back in Ohio was used for the cover art. There were seven originals and seven covers, and I wrote a short dedication for the release:
Home is just a story for new friends.
My story starts in Ohio and winds up in Prague about a third of the way into the book. I was there singing my songs on the Charles Bridge in the last weeks of Summer 1992 when Jurek Podulka approached and invited me to make some acoustic recordings in his studio. His offer was more encouraging than the invitation the police had given me the previous day. In a matter of hours we recorded the songs which are presented her for you.
I dedicate this work to N. and to traveling songwriters the world over.
Thanks also to Jurek and his family and my folks in Ohio.
By the time I returned the following Summer to play a few folk festivals and continue busking on the Charles Bridge—this time with actual merchandise to sell—I was deep into the self-centered haze of the troubadour. I wasn’t really capable of loving any one. My fairy tale romance was dead and I cared more about beer and songs and one night stands. My friend Joe Ciriello (washboard player from Kosher Spears era) and I continued busking our way around Europe and even made our way to Poland for a few nights. We had already gone way off the beaten path by busking through Croatia in the pre-Civil War days of Yugoslavia, and this trip was an extension of the others as we were on our way to finding out how far out there we could get.
When I listen to these recordings—made on the same Gibson J-45 that I tour with today— I hear a young suburban kid from Akron, Ohio trying to find himself in the world of folk music and real life gypsies that we encountered along the way. I knew I wanted to be a songwriter, and some of the ones I offered here built the frame for my wheel house. Some thirty years later and I can hear that I never did waiver much from the path of doing your own thing, even if it did mean borrowing heavily from the folk giants that came before. I honestly believe that because of this foundation, I am still able to create music today. If anything, a life devoted to understanding the history of folk music provided a more comfortable future as one winds through Rock & Roll and modern musical directions. These songs don’t need electricity. I can play them just like we used to—next to the candlelight in a true Bohemian watering hole, or out on the streets where it all started. It was never just a fad or a side hustle for me. Studying the heroes of my heroes proved to be a strong cornerstone for a lifetime of writing and performing.
- Goody Boy (T. Easton)
- Deep River Blues (Doc Watson)
- Steam (JP Olsen)
- Guilty Man (T. Easton)
- If You Lose Your Money (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee)
- Ductape Shoes (T. Easton)
- Old Jabo (Sonny and Brownie
- Lord Byron (T. Easton)
- See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (B.L. Jefferson)
- Don’t Step On My Tail (T. Easton)
- Southbound (Merle Watson)
- More Than A Saturday (T. Easton)
- Into The Sea (T. Easton)
- Last Heathen (T. Easton)