My Rockabilly is Not Derivative!

Apples & Oranges

I had an interesting experience Friday evening.  I participated in a songwriter’s competition put on by West Coast Songwriters.  I never win at these–mainly because they are more about a kind of writing I have never done, and don’t understand, or especially care to.   I enter because it is a way I can support those young writers coming up and friends who are established writers.  Having said this I also know that the judging is about the personal preferences of the judges and hardly about quality, so I might win if some judge actually thinks Rockabilly is a viable form.  The two there Friday night did not understand Rockabilly.

I don’t mind not winning, but I truly dislike being critiqued, actually lectured, by someone who thinks he knows something and doesn’t.  This guy actually said that he liked my song and its driving beat, but that my work was derivative and that he hoped in the future I would find my own voice and write something that was original.  Wow, but isn’t that special!  Understand that He didn’t look at me when he said this, but my song was the only song presented that was even close to Rockabilly.

How can I say this politely?  I can’t.  That is just plain yakking for the sake of hearing his own voice.  I am assuming that, “derivative,” is a new word he picked up and had been waiting to find a way to use it in a sentence.  I guess that if I was in my twenties or thirties and was writing Rockabilly, but I write the songs I was brought up with.  Actually the first song I attempted to write was in around 1957 or 1958 and it went something like this:  I got me a chick and her name is Betty; she’s the kind of chick that makes me hot and sweaty; oh Betty, I love my Betty; I got a lotta love for my chick, Betty; she kisses me hard and gets me ready.  oh Betty, my chick Betty.”  Well, I was 14 or 15 years old for cryin’ out loud!

It’s the apples and oranges confusion.  My point being that if he had accused me of being stuck in a past time and not growing, or changing, he would have had a point that would have made more sense.  I’d still be pissed, but not because I was falsely accused of being an apple when I was an orange.  I consider myself to be authentic, old-time Rockabilly, and I bristle at being referred to as derivative–I’ve earned every one of these ackes and pains.  It’s bad enough that I have to call it Americana to get noticed, because the average music industry professional, can’t grapple, grasp, handle, or know what to do with, Rockabilly.

If the truth be known, the song I sang wasn’t even close to Rockabilly.  It was more folk/story-song, so I would put it more on the Western end of the scale.  I suppose it was Rockabilly in the same way that Johnny Cash’s, “How High’s The Water” is Rockabilly.   Of course it’s Rockabilly to those who are too lazy to grasp more than one category.

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4 thoughts on “My Rockabilly is Not Derivative!

  1. Hilary, if I may, screw that guy! These workshops are supposed to be developmental and constructive. The “judges” are more contrived than the music that is brought to the table. They are waiting to hear something that they want to hear. Basically an introduction to working for the man at a big time label. That is not who you are! You are an outlaw! Your way, your rules and damn the man trying to make a hit machine out of you. You got the goods Hilary and the goods are gold! Your only mistake was playing to a pretentious crowd. Keep the dream, alive and fuck it! Bring back “Betty” as a spit in the face to “the industry” … cos honestly, to them, that would be a hit!

    • Yo Jon~Emery, thanks for the vote! We’re gonna rip ’em apart December 10 at the Stag. As for me being an Outlaw, it takes one to know one. I consider that one of the highest I’ve received in a very long time–thanks. H

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