I became a music journalist a couple weeks after meeting Jo-El Sonnier (he spelled it Joel then) on my first trip to Nashville in the mid-1970s. I met a guy, Gary Sohmers, who was putting out a one-sheet newspaper, folded over twice and stacked on cigarette machines at bars and music clubs. It was called The Madcity Music Sheet, and my first story was an interview with Doug Kershaw, “The Ragin’ Cajun,” who had just cut Jo-El’s “Cajun Born.”
Fast-forward to today, February 8, 2015, an hour or so after Jo-El won his first Grammy, for Best Regional Roots Album for The Legacy. I’m sure he was crying when he accepted it, but I’m not sure he cried as much as me. I can’t remember how many liner notes I’ve written for him over the years, but I do feel almost like I won, too. In honor of our tears, I posted YouTube of Jo-el’s highest-charting country single, his cover of Richard Thompson’s “Tear-Stained Letter,” which reached No. 9 on the country charts in 1988. Then I found another version, a live one, with Richard on guitar!
It’s wonderful, and you’re welcome to cry along with both of us!