Andy Roberts tribute to Glen Sherley
Scene had a great friend in America called Ed Kelleher. He's
still around, though sadly he is now quite ill.
I think it was Mike Evans, our sax player, who first met Ed,
when he was playing american army bases in Germany in the 60s,
with the Clayton Squares. Ed was a US Army draftee. He loved
music, was a writer, and, whenever he could, he'd hitch a ride
to the USAF base at Burtonwood, and come to stay with us in Liverpool.
I remember seeing Ed walking up Canning Street in his uniform
(which he had to wear in order to get his flight) surrounded
by barracking scally kids, and 10 minutes later he'd be on his
way to Ye Cracke or the Phil in jeans and a t-shirt.
Ed wrote a great jazz poem called Anita, which Mike Evans and
Percy Jones arranged for the band, and which was always in our
When he got out of the army, Ed started to work for the US music
trade papers, and when I toured the States with Iain Matthews
and Richard Thompson in 1971, he was a writer for Cashbox magazine
in New York. In the Cashbox office was a cupboard, which was
filled with vinyl albums. These were the ones that the staff
didn't want to keep for themselves. Ed let me have any I wanted,
and he arranged to ship them back to the UK for me.
was one particular one which I took because it had a great cover.
It was a live concert album by an American country artist called
Glen Sherley was a good songwriter, and he had sent his song
Greystone Chapel to Johnny Cash, who recorded it on his Folsom
Prison concert. At this time Glen was himself a prisoner in Folsom.
He had, as he states on his album, "10½ years of
this lockdown business".
Anyway, when I got it back home and listened to it, I thought the Glen Sherley album was extraordinary.
Johnny Cash had fixed a band of top Nashville players, and taken them into the prison at Vacaville in California, to record Glen, a prisoner himself, playing to an audience of 800 prisoners, singing songs that he's written about prison! Electric stuff.
Plainsong used to do a song called the F.B.I.'s Top Ten in 1972, which I learnt from this album.
I lent the record to Viv Stanshall, who adored it. We'd sit and listen to it for hours. Get stoned and sing "Mama Had Country Soul" over and over.
I never forgot the Glen Sherley album.
A couple of years
later, I saw that Glen Sherley was part of a Johnny Cash Show
which was coming to the Albert Hall (with Kris Kristofferson
and Rita Coolidge as support).
Viv and I bought very expensive box seats, determined to howl
our love for the Great Glen. He never showed, and later we were
told that they wouldn't let him out of the US because of his
Then Glen faded. He made a couple of awful sappy country singles,
with strings and shit.
Then nothing. Less than 2 years later
Glen Sherley blew his own brains out, and Viv and I were devastated
when we read about it.
Later on, when I was in the Hank Wangford Band, I lent my copy
of Glen's live album, and a bunch else besides, to a Birmingham
country DJ called Brian Savin, who never returned them - bastard!
About a week ago I found that a couple called Sal and Roger (Broken
Wheel Records of Needham Market) had a copy for sale (a British
release which I never knew existed) for £5! I bought it.
To hear it again in all its rough glory, particularly with the attendant memories
of Viv, and poor Ed, who now has premature Alzheimer's, has made
today a particularly poignant and wonderful day. Such a waste
of talent - Glen Sherley was a genius.
Sherley is featured in the lyrics to Andy's song "Songs
of the Stars"