The Joe Maphis & Merle Travis Tribute Album
How It Came To Be
While I Elaine Frizzell am honored to be the Title Artist on this project, its purpose is to honor the memories of Joe Maphis and Merle Travis. From Bakersfield, Calif. to Nashville, TN., a period of time that will never happen again.
After three years of semi-retirement from playing, I returned due to encouragement from several friends in mid 2004. I was working as a side musician with a local artist who was at the time recording at Sound Control Studio’s in Nashville. The studio’s are well known and top rated and have recorded artists from Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks. The studio is owned by Mark Moseley and was co-founded by his father Andy Moseley in 1970. Mark is a well-known top recording engineer and musician.
While leaving a session one-day in early 2005, Mark and I were in a discussion about doing a tribute album to Joe Maphis and Merle Travis, whom we both had known first band. A project such as this had been discussed in 1990 and again around 1996 upon visits with Mark and Andy. However it was dismissed as costly and probably would not have sales enough to support it at that time. However on this day Mark had me sit down and made the comment that I should go for it at this time and that the Mosrite Label would be offered for it if all worked out. I tell you that got my attention. I had tears in my eyes. Mark went on to say that I should play both the Joe Maphis parts as well as the Merle Travis parts and to select titles off of their albums plus maybe something neither had recorded but in one of their styles.
My husband Richard and I left the studio that day with a projected early May 2005 date for the first sessions to begin. I had maybe 10 weeks to put together a list of titles and to get those old guitar chops down.
The first sessions included Tommy Wells on drums, Duncan Mullins on bass, Kerry Marx on guitar, Bob Patin on keyboard and Mark Moseley on acoustic guitar. This would be the basic backbone of musicians with Hoot Hester on fiddle and Sonny Garrish on steel guitar to come in later. At this point in time, Mark and I discussed the desire to bring Rose Lee Maphis, Joe’s widow, who was certainly part of the team of Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, on board to sing the final track on the album. While the first 11 tracks were instrumental’s the 12th track was left for Rose Lee to do a tribute vocal. When Rose Lee said yes to the project, Mark suggested the spiritual “How The Robin Got Its Red Breast” Rose Lee agreed. When the track was laid on June 2, 2005, it turned the project into a historical event. Joe & Rose Lee Maphis had recorded on Mosrite Records in the 1960’s
I was backstage at the Opry one Saturday night in May talking to the White’s and particularly to Sharon & Cheryl White about Rose Lee doing the tribute album. Rose Lee had not recorded a major solo track since Joe passed away in June of 1986. The White’s are Opry members and Sharon White is the wife of Opry member Ricky Skaggs. Sharon shared with me that if they could be of help on the matter of doing the harmonies behind Rose Lee they would be happy to do so. Sharon a few days later contacted Mark and a session date was set, and the rest is history.
The next major event took place while Nokie Edwards, the former lead guitarist for the Ventures was in town working on his own album at Sound Control Studio’s. During this time Mark was starting to mix the tribute album. Mark asked Nokie if he would like to contribute to the album and Nokie said “yes”.
Well now we have Rose Lee Maphis, The White’s, Nokie Edwards and truly a stable of super session player’s. History was certainly being made.
I must express how much I love and value the friendship of the entire Moseley and Maphis family. Andy’s brother, Semie Moseley, founder of Mosrite Guitar’s, built Joe’s and my double-neck guitars. The double-neck guitar pictured on the album cover is not Joe’s original. That guitar made cira.1954-55, is no longer in existence except the body. The original was stripped and lightened in weight in 1963. Semie re-created the original, down to the exact spec’s for me, with Joe’s blessing. It was presented to me in March of 1985. And yes Joe did get to play it several times before he passed away in June of 1986.