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From Keith to Charlie to Kenny

My buddy Michael Berry was playing “El Cerrito Place” on his national radio show this week and it’s a song that I’d forgotten how much I love!  So I thought it’d be fun to bring it back to life with a video and maybe a little history lesson for this Classic Rewind moment!

This was an article written by the late great Nashville writer, Chet Flippo in 2012 and I think it’s a fabulous recap of this incredible tune.

“El Cerrito Place” started life with its songwriter, Keith Gattis, a young Texan from Georgetown and then Austin, who moved to Nashville in the 1990s and signed with RCA Records. RCA released his self-titled album in 1996. Reviewers compared him to a young George Jones. His second album in 2005 for the Texas-based Smith Music Group, Big City Blues, drew considerable favorable attention, but no one in Nashville — or Texas for that matter — knew just what to do with Gattis. It was an old story: too good for Austin, too uncommercial for Nashville.

Gattis put it on Big City Blues with a delicate piano and Hammond B3 organ accompaniment. At almost six minutes (5:58) long, it was and remains a deeply personal song of an individual’s agony.

Charlie Robison, a Houston native who was raised in Bandera, Texas, actually recorded “El Cerrito Place” before Gattis did. His version has a classic Central Texas vocal and warm production with that unmistakable Dixie Chicks aura and background vocal sound, produced by Lloyd Maines. Of course, Maines is the father of Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, and Robison was then married to Chick Emily Erwin. Robison again makes it a song of deep personal angst.

Charlie put it on his 2004 Dualtone album Good Times at 5:41, again with piano and B3 and issued it as a single as well. It had no success. Radio wasn’t ready for a long song that some DJs called “navel-gazing.”

Charlie had been on Sony’s Lucky Dog imprint label along with such “hip” acts as Jack Ingram, BR5-49, Deryl Dodd and the Derailers. It was a doomed record label. Charlie did another album for Sony’s Columbia Records before leaving for the indie Dualtone label.

Now Chesney comes with a recording of “El Cerrito Place” at 5:51, again with piano and B3, on his new album Welcome to the Fishbowl. Where Robison spread a more laid-back Central Texas ranch vibe on this quintessentially Southern California song, Chesney’s is a busier Nashville production.

Now I definitely wanna turn the song on and my favorite version is certainly Charlie’s – so here you go!

Hey, all you Charlie fans!  This Saturday night he is hitting the Redneck Country Club stage (along with the Drugstore Gypsies and The Captain Legendary Band) and you should go!  If you haven’t been to the RCC, which is just outside of Houston, you really need to check it out…the stage, the views, the people, the food, the music…all top notch! More details on tickets here:

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