WITH A SONG IN HIS HEART
In the editorial offices of the Ranchland News in Simla, Monty Gaddy, whose CB radio is going wild with news of grass fires in the surrounding country, thinks instead of the fabulous hook that came to him in the shower this morning.
"I get great lines in the shower," he says. "Right now I'm toying with `She left me long before she went away.'"
A reporter named Bill tears through the office, notebook and camera in hand, on his way to cover the fires in the Ranchland News's hands-on manner. "We even develop our own film," Gaddy says before drifting back into his songwriting reverie. At 39, he is just beginning to deserve it. "In fact," he says, "I'm going to Nashville." Not for one of the yearly song-selling expeditions he's taken for the past ten years, but for good.
Colorado--even this sparsely populated segment of the eastern plains--is full of country-western songwriters who know fame is right around the corner, but Gaddy may not be as deluded as most of them. Last month he sold two songs to a Nashville music publisher, and his new cassette tape, Sunshine and Shadows, already has sold several hundred copies, which is quite something when you consider that the population of Simla is only 465.
"Yeah, Monty's had quite a musical career," says Simla mayor Dean Tracy, who can be found behind the counter at Tri-Valley Gas. "I haven't heard him on the tape yet, though."
Ironically, no one can hear Gaddy on his tape, for the simple reason that he neither sings nor plays on any of its ten tracks--unless you count the simple piano part on "Jewel of the Plains."
"I tell you what," Gaddy explains, "I had access to a better caliber of vocalists and musicians than myself. I mean, Jock Bartley, from Firefall--I can't play the guitar like him. If I have to stay off my own tape for it to be a success, that's what I'll do. I've always been a sorry singer, although my songwriters' group tells me I ain't that bad."
Gaddy readily admits his cassette is basically a collection of demos to show the Nashville suits. "As far as Nashville is concerned, I am solely a songwriter, not a performer," he says. "If I have a gift, that's what it is."
Gaddy became aware of this gift early in his Simla childhood--his mother always had a piano, the local church was full of singing, and by the time Gaddy was a teenager, he wanted to run away from home to join Creedence Clearwater Revival. Instead, he began touring with Starfire, a late-Seventies ensemble that played long weekends in five Midwestern states, promoted by their agent as "good-time rock and roll." Marriage, a day job in the printing business and a move to Colorado Springs (45 minutes west of Simla) dampened Gaddy's musical drive during the early Eighties.
By then he had begun returning to Simla to do part-time work at the Ranchland News, a ninety-year-old community newspaper that covers an eighty-mile swath between Colorado Springs and Limon. Gaddy was put to work doing "everything--I was photographer, writer, and I sold a lot of advertising," he recalls. "And I kind of got this notion that things were in disarray. I thought I could change things, but I didn't have the power less'n I owned the paper. I asked the owner to sell it to me and he said okay, except I had no money and we worked out a sweat equity kind of thing where I ran it for him for three years."
Gaddy acquired the Ranchland News officially in 1983 and began winning Colorado Press Association awards a year later. Gaddy's steady diet of accidents and ranching news sometimes gave way to more macabre stories, like the time "this old boy called up and said, `I got something out here you oughta see,' and I went out there and found a dead body thirty-five feet down an empty well."
His wife, Becky, became the paper's business manager, and the Gaddys moved five miles into the country to raise their three children. Gaddy began to write songs again while walking his dogs in the pasture. "It keeps me from thinking too much, which is the worst thing you can do to a song," he explains. "And I mellowed out until I was writing country songs."
Soon Gaddy was cranking out standards such as "The Love That Could Have Been," "The Sign That Reads For Sale" and "Too Much of Your Two-Timing Me"--all inspired by the personal tribulations of his small-town neighbors. He refused to be discouraged by the initial response to his work in Nashville.
"I simply played folks three or four songs," he recalls, "and they'd tell me, `This is quite a bit better than I usually get from out-of-towners.'"
It took ten years for the Don King Music Group--"No, not that Don King," Gaddy clarifies--to bite, but now Gaddy is thoroughly encouraged. "Don's placed a song with Reba McEntire before," he notes. But he's not trusting King to find an artist to record his songs. "I know I'm just gonna have to move to Nashville, because you never know when your big break will come," he says, "and I need to be there for it." Which means he'd either have to sell the paper or hire some "top gun" to run it so he can keep his link to Simla.
"This will always be home," he says, with that hook look in his eye. "Unless you have a place to belong, you're just a sightseer.