About Pie

The Life of Pie

When I was 9 years old, I started guitar lessons with Dick Gordon in Tulsa, OK. Back then I was known as Susan Taylor, since that’s what my mom named me. I can remember being so shy when I was a kid that I could only sing songs to the family while standing behind grandmother’s kitchen door. But with Dick’s help, by the ripe old age of 10, I was performing at the recitals and concerts he produced. My favorite singer to emulate was Elvis Presley (because he was just too cool), and as I recall, one night at the Tulsa IOOF hall, I’d just started one of Elvis’ tunes, “Love Me”, when I stopped to grab the microphone (like I’d seen Elvis do), when a woman in the front row squealed loudly! I’m sure she thought it would thrill me, but it scared me so badly that Dick had to step in and help me recover so I could finish the song!”

By the time I was 14, I was a regularly on the “Sun Up” show aired each morning on a local Tulsa television station. The hosts of the show even approached my mom offering to pay to send me to NYC to music and acting finishing school to study. Mom declined the offer and we moved to Corpus Christi, TX, where I quickly found a group of local musicians, Paul Butts, Pete Rose, and others, and we banded together to form Corpus’ first folk music society. I immersed myself in old English/Irish ballads and American folk songs, and when folk became pop, I was in heaven.

Along came Michael Merchant and the two of us formed a folk group, performing mostly at school and civic functions. In 1964, when I was a senior at W.B. Ray High School, Mike headed off of Penn State University, and I began performing solo at the Del Mar College hootenanys, where I met a couple of singer/pickers named Don Williams and Lofton Kline, and we started a folk group called the Pozo-Seco Singers. Mike came back to Corpus for Christmas break after his first semester in Philadelphia and brought some original songs along. One of them was called, “Time.” I made him teach me all the chords and the lick and the lyrics. I basically learned it in one afternoon, because I just knew it was special.

In 1965, her old pickin’ pal Paul Butts took up the position of manager for the Pozos, and we headed off to Houston to cut Mike’s tune for a local label called Edmark Records. Mike went along and played the upright bass on the original cut, and it became a regional hit for us. Joe Mansfield, promotion man for Columbia Records, heard the song and signed us to the major label, and in 1966, “Time” charted #1 on Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston radio stations, followed by four albums on Columbia. After Paul stepped aside allowing Albert Grossman to manage the trio, and we toured extensively over the next five years, changing our lineup several times with Ron Shaw replacing Lofton Kline, and eventually Don Williams and I working as a Pozo-Seco duet .

In 1970, Don and I retired the Pozos, and I met Allen Reynolds who produced a solo album with me on JMI Records. While at JMI, Allen and I co-produced 3 Don Williams chart singles for the label and I got to play mandolin on Bob McDill’s classic release, “Stories”. McDill and Reynolds also made me a co-writer on “Sugar Cane” because of that mandolin.

Around that same time I opened a craft shop called “The Craft Cranny” and invited 50 craftsmen from all over the state to come a create a craft fair in Middle Tennessee. We had about 1,500 people show up at our little shop on Bandywood Drive! There simply weren’t any craft places in town back in the early 70’s. Eventually Bandywood became strip malls for the most part and our shop was sold to a group that opened a place on West End Ave called the American Artisan. They continued the craft fairs and it is now the largest one in the Nashville area.

I began to grow a bit restless as an artist and songwriter, and in 1972 I moved to New York City and began honing my songwriting skills, playing clubs like Folk City, O’Lunney’s and The Bottom Line with my band, The City-Country Band. Bette Midler came in to Folk City one night to hear me play, “Back in the Bars Again,” and she asked me if I minded if she used it in her “Clams on the Half Shell” review. I was so excited!! It’s still one of my highlight moments in NYC. During that period, Tanya Tucker, cut my song, “Round & Round the Bottle” on her “Here’s Some Love” album, along with a Richard Manegra/Pie song called, “Take Me To Heaven.”

In the early 80’s, I moved to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and began playing local folk clubs like The Red Lion Inn. During this time, I began making sojourns back to Nashville a couple of times a year to write with Allen Reynolds and Dickey Lee. Allen and I wrote, “Full Grown Fool,” and Mickey Gilley, recorded for Columbia and it climbed to #16 in the country charts. Dickey Lee, and Allen and I penned “Peace Within” together, and The Forester Sisters, recorded it. Dickey and I also wrote a gospel tune together called, “Just Like Angels”, which was released by The Lewis Family and nominated for the gospel Dove Award.

In 1986, I returned to Tennessee and bought a “20 acre-more or less” hill side farm about 60 miles southeast of Nashville. Allen and I continued our friendship and when he started a publishing company called Forerunner he and his partners signed me as a writer. That’s when I met Herb McCullough and Debbie Nims and we wrote “Oh, Mandolin,” a song that I’m convinced will someday be a bluegrass classic. Of course, part of my confidence is because Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike recorded it with such sweet perfection. They even got Tim O’Brien to play mandolin on it!

Most recently, independent artist, Terri Hendrix, recorded the title cut from my “Long Ride Home” CD on her “The Art of Hanging Wallpaper” Wilory Records release and Herb’s and my, “Walkin’ On The Moon” on her “Celebrate the Difference” children’s CD.

I’m now performing with Eben Wood, an old Ray class of ’65 alumni buddy who started out playing in garage bands in the mid sixties in Corpus, at age of sixteen. His first band was with Rod Prince who later formed the Bubble Puppy, and he was lead guitarist for the Four Winds who ultimately became known as The Bad Seeds, a group my brother Mike helped start. He likes to remind me of the time in Corpus when I was headed off with the Pozos and he asked me to show him some guitar chords…and now he’s a guitar wizard!

Eben’s played in bands with Chris Geronoittis and Stan Moore of the Zakary Thaks, as well as Chris Layton of Double Trouble. He’s backed many musicians including Billy Joe Royal, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Pointer Sisters, Freddy Fender, Charlie Pride, and REO Speedwagon. He was Sam Neely’s lead guitarist during his A&M Record years, performing with him at the famous Troubadour in Los Angeles. During this time, Eben played and arranged on David and David’s “A Song for You” album.

Eben and I hooked up in Corpus while I was there representing the Pozos at a fund raiser for Del Mar College in 2005. We hit it off immediately at a house concert and spent the next week playing music together. When Eben reconnected me with Kathy Harrison, another Ray ’65 graduate, something clicked for us all and we began forming the framework for a record company. My buddy Steve Wallace was called in from Chattanooga, TN, to shoot some video and quickly joined the three of us in musical spirit. PuffBunny Records became a reality this year and the our first release is “So Little Has Changed” with a live album from a Pie/Eben performance at Hondo’s on Main in Fredricksburg, TX, in October of 2006, soon to follow.

Between you and me, this is probably the best time of my life! The music feels better than ever! I’m creating it with incredibly talented friends who share the same kind of dreams and are a heck of a lot of fun to boot! I thank my lucky stars for all of you who’ve always been my inspiration.

In music & light, Pie