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MATRACA BERG


and every baby she has she sings better so this is going to be unbelievable. So with the first song that we sat down on, she brought it in and I was pretty impressed, I knew she was going to be something special.” Much of Matraca’s songwriting success has been with songs


that are usually left-of-centre of the country mainstream. Back In The Saddle, a co-write with Stan Lynch, she gave listeners a taste of her wry, acerbic wit. It is a bawdy, tongue-in-cheek look at what happens when a woman who has been ‘herbal-wrapped, mud-packed at a dude ranch’ meets up with ‘a leather-neck suckin’ on a long neck.’ Strawberry Wine, a semi-autobiogrpahical song she had


written with Gary Harrison years before Deana Carter turned it into a hit is a five-minute waltz about a teenager’s loss of virginity. “When I wrote that,” Matraca says, “I didn’t think it would become what it did. I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty cool. I wonder who on earth is ever gonna do that song?’ Deana had heard my demo of it a long time before she did it, and she had cut it for her album that didn’t come out [on Liberty—it was later released in different form on Capitol Nashville with Strawberry Wine intact]. It had been on hold by somebody else, then she finally got it and recorded it. People ask me why I didn’t cut it. Well, I didn’t have a label deal at the time, and writing songs for others is how I’ve been making my living. That’s how I’ve been staying alive between records.” Recording a five-minute song as an album cut is one thing,


releasing it to country radio as a single is another. When Matraca heard that Carter planned to do just that she called her, exclaiming: ‘Are you crazy? That’s a waltz.’ Many of Matraca’s off-the-wall kind of songs are in the same


class as those of Bobby Braddock, a Nashville songwriter I’ve admired since he first started playing piano for Marty Robbins back in the mid-1960s. Braddock is a longtime Berg family friend and author of such country classics as He Stopped Loving Her Today. He encouraged Matraca and together they wrote her first real song, Faking Love. TG Sheppard and Karen Brooks recorded it, and the song became a number one hit in 1983. “He was my mentor and still is a very close friend,” she says.


“He’s so funny, really hilarious! He’s crazy and you never know what he’s going to do! He’s a practical joker and he has these facial expressions that are…hard to describe!” Last year Braddock was inducted in the Country Music Hall of


Fame in the newly created Songwriter category. It might seem unbelievable that up until then there hadn’t been a separate category for songwriters in the Hall of Fame despite the fact that the ‘song’ is the most important and vital cog in country music. Music City is the home of the songwriter and it has taken the Country Music Association more than fifty years since they first established the Hall of Fame to fully recognise songwriters. “Songwriters are seen as the bottom of the food chain …”


Matraca reflects ruefully. But those of us who treasure songs as long lasting memories to be held on for years and recognise the true worth of a talented songwriter would beg to differ. Writers like Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran, Max D Barnes and more recently Bobby Braddock, Gary Harrison and of course Matraca Berg provide country music with manna and should never be considered bottom of the food chain, but rather at the very top, way ahead of the glamour and glitz that we read about in the glossy celebrity magazines. Alan Cackett


Maverick 33


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