A Little Trip
Drop in Now
by Dale McCurry
Published May 20, 2021
While interviewing Larry Lee for an in-depth feature to be published this summer, I learned of his Nashville days as a member of the Vinyl Kings.
I knew Larry as a founding member of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and an outstanding singer-songwriter—”Jackie Blue,” “Spaceship Orion,” “Within Without,” and several other great tunes since the Daredevil days.
For a couple of decades, he was a Nashville session musician and producer—producing thirteen #1 hits for Alabama, alone—but as soon as I heard Larry tell of the days he and his mates were Kings … well … I had to know more.
In 1987, Lee, Josh Leo, Larry Byrom, Jim Photoglo, Michael Rhodes, Harry Stinson, and Vince Melamed got together to do something none of them thought they would ever do again: Form a cover band.
The idea of having our little cover band sounded like just way too much fun. ~ Larry Lee
“At that time, every one of us was living in Nashville and was either a serious session musician, a songwriter, a record producer, or all three,” says Lee. Larry explains that in reality, they had very little spare time for a hobby band but found doing so to be such a welcome distraction from the world of session work six or seven days a week.
“The big plus for us was that the idea of having our little cover band sounded like just way too much fun,” he says.
An Album is Born
In the beginning, they were called The Del Beatles, and their first gig was at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe—known as one of America’s premier songwriter-showcase venues. “Our little band soon became a must see (and hear) attraction at many venues in Nashville,” recalls Lee.
“Then, around the year 2000,” he continues, “Josh called saying he had written a couple of songs that were ‘Beatlesque’ in nature and he thought that getting the Del Beatles together in the studio to record the songs would be fun. And fun it was. That first recording session stirred the creative juices in several of us, and within a short time, more songs were written in that same vein.”
The genius of the record is that the Kings managed to create an album of original tunes echoing the evolving sound and feel of the Beatles—neither impression, nor caricature, but a pure, loving homage.
They obviously couldn’t produce an album with “Beatles” in their name, so the Vinyl Kings were born.
‘The band’s sophomore album was A Little Trip. The genius of the record is that the Kings managed to create an album of original tunes echoing the evolving sound and feel of the Beatles—neither impression, nor caricature, but a pure, loving homage.
Let It Be Songs
In A Little Trip—the album-opening title cut by Leo—a successful musician recalls his 10-year-old self finding the answer to the question of what he wanted to be when he grew up while watching The Ed Sullivan Show in February ’64.
That was it/ the night I saw it all/ The Beatles on TV.
According to Hinson, “the album was purposely constructed to be a sonic timeline of the Beatles’ evolution.” Though the mission was accomplished, the opener serves up multiple snippets of that timeline. Much like a preface to a literary work, “A Little Trip” is a bit of a sampler of the beauty and the beast to come.
“The album was purposely constructed to be a sonic timeline of the Beatles’ evolution.”
Here We Go Again is a McCartneyesque love song written by Lee, Leo, and Byrom, who totally captures the moment and the lead vocals. Think a peppier “Till There Was You.” One can almost see Paul’s eyes, heavy with lashes and sincerity, lobbying for love.
Don’t let the sad times/ turn into bad times/ love will see you through.
Leave this Town is a stunningly produced song written by Lee and Leo. It is within the time-machine framework that is this album that the song recalls the Indian influences present during The Beatles’ early outings into the world of psychedelia. The opening strings sound like George came straight to the studio from his sitar lesson with Ravi Shankar. As necessary with any true homage to the Fabs, the percussions are masterful.
My feet are on the ground./ Can’t keep my head from spinnin’ ’round./ This place is upside down./ Still, I just keep going, never knowing, when or how I’ll leave this town.
The opening strings sound like George came straight to the studio from his sitar lesson with Ravi Shankar.
As surely as the starched shirts in The Beatles’ “Piggies,” the King’s Chocolate Cake, written by Photoglo, is a metaphorical protest placard outing our society’s pandemic of greed.
With the big-sound button dialed in, the song marches on with perseverance worthy of the pursuit of … more.
Strolling through the pastry shop, his eyeballs are about to pop./ Though he’s had his fill, he hasn’t the will/ to stop.
Everybody’s trying to take/ more chocolate cake./ Never mind that belly ache/ more chocolate cake.
Losin’ My Mind, by Leo and Byrom, is the Vinyl Kings doing the Beatles giving a nod to Zeppelin without forgetting they’re the motherfuckin’ Beatles.
Miraculously, they pull it off; the song and execution are real and vibrant, inspired and worthy of descriptions that rely on such lofty comparisons.
Going out of my head, now baby./ Going out of my head./ I can’t fill in the words you said … /and I don’t have very far to go.
Written by Lee and Stinson, the poetry of What if It Were You rides on a rich orchestration of strings. Opening on a whiff of strawberry fields, the song is ripe with near-whispers of secret and regret—”What if it were you?”—and boasts Beach Boy-worthy vocals delivered at the pace of a carousel made of clouds.
You’ll want to get out the incense for this one.
So many secrets and so many regrets/ I wish that I … wish I could share with you how much I cared for you all this time.
Rather than taking us out with a roof-top romp, Dreams—the closing song, written by Byrom, Lee, and Leo—leaves us wanting for more by delivering the good vibrations reflective of one of the Beatles many strengths: reminding us that love and dreams matter.
“Dreams” … leaves us wanting for more by delivering the good vibrations reflective of one of the Beatles many strengths: reminding us that love and dreams matter.
It is, after all, the natural conclusion to a story and a record that begins the life-changing night future Vinyl Kings saw the Beatles on TV.
I gotta believe in dreams/I gotta believe in me.
[Editor’s note: As of this publication, Lee reports that the Vinyl Kings and Sony Japan are finalizing a licensing agreement for the inclusion of “Dreams” in a Sony compilation album.]
The Vinyls aren’t alone in that vision and reflection; artist after artist, from diverse genres, have repeatedly answered “The Beatles” when NoteWorthy Music asks them about their early influences.
“The Beatles music was our go-to place at the start, they were the match that lit my musical fuse,” said Harry Stinson of Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives, speaking of the Beatles and a favorite sidegig as a founding member of the Vinyl Kings.
“Of all the music I’ve made or been involved with over these many years, this music made with these dear friends represents perhaps the high point of it all,” Lee adds, sans a whisper of irony.
And in the End
The Beatles told us that the love we take is equal to the love we make. A Little Trip is the result of a chorus of talented, working musicians writing love songs to a first love, saying: “We hear you; we remember you; we thank you.”
And we hear you, Vinyl Kings. Thanks for sending us on this little trip.
A Little Trip is the result of a chorus of talented, working musicians writing love songs to a first love.
Vinyl Kings | “Dreams”
For more Vinyl Kings, read Larry Lee's The Vinyl Kings: Love and Desire.
For more Larry Lee, read his premiere of our Muse Unveiled series Larry Lee: The Last Hoedown.
For three songs written by Larry for Beyond Reach—with Lee and Randle Chowning, visit: https://larrymichaellee.com/with-beyond-reach
Writer and Editor
Following years as a reporter and editor of a handful of weekly newspapers, Dale McCurry was co-founder and publisher, writer and managing editor of High Notes Magazine on the Western Slope of Colorado and The Wires and the Wood in his native Ozarks. Today, he wears all of those hats for NoteWorthy Music as well.
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