Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CRAZY - The Hank Garland Story

Even though he grew up in Cowpens, SC (not too far from where I grew up) I knew nothing about Hank Garland before seeing
Crazy. The movie stars Waylon Payne (godson of Waylon Jennings, son of Jody Payne (Willie Nelson's long time guitar player) and Sammi Smith). Waylon Payne has released one cd, "The Drifter", and previously played Jerry Lee Lewis in "Walk The Line". Waylon has enough pedigree, as just about anyone you could find, to play a country music performer.

I'm going to try to touch on all the musicians included in the movie, and since there are so many this review will be pretty much cut-and-dried. The characters and events in my review are as shown in the movie. They may or may not be accurate, I can only report them as shown to me. Now on to the movie.

Crazy opens in 1945 with Hank's first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry where he gets some advice from another Hank...Williams (Steve Vai, who is also the producer of
Crazy). The movie then skips ahead 10 years where we find Hank has become a professional guitar session man and a member of Cowboy Copas' band along with Billy Byrd (Garland and Byrd helped develop the Byrdland Guitar for Gibson Guitars). Crazy shows Garland doing session work with Patsy Cline (Mandy Barnett), Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, Conway Twitty, Bobby Helms (recording "Jingle Bell Rock" which Helms and Garland sued over, claiming they were cheated out of writing royalties because they were under contract as artists and not writers) and most famous of all, Elvis Presley, with whom Garland had a long association.

While on tour with Copas, Garland happens upon a bar where Wes Montgomery (Tony MacAlpine) is playing. Montgomery's playing captivates Garland and influences him toward a more jazzy style. Later in Crazy, Hank forms his own jazz band, which included bass player Joe Benjamin (Ryan Cross), to play in local Nashville clubs. Garland would eventually record his own jazz album (Garland claimed it was the first jazz album ever recorded in Nashville) "Jazz Winds from a New Direction". In Chicago, Garland also meets a woman named Evelyn, who became the love of his life. At their wedding Kitty Wells (Shawn Colvin) sings "Tennessee Waltz" and "I Can't Stop Loving You". To further his career, Hank leaves Copas' band to join Eddy Arnold which allowed him to make more money for his family. On the Eddy Arnold TV show we see Hank playing his million-selling hit "Sugarfoot Rag".

Crazy did a good job of fitting most of a lifetime into 106 minutes.....until the last 15 minutes or so, when it tried to squeeze the remaining years of Garland's life into too short of a space. Crazy would have been so much better IF it had just ended after the debilitating car wreck that ended Garland's career. As it is, I still highly recommend the movie for anyone wanting to see a story about a music legend a lot of people, including myself, are probably not familiar with.

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