Where Doc Stevens Gets His Songs and How They Are Played.

Friday, February 6, 2015 12:34 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondeleo: Whenever I hear Doc and Marilyn and the band play, I always hear songs that I have never heard before in  my life. Some of what they play I have heard somewhere before, but most of it is new to me. They sing a lot of originals, but a lot of what they do, Doc says is old stuff, stuff that everybody ought to know. 

But I have asked other musicians at venues and events where they play, and other musicians also shake their
heads and say they have no idea where Doc and Marilyn's songs come from. Like me, they are familiar with some of them, or others they might say they might have heard when they visited their grandmum's house years ago, but they basically don't know where the songs come from, or why they are played the way they are.

Doc: I play the songs I love and I play them how I feel them. Marilyn does, too. That's it. I don't never try to play it like the original 'cause I couldn't anyway. Matter o'  fact, the original artists ain't play them again like they did on the record - 'cept for George Thorogood, cause he always plays it word for word, note for note from the record to one concert to the next - but everybody else changes it from one time to the next, depending on their mood.

Like, when the original group is recording, they might do five or ten takes of the song. Finally, they get enough of it right that they can mix it into a song. But all of those takes ain't identical. Close, but not identical. Then when you hear the group play live, they always change it up a bit from the record as we know it.

But the deal is this. They don't sound just like the record, but they always sound like themselves, not somebody else. So if I play it or you play it or someone else plays it, why are we supposed to sound like the original band did on that one take that came out as the final release?

Guess what? We ain't gonna sound like them if we tried. Maybe close, but mostly not. The voice will be different, the tone will be different, other things will be different. But worse than that, we won't even sound like ourselves! I ain't gonna be happy tryin' to sound like someone else and failin'! I might as well sound like me and play the way I feel it.

If I don't like a song, I ain't gonna sing it. I ain't gonna play it, neither. If I DO like it, I'm gonna FEEL it. And that is the only way I'm gonna play it. Marilyn's the same way. So's the rest of the band. That's how we all got together in the first place. We just play what we love and play it the way we feel it. Most of what we play, the rest of the band ain't never heard the original anyway.

Tondeleo: So, WHERE do you get your material? Most of us have never heard these songs before... 

Doc: Well, Tondy, some of them I grew up hearin' from my relative's record players, at family gatherin's and such. Others I found on records what we got from the landfill, what other people was throwin' away. Some was so scratched up I had to make up the words where they wasn't playin' right, and I still don't know the right words.

Others were just songs that we all sang growin' up, when we'd get out the instruments and all sing together. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandma, grandpa, neighbors and friends. A lot of 'em we got from church. Gospel concerts, fish fries and other things at church, you know, picnics, barbecues and all that.

Pentecostal churches always have good music. You can learn alot by goin' to a Pentecostal church. Jerry Lee Lewis, he came from a Pentecostal church. Elvis did, too. Aretha was a church girl. Otis Redding came from church, and Little Richard. Some of them's daddies was preachers. A lot more came from churches and that is where they learnt to play and sing and perform at.

Like with Marilyn, some of the songs she grew up with, she never heard the original. She just heard me an' my friends play 'em or heard them at church, and that's how she thought they was supposed to sound. Then later, she mighta heard one of them on a jukebox somewhere, and she'd say, "Uncle Doc, I heard 'I Believe To My Soul' on the jukebox today and it didn't sound right!"

I'd tell her that it sounded right for that take in the recording studio when that band recorded it; sounded right for them that time. the way we play it sounds right for us, at whatever time we sing it. She's old enough now that she gets it, but when she was 12 or 13, she just figured that our way was right and the other ways were wrong!

It's easier to play a song if you only play it the way you feel it whenever you play it. You're not tryin' to copy anybody, and you're free to holler it as you feel, and play it for as long as it takes for you to be done with it. That's how we do it, anyway.