Editor’s note: I’m happy to say that thanks to Lisa Vetitoe I am holding a copy of the magazine that originally printed Vince Matthews story, “Goodbye Kingston Springs”. It was the August 1975 issue of Country Music magazine, with it’s cover of young Tanya Tucker, being touted as “The Female Elvis”.
Leslie Liles Allen presented this story to me many months ago in hopes that we could print it, and perhaps more of the memories of those days, (and maybe some pictures as well), would surface as folks got a chance to read it. Here is the note written by Leslie on the photocopy of the story which she gave to me: “When I was 13 or so I and six other girls went to Jack Clement’s studio to record songs for Kingston Springs Suite. We met Greg Allman, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson and others. We then sang backup with Johnny Cash, Mother Mabelle and June at the Pocono Speedway one weekend. The 6 girls were: Beverly Tibbs, Diane Finch, Rhonda Mays, Becky Beck (Parker), Leslie Liles (Allen) and Jennifer Harris (Scoble).”
This is the final installment of the story that Vince wrote. Please enjoy this precious look back at the 60s in Kingston Springs, and if you have any tales to tell, or photographs to share from these times, please contact us a SCAdvocate@aol.com so that we can pass them along.
Here is a short bio about the author, Vince Matthews. Vince died several years ago.
Vince Matthews was a songwriter and singer whose songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Charley Pride and many other country artists. His concern for Kingston Springs led him to compose an entire album, Kingston Springs Suite, about the small town. As yet. the album is not commercially available.
Before the developers moved in, it was just a little country town. It was a laid-back picker’s Paradise.
By VINCE MATTHEWS
Nearly seven years of memories. Most good. Some bad.
You remember Tommy Dorton shinnieing up Clarence to tie Miss Melva’s swing.
Jack Clement swinging in it all night at a wiener roast.
All the kids standing by the fire trying to get you to go soap Halloween windows.
Glen Sherley, Harlan Sanders and Earl Green dropping by for the first time.
Lazy Sunday morning breakfasts with Shel. Long drives in the country with Shel writing “Rosalie’s Good Eats Cafe.”
Being snow bound.
The cold nights. (Kingston has a temperature inversion and is one of the coldest spots in the nation.)
Jim and Beth Casey’s wedding. Harry and Barbara Coble’s wedding. Formally set tables in the front yard. The Reverend Will D. Campbell saying, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” signing the license with a flourish and adding, “There! that gives you the legal right to sue each other!” Then picking up the guitar and singing “Walk through This World With Me.”
Johnny Darrell’s dog giving our rug the fleas.
The Fourth of Julys. Beer, beans and barbecue. Fiddles and banjos wailing all night. The pickers drawing a crowd and the politicians running them off again. Myrtle Hall, Melva’s mother, and Melva cooking for days.
Jeannie Bare’s beauty and graciousness.
The music. The songs.
Always the music, always the songs.
Zal Yanowsky and Rusty Kershaw literally playing the strings off.
Tracey Nelson, Even Stevens and Gary Scruggs singing in the living room. Guy Clark guarding the moonshine.
Bobby Neuwirth singing “Brand New Tennessee Waltz.”
Bob Webster trying to keep time.
Eric Anderson coming out for Thanksgiving.
Long walks with walking sticks.
Kris Kristofferson scaring the local moonshiners half to death when he came looking for me in a helicopter. His daughter Tracey thinking the rain hitting the Harpeth was fish jumping. “Look at the fishes, Daddy! Look at the fishes!” Kris doing “Me And Bobbie McGee” one last time, but only because Tommy Dorton asked him to.
Sammi Smith hiding out in the hammock.
The kids and dogs running everywhere.
The Dickie Lee fish fry when Don Rich showed up as an unexpected but welcome guest.
Alan Reynolds, Jim Casey and Bob McDill singing at the table.
Brother Dave Gardner calling at two in the morning from Ralph Emery’s radio show to ask me “Does your lovely wife Melva still raise sheep?”
John, June and family coming to a grammar school show, getting stuck in the driveway and later John singing “I Still Miss Someone” in the kitchen.
Tompall dropping by at six in the morning to work on his album. He is a bad cowboy!
The dogwoods and catching the little basses.
The day we wrecked the train.
The ol’ swimming hole.
The sweet taste of success and the nervous breakdown of failure.
I’m not sure when the changes came. Maybe it was the day Boyce Steel bought the old baseball field. Or when the Harpeth River was removed from the Scenic Rivers act. Maybe it was when the new houses
came to the old blacktop road or the day we saw the first heavy machinery going past the house, or the graveyard silence being broken by the hum of industry.
Maybe it started years ago when Terry Moore drove me to a grassy spot by the Interstate and showed me where he planned to build a service station, where later all of Kingston Springs would follow. Or maybe it was the day Billy Beard died. Maybe we changed it ourselves as much as anyone or anything.
Anyway, the era passed. We moved out of our house. Melva and I separated. The factory moved in.
Lisa Vetitoe passed along this story and pictures from the day the train hit the cherry picker!
I was there when they filmed “Kingston Springs Suite”. They used a cherry-picker truck to hold the videographer up above the crowd to get the best angle. The crew parked the cherry-picker on the railroad tracks during filming and thought nothing of it, as they were way out in the country, and the trains only come through once a week or less…
My friends and I were over at the Linder’s house up the street, and heard a loud crash. We found out my brother Mark, who was 12 at the time, heard the train when it was coming through Craggie Hope, and ran to tell the driver it was almost here. They didn’t believe him, and left the truck on the tracks. By the time they realized the kid was telling the truth, there was no time to move the truck. The train hit it at about 30 MPH and threw it about 50 yards down the track, crushing it! The engine and one or two cars on the train slipped off the tracks as well, and had to be reset by L&N.
I have enclosed the photos I took that day, Sorry I can’t identify anyone in them other than Vince, holding a tail light up for me. You can see the green truck smashed up in the background.
Vince wasn’t too deterred by the wreck, and premiered his suite a few weeks later to a good-sized crowd in the gym at the elementary school. Oh, and Johnny and June attended too!
Jim Casey’s family member has released the film, “God Save Kingston Springs”, and it can be easily found by searching YouTube.
Thanks again for letting me relive some good memories, Vince was always polite, and treated everyone he met as if they were the most important people in the world. A rare person indeed.
Clarence The Tree
by JOHNNY CASH
Now Old Clarence is an oak tree. I think he’s a Pin Oak tree. I really didn’t look real close. Maybe he’s a White Oak tree. Anyway, Clarence is one of the biggest trees I ever saw, not counting the Redwoods and Sequoias in California, which you don’t need to count anyway.
Clarence ain’t only big, he’s a wise tree, because Clarence stands in Vince Matthews’ front yard in Kingston Springs. Old Clarence was there when them Indians was building them mounds just across the Harpeth River. The smoke from their campfires floated through Clarence’s limbs. Old Clarence was there when James Robertson and Isaac Bledsoe and Casper Mansker came floatin’ down on a long hunt. Clarence was there when Andy Jackson was riding his race horses on the Gallatin meadows and the Belle Meade hills. Clarence shook in his roots at the sound of gunfire from the Battle of Nashville.
But most notably, Clarence was there, standing tall and strong, shading the bedroom of Vince Matthews, so he could sleep all day after the long night’s goings on, creating, writing, composing, unfolding, weaving and singing. Old Clarence was there, his leaves rustlin’ and gigglin’ in the cool midnite air while Kris and Shel and Cowboy and Vince and Casey and Glen and Sandy and who in the name of goodness knows who, doing what in the name of goodness knows what.
But the one thing Vince was doin’, he was gleanin’, he was meddlin’ in marvelous minds, his own mind being the most marvelous, ’cause he had long ago conceived Kingston Springs Suite. And he don’t ask you to pardon the word “suite” ’cause that’s what it is. A laid-out slice of life as lived and learned by a laid-back country picker who knows and loves and understands the people like you’ll find at Kingston Springs. I think “Melva’s Wine” is the greatest contemporary American folk song I ever heard.
Yep, Old Clarence saw it all and he heard it all, and as I said, Old Clarence is wise. He knows and he’s standing taller and prouder and waving his arms harder and making more noise than ever before. Old Clarence knows that Vince has got it all together. He heard old Vince break pencil and pencil, guitar string after guitar string. Old Clarence even saw me come and go a few times. Saw me tastin’ Melva’s wine, checking out Melva’s chili, wavin’ farewell to Vince and Melva till another time, heard me holler ‘You’ll make it, Vince!’ Yep, Old Clarence is proud and I am too.