Nashville Writers in the Round
2019 Writers in the Round
April 5, 2019 • 8 pm
Jim Stafford started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old and began making a living with it when he was 16. He wrote and recorded his first Top 40 hit, Swamp Witch, in 1974. That’s when he moved to Hollywood. He followed with a gold single, Spiders and Snakes, which stayed on the American pop charts for 26 weeks. The hits just kepta-coming, and included My Girl Bill, Wildwood Weed, and the little ditty Cow Patti, written for the Clint Eastwood movie, Any Which Way You Can, in which Jim appeared.
He received another gold record for his work in the Disney movie The Fox and The Hound. The Jim Stafford Show debuted on ABC in 1975. Jim continued to do numerous television shows including 26 appearances on the Tonight Show. Hosted those Amazing Animals for two years and Nashville on the Road for three. In 1988 & 1989, Jim was a regular performer and head writer for the Emmy-nominated New Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Jim’s first love has always been a live performance. That’s what brought him to Branson, Missouri in 1990. He is presently in his 28th year in the Jim Stafford Theatre. Critically acclaimed by the Chicago Tribune as the “Victor Borge of the Guitar”, Jim takes comedy and song to a whole new level. He is simply the best comic/storytelling/ guitar picking/entertainer on the planet!
A successful songwriter and singer, it was nearly impossible to turn on the radio in the late 70’s without hearing Lenny LeBlanc’s hit ballad, “Falling.” He was an integral part of the phenomenon that became know as Muscle Shoals Music. Even though there were plenty of friends and other career distractions, he knew where he wanted music to take him, and he possessed the drive to make it happen.
A self-taught musician, Lenny describes his childhood as “somewhere between dirt poor and middle class.” His first real experience with music came with the discovery of an old upright piano in his aunt’s dark basement. That initial encounter with an old instrument awakened the gift inside of him. LeBlanc says, “I remember laying in my bed at night wishing for a piano.”
From the first invitation to join a garage band for the upcoming middle-school talent show where Lenny confesses, “I was so petrified, I kept my hands in my pockets and stood facing the band because I couldn’t look at the audience,” to session work for The Temptations (House Party) and Hank Williams Jr. (Bocephus and Hank Jr & friends), LeBlanc’s resume soon glittered with stars: Joan Baez, Andy Williams, Etta James, Carl Perkins, Mac Davis, Roy Orbison, the Supremes, and more.
After signing to Atlantic Records as part of the duo LeBlanc & Carr success came quickly with the release of the romantic ballad “Falling”, which was named one of Billboard’s all time favorite Top 40 hits. After numerous television guest appearances, including American Bandstand, and The Midnight Special, a national tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd was on the books. In 1977 shortly after the tour had begun tragedy hit the Skynyrd band; the infamous plane crash put LeBlanc’s plans on hold.
He says, “After the crash I eventually began touring again and recorded one solo record, this time with Capitol. Over time I became frustrated and disenchanted with the whole thing.” However, LeBlanc continued to write new songs with his Muscle Shoals friends and he was convinced the next big success was just ahead.
And then the phone rang.
LeBlanc says, “It was one of my friends, a Vietnam vet. This guy had been like a brother to me growing up and by this time he had become a drug smuggler.
He said, “Lenny, I’ve been saved. I’m going to heaven and I want you to be there with me.” His friend’s words shook LeBlanc to his foundation. “I really knew this guy, and I could hear it in his voice. Something profound was going on, and I knew that my own life was about to change.”
LeBlanc’s friend sent him a Bible. “I knew nothing about God, I didn’t know a Methodist from a Baptist. I didn’t know how to talk to God, but I started asking Him if He was real; and He began revealing himself to me.” LeBlanc says,
“Finding Jesus was like a sign post in my life. Whatever storm comes, I know I can look back and never refute what happened to me. That’s the Rock I cling to.”
With his decision to write and record Christian music the Pop career engine LeBlanc had built so carefully suddenly came to a full stop. So did his income. He lost nearly everything except his house. He did skilled carpentry work to earn a modest living and along the way began building and designing handmade furniture. Even now, his second art passion after music is the creation of high-end pieces he designs, creates and sometimes sells.
While he loved being part of the church he attended, he was still a songwriter at heart. He felt no real connection to much of the church music of that decade. “I had this desire to pen songs that were relevant,” says LeBlanc, “and wanted to write something more vertical than what was being sung in the church during the eighties… that’s where my roots in worship started.
LeBlanc’s name appears on dozens of beloved songs of the church, including the Dove award winning “Above All” which has been recorded by Michael W. Smith, Rebecca Saint James along with country artists Randy Travis and Richie McDonald of Lonestar and the classic “There Is None Like You.” His voice and his compositions are featured on dozens of various worship recordings.
He currently lives in Florence, Alabama with his wife Sherrie. Lenny continues to write Christian, pop and country songs, including hits like “Treat Her Right” for Sawyer Brown and “You First” with eight time CMA, “Musician of the Year”, Mac McAnally. He still travels nationally and internationally as a Christian artist.
Lenny’s latest release “Anthology”, is an acoustic collection of his most notable songs along with two new titles “Unchained” and “Hope”. Also included are bonus tracks “You First” and a re-recorded version of his seventies pop hit “Falling”.
Looking back over his career and his personal walk, Lenny reflects, “It’s amazing what God has done in my life.”
Walt Aldridge has over 33 years experience in the music industry as a songwriter, recording artist, record producer, recording engineer, music publisher and studio owner. During that time he has been a staff writer for Full Moon Circle Music, Sony/ATV Music, EMI Music, and Rick Hall Music. He has been involved in three publishing co-ventures; Sony/ ATV Music, EMI Music, and Rick Hall Music. His songwriter signings include hit writers Brad Crisler and John Paul White of the Civil Wars.
He has extensive experience with recording and mixing. He spent 17 years as staff engineer at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and 15 years as an independent engineer in Nashville. He worked on some 200 records in that length of time. His engineering credits include, but is not limited to: Billy Ray Cyrus, Peter Cetera, Dobie Gray, Lacy J. Dalton, Darryl Worley, Terri Gibbs, Kate Campbell, Jason Sellers, Alabama, Blessid Union of Souls, Clarence Carter, Jerry Reed, Wild Cherry, The Gatlin Brothers, Lou Reed, Gus Hardin, Mac Davis, Billy Oceans, Marty Stuart, Heartland, Tony Joe White, Mac McAnally, Vern Gosdin, Marie Osmond and Wilson Pickett. He is currently involved in recording and remixing television music for the popular “Brotherhood Outdoors” series, and music for the new remake of the movie “Footloose”.
His hit songs include “I Loved Her First” Heartland, “No Getting Over Me” Ronnie Milsap, “Holding Her and Loving You” Earl Thomas Conley, “Single Thing In Mind” Conway Twitty, “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” Travis Tritt, “The Fear of Being Alone” Reba McEntire and “Some Things Never Change” Tim McGraw. He has also written hits for Barbara Mandrell, Blackhawk, Rickey Van Shelton, Steve Wariner, TG Sheppard, Pam Tillis, Shenandoah and John Anderson.
He has been the recipient of over 20 gold and platinum RIAA certifications in recognition of outstanding sales. He has been awarded 7 number one record CMA certificates and over 30 performance awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He has written or co-written 56 top 40 songs on the Billboard country charts and twice been named one of their top 10 writers of the year. “No Getting Over Me” was named ASCAP’s most performed country song and “Holding Her and Loving You” received a Song of The Year award from the Nashville Songwriters Association International. He has also been awarded a bronze star on the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Walk of Fame. In October 2017 Mr. Aldridge was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.