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Pat McLaughlin

A Conversation with Pat McLaughlin (continued)

PM: --when did you become a band guy? When did that, what I think is an incredible guitar style, start to develop? I'm sorry to digress, but I can't help myself.

Pat: Oh, yeah, you know what? The Telecaster--I got the same gauge strings on my Tele as I do my acoustic.

PM: That's the only way I like to do it too, same strings.

Pat: Same strings.

PM: Twelves, right?

Pat: Twelves, or eleven through fifty-six, or something--

PM: Yeah.

Pat: Whatever medium gauge strings are.

PM: Yeah, I don't string it any lighter.

Pat: I don't either. It's surprising how many people do use those heavy strings. You don't run into--I mean, I've been surprised by seeing a few people use them that I didn't think would. Well, I did it in high school, and then after high school, I got out of the band deal. And I can't really remember what I was playing like in high school. But then I started here in Nashville in like--whenever I got here, '76, '77.

PM: Wow.

Pat: And there were a couple of brothers, the Waddell Brothers, and we started a trio, played down at Springwater. And then I got my electric guitar out and prior to living here I was in Boston and I never had any occasion to try to play it because I was just content to do this solo thing. And I did the solo thing here, too, still do, but I guess it was availability of musicians in Nashville, and the kind of relaxed atmosphere that they were all co-existing in, that made it tempting to try to be in a band.

PM: Right. So the Waddell Brothers, what became of them? Did they stick around?

Pat: David's around here now, and he's a good singer and songwriter, plays bass. And his brother's down in Austin. I think.

PM: So what got you to town so early? That's a very early Nashville wave to have caught, of the people who are still hanging around.

Pat: Yeah. I was living in Boston, and I drove to Atlanta to spend Christmas with my sister who lived in Atlanta. And on New Year's Eve I drove up to Nashville. I didn't know a soul. And I basically have just been here ever since.

PM: New Year's Eve you drove in. That's unbelievable.

Pat: Yeah. And it snowed a lot, like over a foot or something. It was really one of the big snowfalls in history.

PM: Wow.

Pat: And I stayed over on 8th Avenue and walked up to what was then called the Douglas Corner Bar. There was a bar called the Douglas Corner.

PM: Where you're playing tonight!

Pat: Yeah.

PM: Amazing.

Pat: And there was a guy named Tommy James, who played really good. And he wrote the song "I'll Go Stepping Too." And he was playing up there with some old timers. And they were really good. And there were a bunch of old timers in the bar, and they were having a great time. I eventually got to know Tommy a little bit. And I don't know what he's doing now. Did you ever run into him? So anyway, that's my arrival to Nashville.

PM: Wow. Yeah, because when I pulled in too, I didn't know a soul. And I went to 202, the AA clubhouse, and said, "I just got here and I don't have a place to stay." And some chick said, "You can stay on my floor," and there it was. She turned out to be a good friend, her dad was the basketball coach at Vandy, her boyfriend played organ with Ray Charles, no less.

Pat: And you came from Philadelphia, then?

PM: Kinda. When I came here that time, I'd been bumming around. I came from the Jersey Shore, really. So when you settled in, this is '76, right?

Pat: Yeah.

PM: So what started to pop? Did you get a job or did you start playing music?

Pat: Well, I didn't get a job right away. I had passed through town the previous summer and had played on Broadway, happy hour, solo on Broadway, at Deeman's Den, Merchants, and just some--Tootsie's was already there, I guess. So I went down there and played. And then I found Sam's Pizza Place over in Hillsboro Village. And Franks 'n' Stein's was an old place where there was, like, Dave Olney and Tom House [a very good and unusual singer songwriter on the maverick label Catamount Records]--

PM: Tom House was there in '76?

Pat: Well, I don't know if he was there that year, but he was there awful early. Bob Holmes and Ralph Stanley and Steve Pulaski, and just a whole bunch of guys that I know are still around. Kevin Welch and Don Schlitz and people like that.

PM: They were all here way back then.

Pat: Yeah.

PM: Yeah. This is still late '70s like.

Pat: Yeah. And then I worked. I started a career as a carpenter, a framer. I did that off and on for years. continue

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