The Kingmakers Record Third Album In Nashville With Legends On Hand

    Ottawa band The Kingmakers record their third album in Nashville at Cowboy Jack Clement's studio, with rockabilly hall-of-fame inductee J.M. Van Eaton and Country Music Hall of Fame inductees/Elvis backup singers The Jordanaires. CD release party Sept. 10 at Elmdale House

Ottawa rockabilly band The Kingmakers, preparing to record their third album this spring, sought a studio with some history and a vintage vibe. "The experience of recording our first album at SUN Studio in Memphis, following in the footsteps of our heroes like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, was an amazing one," says guitarist John Cormier. "For our second album we stayed close to home, so it was time again to hit the road and see what a completely new environment could bring to the project".

After considering legendary venues like Abbey Road (too expensive), RCA Studio B (no longer a commercial studio) and Muscle Shoals, the band eventually settled on Nashville and the studio of music icon Cowboy Jack Clement. Says upright bass player Steve Donnelly, "Cowboy Jack was a house engineer at SUN Studio in the fifties, engineer and friend to Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, and went back to produce U2's Rattle and Hum session at SUN, using the same drums that we used on our first album. With all these connections, it just made sense to continue The Kingmakers musical journey in that direction."

"After speaking with engineer Brooks Watson in Nashville, it became clear that this was the studio for us. Brooks had the same laid-back southern style as James Lott, our engineer at SUN. So we knew it would be a great fit" says singer Clark Lawlor.

After a few conversations, and having heard The Kingmakers two albums and checked them out on YouTube, Watson glowed enthusiastically about the band and their songs, then added a new twist. "I'm friends with J.M. Van Eaton, maybe I could get him to play on your session," Watson mentioned casually.

J.M. Van Eaton may not be a household name, but he is an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame: as a teenager in the fifties, he was the house drummer at SUN Studio, playing on the earliest hits by Jerry Lee Lewis including "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", as well as Billy Riley's "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" and "Red Hot", a song near and dear to The Kingmakers and often featured in their live set. "I remember singing along with Red Hot in the car as a kid. Back then I didn't know what rockabilly was, but I knew I liked it. So to record in Nashville, with J.M. Van Eaton on drums, is an honor and a privilege" says Donnelly. Van Eaton was the most-recorded musician at SUN, recording on hundreds of tracks with dozens of artists.

Watson discussed the project with Van Eaton and played him some of the tunes, and Van Eaton was on board. Ian Cook, The Kingmakers drummer and latest addition, is also one of Ottawa's biggest rockabilly fans, so of course he was not offended at the prospect of having a legend sit in on drums for a few songs. It was agreed that Van Eaton would play on a few tracks, and Watson also suggested that The Kingmakers cover one of Van Eaton's songs, "Memphis in '55". When Cook also mentioned The Jordanaires at rehearsal, this set some more wheels in motion.

The next day, Donnelly contacted The Jordanaires - members of the Country Music Hall of Fame - who sang with Elvis ("Return To Sender", "It's Now Or Never", and many others), Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash, and many more, as well as having an illustrious career of their own. After a few friendly emails back and forth, The Jordanaires were also confirmed for the session.

Watson also mentioned that if Cowboy Jack Clement likes the songs, he may be interested in sitting in on a few tunes. Although Clement did not end up playing on the session, he was on hand for the session, supervising and directing, telling tales, and dancing along with the band while they played.

In one marathon day, The Kingmakers managed to record 13 tracks, including 3 with J.M. Van Eaton on drums and 2 with The Jordanaires on vocals. They returned to add a few finishing touches at home, including horns courtesy of locals Zeek Gross and Kelly Craig, and banjo courtesy of Keith Snider (Fiftymen).

The CD, now titled “Last Night In Nashville” will be released on Friday Sept. 10, 2010 at Elmdale House on Wellington St. in Ottawa, where the band will be performing all night. A modest cover charge will include a complimentary copy of the CD.

The band will also be performing on Rogers Daytime on Thursday, Sept. 9. Check your local listings for air times.

More information:
The Kingmakers
Clark Lawlor: 613-867-6744 or
Steve Donnelly:

Cowboy Jack Clement
J.M. Van Eaton   
The Jordanaires

Elmdale House Tavern