Talking with Lacy J. Dalton about her Jan. 28 benefit at Moe’s Alley for beloved Santa Cruz guitar player Jimmy Jackson and his wife Ellen O’Hanlon, I mention I’d just listened to “Crazy Blues Eyes” again, Lacy’s song of the paradox of love and independence.
She remembers writing it in her Ben Lomond cabin on Alba Road. She had put on a pot of coffee and started writing, but knew she needed help from her friend Mary McFadden, friends since they were 7.
“I took a broom handle and pounded on the bottom of the loft that Mary was sleeping in. ‘Mary, get up!’ She was recovering from a divorce, and I called up to her, ‘You’re in the perfect mood to write this song with me.’ And we wrote ‘Crazy Blue Eyes’.”
The Nashville Billy Sherill Years
“We had offers from every record company in Nashville on the strength of that song. I think it was because it was such a different attitude for a woman to have in Nashville. My producer was the great Billy Sherrill (George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Ray Charles) and he says, ‘Doesn’t it bother you to have people think that you’re a whore?’ He was very straight, Baptist, but we had an incredible relationship. He never did anything except love me more than I love myself. I needed that.”
“He was talking about the lyric,
‘I never could stand the touch of a man
Who’d brand me to keep me around.’”
“Right. I said, ‘Billy, if I thought what I was doing was wrong, I wouldn’t do it.’ The bottom line is, we were liberated women. There were a lot of liberated women before us, but they didn’t have the orange crate to stand on and shriek about it. It’s not ‘Stand By Your Man’. It’s more, ‘I’m going to be a free woman and I really don’t want to be tied down.’ That song started me off as an outlaw artist.”
“Billy Sherill clearly got who you are.”
“He said, ‘You are the most difficult artist I have ever worked with to find songs for, because you want to believe what you’re singing. You care. You’re not going to have an easy time.’ Boy, was he right.”
A Million Promises
Raised in Bloomsburg, PA, she was born Jill Lynn Byram, the daughter of a beautician and a mechanic.
“When I turned 21, I ran off with a rock and roll guitar player and a legal bottle of booze. I met him at the county fair. He was selling psychedelic posters, and I was selling jewelry.
“We fell in something like love, and he told me he was going to California to try a commune and be part of the children. I decided to go. I knew I was destined to go to California; I thought the whole place was like one long beach with Orange Julius stands. We were in a blizzard all the way from Tunkhannock, PA.
“We had enough money for gas, not much more. When we hit the California state line the sun burst out of the clouds like a million promises. The trees had icicles, dripping crystals. The light was only as it is in California. My heart swelled and opened, and I was ready for the experience that I had, the psychedelic experience of the 60s and 70s in California.”
It’s For Jimmy Jackson and Ellen O’Hanlon
“I’ve known Jimmy ever since I was in Santa Cruz and have always loved him. He was a hard charger back then and an incredible musician. One of the best guitar players I have ever, ever heard. In later years, when I went back to Santa Cruz, I looked him up and he is truly like a brother to me. I admire him so much. We’ve written songs and produced records together all our lives. Ellen O’Hanlon is a healer, his wife, the most beautiful soul everybody loves.”
It’s For the Spirit of Santa Cruz
“There’s a spiritual energy in Santa Cruz, an elevated consciousness. That energy I had thought was gone, that I always felt in the 70s, that I was so homesick for, it’s still here. I’m so grateful, when I asked people if they would do this benefit for me, I did not have one refusal in the entire musical community of Santa Cruz. It’s old home week.”
Sun Jan, 28 2024. 3:00 pm
$60 advance / $70 day of show
All proceeds go to Jimmy Jackson and Ellen O’Hanlon to cover medical expenses.
Lacy J. Dalton and Dale Poune
Edge of The West
Ginny Mitchell w/ Daniel Shane Thomas & Patti Maxine
Michael Belanger & Jack Bowers
Sharon Allen & Dusty Boots
The Carolyn Sills Combo
Bonny June & Bonfire
Beans Sousa w/ Lacy J. Dalton
Michael Gaither and His New Best Friends
Rachel Anne Goodman & Steve Palazzo
Rotating musicians: Bill Laymon, Jimmy Norris, Craig Owens and Charlie Wallace