The Kingston Springs Suite
Released May 19th, 2015
An amphetamine-fueled, prophetic, loose and gritty, 1972 Polaroid snapshot into the lives of a small town of an America gone by. Championed by Johnny Cash (who provided his studio and engineer, and penned the liner notes), and produced by Shel Silverstein (along w/ Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Cowboy Jack Clement), the “Suite” was the talk of the Nashville outlaw underground, but then, mysteriously shelved for 40 years. Preserving the old ways, and presented for the first time ever – God save Kingston Springs!
Vince Matthews and Jim Casey were two of the best and wildest songwriters to emerge during the brief, post Dylan, artistic renaissance period in Nashville, TN (it was “a little like Paris in the 1920s” according to Mickey Newbury). Their songs were recorded by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Gordon Lightfoot, and Sammi Smith, among others, and their 24 hour lifestyle was accepted and encouraged. The “Suite” was their ambitious dream project, and it’s presentation was to include film, slides, costumes, narration, and songs. A script / treatment by Vince was green-lighted to be a complete episode on the Johnny Cash television show. The Cash show never happened, but the Suite was performed at a Johnny Cash concert at Pocono Speedway, and at a dress rehearsal in the Kingston Springs HS gymnasium (with Johnny, June, and baby John Carter in attendance). But things began falling apart as Vince’s ambitions grew bigger and his craziness got crazier. Shel Silverstein and Larry Wilkerson immortalized him in their song “Vince” (“And that great speckled bird sang her song in his ear. Whisperin’ words of magic that only he could hear.”), but the Suite was never completed to his satisfaction and remained unreleased. Interest lagged and the doors slammed shut by 1974, when Nashville had shaken off the crazies and gotten back to business as usual.
On Vince Matthews:
He was very different, so his songs were different. He was a free-thinker and a rebel. – Cowboy Jack Clement
He was too damned brilliant for his own good. – Merle Kilgore
I grew up with the Grand Ole Opry. I mean, we didn’t buy anything, any product, unless it was advertised on the Opry. My mother dipped Garrett Sweet Snuff. We drank American Ace coffee and wore Duckhead clothes. My grandmother went to her grave believing Hank Williams never took a drink and would fight you over it. So I’ve got a right to say anything I want about Nashville, the Opry or country music. Because I’m talking about myself. – Vince Matthews
I think “Melva’s Wine” is the greatest contemporary American folk song I’ve ever heard. – Johnny Cash
“Detroit is damned, Chicago’s gone
Cleveland baby, bye-bye so long
The L.A. Freeway ain’t the way, it ain’t free
Oh, Good Lord, can you find,
In your heart to be kind,
Can you spare Kingston Springs, Tennessee?”