A mythical bird of great beauty fabled to live 500 or 600 years in the Arabian wilderness, it would burn itself on a funeral pyre, then rise from its own ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or hope.
This is a good story, no - this is a great story! Not many of us get a second chance in our lifetime to show the world what we are capable of doing. To take the talent that we have been given and bring it to life then to share it with perfect strangers and discover that they too find a genuine value in that which we create. This is the story of Bemo Prince, the has-been that never was who got that second chance.
This is not just the story of Bemo’s rise from the ashes; he did not do this alone. Something really wonderful happened here that the Midlands and South Carolina have needed to see for a long time now and it gives me great hope. A group of young local musicians with nothing to gain but the joy of playing and helping someone realize their dream gave their time and talent to back Bemo up in the studio and to help him breathe life into the songs he had compiled over a 33 year stretch of lost time. And they did not just back him up but they performed brilliantly with passion and respect for the man and his material. That is the kind of support I long to see between musicians in our city and in our state, this is a perfect example of what every artist, musician, and each person affiliated with the craft should aspire to in their lifetime.
Bemo Prince - Has Been That Never Was
Bemo Prince left Nashville in the 1980s after a decade of close calls failed to materialize a record contract, including an ill-fated appearance on the TNN television program You Can Be A Star, a national talent show for aspiring country singers that helped launch the careers of Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood. After a three-decade hiatus, Has Been That Never Was is his debut album. Produced by Daniel Machado and Stephen Russ of The Restoration, a historyfocused musical collective from South Carolina and Washington D.C., the album is a collection of Bemo's unrecorded songs from the 1960s and 70s, recorded live to tape with minimal overdubs in the spirit of classic country. The studio band features members of The Restoration, with Kristen Harris from Prairie Willows on fiddle, Kenny Martin on pedal steel guitar, Russell Lowery on bass, and guest vocals by Jordan Igoe, Lisa Stubbs, and Lindsay Holler.
Bemo’s Story In His Own Words:
I started writing and performing when I was 16. I focused all my energy on it and never looked back. By the time I was 19 I was married, had my first child, and released my first 45 rpm. My early career was heartbreaking but rewarding. It was as addictive as any drug. I met Dolly Parton and Porter Wagner in 1968, Kenny Rogers in ‘71. What a dream! But the dream of becoming a Star wasn’t as easy as I thought. In ‘76, I was introduced to Bill Anderson. He was former Entertainer of the Year, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and willing to listen. He said I had tremendous talent but that to succeed in this business it takes about 10% talent and 90% persistence. My time finally came in 1983 when a new talent showcase was going to air on The Nashville Network. There was a lot of buzz and everyone was trying to get on it. “You Can Be A Star” debuted before I got my rejection letter saying I was not what they were looking for. I sent another audition tape and was invited to do a live audition in Nashville. I did the live audition and then had to wait six weeks to get the news that I was going to be on the show. I was so ready, and I knew this was my moment. The show was taped on January 17, 1984. I drove to Nashville with my mom, who was my biggest fan, my wife, who was finally believing it was going to happen, and my two little girls, Lisa and Angie, who seemed to already know something big was happening. My rehearsal with the Nashville band went great, and then it was show time. My moment had arrived. At the start of the second verse of “Wondering What My Whole World’s Coming To” I was off time with the band and started to struggle. It was the most horrific 60 seconds of my life. I just could not believe it - or that I could ever recover from it. The experience changed me. I left Nashville and the dream behind. Time took over and the dream laid dormant for over 40 years. My grandkids don’t really know much about my songwriting, so I reached out to an old friend to help me document some of my music. That’s where his son Daniel Machado took over. Now I am proud to introduce my album Has Been That Never Was.
Producer's Note: Project Background
by Daniel Machado
For me this project began with a text from my dad telling me that Bemo, his friend of over 40 years, was looking for a place to record some of his old songs after a few decades away from music. Bemo was about to turn 70 and a series of heart attacks had him feeling he’d left something unfinished. I grew up hearing stories about Bemo. He was the tall, lanky family friend who had spent time in Nashville as a country singer songwriter, done standup, and who may have saved my dad’s life once, and may have had to defend himself with a glass Coke bottle after breaking my dad’s motorcycle on another occasion. I stared at my dad's text for a bit. I wondered what Bemo's music sounded like - if he had enough material for an album. If he might be willing to give me a shot at putting together a studio band and recording an album that sounded a little like what he might have made in the 1970s if he'd had the chance. I'd written music about fictional music archivists and a fake "lost album" before but I'd never done the real thing. I asked my dad to get me some demos. In response Bemo sent an iPad video of himself, sitting in a chair in front of the camera, '70s Nashville audition style, performing the song that would hook me on the project, "Bottle of Wine". I forwarded the video to Stephen Russ, my producing partner on everything I've recorded since 2009. With my family connection to Bemo I needed some outside perspective. Stephen loved the song and wanted to coproduce.
As Bemo sent more and more video demos I began talking to my favorite musical collaborators and setting up rehearsals. We rehearsed for seven weeks, listening to each session and making notes. As the process wore on Bemo expressed his worry that he might not live to finish the album. Unknown to me at the time, Bemo's heart doctor later confirmed that Bemo had another, smaller, series of heart attacks sitting in his truck on the first morning of our two-day recording session at Jam Room Studio. Bemo grinned through it as Stephen told him, "you've waited 40 years to record this song, you can do one more take." Writing this, about a year after Bemo first got in touch with me, with the work done and Bemo alive to see its release, I've been given an entirely new perspective on what it can mean to finish an album.
Recorded live to tape at Jam Room Studio, April 2016
Vocals & Guitar: Bemo Prince
Bass (Lead Guitar Track 9): Russell Lowery
Drums: Steve Sancho
Fiddle: Kristen Harris
Lead Guitar: Sean Thomson
Rhythm Guitar: Daniel Machado
With overdubs by
Pedal Steel: Kenny Martin
Guest Vocals (Track 2): Jordan Igoe
Backing Vocals (Tracks 1, 7, 8): Lisa Stubbs
Backing Vocals (Tracks 1, 8): Lindsay Holler
Accordion: Adam Corbett
Engineered by Zac Thomas
Mixed by Daniel Machado
Mastered by Keith Compton
Produced by Daniel Machado & Stephen Russ
Cover Photography: Michael Dantzler
Studio Photography: Thomas Hammond
Design: Daniel Machado, Maria Fabrizio
All songs written by Bemo Prince between 1968 and 1978
© 2016 Bemo Prince, Never Wzz Publishing (ASCAP)