It must have been very early in 1997 that I first met Greg Brayton. I had written a song and had a melody hanging in my mind and, since I could not read or write music, and since I could not carry a tune all that well, I was having a problem capturing the music inside me. I took my challenge to a meeting of the Nashville Songwriters Assn. in Battle Creekwhere a man named Jim Oliver was in charge. When I read my lyric to the group many of the members suggested I see Greg Brayton. I called Greg, made an appointment and it changed my life. During a period from early 1997 thru 2001 we recorded a total of 62 songs. From that first session where we recorded my love song titled “You’re The Most Pathetic Person That I Have Ever Met,” I remained in complete awe of Greg’s musical talents. I can remember sitting in Greg’s studio driveway and envisioning hundreds of vocalists and musicians inside just ready to record a session. Together they could put together and perform just about any type of music you might conjure up. Of course Greg was all of those people in one. Greg was a musical genius and no matter what style of musical background I might request he could create an instant arrangement for my song and in a time frame of about 3 hours I would go home from the session with a cassette of my song and I was floating on a cloud over our accomplishment. If I said to him, “I hear strings right there,” he would reply, “How many do you want?” He could produce a single violinist or a full string section of violins, violas, cellos and basses. If I wanted, he could instantly work in something akin to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
I might say, “Greg, we are in this really smokey bar and it is about 1 AM. There is an old man sitting at an out of tune piano. He has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and I would read the lyric to him a few times and then he would Braille it. I’d try to sing it out the way I heard it in my head and maybe a minute later he was at his console feeding rhythmic piano chords onto a track on his recorder Then perhaps some rhythm instruments, bass, drums, cymbals. All this with synthesizers. Then he might go over to his guitar rack and add a couple of guitar tracks, maybe live bass. He might even put in a guitar or a banjo or some other solo and then when he had some wonderful background tracks put down he would go into his little section of the studio where he would do the vocals. He might do it with one voice or maybe two or three. It might call for a male or a female voice. He left me stunned the way he built up some of those songs with harmonies on vocals and a constant parade of innovations. The first time we recorded he did a female voice and Greg came up with a voice like Archie Bunker’s wife, Edith, and he hit one of those screeching high notes. He tried the high note and didn’t quite make it. He was using a reel to reel tape recorder back then and he backed the tape up and sang the high note again but as he did he reached over to the tape that was spinning on the reel and for that instant he slowed it down just a bit. As soon as he hit the note he released it to normal. He backed it up and played it and sure enough he hit that note right on. I looked at that and said to myself, “This man is truly a genius.”
He proved that genius so many times in those precious sessions that followed.
We are packing to return to Coldwater, Michigan for his memorial service. Oh God, I will miss him.