Plugged In: The Making of “Mamaroneck”

“I just scribbled this out while you were going down,” Nashville session ace Pat Bergeson says as I finish playing “Mamaroneck Station” on my ’70 Brazilian rosewood 000-28 Martin (you may have read about it in FJ#15). I watch as he effortlessly charts my tune using Nashville’s number system while hearing it for the first time.

“Mamaroneck” started out like so many songs: some lyrics and chords on an acoustic guitar. I even recorded an earlier version some 40 years ago. But as a grand experiment for the Fretboard Journal, I decided to take three tunes, including “Mamaroneck” to Nashville. There, in a single day at his TuneSmith studio, producer Richard Smith and some of the city’s finest musical hired hands—Suzy Bogguss (vocals), Pat Bergeson (guitar and harmonica), Todd Parks (bass), Chris Brown (drums), Jenee Fleenor (fiddle and mandolin) and Telecaster ace Brent Mason—transformed my humble old creation into something ready for radio (if only radio still played songs like this).

“Do you want to know the difference between a really good player and a top-line studio pro?” asked my pal Eric Garcia as we worked a final mix of the songs. Eric is himself a fine multi-instrumentalist and owner of the 48 Windows recording studio in Santa Monica, where we were working. “A really good player will get a part 80 or 90 percent right each time so you can stitch something nice together. A studio pro will frequently nail it cold on the first pass.”

Hear “Mamaroneck Station” in its entirety below.

Bonus: Hear “On the Radio,” a second tune from the same session, below.