• lead vocal and piano: Doug Koempel
  • acoustic guitar: Steve Logan
  • electric guitar: Jimmy Bryant
  • steel guitar: Buddy Emmons
  • bass: Bud Logan (Jim Reeve's original bass player and John Conlee's producer)
  • drums: D.J. Fontana (Elvis's original drummer)
  • strings: The Wire Choir arranged and conducted by Kris Wilkinson
  • background vocals: Sound Seventy Singers (including Janie Fricke)
  • recorded at: Music City Recorders / Nashville, TN
  • engineered by: Jack Logan

Doug's notes:

"APRIL LEE" WAS A SONG I'd included on the Sayin' Good-Bye album which was released in 1980. The song itself was recorded several years earlier at Nashville's Music City Recorders - in fact it was one of the very first songs I'd ever sung in a "real" recording studio.

Prior to my studio experience, I had been used to performing in live bands where just the sheer stage volume and crowd noise would mask many vocal shortcomings. Pitch, phrasing and diction issues quickly surfaced in the recording studio. In fact "Is that really what I sound like?!" is possibly the most-commonly uttered remark by studio novices.

During this same session on another song (we usually did 3 songs per session), Jack Logan - the avuncular recording engineer - cornered me and asked, "Will you still be in town tomorrow?" I looked over at the producer, and he nodded his head yes. Jack continued, "I want you to come back to the studio tomorrow." I thought, "Wow, he must really like my singing!" Then my bubble burst when he whispered in his laid-back Tennessee drawl, "Cuz son, you don't know that song!"

So the next day I came back, and Jack mercilessly drilled me in the finer points of singing in tune, breath control and diction. At the time I felt I learned more in that 3-hour session than I'd learned in 2 years of sight-singing in college. He had me record the song line by line - piecing together the best fragments into one, semi-mediocre take. That was a wake up call, and then and there I realized I had a lot to learn about singing.

"April Lee" was the second song I'd done in that session, and we regrettably didn't have the time to dissect my vocal performance line by line. So I've been stuck with a vocal that is cringeworthy and unfortunately doesn't get any better with repeated listenings over the years. Nevertheless the song is a well-written ballad, and the backing instrumental and arrangement are wonderful. And take note of Janie Fricke's beautiful vocal line "April Lee . . . a lady" starting at 1 minute 3 seconds. At the time Janie was doing a lot of backup singing as a member of the Sound Seventy Singers right before she hit the big time in 1977.

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Doug Koempel © 2016
SONG #66

artist: Doug Koempel
album title: SAYIN' GOOD-BYE (1980)
label: JAROCO Records
publishing: Jaroco Music, BMI / Blue Baker Music BMI
play "April Lee"