Rayland and I basically grew up together.
I mean, we have the same dad. His genetically, mine symbolically.
I bought the lucky guitar from pop—Bucky Baxter. This would be back in 1999, twenty damn years ago.
From 1992–1999, Bucky had played 700+ shows with Bob Dylan, and me and my friends saw three-dozen or so of ‘em. Bucky left the band to open a studio (Three Trees) in a holler in the hills north of Nashville, Whites Creek TN. To help raise a few bucks for the project, he sold four instruments on the new-to-me website, eBay.
It’s a familiar story at this point: I won the auction for Bucky’s 1964 Gibson B-25, ended up befriending and working with him, and my life was never the same again, ever.
I was nervous as hell every time I was down at Three Trees. Bucky and his friends were icons to me; they’d played with everyone, and you never knew who might stroll in.
Welsh singer Cerys Matthews was there, hiding from NME and the UK paparazzi. Nobody in the world knew where on the planet she was; she was riding around in a pickup truck in Tennessee with me and Tony Byrd as we helped her move a piano. Ryan Adams was there, recording demos for Gold while the rest of the world thought Whiskeytown was still a thing, and were waiting for that band’s new album to come out.
Bucky had this particular quality. He was one of the most brilliant people I ever met, yet also childlike; reality didn’t seem to bother him too much and you’d look into his eyes and they’d just shimmer—you could see nothing but possibilities.
One time we were down in the holler and Bucky was like, “Hey, meet my son, Rayland, he’s visiting from his mom’s out east.” And here comes Rayland, a high school senior, strolling into this hippie scene, detached but effortless, looking like he just walked off a lacrosse field, east coast prep all the way.
On that trip, Ketch Secor (who leads a band called Old Crow Medicine Show) was playing fiddle around a fire pit, teaching Bucky an old folk song from Nova Scotia. Bucky was enchanted, his grin irresistible, and they just start riffing on it, calling out the turnarounds, the stops, the starts, the sophisticated runs. Bobby Bare Jr. just stared at them and says, “Maybe I’ll just play a D-chord.” (Hilarious.)