The Hardway

by J Raleigh Jones

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This is a story of a singer, songwriter, historian and sonof a famous father.

He was raised in the music business with stars and those who ran the music

business. It is a  story told to my friend Wally Parks, also a singer/songwriter and

musician here in Nashville, TN.  Wally is his friend.




                                                                                                                    Lil Earl Sinks


Lil Earl Sinks' father, Earl Sinks was a singer/songwriter and actor, known by many pseudonyms. He led a prolific musical and acting career from the 1950s to the 1990s before retiring. He was best known for his long music career, including his brief tenure as lead singer of the Crickets from 1958 to 1960, and for his acting roles in numerous movies and TV shows in the 60s.


As B. Earl Sinks states,"I came out of 3 generations of Country music and saw artists and others in the music business I met growing up and couldn’t help but notice writers seemed to have lots of free time. They were always going out to play golf, fish, and smoke and drink and got paid for it, I decided at an early age, “This is what I want to do!"


He continues, " I was really fortunate to have exposure to be in a music family. For example, Faron Young was a good family friend  and had given head shots with a sentiment written to members of my family. Maybe I knew Faron to well, because he signed mine, “To Brandon, Your Full of Sh't, But I Love You, Uncle Faron”.


What you may find surprising is that Lil Earl Sinks did not want to rest on his family's fame.  As he put it, "I could have easily pitched songs to the people I met through my family but I didn’t want to make it riding on my family‘s reputation. I had been writing songs and after graduation from high school. I got a job with a catering service that provided lunches to the publishing houses on Music Row here in Nashville. So when it came to delivering lunches on Music Row, I would slip a tape of my songs into the lunch boxes. That’s where I got the attention of Paul and George Ritchie, Tammy Wynette‘s husband and producer and his brother. They gave me a break I needed and I was on my way."


" Some of my inspirations in music were writing teams like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lennon and McCartney. I drew inspiration from family friends Mickey Newberry and Tommy Collins. Most often the songs I was writing were sad, sad Country songs. Maybe because I was just writing from my own life and the songs were reflecting that. I was writing some songs with Jack Quist, and my father who was producing the album was after Jack and myself about all the sad songs. He said we need to be wrirting up-tempo happy songs.  So we sat in a small room trying to figure out how to come up with one. After about four hours we walked out with a new song called, ‘Not One Happy Song”! We wrote a song about not being able to write a happy one," laughs Sinks.  


Also Sinks remembers, "After we had enough material for Jack’s album and we’re cutting them in the studio with my fathers prodding I put together three or four of them to take out to Tommy Collins house. I valued his opinion and it was my hopes that I was on the right track. Tommy never really cared about other people songs and the illustrate his loathing for others Tommy asked me how many songs I brought with me and I said four. He agreed reluctantly but told me “Brandon Earl, I have to be honest, I’d rather be stuck in a cave with someone showing me family photos than have to listen to other people songs!""


As time went by Lil Earl Sinks was getting  his songs cut by artists like The Remington’s, Wayne Toups, Clinton Gregory, Jack Quist, Brent Woodall, Sonny Marshall, and Jimmy Griffin.  He  also got to co-write with a host of excellent writers such as Tommy Barnes, Earl Clark, Kathy Louvin, Hoss Burns, Rick Yancey, Richard Mainegra, Sonny Thockmorton, Dobie Gray, Wayne Perry, Mary Chaplin Hartford, Troy Martin, Ryan Story and a host of others too many to mention.  


As Sinks recalls, "Now my father, Earl ‘Snake’ Richards, helped me get my feet wet with producing the band Bread’s album ‘Bread Recuts” back in the early 90’s. My father gave me free reign on that project. My first production and I went $15,000 over budget. That’s a hard lesson to learn the first time out. Needless to say my father oversaw the rest of the demos I did."


While Sink admits, "I had written some songs that my father produced in 1987. Most of these songs just sat on tape until this year 2021 in March I re-tracked the vocals creating a new album. I wanted to do something to honor him and to honor the heritage that I came out of. This new album, soon to be released, includes a track that my father had sang harmony on back when he originally produced the album. I got the opportunity to sing with my dad posthumously. The name of the project is “Reflections” and was originally recorded at Reflection Studio in Berry Hill and is the reflection of a families legacy."


In his closing, B. Earl Sinks acknowledges, "I am fortunate that I came from a family that was instrumental in helping to shape music history and exposed me to so many great artists and writers. Country music is what made Nashville a great place and established it internationally. I am currently working on some projects to help bring that history alive to those who still remember it and those who want to learn about it. Ya’ll will be hearing more about that soon." 


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