19 May 1940
Houston, Harris County, Texas, United States
29 September 2002 (aged 62)
Mickey Newbury (May 19, 1940 - September 29, 2002) was an American singer-songwriter for Acuff-Rose Music, a critically acclaimed recording artist, and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Born Milton Sims Newbury, Jr. in Houston, Texas. As a teenager, Mickey Newbury sang tenor in a moderately successful vocal group called The Embers. The group opened for several famous performers, such as Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash. Although Mickey tried to make a living off of his music by singing in clubs, he put his musical career on hold at age 19 when he joined the Air Force. After four years in the military, Mickey again set his sights on making a living as a songwriter. Before long, he moved to Nashville and signed to the prestigious publishing company Acuff-Rose Music.
For a time, he was one of the most influential creative minds in Nashville and it's arguable that he was the first real "outlaw" of the outlaw country movement of the 1970s. Ralph Emery referred to him as the first "hippie-cowboy" and along with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, he was one of the first to rebel against the conventions of the Nashville music society. After being disappointed by the production methods used by Felton Jarvis on his debut album, Mickey got himself released from his contract with RCA and signed the first offer he received to comply with his condition that he could either produce his own albums or hire a producer of his choice.
He went on to record three musically revolutionary albums in Wayne Moss's garage-turned-studio just outside of Nashville. The influence of the production methods can be heard in the albums Waylon Jennings went on to record in the 1970s (with instrumentation highly unconventional for country music) and his poetically sophisticated style of songwriting was highly influential on Kris Kristofferson. It was Newbury who convinced Roger Miller to record Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee", which went on to launch Kristofferson as country music's top songwriter. Newbury is also responsible for getting Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to move to Nashville and pursue careers as songwriters. However, he had no desire to cash-in on the Outlaw movement.
In 1974, he moved to a house on the McKenzie River in Oregon with his wife, Susan, and new born son, Chris, where they welcomed three more children over the years. He recorded several albums throughout the 1970s for Elektra and ABC/Hickory, all of them critically praised, but financially unsuccessful. In 1980, he was given the distinction of being the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Although he spent much of the 1980s retired from performing and recording music, he returned both to recording and touring in the late 1980s before he died following a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis on September 29, 2002, aged 62.
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