Local dentist working on fourth album release
How many reporters does it take to do an interview? Well, if the subject is a noted dentist who also happens to be a talented musician working on his fourth album, it takes two.
Mari Erin Roth is a sports writer, but also a music aficionado who knows her way around a recording studio, which is where this interview was conducted.
We meet with Dr. Michael Herndon in his well-appointed studio built on his Meadow Valley spread. A trio of dogs greets us and we are introduced to Merlee, his best canine friend, named after his very good friend, the late Merle Haggard.
Later we would be treated to a song that Hendon had written about his beloved pet. We are also greeted by the inspiration for many of Herndon’s songs — his wife Lennie.
She has been there from the beginning — before there was a dental career and before Herndon cut his first album.
Lennie was there when the two worked for an Idaho resort where sometimes Herndon would play for the guests after dinner in front of a roaring fire. One evening Paul Anka lingered to hear a solo concert after the other guests had departed and soon Herndon had a record deal.
But the initial success didn’t turn into a long-term career and Herndon focused on dentistry, becoming known in his field.
Still, music called and free time was spent playing his guitar, singing and writing songs. He rarely performs publicly because he thinks audiences enjoy hearing cover songs, and he plays original music. “I don’t want to burn people out on it,” he said.
For his fourth album, he added a cover — “Get Together” originally sung by the Youngbloods — but with a different flair.
“His vocals are as bright as Glen Campbell in his earliest days,” Roth said after listening to the song. “The fresh take on the Youngbloods’ hit is filled with real, intentional meaning. It’s 5:07 minutes that may change a person’s outlook on life.”
“Get Together” is one of 14 songs on his latest album titled “Rainbow and Gold” after one of its songs. He reunited with three renowned musicians who worked with him on his earlier CDs: Lee Sklar, Jon Gilutin and Gregg Bissonette.
“This is the third with the guys,” he says of his latest collaboration, “and the fourth with Lee.”
These guys are really good friends and great musicians,” he added. He also received an assist with backup vocals from Kate Markowitz.
Over two days in late April they laid down the live cuts of the songs in an LA recording studio and he has been working on the overdubbing back in Meadow Valley since that time.
“It’s a real joy to work with professionals that are so accomplished and polished,” Herndon said of the process. “Makes it real smooth.”
But he admits it’s also “the hardest record I’ve ever done.”
When asked if there is a message that he wants to convey with this latest album, he said, “Every song stands alone.”
It is an eclectic mix of music and topics. When writing songs, Herndon says he comes up with the melody first and just sings nonsensical lyrics to go with it until something rings true, and then the rest of the words fall into place.
One of Herndon’s favorite songs on the album, “Blues in E,” came about just that way. The music was finished, but he needed lyrics. He thought of taking his wife Lennie on a ride around their property — and “Hey baby, wanna go for a ride in my jeep, M38-A1” became the refrain.
While Herndon is continuing to tweak the music, his son, East Coast artist M. Benjamin Herndon, is working on the cover art and with Groove House Records to produce the final product with Herndon’s Laughing Gas Record Company.
Herndon said the new CD should be available in late November or early December. Though we were treated to a preview of some of his new songs in his studio, we can’t wait to hear this new release in its entirety. If it’s even half as good as his last CD “The Spirit of the Sun,” his fans are in for a special gift just in time for the holidays.
Editor’s note: Mari Erin Roth contributed to this article.