The Hippie and The Hillbilly – Tracy Nelson and Pete Drake

In the mid-1960s at the height of the psychedelic era, Tracy Nelson was the lead singer of San Francisco band, Mother Earth, performing at the Fillmore with the likes of Janice Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. Tracy came with Mother Earth to Nashville in 1969 to record a country side project.  She had learned about a great producer and steel player named Pete Drake from her work with Bob Dylan and asked Pete to produce her album. Elvis Presley’s original Sun-era guitarist, Scotty Moore, engineered and co-produced the album, which was cut at Music City Recorders. Tracy Nelson was the first of the female rock ‘n roll artists Pete produced. The album Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country was released on Mercury Records in 1969. Tracy liked Nashville so much she decided to relocate and has lived here ever since.

Pete Drake’s longtime business partner and wife, Rose Drake, shares her recollections from the project: “Tracy was fun and a bit of fresh air for everyone during those sessions. She came to the studio and to our office with several of her very well-behaved dogs every day. Tracy found out she could embarrass Pete by saying her famous “four letter word,” so she decided to use it often. Before press meetings and recording sessions, Pete would remind her, ‘In the south, ladies don’t use that language.’  That was a real big mistake,” Rose laughs, “because Tracy would get him in front of someone and let the expletives fly!  You could see Pete and Scotty Moore just want to go under the console with their red faces. I remember the musicians would just scatter and start laughing saying,  ‘She did it again!’ All the musicians loved working with Tracy. This was always one of Pete’s favorite projects because she was such a professional, a great talent and a beautiful person.”

Later when Ringo Starr came to Nashville to record his solo album, Pete took him out to visit Tracy’s farm in Burns, Tennessee to spend some time in the Tennessee country with Mother Earth. In fact the album cover and promo shots for Ringo’s Beaucoups of Blues were photographed at Tracy’s farm.

Today Tracy Nelson still records and tours as a solo artist.  You can learn more about her and find her upcoming shows on her website

Download Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country produced by Pete Drake from iTunes:

Country by Tracy Nelson