Inspired by the life of Hank Garland, CRAZY is the story of a legendary guitar player who emerged from Nashville in the 1950’s. Blessed with incomparable, natural talent, Hank quickly established his reputation as the finest sessions player in Nashville. Artists such as Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, The Everly Brothers and Elvis all sought Hank’s brilliant play for their recordings. Moving effortlessly from country, to rock-a-billy, to jazz, Hank was also quickly recognized by the likes of Dave Bruebeck, Gary Burton, Joe Morello and Joe Benjamin.
The Nashville scene was a unique place in the 50’s – dominated by a small group of executives and musicians who controlled the studios, labels and unions. Hank, in his arrogance and pursuit of musical excellence, often came into conflict with the business, social and racial culture he found both restrictive and frequently frustrating. But it was his relationship with his wife, Evelyn, which may have ultimately led to his demise.
Beautiful and sharp-witted, Evelyn was unlike any woman Hank had ever encountered when meeting her during a club date in Chicago. She both excited and fascinated him, and turned a whirlwind romance into an almost instant marriage. But Evelyn was not all she appeared to be, and when confronted with the reality of Hank’s obsessive dedication to his music, began to demonstrate a desperate need to make him love only her.
Some people say that a near-fatal car accident, which Hank suffered, was a result of tragic response to dreams unfulfilled. Others will say that the subsequent electro-shock therapy which ended Hank’s playing career at the age of thirty-one was also a result of Evelyn’s despair. But forty-three years after Hank disappeared from the music scene, his guitar lives on in a countless number of hit records, and one, amazing solo jazz effort.
I was ten years old, when I had my first guitar lesson. His name was Larry Desmond. He taught music and band in the local junior high school, and would come to your home for private lessons in the afternoon. And, during those first few minutes in my modest, Brooklyn apartment, he sang Jamaica Farewell, while accompanying himself on a small, nylon stringed guitar. His voice was beautiful and bold, and in that moment, I fell in love with the instrument - as I do to this day. I’ve loved everything about the guitar – the shapes, the finishes, the specs, the sounds.
As my tastes moved from folk music, to rock, to jazz, I can remember eagerly awaiting Gibson’s annual guitar catalogue to arrive in the mail. I would spend hours studying the glossy photographs of its premium models – the L-5, the Johnny Smith, the Super – 400. And then, there was Wes. Once my friend Andy Maurodis introduced me to the recordings of Wes Montgomery (we were fourteen years old at the time), my fate as a worshiper of the jazz guitar was sealed forever.
I love to make movies – it’s what I do. But I am a guitar player. My two producing partners are giants of the guitar – one in business, the other a celebrated player. If all this sounds personal, it is. Music is personal. Art is personal. Film can be personal. Our film is, amongst other things, an homage to the instrument, and the legacy of the great players who give it life. It’s also personal because of it’s subject, Hank Garland. I hadn’t known of Hank, although I knew his music. His is a tragic story of brilliance, and love, and adversity. And, although his short-lived career ended after a near fatal car crash and subsequent series of involuntary electroshock treatments (he was only thirty-one years old at the time), his mastery of the instrument continues to influence generations of unknown and celebrated players alike.
I did get to spend a bit of time with Hank before he passed on. He was old, and the passage of time and more recent illnesses had certainly taken their toll. But he still loved to talk about the music, and days of Patsy and Elvis and Brubeck. And, although he didn’t make it to our first day of filming, his presence was strongly felt by the cast and crew alike.
I felt like I made this movie three times – while writing the script, all during production, and then throughout post production. And, I loved every minute of it. It was a joyous experience, even during those stomach-turning, anxious moments that seem to assault filmmakers at the end of the shooting day. But making this film enriched my life, and I will cherish all its memories for years to come. And ultimately, notwithstanding the limitations of our “independent” budget and schedule, I feel as though we successfully told a very dramatic story with heart, and soul, and music. And made it personal.