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Journalist Huda Ahmed

Since 2004, journalist Huda Ahmed has been covering the war in Iraq for the McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) News Service. This spring, she was awarded the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship by the International Women's Media Foundation. The fellowship is named for Boston Globe reporter Elizabeth Neuffer, who was killed while on assignment in Iraq. Ahmed has written about the issues of women and children in a war zone, human rights abuses and the struggle of women in a Muslim society, and will discuss the particular dangers of covering the war in Iraq.


Other segments from the episode on December 5, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 5, 2006: Interview with Huda Ahmed; Interview with Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez.


DATE December 5, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Iraqi journalist Huda Ahmed talks about the dangers of
covering the war in Iraq

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

American newspapers have been relying on Iraqi journalists to do things that
most American journalists cannot, like speak to Iraqis in Arabic with a full
understanding of their culture. My guest, Huda Ahmed, is an Iraqi journalist
who has taken great personal risks to report for American papers. A couple of
her Iraqi friends who were also working as journalists were killed. She does
not use her last name in her byline and won't use it on the air today, because
if she disclosed her identity, it could endanger her family. That's how
unpopular journalists are now in Iraq.

Huda Ahmed started reporting for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain in 2004.
She now reports for the McClatchy Company, which bought most of the Knight
Ridder papers earlier this year. She's currently in the Boston area as she's
the recipient of this year's Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship at MIT's Center for
International Studies. The fellowship is named after the Boston Globe
reporter who was killed while covering the war in Iraq.

Huda Ahmed, welcome to FRESH AIR. My impression is that it's very unsafe for
American journalists to be out in the streets in Iraq because they look like
Americans and therefore they're automatic targets, and I wonder if you think
that that's true, and it's therefore easier for you to be out in the streets
reporting than it is for American journalists.

Ms. HUDA AHMED: It is in fact. They are actually a target to be on the
streets, especially if they are not talking Arabic and they look like
Americans, and that's why we feel safe if we, you know, go out with, you know,
Arab journalists who are, you know, Arab Americans because they look like us,
and we try to ask them not to talk, you know, when we are, you know, like
walking in the streets, not to talk in English with us like we pretend we
speak with them in Arabic and they only nod, you know, to us whether they
understand what we say or not. But for Iraqi journalists, of course, they
prefer to be, you know, alone and do the story or, you know, try to bring the
story or the information to their bureau, and it's much, much safer than being
walking with a foreign journalist.

GROSS: You know, we're talking about how it's easier and safer for Iraqi
journalists to get into certain areas than it is for American journalists, but
at the same time, as far as I know, most of the journalists who have been
killed in Iraq have been Iraqi journalists. So, apparently, you're not really
all that safe...

Ms. AHMED: Of course.

GROSS: Iraqi journalists. Are Iraqi journalists actually being
targeted for murder?

Ms. AHMED: Yes, they've been because the thing is that those who, you know,
got target, they learn, for instance, that he or she live in a Sunni
neighborhood. So, if he works for TV, they will see him on TV, you know, the
cameras, so they will see him, you know, talking for instance on an Arab or an
American TV or talk on the radio or also write articles like about the
corruption or you know criticizing the militia or criticizing the government
and the situation, so, of course, he will write his full name, you know, and
it's not hard for the insurgents to get to them, and that's why we try, like,
as kind of protection for us, we don't say, like in our neighborhood, that we
are journalists. We hide that. We try to avoid the cameras as much as
possible. We try not to write in our full name, and if we write like about
critical stories or issues that we know what the consequence is going to be,
we try not to write our names and we ask our foreign journalists to do that,
not to mention our names, and I think you have seen many of the stories that
at the end of the article they write, you know, `We cannot mention the name of
the correspondent for security reasons.'

GROSS: So you're willing to give up your byline...

Ms. AHMED: Yes.

GROSS:'re willing to write an article and not sign it in order...

Ms. AHMED: Yes.

GROSS: protect yourself.

Ms. AHMED: Because I'm not protecting myself only. I'm protecting my whole
family because if I'm, you know, if they didn't get me, they might get one of
my family, and I don't want to jeopardize the life of my family. I don't care
about my life, but they've got nothing to do with that, and it is my choice to
be a journalist and I have to be responsible for that.

GROSS: Does everybody in your family know that you're working as a
journalist, or are you trying to protect them from even having that knowledge?

Ms. AHMED: Only my family. My family, meaning my mother, because my father
passed away last January, and my sisters and brothers, but none of my
relatives know. None of my neighbors know, and even, you know, when I work
and go back home, I don't tell them anything about any story I wrote or where
did I go or where I've been because if I tell them what I think or what I
hear, you know, and I've been there and it's true or not, they will talk in
public. They might talk in front of relatives or friends or neighbors, and
they will know for sure that I'm journalist, and that will be very risky
because that means because I cannot like trust any one of neighbors even if
they were for good willing, so I have to be very secretive, yes.

GROSS: When you go out to talk with people for stories that you're writing,
do you find that people are more afraid to talk to you as a reporter now than
they were, say, a year or two ago.

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Now they get more suspicious, skeptical, like two, three
years ago, they used to, voluntarily, you know, answer the questions we asked,
but now when we ask them, they have to know that we are not, you know, kind of
informants from, you know, terrorists groups, that try to get information from
them or stopping them because I have someone, you know, some gun man, waiting
for me in the car and I'm trying to kidnap him or rob him. Also they are
getting suspicious because they are afraid that I might write the thing,
whatever he or she's going to say, and I might, you know, convert it or switch
it, so I'm going to like say what I think he meant and...

GROSS: And he could be attacked for it.

Ms. AHMED: Yeah, because--they prefer if it was like a foreign agency
because as long what he said is going to be published here, it's not going to
be read in Baghdad, so it is safer for him. But if it was for local
newspaper, they don't want to mention his name. Sometimes we ask them for
first and second name, not the last name, because the last name is much
popular will be in Baghdad. Or, you know, we'll write his name like Abu
Foolan, like after the name of his son or her daughter, and many of them will
ask us for copies from our newspaper that what they said is written, and so we
have to talk with them a little bit. We have to make them convinced that we
have credibility, that we're going write whatever they say and we're going to
do, you know, our best, and some of them get tired of that because they like,
`You know, we talk and you write but nothing happens. Do you think you're
going to help us?' And we tell them, `We are only journalists. We are writing
what you say. We cannot do anything about it, but you know, your voice will
be heard. Your words will be read, and maybe something will happen.' And we
do the interviews sometimes on the streets and we do it just like that, you
know, fast, and sometimes with our foreign reporters, we have to do it very
fast. We have to look that there's no car or some people waiting, or you
know, suspicious or you know people get crowded around us, so we have to do it
very fast and leave.

GROSS: Do you have to dress differently as a woman now than you did before
the invasion of Iraq?

Ms. AHMED: Yes. We do. I have to--in 2003, sorry, it was much better. You
know, you can dress up what you like but, you know, conservative, not like
sleeveless or something or short skirt, but you can walk, you know, without
scarf. In the past two and a half years, everything changed, became worse. I
have to dress up like long shirt or long blouse that, you know, cover my body
and pants that's not tight. I can go out without a scarf, but you know, I
have to pull my hair back. I cannot like leave it like this, you know, loose,
or it's better for me to put something on my hair, like, you know, a scarf. I
have--if I want to be much more obscured. Somewhere else I cannot go with,
you know, pants, so I wear, you know, long skirt, or I wear, you know, the
black cloak, the Arabian cloak, with the scarf, if I want to be like them so
they won't, you know, recognize that I'm from another area.

GROSS: Why is it? Why do you have to dress more conservatively now? The
constitution was supposed to have protections for women in it.

Ms. AHMED: It's only ink on paper. It's funny that we have this
constitution, but it's not working. It's not on the ground. None of the
government will, you know, rescue me if something happened to me on the
street. Do you think that the police will, you know, raise a finger or the
army would raise a finger if someone kidnap me or a car pass by and kidnap me?
No, they will never do anything. They will never, you know, leave their spot,

GROSS: Are there extremists in both the Sunni and Shia militias who see
themselves as enforcers of, you know, women dressing and behaving, quote,

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: So it's coming from both sides.

Ms. AHMED: Yes, both sides.

GROSS: My guest is Iraqi journalist Huda Ahmed. We'll talk more after a

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Huda Ahmed, an Iraqi journalist who reported for the
Knight Ridder newspapers and is now with the McClatchy chain of papers. But
right now she's at MIT's Center for International Studies, where she's the
recipient of the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship for human rights journalism.

Tell us about one of the stories that you wrote that you had to take a big
risk in order to report.

Ms. AHMED: The best stories that I made with my former bureau chief of
Baghdad was--her name was Hannah Allam. That was in Najaf when in 2004, in
summer, when the followers of Muqtada Sadr fought with the multinational
forces. And it was so hard because it was so dangerous, and both of us
insisted that we should go to Najaf to cover the stories there, and we were
thinking that we're not getting any good news from there, that we have to be
there, and I went there, and it was very, very dangerous because, you know, we
were in a war zone, bullets were, you know, flying over our heads and under
our feet, and we had to run, you know, we have to stick to the wall, because,
you know, we were taken by one of the, you know, Sadr militia, one of the
Muqtada Sadr militiamen because we wanted to go to the shrine...

GROSS: This is the shrine where Muqtada al-Sadr's men...

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Imam Ali.

GROSS: They had been using it like as a headquarters.

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Yes. It was used by his men as they were using themselves
as human shields, you know...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. AHMED: ...and they were there. Muqtada was not there, you know, but one
or two or three of his close aides, they were there, you know, in Imam Ali
tribe because they know the Americans, you know, cannot bomb this place
because it's very sacred to the Shia and it will be, you know,
tremendous--anyway, we went there and we had to hide from the snipers,
American snipers and also from the Iraqi fighters, and we have to keep running
when we cross from each alley to another alley or from block to block, and we
are wearing our, you know, abayah, which is the Arab, you know, black cloak
and the veil, and another abayah--an Arab abayah you have to wear while you
get to Najaf, and also we have the flak jacket over us, and it was so hot
because it was July and it was like hell. And we have to be very careful so
when we cross from block to block, we hear, you know, we feel the bullets are,
you know, like flying over our heads every time we cross a block until we
reach, you know, the street that we have to cross to get to the shrine, and
that was the most, you know, difficult one, the most risky one, because we
have to decide either to go back or to cross it, and that was the most
dangerous because the snipers from the other side, the Americans, and, you
know, they were firing at the Iraqi fighters from the other side, so they were
like--the American snipers, they were on the buildings, so they were clearly
to them, you know, to target us.

GROSS: Did you decide to cross that street or not?

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Yes. And I told my bureau chief, Hannah Allam, at that
moment, we were like, what did we do, I mean, and I thought, you have to--this
is it, we cannot go back because that means we're going to risk ourselves more
and we might get killed, or we have to cross it to the safety inside the
shrine. So what do you choose? We have to decide right away. So I told
Hannah, you know, (foreign language spoken) which is, you know, in Islam,
`There is no God but Allah (foreign language spoken) and you know, run. And
we had to run as they told us, the Muqtada Sadr force, they said, `You have
to,' you know, saying, `each one have to run, you know , in zigzag way so the
Americans won't fire at you, and on our flak jacket, there was, you know,
`Press,' we wrote. And so we cross in zigzag each one at a time and we cross
to the shrine, and it was the most scary night, that night, because it was the
night that--I don't know how many tons that the American plane fighters that
drop bombs all around the shrine, and we thought we're going to die and, you
know, that the shrine going to be bombed, and it was so, so scary night, and I
thought that, you know, I told Hannah, and we told each other that if anyone
of us die, I told her, `I don't want to get, you know, wounded. If I'm going
to be shot, I want it a dead shot. I don't want to be injured or with one arm
or, you know, with one leg. That's it. I can't tolerate with that, and I
want to be buried here,' and she said the same thing. And thank God, we got
out safely.

GROSS: Now that you're in the United States on this fellowship, and you've
been watching like American TV coverage of Iraq, I'm sure, and reading
different American newspapers, I figure, so how does the coverage strike you
from the vantage point of reading it and watching it in the United States?

Ms. AHMED: It's so different, you know. When I get this fellowship and I
knew that I'm going to have an internship to Boston Globe and New York Times,
and the first thing struck me that I'm going to write about Iraq while I'm
here, or, you know, international news about the Middle East, because I'm from
there. When I came here, they told me that I'm going to write about national
news of, you know, about Boston or New York Times about New York. So I found
it kind of, you know, funny. I was like, `This is luxurious work, you know,
work that I'm going to get.' So there is no chasing militia or going to risky
areas or bombing or anything. OK. So I don't have to look, you know, both
sides and seeing if someone follows me or a car pass by and shoot at me or
something. Well, that's good. I found it like it's vacation for me. But at
the same time, I really, really wanted so much to know how to write about
national news of, you know, a foreign country, far from my own country, far
from my own culture or tradition and all this thing, so...

GROSS: Are you confident than when this war is over, you will want to return
to Iraq?

Ms. AHMED: To tell the truth, I don't know. But I hope once I get there,
it's going to be, you know, a little bit stable, and I can write and I know
it's going to be very difficult. I mean, of course, when I get there, I hope
no one will know that I was in US.

GROSS: That would be a bad thing for you, right?

Ms. AHMED: Yes.

GROSS: If the militias found out?

Ms. AHMED: Yes. Because when I left my family, only my family and my
friends, my colleagues at the bureau they know and my own newspaper they know
that I'm coming to the United States but none of my neighbors or relatives or
close, you know, friends or close cousins, no, never. They don't know. We,
me and my family, agreed that if someone asks about me, they will know that
I'm studying in Jordan or in Cairo, you know, something like that, but not in
US. So I'm hoping that Iraq will be much stable, that I can be able to write
stories there, and if not, I have to forget about the luxurious life in US and
the peaceful life here and have to, you know, adjust my memory, adjust myself
to the violence again in Iraq, and be able to write an accurate way so that
the American reader--to really describe it as much as possible how it looks
like there in the news there, so he can comprehend what's going on there and
have some imagination about it.

GROSS: Well, Huda Ahmed, I wish you good luck, and I thank you very much for
talking with us.

Ms. AHMED: Thank you so much.

GROSS: Huda Ahmed is an Iraqi journalist who now reports for the McClatchy
chain of newspapers. She's currently at MIT's Center for International
Studies where she's the recipient of the second annual Elizabeth Neuffer

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Musicians Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez of the band
The Hacienda Brothers talk about how they began their music career
and their latest CD "What's Wrong with Right?"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Western soul is how the Hacienda Brothers describe their music. It's a hybrid
of country and soul music that's, well, really soulful. My guests are Chris
Gaffney, who does most of the vocals and plays accordion, and Dave Gonzalez,
who plays guitar and also sings. Gonzalez used to be with the band The
Paladins, Gaffney was with Cold Hard Facts and toured with Dave Alvin's band,
Guilty Men. The new Hacienda Brothers CD, "What's Wrong with Right?" was
produced by Dan Penn, who also produced their first CD. Penn was a key figure
at the Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama in the '60s and co-wrote the soul
classics, "Do Right Woman," "Cry Like a Baby" and "Dark End of the Street."
The Hacienda Brothers' new CD includes the Dan Penn song, "It Tears Me Up."

(Soundbite from "It Tears Me Up")

Mr. CHRIS GAFFNEY: (Singing) "I see him kiss your lips and squeeze your
fingertips. And it tears me up. It tears me up. And I feel like I'm dying.
I must be dying. It's a cold, cold world I'm living in. I turn my back and
there you are with my best friend. Sometimes we pass on the street, darling.
You look at me as if to say I'm sorry, my sweet. Baby, by saying sorry ain't
good enough, but you look at me with that certain smile, and I say it tears me

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Chris Gaffney, Dave Gonzales, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Chris, what led you to this hybrid of soul and country music?

Mr. GAFFNEY: Well, I'd listened to soul music all my life when I grew up.
Basically, I was like a big Otis Redding fan, played in a few bands, Western
bands, played a little while with Webb Pierce and Ferlin Husky, I just played
bass then, never sang. But when it came time to sing, I like country and
soul. If you live long enough, you're going to hear a lot of music, and those
are the two favorite types of music I like.

Mr. DAVE GONZALEZ: When we made our first demos, Chris and I together were
writing some songs, and we were kicking around the idea of having this band,
and we hadn't even had a name for our band yet, and we didn't like really know
what we were calling it. We were just mixing up soul and country, and you
know, just kind of a vintage sound, trying to write some nice songs. We were
hanging out in Tucson, and we sent our first demo out to Dan Penn. He lives
in Nashville, Tennessee, and he called us up on the telephone and said, `Hey,
you boys, I really like this demo you sent me. It sends like Western soul.'
He's the one that named us that, and he's the first guy I ever heard it call
it that.

GROSS: So, has working with Dan Penn, who's a great producer and songwriter,
changed your music in any way? Is there something you can point to on the
album and say, `It would have sounded really different without him.'

Mr. GONZALEZ: Well, I just think he really improved it. He's just a great
producer. He's been in the studio his whole life. He wrote his first hit
song when he was 15 years old for Conway Twitty.

Mr. GAFFNEY: "Is a Bluebird Blue?"

Mr. GONZALEZ: That's right. It's just an honor to have Chris and I be able
to work with him and get in the studio. He knows how to find a groove. He
knows how to find the soul in the groove and you know, he just has a feel, and
you've just got to trust your producer on that, and we've been very lucky to
be able to do it.

GROSS: Before we get to some originals from "What's Wrong with Right?" I want
to play another song that will be familiar to a lot of our listeners. So this
is "Cowboys to Girls" that was a hit for The Intruders in 1968. It was
written by Gamble and Huff, two of the guys behind the Philly sound. So, why
did you choose to do this song?

Mr. GAFFNEY: I graduated in 1968, and it was one of those songs. It was a
magic song that year. It was one of those songs that got people on the dance
floor, and if you had your lady with you, that was the one you wanted to dance
to. I have been known to go out on the dance floor by myself.

GROSS: Which is particularly hard to do with a slow dance, isn't it?

Mr. GAFFNEY: Yeah, I'm slow dancing with myself.

GROSS: So, let's hear "Cowboys to Girls." This is the Hacienda Brothers from
their latest CD, "What's Wrong with Right?"

(Soundbite from "Cowboys to Girls")

Unidentified Hurricane Brothers Singer: (Singing) "I remember, I remember
when I used to see you jumping rope, jumping rope up and down, baby. I
remember when you got your first baby coach. But you were young, you didn't
understand. Now you're a woman and I'm a man. It's my little trick, you
see...(unintelligible). My life is not the same. My whole world has been
rearranged. I went from cowboys to girls."

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's the Hacienda Brothers, from their CD, "What's Wrong with
Right?" and my guests are lead singer Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez, who
plays guitar and also does some of the singing on the CD.

Chris, I read that you were a boxer before you became...

Mr. GAFFNEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...a professional musician, and you actually won a Golden Gloves
tournament? Is that right?


GROSS: What year?

Mr. GAFFNEY: You can call me--1967.

GROSS: That's great. So, how did you start boxing?

Mr. GAFFNEY: I started awkwardly. I had a great trainer named George Latka
who--God bless him. I hope he's still alive while we're talking. He's 93.
He would get behind us kids and actually show us how our arms could move
because boxing is very unnatural but I had a slick trainer, and then, later
on, I hooked up with Jackie McCoy, who had five world champions. And so I got
to be in a ring with some great people, and since I wasn't much of what they
call a one-punch knockout artist, I just learned how to work hard and make
moves and slip and move and give angles. I've never been a handsome man, but
my nose is not all jacked up, and if you look at the pictures...

GROSS: Right. Do you have other injuries?

Mr. GAFFNEY: I can barely see out of my left eye. I had a detached retina,
my last fight.

GROSS: Is that why it was your last fight, because of the detached retina?

Mr. GAFFNEY: Well, in those days, you know you thought you could recover. I
went blind for about 15 seconds.

GROSS: Completely blind?

Mr. GAFFNEY: Yeah, and when I came back--and it healed itself. Now with the
new technology, you know, they take care of fighters.

GROSS: My guests are Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzales of the band Hacienda
Brothers. Their new CD is called "What's Wrong with Right?" We'll talk more
after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guests are Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzales of the band Hacienda
Brothers. Their new CD is called "What's Wrong with Right?" Gaffney was a
boxer before he became a professional musician, and that's what we were
talking about when we left off.

You have a song that you wrote on the new CD, "What's Wrong with Right?"
that's about boxing. It's about a boxer.

Mr. GAFFNEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: It's about...

Mr. GAFFNEY: I wrote that about the great Barry McGuigan from Belfast. We
have--well, he had a world championship belt. I don't have that. But his dad
used to sing "Danny Boy" before each and every one of his fights. My dad
would come to all my fights, and in the dressing room, he would sing things
like "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime," you know, because my dad was a
party-er. Pat McGuigan, Barry's dad, would sing "Danny Boy" before each and
every fight, and he passed away a month before Barry fought Stevie Cruz from
Fort Worth for the title. And I could see it in the way that Barry moved in
the ring that he was just not all there. He went the whole 15 rounds but it
was pathetic. All his strength had been sapped from him, you know, and, of
course, I had to throw in a line about Las Vegas, but that's not what took it
out of him, you know.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Well, this is a great song, and I'd like to play it. So this
is from the Hacienda Brothers' new CD, "What's Wrong with Right?" and the
song's called "If Daddy Don't Sing Danny Boy Tonight," and it's written and
sung by Chris Gaffney.

(Soundbite from "If Daddy Don't Sing Danny Boy Tonight")

Mr. GAFFNEY: (Singing) "I was a fighting champion from Belfast, Ireland,
when I kissed my mother goodbye. Daddy'd gone one month before I looked in
her dead eyes. She said I know you're strong and I know you're brave and in
my heart you're mine. But I fear for you down in my soul if Daddy don't sing
Danny Boy tonight. Las Vegas week, it sapped my strength beneath the ringside
lights. And a brown-skinned boy from Fort Worth, Texas, is trying to take my
life. But my title it's worth more to me than even drawing breath. So in
memory of my dear old dad, I'll fight him to the death. Some fight for

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's a song from the new Hacienda Brothers CD, and my guests are
Chris Gaffney, who wrote the song and sang the song that we just heard, and
Dave Gonzalez, who's the guitarist on the album. They comprise the Hacienda

So how did you get onto music from boxing?

Mr. GAFFNEY: I guess I got lucky.

GROSS: Well, you said, you know, you used to play--well, you still play
accordion. But I think you started playing it when you were a boy. Why was
accordion your instrument?

Mr. GAFFNEY: Well, this is an odd story, but I'll synopsize it. There are
those people that come into the neighborhood--well, this was in the '50s, that
either sell you accordion lessons or there's a guy with a Shetland pony you
can get your picture taken on. My parents couldn't afford a piano so they
thought that I should go to Joe Vandervox Central School of Music to learn
accordion. And it was a bummer because I'm very much into sports, and looking
out your window at people playing--throwing the football while you're playing
"Lady of Spain" is a bummer. That's how I got into it.

GROSS: So when you started playing in bands, did you see a place for
accordion in it?

Mr. GAFFNEY: No, I hadn't--no, no. I wanted to be in UFO. I wanted to be
in a rock band.

GROSS: Just one more thing, you know. When you started playing music, I know
one of the people you accompanied was Webb Pierce. I don't know whether that
was just once at a bar or whether you actually toured with him...

Mr. GAFFNEY: I was in a house band in Toronto, Canada, a place called the
Horse Shoe Tavern, and sometimes guys would come through without bands and so
you could do...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. GAFFNEY: accompany them because they come through, and they may
be on the downside of their career, and then--but then you'd have people come
in, self-contained, like Waylon Jennings. He didn't need me.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. GAFFNEY: He had his own band.

GROSS: But, you know, Webb Pierce, I really love his song "There Stands the
Glass," and I was recently at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum in
Nashville, and Webb Pierce's customized car is in it. It's lined with silver
dollars and the car handles are ivory pistols, so I imagine...

Mr. GAFFNEY: Quite a fancy rig.

GROSS: I imagine he wasn't riding that car when...

Mr. GAFFNEY: No, Webb Pierce was living the dream, you know, hey, more power
to him. He was not difficult to work with because, you know, you're happy to
work with a legend. But, no, he did not drive that car to the gig.

GROSS: Well, Dave Gonzales, your turn.

Mr. GONZALEZ: No problem.

GROSS: How did you start listening seriously to music?

Mr. GONZALEZ: I grew up in a real musical family, and I was very lucky about
it. My grandmother was married to a gentleman who was basically like my
stepgrandfather. She was married to a man that was in the Stan Kenton Band.
His name was Gene Roland. She was into jazz and blues and really a wonderful
woman. My mother's mother. And my mom was into rock and roll. She grew up
with music, and she was into the Stones and the Beatles and anything that was
new in rock and it came out, I heard that. And then on the other side of my
family, I'm half-Mexican. I heard Mexican music every time I was over there
at my other grandma's house. And my father who's from Tucson, loves country
music, and when I was a kid, you know, he'd bring home a record by Waylon or
Buck Owens or George Jones, Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell. He loves all those
records, so I loved that stuff, too. I just--I loved it all the way across
the border from jazz to blues. You know, I always say from Buck Owens to BB
King, you know. I just loved it all, and there just seemed to be always a
guitar around in the family. There was a piano in the house, and there was
just always music going on.

Early on, when I was 20 years old, I formed a band called The Paladines, and I
was with that band for 23 years. I wanted to have a bigger band, and I wanted
to do more songwriting and be able to just play all kinds of rhythm guitar and
just concentrate more on songwriting and the production end of it and be able
to work with a singer like Chris, you know. And when we first started kicking
this thing around, it was like a big step for me to be able to write just
about anything that came into my mind, any melody that floated through the
air, any kind of thing I chased after because I had a singer here that could
really take it, you know, and just trying to write better songs, you know,
every day, I just try to write.

GROSS: So, you mentioned that you like writing songs for Chris to sing. Let
me mention a song that you wrote that's on the new CD that's called "The Last


GROSS: It's a country kind of song.

Mr. GONZALEZ: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Did you write this for Chris?

Mr. GONZALEZ: That one I actually just wrote. I was coming home from
Europe, and I was on the airplane, and I was listening to a lot of Ray Price
at the time.

Mr. GAFFNEY: He wrote it for Ray Price, but I was available.

Mr. GONZALEZ: Yeah. Exactly. That's very true, you know. Sometimes I get
into these different records. Like "Nightlife" at the time was 1963, Ray
Price's "Nightlife" record, which I think's one of the all-time great country
records, and I went over to Europe on a six-week tour, and that's the only
record I took with me, and anytime I felt like listening to music instead of
playing my guitar or rehearsing or playing on stage, I listened to
"Nightlife," so I figured one of these days, if I could just have a dream come
true, I'd write a song for Ray Price and pitch it to him, and I've never got a
chance to meet him but when I first heard Chris Gaffney singing, I was like,
`Wow, he can sing like Ray Price. He can sing like Percy Sledge. He can sing
like Waylon. He can sing like James Brown.' I mean, he's such a well-rounded
singer and I like the song a lot and I knew Chris could really sing it. Well,
Dan Penn felt the same way about that song and suggested we cut it, and I'm
really glad we did. I think it came out real good.

GROSS: So, Dave, I know you wrote this for Ray Price, but I think you really
are lucky to have Chris Gaffney singing it so..

Mr. GONZALEZ: I sure am.

GROSS: So here's "The Last Time," from the Hacienda Brothers' new CD "What's
Wrong with Right?"

(Soundbite from "The Last Time")

Mr. GAFFNEY: (Singing) "Just before you leave again tonight and make believe
that wrong is right, make sure you understand where...(unintelligible). So
many times I take you back, then realize the heart you lack. Yes, this time
is the last time that we're through. You just don't seem to care about the
one who really loved you who placed nobody else in this whole wide world above
you. So before you leave...(unintelligible). You're wrong again, it's our
last fight. Yes, this time is the last time that we're through."

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's "The Last Time" from the new Hacienda Brothers CD, "What's
Wrong with Right?" We'll talk more with Dave Gonzalez and Chris Gaffney after
a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: My guests are Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez of the band Hacienda

Dave, there's an instrumental that you co-composed for the new CD. It's a
great track. I see it as a kind of homage to kind of like Ennioi Morricone
Westerns, to the music you wrote for Westerns like "The Good, the Bad and The
Ugly." So what is it you're playing on this? Is it a baritone guitar?

Mr. GONZALEZ: Yes, it is, it's a baritone guitar, and there's also some
Spanish nylon-string guitar there, which is played by Hank Maninger, our great
bass player. He's also a very good guitar player. And a lot of people think
that's a harmonica, but it's not. It's Chris playing Western-style accordion.
The place that we wrote a lot of these tunes at, Tucson in the Sonoran Desert,
where those Saguaro grow. We went out to this real special place called
Gate's Pass. It's just west of Tucson, not too far outside of town, and we
were hanging out there on top of this lookout point. That's where Dan Penn
and I wrote that song, "Looking for Loneliness." We wrote it right out there.
And when we were out there this year, January, recording this record, we went
out there to that pass to look around and try to get some inspiration, and
there was this one spot where there was a giant Saguaro cactus and then there
was a little one right below it, and it looked exactly the same, and I looked
right at that and had the title immediately pop into my head, "Son of

GROSS: Why don't we hear "Son of Saguaro," and this is from the Hacienda
Brothers new CD, "What's Wrong with Right?"

(Soundbite from "Son of Saguaro" instrumental)

GROSS: That's an instrumental written by my guest Dave Gonzalez, who along
with my other guest, Chris Gaffney, are the founders of the Hacienda Brothers,
and the track we just heard is from their new CD, "What's Wrong with Right?"

Mr. GONZALEZ: May I add that my bassist Hank Maninger co-wrote that song
with me. We were--Hank and I put that one together, brought it to the band,
so I'd like to say thanks to everybody for pitching in with that. We brought
it in but, you know, all those different sounds, the great steel guitar and
the beautiful piano of Joe Terry, and the Western accordion sound, Chris

GROSS: The title track of your CD is "What's Wrong with Right?" which is a
song that Dan Penn co-wrote with you, Dave Gonzalez.


GROSS: Would you talk a little bit about the song, about writing it with Dan
Penn and why you chose it as the title track?

Mr. GONZALEZ: Well, it just became the title track after Dan produced it,
you know, and we were hanging out--Chris and I were in Nashville last year,
last summer, and we ended up going down to Vernon, Alabama, where he's from,
just south of Mussel Shoals, and he's got some hot-rod cars, I've got some
hot-rod cars. We were kicking around his backyard, messing around with old
cars working on them, and I had this one title in my head, that's all I had,
and I just looked right at Dan, and I said, `You know, I have this one title,
that's all I've got, and I haven't even started writing it but I just think
it's a really catchy phrase and I just wonder what you would think about it?'
And he looked right at me dead in the eye, and I said, `Dan, what's wrong with
right?' And he just looked straight back right in my eyes, and he said, `Am I
holding you too tight?' and we just knew that we had something we could run
with right on the spot, and we had a little cassette--four-track cassette demo
machine there, and he had a little 63-Airstream Trailer in the back of his
barn, and we just went in there with a guitar and a microphone and we wrote
that song that night. But "What's Wrong with Right?" Just a straight-up
beautiful song about love. And it's a waltz, which is kind of unique, too.

GROSS: Well, I've really enjoyed speaking with you both. It's a wonderful
CD. Thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. GAFFNEY: Thank you, honey.

Mr. GONZALEZ: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: And my guests have been Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez of the
Hacienda Brothers, and here's the title track from their new CD.

(Soundbite from "What's Wrong with Right?")

Mr. GAFFNEY: (Singing) "What's wrong with right? Do I hold you too tight?
You've grown cool to my touch. Am I asking too much? And what's wrong with
love? Don't we fit like a glove? Why we jump...(unintelligible). So, honey,
what's wrong with right? I don't want to see another breakup..."

(End of soundbite)


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite from "What's Wrong with Right?")
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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