Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 20 Aug. '52, Indianapolis IN) Singer-songwriter. First musical job as staff songwriter at a Nashville publishing house at $25 a week; songs covered by Three Dog Night, Conway Twitty (whose version of 'Heavy Tears' topped country chart). Worked with Nashville prod. Norbert Putnam; made two albums of demo quality Hangin' Around The Observatory and Overcoats '74--5 (later on Epic CDs) which he later disowned. Built up repertoire, toured solo extensively, signed with MCA in LA '78: LPs Slug Line '79, Two Bit Monsters '80 critically acclaimed; songs continued to be covered by Dave Edmunds, Maria Muldaur, Rick Nelson, many others; film soundtracks American Gigolo and Cruising used Hiatt material. Joined Ry Cooder band on tours, records; contributed to Borderline '80 and The Slide Area '82 on vocals and guitar, wrote with Cooder for film soundtrack The Border '82 and sang two of the songs. LP All Of A Sudden '82 on Geffen was made in London with David Bowie, prod. by Tony Visconti; he toured in Buffy Sainte-Marie band '82; then Riding With The King '84 was his most satisfying album to date, with one solo and one band side, the latter made in London with Nick Lowe: standout track 'She Loves The Jerk'. Warming Up To The Ice Age '85 continued anglophile connection with Elvis Costello (arguably his English equivalent) duetting on cover of Spinners' 'Living A Little, Laughing A Little'; it was prod. by Putnam and described as 'like Parliament/Funkadelic meets ZZ Top at Big Pink'. But the label dropped him: he was in Gary Gersh's A&R office at Geffen to meet prod. Mitchell Froom and talk about the next album when his attorney called; Gersh didn't know he'd been dropped.
His R&B-inflected work deserved the break that Cooder got, from critical/cult favourite to wider success; the stars lined up to record his songs, but he was still in the ghetto. Comparing himself to the smouldering intent of Costello's first several albums he said, 'Some guys just come out of the gate with clarity of vision ... I don't know whether I'm a slow learner, thickheaded, confused, or all of the above.' Then his good songs and widening reputation reached the album chart: Bring The Family '87 on A&M, made in just four days with Cooder, Lowe and drummer Jim Keltner, didn't quite make the top 100 (the lineup went on to record as Little Village '92 on Reprise, 'but somewhere it got lost, we wound up in what I call overdub hell'. He'd like to try it again.) Slow Turning '88 (with guest Bernie Leadon on guitar) and Stolen Moments '90 climbed up the chart a bit. Perfectly Good Guitar '93 made the top 50 albums; after Hiatt Comes Alive At Budokan '94 he switched to Capitol for Walk On '95, another top 50 album with guests Bonnie Raitt, Benmont Tench and the Jayhawks. He recorded little head '97 'live in the studio', which he called 'guerilla recording'. Y'All Caught? '89 on Geffen was a compilation of 'The Ones That Got Away 1979--85'.