Dick McVey is well known and highly respected in the Nashville music industry because he’s earned it over the last 30 years. Dick plays the bass guitar and he’s worked as a bandleader, road manager, manager, agent, publicist, promotion man, producer, studio owner, label exec, label head, writer, journalist, songwriter, and more. Cross-trained in the music business Dick started out leading his own touring band when he was only 15 years old. Dick McVey operates using two words. Honesty and integrity. Dick is not only a great bass player, he’s been helping other musicians find good gigs since 1986 when he first established his Dick McVey Musicians Referral Service. Over the years Dick has played bass guitar with Johnny Rodriguez, Kitty Wells, Jack Greene, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jean Shepard, Dave Dudley, Hank Thompson, Stonewall Jackson, David Frizzell, Jeanne Pruett, Bobby Bare, Jeannie Seely, Holly Dunn, Leroy Van Dyke, Nat Stuckey, to name a few. The following is taken from a one-on-one interview in his studio in Hendersonville, TN. Meet Dick McVey.
Bronson: Your mom and dad played music?
Dick: Yeah. Well my dad was a guitar player and I had several uncles who played instruments. Of course, we grew up in the mountains of Appalachia where entertainment was basically you entertained yourself or you didn’t have any entertainment. My dad played guitar and had an uncle that played banjo, so they would get together and do these square dance things. Then later on my mom and my dad and another uncle put together a gospel trio and they would sing at local churches and that kind of thing. It was a great time.
Bronson: How old were you when you actually picked up the guitar yourself?
Dick: Well my dad attempted to teach me at about the age of 10 or 11, but when the Beatles came along, I was 15 at the time—I mean, what a perfect time to be alive in the world. The Beatles came along and I saw all these girls screaming at The Beatles, and of course, I was kinda a shy guy in high school and I thought, “You know what? I might be able to talk to a girl or a girl might talk to me if I could play the guitar.” So I went back to my dad, he wasn’t a great guitarist but he showed me the basics and then I bought a chord book and taught myself the rest. I put a little band together when I was 15 and I played guitar for probably 5 years.
Bronson: The first time I was aware of you was your Musician Referral Service.
Dick: Well I was working with Little Jimmie Dickens in ’83 and Tom Holland was the drummer. Everybody would call Tom when they needed a musician, and when we were on the road in ’83, he kept saying, “I wish someone would start a referral service.” So ’86 rolls around and I’m thinking the same thing, so I just started putting out a list to the music stores, just friends of mine who played. People I knew that would be available for sub work or even for road work, and I started distributing that list to the music stores and then gradually we started going to booking agents, we started going to managers, started going to artists direct. Then we started going to the theaters in Branson and in the late 80’s and up through the mid 90’s, it was a very popular way to find musicians and you know it became worldwide. I even placed musicians with Disney in Paris, that’s how it spread. I still continue to do it but it’s not what it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s because the work’s not what it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Even when people call me today I tell them, “you know, this never takes the place of making friends with somebody and doing it the political way because that’s the way most people get hired. It always has been.”
You can visit Dick McVey online at www.dickmcvey.com and read/listen to this entire interview at www.bronsonsmusic.com/dick_mcvey.html
By: Bronson Herrmuth