219) Chris Lucey — “Girl from Vernon Mountain” A wonderful, haunting song and, if true, an incredible backstory. Richie Unterberger says in All Music Guide that Chris Lucey was “something of a mystery man of mid-’60s folk-rock.” In fact, Lucey was Bobby Jameson, a Sunset Strip folksinger who had turned to rock and roll after the British Invasion. Unterberger calls Lucey’s (as opposed to Jameson’s) only album (’65) — from which today’s song was taken — “an above-average obscurity in the folk-psych-rock tributary.” While that may have been something of a left-handed compliment, Dean McFarlane, also in AMG, calls the album a “fantastic obscurity” and “a sought after psychedelic pop gem from obscure Californian songwriter . . . often compared to Love’s Forever Changes, in that it is an intricate exploration of sophisticated arrangements and bleak and twisted lyricism.”
Now the proffered backstory. Chris Ducey recorded an album for Surrey Records, which then realized that it couldn’t release because of contractual obligations he had with another label. This put Surrey in a dilemma, because the album was going to spearhead a new budget record label in Europe, and the deal would fall apart if the album wasn’t released (in part, for some reason, because the album cover featured a photo of the Stones’s Brian Jones). The album sleeves had already been printed, and in addition to the Jones photo, they listed the LP’s songs. So Surrey threw a Hail Mary. It came up with the “great” idea of finding another singer-songwriter who would record all-new songs for the album — but songs with the same names as the Ducey songs so that they could use the album sleeves. The artist would have to go by the name Chris Lucey (as the printer could change the D in the name on the cover to an L). Getting desperate to find someone willing to sign up, they found Jameson, who was at the time homeless and penniless. He produced a great set of songs, and when he refused to sign away all rights to the songs and the album, Surrey released it anyway. For his efforts, he was paid a grand total of $200.
An obviously bitter Jameson tells his story here: