by Access Atlanta
By Russell Hall
Y'all Contributing Writer
n recent years, few players on Atlanta's music scene have garnered as colorful a reputation as Clay Harper. Mention Harper's name to to any patron of the Little Five Points area, and the conversation will likely turn either to Fellini's (a pizzeria chain he owns), Casino Music (a record label-studio he owns), or the Coolies (a band he doesn't own, but does play in). As impressive as his contributions to the city's popular culture have been, however, they might soon be superceded by Harper's unlikeliest venture yet.
Recently, Casino Music will release a children's audio-book that features contributions from a stellar cast of musicians, many of whom are based in Georgia. The brain-child of Harper and his brother, Mark (a member of the Atlanta-based band, the Bogues), "Not Dogs
Too Simple (A Tale of Two Kitties)" tells the story of an indoor cat and an outdoor cat who covet one another's territory, and the lessons they learn therefrom. Narrated by British singer Ian Dury, the tale is scored with 16 original songs, and its cast includes former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, drivin'n'cryin's Kevn Kinney, the B-52's Cindy Wilson, and former Georgia Satellite Rick Richards, among others.
It was basically my brother, Mark's, idea," says Harper. "He gave me a cassette of these songs he'd written about two cats, and I was captivated. I started writing the narrative, and as I wrote it I actually had Ian Dury in mind. The feeling was that the narrator should be a sort of scruffy-sounding English guy."
Once they had Dury on-board, the Harpers set out to recruit friends and acquaintances to flesh out the rest of the cast. To their delight, almost everyone they approached jumped at the chance to participate. "It was a quest that involved putting together people we were friends with, people who we love and admire," Harper continues. "We wanted them involved because this project meant so much to us, especially from the viewpoint of being a parent."
Tucker, who plays the indoor cat, was the first choice for the female lead. To record her dialogue, she and the Harper brothers met at the studio of a mutual friend in Savannah.
"I'd never been involved in something like this," says Tucker. "It was a lot of fun. I've mailed copies of the CD to some of my young fans -- including my friend, Zoey, who's six years old and lives in Texas -- and they all love it."
Included with the CD is a 32-page color booklet, illustrated (in crayon, of course) by Athens songwriter and artist Jack Logan. Logan, whose artwork was recently the subject of an exhibit at the University of Georgia, has designed numerous CD covers, including those for his own acclaimed albums, "Bulk" and "Mood Elevator."
"Mark had an idea in his head for what he wanted to see," says Logan, discussing his role in the project. "He described that to me, and I did the pencil drawings, then I went over them in ink and colored them. I had never done anything this lengthy in color, so it was a bit of a challenge."
The whole experience of creating the CD, which from start to finish took six months, was pleasurable enough that the Harpers are already at work on a second audio-book, tentatively titled "The Slippery Ballerina."
Asked about any thoughts of adapting these stories into animated features, Clay Harper doesn't rule out the possibility. "Who knows where it will go from here? Eveyone who worked on the album basically did it for nothing, or close to it. This is as far along as we can bring it, but if someone else came into the picture, that would be great. But even if it goes no further than this, I'm thrilled."