Even though he is from a different musical era than his father, Autie Goodman of The Four Freshmen, Terry Nails has quite an eclectic musical career in his own right, earning him a name in the rock ‘n roll recording industry.
“My dad’s an unbelievable musician, a fantastic singer,” Nails said. “Me, I’m just lucky. Trust me, I was lucky. I just happened to be at the right place, right time.”
Those right places include being a bass guitar player/songwriter/producer with a who’s who of recording artists and bands including Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Ozzy Osbourne, Tommy Tutone, the Pointer Sisters and others, either onstage or in the studio.
Born Terry Goodman, he has been known as Terry Nails since the 70’s when he became a professional skateboarder chasing world speed records riding for a company which started Thrasher magazine for skateboarders. The company made a type of skateboard called stroker trucks, but company officials didn’t think Terry Goodman was a “tough enough” name for their ads. They changed it to “Nails” and it stuck.
Growing up around music, Nails started playing the piano when he was just a kid and later started playing the drums before moving on to playing the guitar.
Leaving home at an early age, he headed to San Francisco where James Gurley from Big Brother and the Holding Company, the backing band for singer Janis Joplin, gave him a bass guitar and that’s been his forte ever since.
“(Gurley) explained it to me. He said, ‘Guitar players are a dime a dozen, everybody’s a guitar player … but everybody needs a bass player,'” Nails said.
He also played with Killowatt, a hard rock band in the San Francisco area in the 1970’s, and was with Country Joe and the Fish as a road crew member after connecting with their bass player, Bruce Bartho.
Nails lived for a time on a ranch with the Grateful Dead. Even though he never performed onstage with the band, they always “jammed” together.
Nails said he has performed and interacted with so many big names in the recording industry as did his father Autie Goodman, but in a different genre of music.
He described the music from The Four Freshmen and his dad’s era as “the best”.
“I’m amazed when I listen to it nowadays because they were so good, you know, they were amazing,” Nails said.
The Four Freshmen were a big influence on the harmonizing of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, the Pointer Sisters, the Manhattan Transfer, and Donald Fagen from Steely Dan.
Nails said he doesn’t like a lot of the music he hears today which is auto-tuned, a technique where singers’ voices and music are digitally altered to make a recording artist sound better.
He is not really impressed with many musicians today, adding there is “so little talent in the world.”
“If you’re not playing music because you love playing music, but you’re in it and you’re trying to make a living out of it, forget it,” adding that he didn’t know how his dad did it for so long.
Nails said he played with a lot of people and he really has nothing to show for it except great experience and a good story.
Even though he never met her, he did give Lady Gaga a good review, saying she plays a good instrument, writes great songs and is a “seriously talented performer.”
Being around famous musicians most of his life, Nails is pretty much unfazed by them, but he admits he was almost speechless when well-known music producer Rick Rubin introduced him to the late, great Johnny Cash in Hollywood.
“Because the first album I ever bought in my life was a Johnny Cash album when I was a little kid,” he said.
He’s been in Pahrump for almost two years spending quality time with his parents, but still plays and does some studio production work in Las Vegas and Florida.
Sadly, according to Nails, he and his dad never performed together onstage even though they have played in the same towns and been on tour at the same time.
Aside from music, another of his talents is building motorcycles and trikes with help from his friend JB of J Mar Customs Motorcycle Service Center, 1271 S. Highway 160, Suite C.
Several years ago he built and sold a bike to Nick Mason, the drummer from Pink Floyd.
Nails was working on a trike while talking to this reporter with his surfboard hanging overhead in the garage. Surfing is yet another passion of his.
“I’m thinking about starting the Death Valley Surf Club,” he added with a grin.
After spending an afternoon at the Goodman home, this reporter came home with an autographed photo of The Four Freshmen signed by Autie Goodman and a CD, but more importantly, a greater understanding of two genres of music told firsthand by musicians who
helped create it.
He has also written two books, one as Terry Goodman and one as Terry Nails.