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Posts tagged ‘country music’

You Never Even Call Me By My Name

I remember the first time I walked into Big Rosie’s place. The jukebox was playing Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man. I wanted to walk up to those flashing lights and educate Mr Twitty on what Louisiana women could do. Some of them, not all of them.

I wore black to my interview: black jeans, black cowboy shirt, black boots, black hat. Hell, even my underwear was black for the occasion. I remember stretching out my legs and crossing them at the ankles and thinking The Black Cowboy. What a goddamn joke.

That’s the first thing Big Rosie said to me, you know, like she read my mind or something. I mean, I was afraid the chair wouldn’t hold her when she sat and turned those black holes of eyes onto me.

“This ain’t no place for none of that Muskrat Ramble horse shit.” That’s what she said. I mean, no “hello” or “My name’s Rosie” or anything.

I downed a gulp of Jack Daniels – you know, trying to play the part – and smiled, remembering how many times I danced with my instrument. It was like it breathed, you know? Even played it a few times with that kid, that singing-piano-playing-prodigy who was the son of a New Orleans Important. Muskrat Ramble was the music of my life.

“Just give me a minute.” I said it into the microphone.

Big Rosie heaved herself to her feet. “Jesus-God. Spare me from another country singer who is tem-per-men-tal.” She waddled off behind the bar and poured herself a jam jar full of something clear and slugged it. I mean, slugged the whole damn thing.

I watched her to make sure she wasn’t going to, you know, spontaneously combust or something. And, I dug into the front pocket of my jeans. It was where I always carried it, a stained envelope that was split at the creases. It was her last letter, you know, over a year old, but I blinked my eyes and tried to focus on her cursive scrawl.

Dear Daddy My Dearest Daddy!

I write you every day. Life without you is no fun. Aunt Bertie tries to sing me to sleep when she’s not busy at my bedtime, but her voice isn’t pretty like yours. Sometimes, I sing with her and pretend my voice is yours, because it came from you, didn’t it? 

It doesn’t help. Nothing does. 

I hope you will come for me someday and take me away with you. I’d do almost anything to see you again!!!

I love you Daddy.

Emmaline Cagney

Well, I had to wipe my eyes, about the time Big Rosie’s voice boomed out of the back.

“Sing it. Sing. It. You take all that crybaby horse shit and channel it into a goddamn song in exactly three seconds, or I will personally pick up your skinny Black Cowboy cliched ass and throw it into the street out there.”

You know, she could do it, too.

Anyway, I stuffed Emmaline’s letter between the strings of my guitar, right there at the top, and I strummed a chord, and I sang. I mean, I don’t even remember what song it was, but when I finished, Big Rosie stood back there, her hands on whatever accounted for her waist, and I think she was smiling. It was always hard to tell with her, you know, but I think she was.

To read the first post in this series, click here. I hope you’ll see it again someday.

You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’

I wanted to tell you, right up front. I did everything I could to win my little girl back. Everything I had wasn’t much back in 1972, you know, but I shot through it all to get her away from Nadine. Us Dixieland guys, even the popular ones like I was, we didn’t jam for the money.

Losing it all was how I wound up here, in Nashville. I mean, what was the point of being in New Orleans? I couldn’t see Emmaline, ever. Dat Judge character and Nadine, well, they made sure of it. No matter how much I appealed, how high I tried to go, I lost. Every time, I lost.

Lost all my fans, too. It was like somebody was behind it all, whispering, because, one by one, people stopped booking me. The telephone dried up so, I thought it was disconnected. Look, I know I sound paranoid, but you try losing your sweet baby daughter and your livelihood in the span of twelve lightning-fast months, and see how you feel.

Oh, and I forgot to mention my friends, maybe because they, like, forgot all about me. At the end of dat whole business, I had exactly one friend left. One. He owned the oldest bar on Bourbon. You know dat one, right? It used to be a blacksmith’s shop, but nowadays, they just serve booze.

Well, he reached out to me and gave me this one lead. “Call Big Rosie up there in Nashville. She’ll give you something to do.”

I remembered laughing in his face. I mean, I wasn’t some sad sack, sorry-assed, hick-i-fied country music performer. Hell, I hated dat stuff. But, you know, when someone was desperate, when they felt like they didn’t have anything else? Well, adjusting things like ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ got easier. And, when it wasn’t easy, proper lubrication made the rest of it go down.

So now, strumming a damn guitar and singing hee-haw was all I had. No matter how much I tried to lose myself in the twangy chords, the words still tasted funny, like, foreign in my mouth. I mean, I been at it for almost two years now, but it still doesn’t feel…….real. I guess I use booze to blunt my ripped edges and women to feel less by myself, but when I try to write all dat, to pour all my anger and frustration and drunk-ass loneliness into the words, it all sounds so cliche.

Dat’s what I am. One sorry, hang-dog cliche who misses his little girl so much he’s afraid to write it down and sing it out.



There’s Beer in my Tears

This Natchez Trace business has morphed into a series. It’s seen a million fathers, probably. This might be one of them. If this is your first visit to the blog, or if you’re catching up, please go back to this post and read forward to digest it whole.

Strumming the guitar and singing is what happens to me when I don’t know what else to do. Does it help me think?…..Nah. Probably not. Forget?………Never. Heal the aching hole in my insides that was left by my daughter?

Only she can occupy that place, that ragged chasm in my soul.

I show up at this dive, this nowhere bar at the end of the Trace, staring out at that ridiculous concrete Parthenon thing, five nights a week. Sit on my stool. Swig my no-count pissy draft beer. Pour out my soul to the fourteen people in this stinking, smoky excuse for an establishment.

How much I miss her tumbles out of the tips of my fingers, rolls off the end of my tongue into the reverberating mic, when all these losers want is picking and grinning. Sad can’t be happy without a heaping dose of irony.

The only thing that’s ironic about my sorry life is that I can’t see my daughter, my blonde haired, ringleted angel, way off down there in New Orleans. In two years, I’ve seen her twice. Once, walking down Bourbon Street in her starched pink dress and ribbons flowing every place. The other time, pounding on the window of the car, screaming for me as her bitch of a mother whisked her away from the courthouse. My little girl is eight now, and I can only imagine how she’s changing as she grows.

As she grows up without her Daddy who worships her.

I can’t write a stinking song that isn’t an ode to how much I miss her, a symphonic anthem of loneliness and despair. Why write something stupid like “There’s a tear in my beer” when my beer is more tears than booze? I’d walk all the way down the Trace in a continuous thunderstorm in the black of night to bring my daughter back to me.

Time for my next set. Maybe, if I sing with enough heart this time, my voice will ripple over that old Trace and penetrate my daughter’s innocent dreams.

Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?

An homage to Nashville, my home for the past couple of days. This Cootchie Classic had my mother telling me EXACTLY where I was conceived, right there in the comments on the original post.

I’m going to spare your tender imagination, Dear Reader.

Just reading that title makes me want to hurl. But, my parents first lived in Nashville after they got married. I *think* I was conceived in the Country Music Capital of the World. My Mom can tell us whether or not that information is correct.

I hope she doesn’t. I’d really prefer to be kept in the dark on that one.

I tagged along with my husband on a work trip to Nashville this week, primarily because I wanted to visit The Hermitage. I didn’t get out there. We decided not to rent a car and, this being America, it isn’t easy to get twenty minutes outside of the city without a car. So, I was stuck downtown on a dreary, wet day.

Armed with scant information about my Mom’s working days in Nashville as a Group Chief Operator for the telephone company, I set out on foot in the rain. Right next to my hotel was an alley, Printer’s Alley, and I ducked into it to avoid the gale that was hurtling into my face and blowing my coat open. I walked along the wet bricks, paying attention to every step I took.

I know my Mom walked this way to work every day when she lived in Nashville.

Did my feet touch down where hers did, when I was nothing but a shaft of light in her eye? I was overcome by the urge to walk back and forth across the length of street, trying to cover every bit of it in an effort to step on something she may’ve touched before I existed. I had to stop and lean against the door of a strip club. Ironic that was the place where I wiped away a tear or two.

Leave it to me to walk down a public street and cry without shame or reservation. I wondered what my Mom thought about as she walked that way to work every day in the late 1960′s. Did I get a glimpse of anything she saw, teetering to her job in her high heels and smart dresses, her hair styled just so? I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my Mother, a girl in her twenties.

I think she brushed past me. And, she smiled.

We’ll Go Honkey-Tonkin’

You hafta go to the bathroom in this place. Not a standard greeting from an aged Southern gentleman, or any man desiring the chivalric title for that matter. He was slight. Abundant white hair, still arrayed in a flattened pompadour. Feisty. A force.

He forced me to go to the bathroom.

My job gives me a burst of color here and there. Yesterday, I witnessed an explosion with a side of lunch.

Tandy Rice is still a Nashville institution, meaning I dined with an institution on Wednesday. Readers may not recognize his name, but his client history might ring some bells. Porter Wagoner. Jerry Clower. George Jones. Dolly Parton. He particularly relished telling me how he arranged for a full-size, anatomically correct cut-out of Miss Parton, autographed by her personally, to be delivered with balloons streaming to a former college classmate of his. My husband’s boss. Charleston’s Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. likes him some Dolly.

Who knew?

A former President of the Country Music Association, Rice is responsible for building the country music business into what it is today. Naturally, he’s proud of himself. But, yesterday, he was prouder of the bathroom.

Go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. GO.

It was weird, but I obeyed, wandering into an Elvis-encrusted mecca, his likeness everywhere, his signature scrawled on various surfaces, his voice crooning in the background while I did what I went in there to do.

Did you know Elvis, Mr. Rice?

I did. A nonchalant tone betrayed only by those piercing eyes. Isn’t it the eyes that usually reveal what we really think? Things we miss? Who we wish we could see again?

We talked about Elvis. About his multiple pilgrimages to Graceland. About our crazy Elvis-themed vows renewal in Vegas. He made me share a leaning tower of a hot fudge sundae with him – and probably decided I wouldn’t give him cooties – because of our mutual admiration of Elvis Presley.

Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we can step back in time, witness history, see things from the inside. Maybe all it takes is a character and some gooey hot fudge.


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