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Posts tagged ‘Nashville’

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.

 

 

Hee Haw Honkey Tonkin’ CMA’s

It’s Friday, and I have country music on the brain. Just so you know, I DEPLORE country music. (Remember that line one day, because you’ll enjoy throwing it in my face.)

To me, country music is my Dad’s rust-colored Ford Granada. Vinyl that burned my legs when I crawled into the front seat. And, the brand-new FM station that played non-stop country tunes.

Yeah, cross the sun on those seats with that music, and THAT is the seventh circle of hell.

Anyway, I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything rock-and-roll, but country was cool when I was in the car with Dad. Hank Williams Jr. Conway Twitty. Willie Nelson. Loretta Lynn. Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. Buck Owens and Roy Clark.

I’ve been thinking about those times with Dad a lot lately. Trying to connect with what made that music resonate. With him. Not with me.

Because, I’ll admit it, I usually made up country songs to drown out the radio. I had the formula down: jail, drunk, cheating, a bar, maybe some murder. If I sang my unrecorded jewel at the top of my voice for long enough, eventually Dad would turn the flipping thing off. (Rosanna’s Baby Honkey Tonk, because somehow babies came out of honkey tonking, but I didn’t understand how that happened exactly.)

So, it was perplexing for me to have a character scream out of my head and identify with this song. Insist that it be sentimental. Even clog up my stupid green eyes with tears when it hit me.

Do our fathers possess us somehow and play these tricks on us when we’re grown?

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.

My Achy Breaky Heart


5000BC. Bones litter the pockmarked route of the wooly buffalo, a depression worn by the hoofbeats of millennia, tracking back and forth along a ridge in search of the savory. The decadent. The singular.

Salt.

That tangy burn on a lolling pink tongue after days of rising and falling, climbing and descending, walking and running. Weaving through fat trees, looming higher than sideswiped mammal eyes can discern. Shifting along hard, flaky rock and soil seeped in red, tinged with the blood of the untold ones who fell, slipped through a gash in the Earth to remake time.

Somewhere.

Their symphonic breathing makes the wind flutter the leaves on the trees. Unseen bones mingled with crushed stone to form the heart of the soil. Traces of them remain in the burst of a flower. The fan of a leaf. The trickle of water running over rock.
The buffalo passed it all on its tear through the forest, its lazy up and down over miles. Over bones. Over acres. Over whole domains.

********

Did the buffalo and their need for salt make the Natchez Trace, thousands of years ago? Legend believes they ran in herds, craving the brackish bottoms around present-day Nashville. Their fix of white powder procured, they pounded back along the spine of the Trace to fan out around the undulating plains of Mississippi.

I saw their remnants in a bleached cow skull.

A scattered set of deer bones.

A skinny white piece of decay that popped from the muck and the rock along the Old Trace.

Their syncopated exhale cooled my sweaty face. Blasted eons across the top of a rise. Made the metronomic pace of the steps my feet took.

Walking in their ghostly footsteps in the shimmering shade.

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