Play Song Country Music
Some obvious answers. I was born in North Georgia, grew up on a farm in the woods, went to church every Sunday for fifteen years, learned to milk a cow without a hobble, totaled my first car on a dirt road when I was thirteen (it was a Subaru wagon). Rolled it all the way over like a bullet exiting a gun. My brother eventually took it to the volunteer firehouse and cut the crumpled roof off with the Jaws-Of-Life and I drove girls around in the cornfields for years before it finally collapsed from a compromised frame. I loved pan-fried chicken and potato salad. What other kind of music was I going to hear?
But that doesn’t answer the question. Why do I still love Country Music? If there were a simple answer I wouldn’t be writing this little essay to answer it. I can answer it, but I want try to do it right.
Let’s start in a six foot deep ditch laying the city water pipe for a subdivision that one of my uncle’s was building. It was me and a guy named Petey in the ditch and a guy whose name I don’t remember running the track-hoe. This is the summer of 1998 and the track-hoe guy had a radio blaring in the cab and the front was swung open so he could yell at us. I couldn’t always hear the words of each song over the scream of the engine, but I could hear the groove and knew which song it was.
A couple FYI’s here; I’d been hearing Country Music since before I could read and talk, and I’d learned to play the guitar at about twelve. I’m still learning to play the guitar but you get the picture.
But that summer I was ready for the epiphany that this music has since made to me. That I could hear its bones talking and I understood. Here are a couple things I distinctly remember from that summer:
“A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” has space around it. I didn’t need to be able to hear Dwight saying ‘there’s no place I want to be’ to know he’s forever out there in the middle of nowhere. And one of my favorite songs, “Shoulda Been A Cowboy.” There’s a wistful reminiscence in “Shoulda Been A Cowboy.” I can taste dust in my mouth riding into a little town just north of the border, praying I can get water for the horse and get off and stretch my legs. And that’s all just from the feel of the song.
And maybe I can feel these things because I know the songs like I know my parents road in the dark. But I don’t think so. I think a great song, minus the lyrics, carries the integrity of the story. No other genre of music can take you somewhere that the words just enrich the scene you’re already seeing. Punching sticks of six-inch PVC together, I began learning songs as they came out of the cab of the track-hoe.
“I’ll Always Be The Man In Love With You,” “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Don’t Take The Girl,” “Me And You,” “Here’s a Quarter(Call Someone Who Cares,)” “I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” “Young Country,” “Forever And Ever Amen.” I could see the structure hanging in the air in front of me. I felt the one chord and then stacked the rest of the song up on it. I didn’t know then that this is called the Nashville Number System and it’s the way the pros learn each others songs. But the whole thing just made sense to me.
That’s not to say that I didn’t hear everything else, too. My sisters had Slippery When Wet and New Jersey on vinyl. We had Cyndi Lauper, Men At Work, Kylie Minogue, Run-DMC, Midnight Oil, Hall and Oates, Milli Vanilli and Vanilla Ice. And I still love all of them, but they don’t run in my bloodstream like “Amarillo By Morning.” My brother, thankfully, was a Country fan. I think Midnight Oil was his, too, but he bought a lot of Country.
My mother probably was the one tuning the radio when I was a child hearing John Anderson and Sylvia. But by the time I can remember it was my brother who kept country music a constant in my life. We played “Name That Tune,” “Who Sang That?” and my favorite of all music games, “The Nickel,” which is essentially “Name That Tune The Fastest,” because whoever yelled out the title of the song first got to keep the wooden nickel until somebody yelled out the next song faster. Kind of a verbal Slap-Jack. Cheap family fun in the car.
I can still sing large parts of every country song that was any kind of hit on the radio between 1984 and today. I have a mind built for memorizing lyrics. I don’t have to think about it, they just stick.
That, and the rudimentary guitar skills I had acquired, were enough for me to start playing songs for people regularly. In fact, I haven’t met a girl without a guitar in my hands in fifteen years. There’s probably something wrong with that but now’s not the time to figure it out.
I’ve spent lots of years making other kinds of music that I more or less liked, but there’s been nothing that took the place of that gut-level passion for country music. I’m now making up for the time I lost trying to do something else. I should’ve been making country music since I was twenty. But now’s better than later. So I hope you like my CDs “Country Music”, “Looking For You” and “Atmosphere”. I hope they takes you somewhere good. If you’re ever in a ditch laying water pipe, I hope you have a fat guy in a track-hoe playing the radio. If you have your own story about how you came to love country music, please send me an email here at the website.
I didn’t get everything I wanted to in this little bit, but I’ll continue answering this question as time goes by. Feel free to ask your own questions.