On Guy Clark: ‘To me he’s one of the heroes of this country, so why’s he all dressed up like them old men?’

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Good morning Austin:

I missed the Republican State Convention last weekend in Dallas. I was in Massachusetts with my wife’s family for a wonderful wedding. As usual, family and friends of the family would ask, “How’s Texas?” or “How’s Austin,” and I’d say, “Good,” and my wife would say, “He always liked Texas.”

It was a line she first delivered in the late fall of 2012, when I decided, after losing my job in D.C., to move to Texas to take a job with the Statesman, and she delivered it as an accusation, a revelation of betrayal – “You always liked Texas.”

It is true. I did always like Texas.

It was mostly because of my attraction to the music – beginning in high school in New York and then blossoming in college in Massachusetts. It was Bob Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Uncle Walt’s Band,Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark, probably the saddest, sweetest songwriter of them all.

Which is why yesterday, after work, on the sun-warmed day that Guy Clark died, I found myself at the bar at the Texas Chili Parlor ordering a Mad Dog Margarita and a bowl of chili.

Well I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are
Here I sit in Dublin, hmm, just rollin’ cigarettes
Holdin’ back and chokin’ back, the shakes with every breath

So forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

I am just a poor boy, hmm, work’s my middle name
If money was a reason, well I would not be the same
I’ll stand up and be counted, hmm, I’ll face up to the truth
I’ll walk away from trouble, but I can’t walk away from you

So forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die<
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

I have been to Fort Worth, hmm, and I have been to Spain
And I have been too proud to come in out of the rain
And I have seen the David, hmm, I’ve seen Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play Columbus Stockade Blues

Forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish steps, the day you said goodbye

Well I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are

The place was packed.

I was alone, sitting on the last stool at the bar closet to the front door, alongside another guy with a pony tail, named Eric, who had been drawn there for the same reason I had. When he heard the news he felt a punch in his gut and tears in his eyes.

Each time the door would open the still-bright sun would stream into the dark parlor and I’d squint to see the latest pilgrims, mourners arriving to put their name on the list for the next available table, all there, it seemed, for the same reason.

Guy Clark was dead, gone. Guy Clark, whose debut album, Old No. 1, is among the best I’ve ever listened to.

Desperadoes Waiting for a Train

 

 

I played the Red River Valley
He’d sit in the kitchen and cry
Run his fingers through seventy years of livin’
“I wonder, Lord, has every well I’ve drilled gone dry?”
We were friends, me and this old man

Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Desperados waitin’ for a train

Well, he’s a drifter an’ a driller of oil wells
And an old school man of the world
He taught me how to drive his car when he w’s too drunk to
Oh, and he’d wink and give me money for the girls

An’ our lives were like, some old Western movie
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

An’ from the time that I could walk, he’d take me with him
To a bar called the Green Frog Cafe
An’ there was old men with beer guts and dominos
Oh, an they’re lying ’bout their lives while they played

An’ I was just a kid, that they all called his sidekick
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

One day I looked up and he’s pushin’ eighty
An’ he’s brown tobacco stains all down his chin
Well, to me he’s one of the heroes of this country
So why’s he all dressed up like them old men?

He’s drinkin’ beer and playin’ Moon and Forty-two
Like a desperado waitin’ for a train
Like a desperado waitin’ for a train

An’ then the day before he died, I went to see him
I was grown and he was almost gone
So we just closed our eyes and dreamed us up a kitchen
And sang another verse to that old song

Come on, Jack, that son-of-a-bitch is comin’
We’re like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

LA Freeway

Pack up all your dishes.
Make note of all good wishes.
Say goodbye to the landlord for me.
That son of a bitch has always bored me.
Throw out them LA papers
And that moldy box of vanilla wafers.
Adios to all this concrete.
Gonna get me some dirt road back street.

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought

Here’s to you old skinny Dennis
Only one I think I will miss
I can hear that old bass singing
Sweet and low like a gift you’re bringing
Play it for me just one more time now
Got to give it all we can now
I believe everything your saying
Just keep on, keep on playing

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought
And you put the pink card in the mailbox
Leave the key in the old front door lock
They will find it likely as not

I’m sure there’s something we have forgot
Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe
Love’s a gift that’s surely handmade
We’ve got something to believe in
Don’t you think it’s time we’re leaving

If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought.

Pack up all your dishes.
Make note of all good wishes.
Say goodbye to the landlord for me.
That son of a bitch has always bored me.

 That Old Time Feeling

And that old time feeling goes sneakin’ down the hall
Like an old gray cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall
And that old time feeling comes stumblin’ up the street
Like an old salesman kickin’ the papers from his feet

And that old time feeling draws circles around the block
Like old women with no children, holdin’ hands with the clock
And that old time feeling falls on its face in the park
Like an old wino prayin’ he can make it till it’s dark

And that old time feeling comes and goes in the rain
Like an old man with his checkers, dyin’ to find a game
And that old time feeling plays for beer in bars
Like an old blues-time picker who don’t recall who you are

And that old time feeling limps through the night on a crutch
Like an old soldier wonderin’ if he’s paid too much
And that old time feeling rocks and spits and cries
Like an old lover rememberin’ the girl with the clear blue eyes

And that old time feeling goes sneakin’ down the hall
Like an old gray cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall

Not all his songs made you cry. But even Texas 1947, from that debut album, an ecstatic song about a six-year-old Guy Clark’s thrilled witness with the rest of his little West Texas town of Monahans of a train screamin’ straight through Texas like a mad dog cyclone, is freighted with a wistful sense of loss.

Texas 1947

>

Now bein’ six years old
I had seen some trains before
So it’s hard to figure out
What I’m at the depot for

Trains are big and black and smokin’
Steam screamin’ at the wheels
And bigger than anything they is
At least that’s the way she feels

Trains are big and black and smokin’
Louder in July four
But everybody’s actin’ like
this might be somethin’ more

Than just pickin’ up the mail
Or the soldiers from the war
This is somethin’ that even old man
Wileman never seen before

And it’s late afternoon
On a hot Texas day
Somethin’ strange is goin’ on
And we’s all in the way

Well there’s fifty or sixty people
Just sittin’ on their cars
And the old men left their dominos
And they come down from the bars

And everybody’s checkin’
Old Jack Kittrel check his watch
And us kids put our ears
To the rails to hear ’em pop

So we already knowed it
When I finally said, “Train time”
You’d a-thought that Jesus Christ
His-self was rollin’ down the line

‘Cause things got real quiet
Momma jerked me back
But not before I’d got the chance
to lay a nickel on the track

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Big, red, and silver
She don’t make no smoke
She’s a fast-rollin’ streamline
Come to show the folks

I said, Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Lord, she never even stopped
But She left fifty or sixty people
Still sittin’ on their cars
They’re wonderin’ what it’s comin’ to
And how it got this far

Oh, but me I got a nickel
Smashed flatter than a dime
By a mad dog, runaway
Red-silver streamline

Train look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Big, red, and silver
She don’t make no smoke
She’s a fast-rollin’ streamline
Come to show the folks

I said, Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

Look out here she comes, she’s comin’
Look out there she goes, she’s gone
Screamin’ straight through Texas
Like a mad dog Cyclone

At one point yesterday, a rumor spread among the folks waiting outside for a table at the Chili Parlor that they had run out of the makings of Mad Dog margaritas. It wasn’t true, at least by the time I left.

They didn’t play any Guy Clark music while I was there. The playlist was more Stones’ Start Me Up, which, with all due respect, you can hear at a Donald Trump rally.

The closest I came to hearing any Guy Clark on the campaign trail this year was at Ted Cruz’s March 1 Super Tuesday election night party at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford, where, early in the evening, the band played Townes Van Zandt’s Pancho and Lefty

More remarkably, that was followed by Angel from Montgomery, which was written by John Prine, who is not a Texan, but could be, and is Guy Clark quality in its heart-wrenching poetry.

I was surprised and delighted to hear Pancho and Lefty and Angel from Montgomery at the Red Neck Country Club. But I didn’t read too much into it.

Right after he announced for president last year, Cruz described himself as a country music fan, but said his conversion to country was political.

From Politico:

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” the Texas senator told his TV hosts that he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that that soon changed.

“My music taste changed on 9/11,” Cruz said.

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”

xxxxxx

Cruz did not mention any specific country music that resonated with him or which rock artists did not respond well to the terror attacks.

“I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people,’” Cruz said. “So ever since 2001, I listen to country music.”

 

Cruz: I’m an odd country music fan because I didn’t listen to it prior to 2000.

Well, I’m not sure what Cruz is referring to about rock’s reaction to 9/11. I think he might be confusing 9/11 with Vietnam.

Either way, in his moment of melancholy, he might want to try listening to Guy Clark.

Here is a gorgeous rendition of Desperadoes, from, of all places, the David Letterman show.

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