Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Friend Tom

      Yesterday, when I was in my mid twenties or so, I drifted into Guitar Town. After a few days I ran out of money and got a job slinging beers in a bar. Most places have a thing called "open mic", but in Nashville it's called "writer's nite" because you are expected to play original material. Well, I had written a couple dozen songs by then and so I joined in the fun like everybody else. Among the folks who were playing their songs around town was a fellow by the name of Tom. He was, and still is, a terrific songwriter and I was proud to meet him and even prouder to actually get to know him. I thought I was a pretty good writer at the time, but after meeting Tom and hearing his songs I knew I had a long ways to go. Tom was kind...but honest. "Duffy", he said, "it's not your guitar that's out of tune." 
      Well, one night I was off duty and on the wrong side of the bar and me and Tom were having one...or two...and solving the world's problems, as we often did. Another fellow walked into the bar and took a stool next to me. I was now positioned on the stool between Tom and a guy by the name of Harlen Howard, who happened to be one of the most, if not THE most, prolific songwriters to ever hit that town. From the nineteen fifties thru the 90's there was almost always a Harlen Howard tune on the charts. Look him up if you don't believe me.
      Okay, it hurts, but I might as well get to point. Here I was sitting right between what I considered, and still do, to be the two best songwriters I had ever met. I thought I'd be cool and asked Harlen, "Mr. Howard, how in the blue blazes do you write so many hits!?" Well, he took a sip of his drink, tipped his head to one side, grinned, and said, "well, sir, I don't write hits! I just write a song and throw it in a box and when they want a hit they just reach in the box and pull one out!" We all laughed at that and ordered up another round. I let the laughter settle down, then bowed my head just slightly, closed my eyes and said, not too loudly, "Lord, I sure wish I could write a hit before the world blows up....ya know...?" Harlen looked at me and said, "son, I just don't know what to tell you." Then he looked at  Tom and sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, "boys I guess I'd better be gettin' on home. I'll see you later." Me and Tom both shook hands with him and he walked out of the bar and we ordered one more before the walk back to our appartment on Sixteenth Avenue. We talked some more about Harlen Howard and some of the other great writers we had met and heard. I was rather enamoured of some of those successful folks, but Tom was not. He respected Harlen and the others we'd talked about, but he never put them any higher up there than anybody else. To Tom they were just people, but I couldn't help it, they were heroes to me and it took me quite a few years to realize that heroes are people first. 
      Anyway, Tom and I left the bar (it was closing time) and headed up the street to home. On the way, after too much silence between us, Tom cleared his throat and said, " case you didn't know it....uh...your job as a writer is not to write a hit. Your job as a to write. And just one more thing. I don't think you want to write a hit before THE world blows up. I think you want to write a hit before YOUR world blows up!" 
      Told ya he was honest.                                                       

Friday, March 4, 2011

oh, these kids today....what do we do with 'em?

     The other day someone at the bar said, "facebook is the devil! Just wait and see! I'm tellin' ya, facebook and that whole internet thing are the devil!" "Well, maybe," I said, "but, just to play the devil's advocate, I don't think the fact that those young folks over there in the middle-east and Africa, overthrowing a bunch of  old farts and trying to get a better life, has anything to do with the devil. They're not the first generation to revolt, they're just the first generation to have the world at their fingertips and they are using it to change their world. And ours. The kids in Cairo are on the kids in Jordan's side. They all want the same thing. Freedom. They may not know what's next or who will run things down the road, but they do know that they sure as hell don't want the bastards that are running things now. I say God bless them and best of luck to them. It ain't gonna stop there. It will move to Korea, I bet, and even South America. This is a generational thing being driven by the energy and the passion of youth and they are using the tools at hand, just like every generation that came before. Only, this time, the tools are the internet and that evil thing, facebook. Wow, if only the hippies and that damn "love" generation had had such a thing!"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


 Some things are easy to do. Some things are difficult.Occasionally, it is both at the same time. This time is one of those times. Up and down, happy and sad.
      It is easy to talk about Lynwood because he was a good friend. I was just one of his many friends and we will all miss him, so it is hard, also. He was only fifty-two, younger than me, so I am reminded again not to take this living thing for granted. I don't believe Lynwood took anything for granted except, perhaps, that the pan of biscuits in the oven was going to taste great and that the day was too perfect to not go fishing and surely catch a stringer full. He loved his family and he didn't hide that fact.
     He and his brother were good buddies and they were proud of each other. There was a lot of laughter there. I know this because he told me so.
     The women in his life are all strong and beautiful. His mother, smiling and dynamic, amazed him in many ways. I know this because he told me so. His sister, solid like a rock and tender like a flower, will never find it hard to recall many good stories and memories of him.
     His wife, the love and light of his life, made him grin and blush a little whenever he spoke of her.
     I was priviliged to get to sing at their wedding and I won't ever forget it. She laughed and he cried and we all had a great party.
     Today his family and his many, many friends gathered at the chapel and then in the cemetary to say good-bye to him. Then we all met at Captain Sam's Landing to laugh and cry and remember, and to drink a hearty Lynwood. Here's to Lynwood!!!