Monday, February 26, 2007

Good ol' boys like me

When I was a kid Uncle Remus, he put me to bed, with a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head...

Going to see George Strait the other night reminds me of a story. Gotta go back nearly 10 years (hard to believe) to tell it.

Summer of '97. I'd just completed my first year at UT, was working at the Powell telephone company. Life was easy.

My pal Drew and I jaunted up I-75 one Saturday afternoon to a little barn in Kentucky. Renfro Valley to be exact. It's a quiet little out of the way place. But Hag hangs out there. So does the Possum. And some others.

That night we had tickets to see the Voice. The country poet. Smooth-as-silk Don Williams.

My mom turned me on to him years before. I played her 33 1/3 RPM LP of Don's Greatest Hits (yeah, it was that long ago) until it cracked. One song in particular.

Amanda, light of my life, fate should have made you a gentleman's wife...

Don ain't flashy. He's worn the same old hat for years. He doesn't smile much, barely talks. Instead, he sits on a stool, and sings.

He opened with a favorite, "Good Ol' Boys Like Me," and for the next hour and a half took us through some of the best country music records ever put to vinyl.

Don and George are a dying breed. Singers talk, they swing from ropes, change costumes a hundred times, do just about everything but sing. That isn't Don's bag. The most he moved that night was when he took off his hat at a woman's request.

You don't hear Don Williams on the radio much anymore. (Unless you listen to MERLE FM, Knoxville's brand-new "real" country music station.) But that's OK. His fans know where to find his music.

It's on CD now. It's even on YouTube. Every so often he shows up in Pigeon Forge.

And on this long ago Saturday night, he brought his act to a barn in Renfro Valley. Part of me still considers it the most purely musical concert I've ever seen.

Makes me wonder what the hell has happened to my kind of country music.

I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be. So what do you do with good ol' boys like me?


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