Bobby Bare, Arthur Alexander, Tom Jones, Pam Tillis : Detroit City

People leave Home for all kinds of reasons.

As many reasons as there are people.

Running from.

Running To.

In search of safety.

In search of Danger.

Wherever they go, for whatever reason, no one ever forgets the Home they left.

Even, especially, if they can never go back there again.

Except in dreams.

Everyone has those dreams.

Jimmy :

When Daddy got home from the War he was sporting a chest full of medals.

Trouble was now he had only one arm and poison headaches near enough every day.

Makes running a small farm damn near impossible.

Some people say that’s what turned him mean.

Those folks mustn’t have known him before the War.

He’d always been mean as a mean rattlesnake on his meanest day.

Don’t know how Momma put up with him.

Except she’s one of them people who when she makes a promise she means to keep it.

For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

Drunk or sober.

Arms around or fists Flying.

Me, I had to take mean when I was a Kid and I put up with it, for Momma’s sake, when I  could have fought back.

Then, one blue hour of the morning I decided it was time to take a freight train north.

Leave them fields of Cotton far, far, behind.

It’s a long way from Lubbock to Detroit.

Cotton field to Car Factory.

Ford or Packard or Chrysler.

Momma never would leave Daddy or Texas for that matter.

Detroit’s got jobs.

Jobs that pay.

A man can make his way.

Another thing Detriot’s got – Baseball.

The Tigers.

See if Al Kaline is as good as they say.

Don’t doubt they got Jukeboxes I can pump some quarters into.

Surely they got some Hank Williams and some Buddy Holly.

I wrote a letter to Mary Margaret saying I’d send for her when I’d made my fortune.

Shouldn’t be more than a couple of years.

A couple of years.

We will still be young.

Left a note promising Momma I’d write home every week.

That’s a promise I mean to keep.

 

Henry :

They say working a shift at Ford is hard work.

Well, not if you spent years picking Cotton.

That is work.

Back breaking work in the Sun.

Cotton Fields at dawn and dusk can seem beautiful.

But, when you’re working in them until you drop it’s a cruel beauty.

Oh, sure, we ain’t slaves no more.

Might as well be.

Might as well be.

Stay in line.

Stay in step.

Lower your eyes.

Move aside Boy!

Mississippi Goddam.

Strange fruit hanging from Southern trees.

School children sitting in Jail.

Some say a change is bound to come.

But when?

How many people got to die first?

Not sure if I even hear the murmur of a prayer.

Gonna ride that freight train North.

To Detroit City.

Where a man can get a Man’s job.

Now, I know Detroit ain’t no paradise.

Still have to have be alert, wary.

But, plenty of us up there now.

They call it the great migration.

Add me to the number.

They got Baseball there.

The Tigers.

One of our own Jake Wood on the team.

Like to sit in the bleachers and cheer him Home.

Maybe after the game find a bar with a good Jukebox.

Hit the buttons for Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker.

One scotch, One bourbon, One beer.

Got to leave a lot of family behind.

Promised Momma I’d write and that’s a promise I’ll keep.

Soon as I can I’ll send for Wilma.

If I make enough money and things change down here maybe I’ll come back one day.

Everybody dreams of Home even if living there was a nightmare.

Gareth :

Mining villages are very close knit communities.

Everyone knows you.

And your Mam and your Da and all your brothers and Sisters.

At least they think they know you.

My Granda was a miner.

My Da is a miner.

My Brothers went down the pit too.

But not me.

Passed the scholarship exam to go to Grammar School.

Some people are just naturally good at Sport.

I’m just naturally good at writing essays and passing exams.

i was never going down the pit.

College.

Cardiff.

A new world.

Finding out who you really are.

Getting to know yourself.

Or, admitting something you always knew about who you were – what you were.

He was a sailor from Detroit.

Couldn’t help myself.

Love is Love is Love.

So, I moved to Detroit.

I write Home to Mam and Da and tell them how well I’m doing.

Let slip that I’ve met a very nice girl and maybe …

I can trust them not to read between the lines.

I go to Tiger Stadium to see Baseball.

It’s not the Arms Park but you do get that sense of a crowd becoming a community.

There’s a bar nearby with a good Jukebox.

Don’t think anyone back Home will have heard of Smokey Robinson – but I bet one day they will.

Amazing how often I dream of Home.

Maybe I’ll go back for a visit.

Next year.

Or the year after.

Linda :

When I was 16 I was just filled to bursting with dreams.

And, none of those dreams were about living a quiet life at Home.

No dreams about Cotton fields and calling on kinfolks to see how they’re doing.

No dreams about settling down with the quiet boy who lit up every time he saw me.

No dreams about catching the train South with my heart pounding louder and louder and louder with every turn of the wheels.

No, No, when I was 16 my dreams were about a life filled with colour and fanfares in far away Detroit City.

Detroit, where I would make my own money, in my own way.

Detroit, where people would see me as my own person, not – oh that’s the third Henderson  Sister.

Detroit, where I would find a man who would make every day feel like a holiday.

Nearest I get to a holiday now is when I put Patsy Cline on The Jukebox.

I write home every week.

In my letters life must seem glamorous up here.

I don’t talk about the man, the men, anymore.

I wonder if they can read between the lines?

 

I want to go home
I want to go home
Oh, how I want to go home

I want to go home
I want to go home
Oh, how I want to go home

I want to go home
I want to go home
Oh, how I want to go home

I want to go home
I want to go home
Oh, how I want to go home.

Notes :

Danny Dill and Mel Tillis wrote the Song.

Bobby Bare’s typically laconic Version from 1963 gave him his first top 10 Country Hit launching a career filled with expertly chosen songs examining the joys and pains of living an everyday life.

Detroit City was Arthur Alexander’s last recording for the Dot Label In 1965.

No one has ever sung with such quiet, affecting passion.

Tom Jones has always had the capacity to give dramatic burnish to a Song and it is cheering that in his autumnal years he is turning more and more to songs that allow him to express that side of his talents.

Pam Tillis has carved out an impressive career of her own. Her reading of her Father’s Song honours them both.

By happenstance I see I have published this post on Pam’s Birthday.

Many happy returns!

Ry Cooder, Ray Price, Bobby Bare & Hank Williams : 5000 Country Music Songs

‘I wake up in the morning and I wonder,
Why everything’s the same as it was,
I can’t understand, No I can’t understand,
How life goes on the way it does’.

(Arthur Kent/Sylvia Dee ‘The End Of The World’)

‘Life has its little ups and downs
Like ponies on a merry-go-round.
And no one plants the green grass every time’

(Charlie Rich)

There will be no end to the making of country music songs. For the blood and guts themes real country songs deal with will remain central to our human experience until the sun’s light is finally dimmed some six billion years from now.

The winning, holding onto and losing of love – along with lust and the demands and urges of loyalty and longing are the currency of a genre which speaks to the hard grind of our daily existence and the dreams that carry us through the inevitable peaks and troughs of our passage through life. No one plants the green grass every time.

The protagonist of our anchor song today, ‘5000 Country Music Songs’ by Ry Cooder, believes in the power of the country song to connect with the truths of life and that one day Ray Price or Bobby Bare might just record one of his stack of returned to sender songs : ‘You’re bound to get you one just wait and see’ says the concerned rural route mailman.

Still he always had the support of the bride he married in 1963, ‘Honey I’m feelin’ something there’ and together they kept their dreams warmly alive in their old house trailer out in the countryside. In the country you can live free and as you sit in your rusty old Cadillac ideas for country songs will surely materialise just like they did to the greatest country songwriter of all – Hank Williams.

So week by week, month by month, year after year, the envelopes were mailed off to Nashvile town where country songs were sorted to separate the hit wheat from the unrecordable chaff. Despite his wife’s steadfast support he couldn’t quite work up the courage to approach the great Ray Price when he came through town. Sometimes we just can’t fill the shoes of our ambitions.

Now a song taken on by Bobby Bare would surely lead you somewhere but it seems Bobby never got to hear any of the 5000 songs – though not for want of trying. But, at home in the trailer love flourished so that his wife in a death bed scene worthy of a John Ford movie can make a last request – ‘Sing me something in your real old style, the one I like to hear Bobby Bare passed by, I’ll just close my eyes and rest a while’. And so, in the trailer in the shade of the big old tree amid the scent of the honeysuckle vine with tender harmony provided by the mockingbird he sings his heart out as her heart beats its last.

Now he wakes up in the morning to a world outside the window that looks the same but is now filtered with tears in the monochrome of grief. As the flies buzz around the rusty Cadillacs he knows that what made their home sweet home was not a building or classic cars but the love they shared throughout the years when 4999 country songs were sent back from Nashville town to gather dust. Now, it’s time to pack up those song words and the old guitar and throw away the key.

Of course, it turns out, as we hear above, that song number 5000 would be one that Ray Price would break your heart with. And, surely good old Bobby Bare, a man with a reputation for spotting songs that promise to be jukebox classics would have picked this one out of the pile and said, ‘This one’s a keeper!’

Ry Cooder gives the song a beautifully understated reading that allows all the emotion contained within the story to naturally present itself to the listener. Ry Cooder’s career has encompassed virtually every aspect of roots music, movie soundtracks and international collaborations. The connecting thread is a wonderfully sympathetic musicianship alert to and respectful of the demands of the song at hand.

Embed from Getty Images

Ry Cooder records tell truthful human stories brought to life most thrillingly through his eloquent rhythm and slide guitar playing, which though capable of grandstanding, usually operates in a ruminative conversational tone which draws the audience in to savour all the song has to offer. Recently, he has added startling songwriting prowess to his instrumental virtuosity to round out an already very considerable talent.

Finally, as, ‘5000 Country Music Songs’ plays on the Immortal Jukebox, somewhere in the back seat of a celestial Cadillac the shade of Hank Williams will take his hat off and join in the chorus:

‘You can take what you want after I’m gone,
It’s only just a little place that we call home, sweet home
One old house trailer, two rusty Cadillacs and 5000 country music songs.’

Thank You 50,000 times:

I am amazed and delighted that the Immortal Jukebox has now had some 50,000 views since it began at the end of March last year. A huge thank you to every reader for taking the time to visit here. I hope checking out what’s new on the Jukebox has become a good habit!

There’s many, many more treats in store so as the great Hank said, ‘If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll see you soon’.