By Otis Griffin
“Are you ready for the country, are you ready for me??” These are just some words from a song recorded by Waylon Jennings, a country artist that passed away recently. Why is this so significant? If you are country, and from the country, you can feel it inside.
Country music is a certain style or brand of music only interpreted and possibly understood by country folks. I’m not smart enough to analyze this banging and squalling on the records or should I say, CD’s today, but I do know a country song when I hear one. How?? You can feel it!
Why is Waylon so important to me? I feel like I knew him and spent some time with him growing up. Of course, I never did, except on the radio, records and later the TV. Waylon had some diabetes related health problems and the silent killer finally got him. It’s close, because my thirty seven year old son, Mike, got called away by the silent killer, several years ago. That’s easy to relate.
I did get the opportunity to meet Waylon at a concert in Carbondale, Illinois over twenty years ago. When the show was over and the assistants were removing the instruments and shutting everything down, I noticed Waylon walking behind the curtain directing traffic. Since I have never been bashful, and the crew was real busy, I tried to hide and sneak into the middle of the pack.
He was perspiring profusely (now that’s a Fast Eddie 8 cylinder word for country folks that sweat a lot) and very busy. I just stuck out my hand, surprising him I guess, because I had made it behind the stage and told him, “I enjoyed your show and your music.” His words were, “Glad ya’ made it.” He firmly shook my hand and nodded. That was it. I spoke to his petite wife, Jessi and she too, was very cordial. As I look back, maybe there was a little bonding. I can’t really say.
Country folks are a real close family. Almost like yo’ blood kin. Neighbor, I can remember when I was in the corn crib shucking away. Eddie Hill, a prehistoric Memphis country singer, would talk to his radio audience in between songs. Usually he was selling Black Draught or some snake oil liniment, but I wanted to buy it because he said so. There is no way of knowing how many other country folks were tuned in, but I knew he was talking—directly to me and—-only to me. You felt like you knew him real well, just like Slim and Dusty Rhodes and our harmonizing time—-together—over the airways.
I reckon just about everyone remembers where they were when Elvis died, and probably just what each was doing at the time. I can certainly recall when Hank Sr. passed away. I couldn’t believe it. No way was Hank going to depart. I thought for an instant, “I’ll never hear him again.” Little did I realize, his tapes and records would live forever. Country songs have a meaning and it sinks down real deep. No truer words were ever written than ‘Old Dogs’ by Tom T. Hall.
Did Hank write the songs so he could live them? Or did he live them, so he could write them? No one truly knows. Where were you when Tammy died? How about Patsy Cline? Carl Perkins?? Country music tells a story better than a book. You can feel the emotion of heartaches, blues, hurting, but the good times too. I guess we have all been there. Most of my friends have a number of special songs for various occasions, some good and some bad memories.
Roy could take us for a ride on the ‘Wabash Cannonball’, flying on the rails with trees limbs bending and almost breaking. The wail of the whistle piercing the midnight air in conjunction with the clanging of the iron wheels and the huffing of the boiler letting off steam, breaking the silence. Friends you could feel the shaking, jostling back and forth and hear the rumbling, sometimes so loud you can’t even think. All of this out of a country song. Yeah, there’s a story that country folks can understand and explain in their own mournful country way.
Just give me a fiddle, steel guitar and a stand up gut-bucket bass and it don’t get no better than that!! See, we country folks enjoy the simple things of life. This hammering we hear today ain’t country. There is no story told, or any feeling during the songs. The only feeling I get, is feeling to turn the knob until I find George, Merle or Ernest. Maybe Kitty, Loretta and Jean Shepherd and her ‘Satisfied Mind’ will give me some relief..
There is a difference between a country home and a home in the country. Just as there is a difference in music. If you ain’t country, then you are lost as a one-eyed goose in a snowstorm. Neighbor, we have lost another great country entertainer and there is no one to fill his shoes. None, I know of anyway. It’s like losing a member of your immediate family. Friends, just don’t give up. ’Cause I’m praying that country music and the South will rise again!
Country Folks are Ready for Their Music — GLORY!
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