It’s been said that music soothes the savage beast. I think it does that and so much more. There are songs and artists that define moments in my life, just as there are in yours. Many of my defining moments are deeply connected to country music. Not today’s country but what some call classic country.
This weekend, I was privileged to see Johnny Lee in concert at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas. A beautifully rustic, cozy venue with the most amazing staff. A concert that I’ve been waiting for since I was in 4th grade. He did not disappoint, I can assure you. It was a night to remember.
When I was a kid, I was a member of Johnny Lee’s fanclub. Are there still fan clubs these days outside of social media? Man, I’m dating myself. With the membership, I received a generic letter and a photo. That was the extent of it.
When she was alive, my mamaw lived down the street from Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas.
One night, very late she ran into Johnny Lee in a coffee shop after his performance at Gilley’s. She told him of my infatuation with him and his music. She claimed to have given him my address. Honestly, that is the only explanation.
One afternoon not long after her chance meeting, I received a postcard from Johnny Lee. I was in 4th grade. The front of it was a photograph of Johnny much like if not identical to the one he autographed this past weekend. On the back he wrote, Dear Julie, followed by who knows what. I do, however, remember the closing. With Love Looking For Love, Johnny Lee. I was able to share that story with him after the concert Saturday. Surreal to say the least.
Oh how I wish I still had that postcard. It along with other physical evidence of my childhood was lost after my parents divorce. I can still muster up that feeling of elation when I think about it though.
As I listened to Johnny sing song after song representative of my childhood, that Urban Cowboy Era, a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. I started a mental checklist of the country artists that have passed on. In reality, it was easier to make a list of the country music singers that were still left.
I distinctly remember learning to dance at Eddie’s Country Ballroom to Statue of a Fool, before Ricky Van Shelton got a hold of that song. My dancing partner? My dad. He was a lot tipsy, ok hammered, but a good memory nonetheless.
I remember songs blaring from the speakers mounted in the walls of the house I grew up in. To this day those songs still give me chills and stop me in my tracks when I hear them. Mostly, Willie songs. I had the honor and privilege of seeing Willie in concert this past October after a lifetime of waiting.
My dad was in a band temporality when I was a kid. I remember going to a few of their practices. I can still hear him singing those good old country songs.
Teenage years and Friday nights spent at The Texas Rose Hall in Liverpool, Texas. Those memories I will cling to for life. Hanging out in the parking lot waiting for an unsuspecting couple to bombard with our request. It was a simple one really, “Please act like our parents so we can get in.” We didn’t quite make the age limit but had a desire to two-step the night away.
County Fairs and dances. Those are the memories songs should be written about. One of my most heartbreaking kisses from my teenage years was met with Silver Wings playing in the background at the Brazoria County Fair. A goodbye kiss, if you will. Everytime I hear that song, I’m 17 years old again. Not longing to go back, I can assure you, just taking my mind on a visit. Or how about Don’t Close Your Eyes, by Keith Whitley? One that still puts a lump in my throat twenty seven years of life later.
George Jones’ song, Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes has been on my mind this weekend. The irony of ‘ole Possum George singing of legends, all the while a legend himself. George Jones begging the question, who’s gonna fill their shoes? Who will fill his? The lyrics speak volumes. He sings of those that can “tear your heart out while sing.” No one can deny the ripping out of the heart when hearing “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Another that stops me dead in my tracks.
I know they mean well, but these artists today can’t hold a candle to their predecessors. Sorry Luke and Jason.
There is not a song that can bring me tears faster than, Goodbye Time sung only by Conway. Defining moment, year thirteen of marriage. If We Make It Through December by Merle or Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain by Willie. Oh how I long for good old country music. I could go on for days with list after list but you get the point. You have your own lists.
Who’s gonna fill their shoes? No one, George. No one can. Some will try but they will fail. You guys are the legends. You guys wrote the songs of my childhood. You guys are sorely missed.
Willie, much respect. Keep doing what you’re doing ’til you can’t do it anymore. You’re making Waylon proud.
I have recently discovered the voice of Lukas Nelson. Reminiscent of his daddy in many ways but blazing his own trail. He, Chris Stapleton, and Jamey Johnson are going to have to tide me over I guess.
What songs defined you growing up? Leave me a comment, I’d love to know.