Saturday, October 16, 2010

C and W, Slim Dusty and Trucks


(Click on pics to enlarge)

Elwood:     What kind of music do you usually have here?
Claire:        Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.
- The Blues Brothers

I have a soft spot for country and western music. Where else do you get a story and a life lesson, all bundled into a 3 minute song? Sure, it is the choice of music for good ol boys and rednecks, and it’s sophisticated to ask what happens when you play country and western music backwards? Answer: Your dog comes back to life, your wife comes back to you and your crops start growing again.

But can we not all learn from C & W songs such as:

The Gambler

Performer:
Kenny Rogers

Story:
The singer/narrator a passenger on a train, meets an old man  who tells the  younger man that he is a gambler who has studied faces and eyes as part of his card playing and that he knows the younger man is down on his luck (“out of aces”). For the last swallow of whisky from the young man’s bottle, the gambler promises to give some advice. The advice he gives is:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, know when to run
You never count your money, when you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin', when the dealin's done.
Life lesson:
The life lesson is a powerful one. In addition to the advice given above, the gambler tells the young man that he must work out for himself what is of value and what is not, that each of us have it within ourselves to chose what we do, and that he should stick with what is of value. It has sometimes been summed up as: God deals the hands, how you play them is up to you. As the gambler puts it:
Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry hand's a winner and ev'ry hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."
Further comments:
The song says that the gambler went to sleep and that somewhere in the darkness, the gambler broke even. Kenny Rogers singing the song with The Muppets makes it clear that they regard the gambler as having died:

Coward of the County:

Performer:
Kenny Rogers again

Story:
A wonderful revenge story. The singer/narrator is the uncle of Tommy, whose father died in prison, presumably by execution, when Tommy was aged 10. The last thing Tommy’s father did was to make Tommy promise not to do the things that he had done that had put him in prison, that Tommy should walk away from trouble or turn the other cheek. His father tells him “Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.” Tommy follows his promise made to his father and gets a reputation as The Coward of the County, who “never stood one single time to prove the county wrong”.
Tommy grows up and marries Becky, “in her arms he didn’t have to prove he was a man.” When Tommy is away from the house, the Gatlin boys assault Becky. He arrives home and sees what has happened. When he enters the bar where they are and one of them stands up to him. Tommy turns around and walks away, causing them to jeer him. However, instead of walking out the door, he locks it, preventing escape, tghen tears them apart. The singer says that “twenty years of crawlin’ was bottled up inside him”, now it all ame out. As the last Gatling boy fell, unconscious or worse, he said “This one’s for Becky”.

Life lesson:
The life lesson is summed up in the phrase (not from the song) “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” No reporting to the police, no courts or due process. A man has to protect what’s his’n, and to mete out punishment and justice according to the wrong that’s been done to him, his womenfolk and kin, otherwise he’s not a man. In the words of the song:
I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you've done.
I'll walk away from trouble when I can.
Now please don't think I'm weak, I couldn't turn the other cheek,
'n Papa, I sure hope you understand:
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man.
Further comments:
Hear the song and see the animation of the story at:

Which brings me to what I was originally going to write about: truck driving country. There are all sorts of country genres these days: straight country, country and western, bluegrass, rockabilly, country soul, country rock, outlaw country, country pop… shoot, there’s more types of country music than fleas on an ol' hound dog.

Truck driving country may be thought of as a sub-category of C & W or as a stand-alone type, a cousin of C & W. It has the musical style of country, sounds like country, but deals with truck themes and and the truck driving lifestyle. It is no wonder that a lot of C & W singers sing trucking songs as part of their repertoire.

The trucking lifestyle and mystique was also embraced by John Laws in his 1976 homage to truckies, You’ve Never Been Trucked Like This Before. That came back to haunt him in the cash-for-comment hearings when it was found that the trucking industry had used Laws to influence key policy makers into decisions it would benefit from. The album was tendered as an exhibit.


There is a singer who, during his lifetime, was revered, renowned, regarded, respected and whatever other re’s there are, an Australian icon and a singer of trucking songs: Slim Dusty (1927-2003). Slim Dusty toured the country, from grand venues to dusty outback tents, bringing music to the country and outback populations. Slim recorded his own compositions and those of others, put music to the works of Banjo Patterson and sang of the hardships and joys of country life. He toured Australia annually, a 48,000 annual performing event. His was the first music broadcast from space: astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen played his rendition of Waltzing Matilda from the space shuttle Columbia as it passed over Australia on its maiden flight in 1981.


Slim Dusty often sang about truckers and their lifestyles, not surprising when you consider the miles covered by he and his entourage as they travelled Australia. He and his wife were patrons of the National Truck Drivers’ Memorial located at Tarcutta, NSW.  It is a large memorial and there is now a wall with the names of truckies killed whilst driving.  There is also a memorial to Slim Dusty and his wife:


Here is one of Slim Dusty's songs… The Lights on the Hill, a great truckie song:
and
(Take a look at the sizes of the trucks on the above clips, especially on the second clip).

The lyrics are
It's a long straight road and the engine is deep
I can't help thinkin' of a good night's sleep
And the long long roads of my life were a callin' me
These rough old hands are a-glued to the wheel
My eyes full of sand from the way they feel
And the lights comin' over the hill are a-blindin' me

It's a long tough haul from a-way down south
A man's gotta find a little bread for his mouth
And a home for a girl as sweet as my honey can be

So it's down through the gears, she's a-startin' to pull
The gauge on the tank is a-showin' they're full
And the lights comin' over the hill are a-blindin' me

There's rain on the road and I can feel the load start a-shiftin'
In a dance
Too late, I see the post and I haven't got a ghost of a chance
Ah-hah-hah-no

The windscreen wipers are a-beatin' in time
The song they sing is a part of my mind
And I can't believe it's a-really happenin' to me

Oh, but I'm over the edge and down the mountain side
I know they'll tell about the night I died
In the rain when the lights on the hill were a-blindin' me
Hey!

There's rain on the road and I can feel the load start a-shiftin'
In a dance
Too late, I see the post and I haven't got a ghost of a chance
Ah-hah-hah-no

The windscreen wipers are a-beatin' in time
The song they sing is a part of my mind
And I can't believe it's a-really happenin' to me

Oh, but I'm over the edge and down the mountain side
I know they'll tell about the night I died
In the rain when the lights on the hill were a-blindin' me
In the rain when the lights on the hill were a-blindin' me
So enjoy the music and y’all come back now, y’hear.

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