By William Thomas
I never thought much about country and western music until I started hanging out at the Belmont Hotel in Port Colborne in the ‘80s. A band called The Night Raiders would take to the tiny stage with their Dingo boots a-stompin’ and their toothpicks keeping time as they wailed away on “How Can Whiskey Six Years Old Whip A Man of 32?” I was feeling pretty good that night and then they played “I Got Tears In My Ears From Lyin’ On My Back Cryin’ After Losin’ You.” That did it. I went from disinterested to depressed in six bars, two choruses and four draft beer.
I perked up a bit when they played “An Old Flame Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” But then the waitress became distressed when they launched into “All The Guys That Turn Me On, Turn Me Down.”
It was an older crowd in the pub that night, but they still appreciated the boys’ rendition of “Get Off The Stove Grandma, You’re Too Old To Ride The Range.” I needed a lift so I requested “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.”
Then from out of nowhere a woman wearing a Stetson and cowboy boots was beside my table singing “Billy Broke My Heart At Shoppers And I Cried All The Way To Sears.” I swear I never met that woman in my life! I told her, I said “Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me’” She came back with “I Shaved My Legs For This?” Somewhere from the back of the room a guy yelled “He’s Got A Way With Women And He Just Got Away With Mine.” Then as an afterthought he shouted “I Kissed Her On The Lips And Left Her Behind For You!”
At that point I asked for another drink, but the bartender barked back “Jack Daniels You Been A Friend To Me.” Not my name. Not my brand. I was so lonesome I could die so I went to the phone to call her but when the band played “I’m Down To My Last Come And Get Me.” I hung up and sat back down. I knew she’d get the message because the last thing I ever said to her was “If The Phone Don’t Ring Honey, You’ll Know It’s Me.”
Country and western songs are usually sad – “My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him”? Somebody’s always hurtin’ – “I Don’t Mind Goin’ Under If It’ll Get Me Over You.” Often, they make you feel like you’re being jerked around – “The Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo.” Sometimes there’s wisdom – “You Can’t Have Your Kate And Edith Too.” Sometimes there’s just no hope at all – “Sudbury Saturday Night.”
Some country and western lyrics are so subtle you really have to listen carefully. “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” and “I Wouldn’t Take Her To A Dogfight.” Sometimes there’s no past or future, only the present – “My Head Hurst, My Feet Stink And I Don’t Love Jesus.”
Whatever it was, I was sad. I was down. I felt lower than a dwarf liftin’ hub caps off a chopped-down Chevy with four flat tires on Beaten Street. It had to be the music because I walked into the Belmont a sane and happy man and here I was down and drunk. I asked the bartender to call me a cab and he said: “Okay, you’re a cab.”
My parting shot to the band was asking them to play “You Broke My Heart, You Stole My Money And You Killed My Pit Bull Blue – But I Still Say The One For Me Is You.” I couldn’t believe he played it because I made that one up!
I was headed for the door when I noticed “All The Girls Keep Gettin’ Prettier At Closing Time.” I smiled at one of ‘em and she said “Walk Out Backwards Honey And I’ll Think You’re Coming In.” Country and western songs – they should come with one pack of Kleenex and two tequila shooters.
For comments and ideas, or a copy of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca