Ain’t Comin’ Back (This Year) — Fred Who?
Just Another Gol’ Durn Singer-Songwriter
I grew up on a dirt farm in Northwestern Oklahoma — almost the Panhandle, but not quite. That’s the Dust Bowl end of the Cherokee Strip. Since then I’ve touched on several foreign lands and more coffeehouses and towns than can be counted. Now I seem to have settled down in Columbus, Ohio.
Always, there was a guitar along. For 37 years now, it’s been the same 1948 Martin D-28L that somebody converted back to a right-hand model before it found a way into my life. So much for off-beat beginnings.
I’ve made my living several different ways, none of which relate to this current project. The rewards of family and career were often foregone to preserve a degree of freedom that “the good life” in the suburbs seemed to preclude. As a precocious reader, I’d guess that back there somewhere Henry David Thoreau scared hell out of me with that crack about “most men leading lives of quiet desperation”. Isn’t it funny how the choices refused seem to slide through our fingers forever after?
If there’s a pattern in here anywhere, it’s just that I’ve always been fascinated by songs telling stories about those forgotten little footnotes of history, or about the lives of ordinary people. Society will invariably organize institutions to document, for better or worse, the larger of our cultural achievements. But just try to imagine, if you will, how easily we could have lost such legendary icons as: Casey Jones, Tom Dooley, John Henry, Stagolee, Frankie and Johnnie? (Or better yet, try to imagine some of those that actually were lost!)
Martin & me
Unlike the little guy in my favorite Alexander King cartoon at the top of this page, in each case the singer-songwriter was moved by direct observation of and reaction to those events and lives that were unfolding around him (or at least the persistent re-telling of the stories). Thus it follows that, in each case, we are deeply and historically indebted to some long-forgotten and simple fool who just happened to be standing around, humming snatches of melody under his breath while he reached for an instrument.
This is why that indefineable thing that we call “folk music” will always be with us. It is not just a simple category of music, but an integral part of historical and cultural processes of almost atavistic impact. In the long march of civilization, there can be no more insightful story, because it simply is our story.
And so finally, I started trying a few myself, and that’s what this project is all about.
That and the pleasure of working with some good friends who’ve been after me for years to get it done.
So now it’s done.