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Jesup, Georgia 31545

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Country music sings to your soul

My Opinion

When imaginary quarters tumble down the slot, I dont hear that familiar metal-hitting-the-bottom clunk of my youth. But still, the jukebox inside my head spins a tune. DINK The playlist is NeSMITH packed with Chairman beach music Four Tops, Tams, Drifters and the likebut theres plenty of country, too. In 1968, I bought my first eighttrack tape player. And the first tape to get shoved inside that under-thedash mount was Johnny Cashs Folsom Prison Blues. When he launched into Ring of Fire and Orange Blossom Special, I was hooked. As Barbara Mandrell sang, I was country, when country wasnt cool. One of my cool memories was seeing the Man in Black on the Grand Ole Oprys stage. Elvis had it. Johnny had it, too. He was stronger than new rope or three acres of onions. Every now and then, I imagine that Im back at the Ryman, listening to Johnny and June wail, We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout. And I smile. Years later, I was flying with Gov. Zell Miller to visit some industrial prospects. We were sitting toe-to-toe, his cowboy boots touching my tassel loafers. I leaned in and asked, Governor, whos your favorite country artist? Without hesitation, he fired back, George Jones! Im a Possum fan, too. Perhaps my favorite Jones song is He Stopped Loving Her Today. If you listen carefully, the words will pierce your heart. If youre up for a three-

Hank Williams 1923-1953

minute sermon on life, listen to Choicesnothing but the truth. I dare you to not laugh if you put the jukebox needle down on Hotter Than a Two-Dollar Pistol. Im with you, Governorgive me more Possum. But my taste doesnt stop there. In 2005, after reading Paul Hemphills Lovesick Blues, I bought a box set of everything Hank Williams ever recorded. He may have drowned in whisky at age 29, but his genius lives on. Wipe off the archive dust and see the stars who sang his lyricsincluding Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles. When I hear Ray moan, Take these chains from my heart and set me free or Im so lonesome I could cry, I know the origin of those words. Hank was hurting and probably drunk, baring his raw soul. Who made country cool? I suspect artists like George Strait, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Kenny Rogers, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Clint Black, Wynona and Naomi Judd, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton, Alabama, Vince Gill, Brooks and Dunn and dozens more in Nashville got Americas toes to tapping, country-style. Randy Travis has old-school twang, but I absorb every word of I Thought He Walked on Water. I didnt have a grandfather or greatgrandfather like that. Randy inspires me to etch memories for my grandsons. Daughter Emily cries when Alan Jackson sings: Daddy Let Me Drive. She remembers her pigtails bouncing as her daddy let her drive an old Jeep, bouncing down dirt roads. Alan is a storyteller supreme. Listen to Little Man, and Ill bet you, too, will say, Amen! As my friend Larry Walker says, AJ puts it down where the goats can get it. A song that gets me is Rebas The Greatest Man I Never Knew. Daddies, if you dont know the gist of this classic, add it to your iPod or MP3 before the New Year. Push repeat, often. I started out to name my Top 10 country artists and songs, but I cant. What I can do is drop another quarter into the slot. Listen. Ray is singing: Georgia on My Mind. Oh, my.

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