One year ago—Atlanta, Georgia. Willie Nelson stood on stage and sang my childhood. He sang: “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
I rose to my feet in honor of Mama—who expressly failed in this regard.
While Willie played for thousands, my wife handed me her glowing cellphone. There were photos of a pink newborn baby on it.
“That’s your niece!” yelled my wife.
I cried, then smiled for three hundred days.
Though it bears mentioning, life hasn’t always been worth smiling about. Take, for instance, the day we scattered my father’s ashes. That was a particularly bad day.
I had hoped his remains would catch the wind and fly away like angel dust. They dropped like a brick.
That following year, I wore out Daddy’s vinyl record collection, trying to remember him.
One of my favorite records: an album bearing portraits of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings on the cover.
I listened to “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” until I half-hated the melody.
But, of course, I never could hate that song. I sang it on my very first gig.
And I was god-awful.
At the end of the night, the owner paid me fifteen bucks and said, “Learn some new songs, kid. If I hear that damn Willie song one more time, I’m gonna go crazy.”
I tried to learn as many new songs as I could. After swinging a hammer during the afternoons, I’d practice music until the wee hours.
I peddled my unimpressive songs to rundown places and earned next-to-nothing for my mediocre performances.
They were joints Mama would’ve been ashamed of, with neon signs in windows and sad people at tables.
In one such…