Old Music

Even so, there’s something about this tune that moves me. I can close my gray eyes and go back in time.

Willie Nelson is on my radio. He is singing one of my favorite songs.

“In the twilight glow I see her,
“Blue eyes crying in the rain,
“When we kissed goodbye and parted,
“I knew we’d never meet again…”

I turn it up because I am a sucker for this tune. Though, I’m not sure why. When I was a boy, the lyrics never made sense to me.

After all, nobody with blue eyes ever cried in the rain for me. And I certainly didn’t have blue eyes. My eyes are gray. My mother used to say my eyes were the color of our pump shed.

Even so, there’s something about this tune that moves me. I can close my gray eyes and go back in time.

And I see my father’s work bench in the garage. A radio sits beside a chest of mini-drawers that is filled with bolts, nuts, screws, washers, and rubber grommets.

Crystal Gayle is singing “Don’t it Make my Brown Eyes Blue?”

Then Willie begins playing over the speaker. My father turns it up.

“Love is but a dying ember,
“Only memories remain,
“Through the ages, I’ll remember,
“Blue eyes crying in the rain…”

And I am holding a GI Joe doll, watching a tall, skinny man work on something beneath a shop lamp, holding a screwdriver.

He does all his own repairs, this man. Because he believes it is wasteful to hire people to do work you could do yourself. Just like it’s disgraceful, and even unforgivable, to throw away refrigerator leftovers.

The people I come from are proud and self-sufficient, and they are not above eating ten-week old meatloaf that has turned Sea Foam Green. They cut their own hair. And their own lawns.

When I started travelling a lot for work, I hired a yardman to cut my grass. It only made sense. But it felt wrong. I was so guilty about it that I couldn’t sleep. If my father were alive, it would kill him to know I pay a guy to mow my lawn.

I don’t know why I just told you that.

Things have changed a lot since the days when I played with GI Joe. Today’s radios have replaced Willie’s style of music with country singers who have backup dancers.

Over the years, country music kept sinking lower, until it sounded about as interesting as your Uncle Lou using the bathroom in his RV.

Almost every song on modern country stations seems to be about girls in tank tops, or beer, or knocking boots. Much of this music is performed by young men wearing jeans that have been pre-ripped, or young women dressed like centerfolds.

They can have it.

Because I still remember Loretta, and George, and Johnny, and Merle. And I will always remember Willie.

I remember sitting in Chastain Park, in Atlanta. I watched Willie Nelson play to a tame crowd. It was drizzling rain. And Willie invited Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn onto the stage.

People went crazy. It sounded like the crowd was going to tear the place apart. Then a hush fell over the audience.

The rain fell harder.

In this moment, Willie could have played any song and we would have loved him for it. He played “Amazing Grace.”

Though, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t hear Willie’s voice because Jimmy and Rosalynn were singing too loud.

It was a great moment, seeing Jimmy and Rosalynn singing a hymn in inclement weather. It was like watching your grandparents warm the front pew.

Jimmy and Rosalynn weren’t twirling, waving hands, or hopping up and down like the young people do at the megachurch my cousin attends. They were just singing.

I don’t have anything against megachurches, but my cousin’s church has a fog machine.

Before Willie, Jimmy, and Rosalynn got to the third verse of the hymn, they were joined by Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard’s boys, and seven thousand other people singing.

No fog machines.

And it reminded me of growing up the way I did, with simple people who were not fancy dressers. People who used weekends to do work around the house.

I come from a father who, just for fun, would separate bolts and screws and put them into little Dixie cups. A father who loved Jimmy Carter. And Willie Nelson.

After Willie sang a few more hymns, Jimmy and the others left the stage. It was still drizzling. And we all knew Willie was going to play it. All seven thousand of us. We just knew.

He started playing the familiar song.

I closed my eyes. All of a sudden, I was in my father’s garage. Holding a GI Joe doll. Watching a skinny man. He was alive again, and he was beautiful. Even if only in my memory. He was happy. And so was I.

“Someday when we meet up yonder,
“We’ll stroll hand-in-hand again,
“In a land where there’s no parting,
“Blue eyes crying in the rain.”

Don’t it make my gray eyes blue.

48 comments

  1. Susan Self - June 28, 2019 6:55 am

    You and Willie. Opened up that door to my stored memories. To the ones that are sweet and sad. But it’s good to go there for a while.

    Reply
  2. Connie Havard Ryland - June 28, 2019 8:56 am

    I’m a huge Willie Nelson fan. I’ve seen him in concert 7 times. I pay for SiriusXM so I can listen to his radio station. Mainly because 95% of modern country music is not country at all. And that’s one of my favorite songs of all time. On that station, I hear the music I grew up with. Willie and Kris, Waylon and Johnny Cash. Loretta and Conway. Jones and Strait. So many more. Some who have gone and left their music as their gift to all of us. Some who are still gracing us with their gifts of song. Old music is the soundtrack of my life.

    Reply
  3. Jim Sturges - June 28, 2019 9:55 am

    Eclectic means that a 74-year-old retired rocket scientist born in Dothan can find enormous meaning in your work. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Cathi Russell - June 28, 2019 10:08 am

    Sweet, sweet memories. It’s so good to go back, take them out and let them make my green eyes leak water for a few minutes. Thank you Sean for that exquisite joy on this Friday morning.

    Reply
  5. Naomi - June 28, 2019 10:36 am

    Sean, I usually say my prayers early in the morning, over a cup of coffee. When I finish, I check my e-mail. It’s odd, a coincidence, or a confirmation from God that you mentioned “Amazing Grace” this morning. This rarely happens to me, but as I was saying my prayers, I started thinking about “Amazing Grace”. I grew up in Orthodox Judaism but have been saved for 40 years. For a few minutes, as I was saying my prayers, I was thinking how amazing it was that God saved “a wretch like me”, a young Jewish lady who had no interest whatsoever of becoming a born-again Christian; I didn’t even know what that meant. By the way, before we moved out here to the country, we lived near Chastain Park.

    Reply
    • Sharon Draper Aldridge - June 28, 2019 12:54 pm

      Amen!

      Reply
  6. Pam Monroe - June 28, 2019 11:49 am

    Thank you for reminding me of good concerts, good people like the Carters and the best music. They can keep “new country”. I’ll keep the old songs sung by real people, properly dressed. Ok, I’m showing my age and my coffee’s getting cold.

    Reply
  7. Sherry - June 28, 2019 11:55 am

    The best! Thank you….

    Reply
  8. cartynol8 - June 28, 2019 12:03 pm

    Wow, another winner! Sean, you just get better & better. I wish everybody in the world knew how touching your words are. Keep it coming, please.

    Reply
  9. Karen - June 28, 2019 12:13 pm

    I have memories of my father shelling peas with me on a summer day. My mother would make stacks of biscuits, and we would have watermelon. There were eight of us. They took us to the farmer’s market, which was really big in Dallas, Texas. Years later, we all went to see Willie Nelson and Emmy Lou Harris in concert, but we had moved to Huntsville, Alabama. We used weekends to repair things, but we also took drives in the country and had picnics. Mama would fry chicken, make potato salad and baked beans and chocolate cake for us to eat. There were no electronic devices. We talked with each other and ate and laughed. Thank you, Sean, for reminding us.

    Reply
  10. Beth - June 28, 2019 12:24 pm

    It does a heart good to keep the love alive by letting the ember have a soft glow. What a wonderful and sweet story you shared with us. I pray you will always have those precious memories! Thanks once again for your gift and how it blesses me and others. 🙏🏻 Naomi, I am so thankful have been a child of God for 40 years!! That makes us sisters in Christ!! ✝️💖 May you all have a very blessed day!!! ❤️

    Reply
  11. Nancy Miller - June 28, 2019 12:48 pm

    Thanks again for a wonderful memory. You are the best .
    Every morning I look so forward to grabbing my coffee and heading out on the porch to see what wise and funny words of wisdom you have shared.
    Keep those words coming

    Reply
  12. Sharon Draper Aldridge - June 28, 2019 12:53 pm

    Beautifully said!

    Reply
  13. Bobbie - June 28, 2019 12:57 pm

    Thanks again Sean. And thank you Beth for those sweet words. Oh my! The memories come flowing back…my son loved GI Joe!! He made a parachute for Joe out of his dads handkerchief. He would spend hours throwing him in the air, until one day he got caught in a tree. Don’t think we ever saw him again. You are truly an old soul Sean. The simple life…time with family, fun times. People don’t enjoy that life anymore. Those really were the good ole days. They’re gone, but the memories last.
    God bless you. 🙋🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  14. Anne Isbell - June 28, 2019 1:26 pm

    I love Jimmy and Roselynn, and Willie. But your column made me think of my 85-year-old father who always says, “I’ve never eaten anything out of the refrigerator that killed me.” To which I always reply, “Yet.”

    Reply
  15. Michelle Hawkins - June 28, 2019 1:40 pm

    First time commenter. You touched my heart today. I grew up the same way. Willie, Jimmy and Rosalynn are still good people. They all still sing. I hang on to that. And, I hope when they are gone that they send back an echo.

    Reply
  16. Timothy Bell - June 28, 2019 1:41 pm

    My wife and I are traveling around the state of Tennessee for a couple weeks and added a stop in Asheville NC. We landed at ‘Jack of the Wood’ pub last night on a recommendation from a nice man who was playing the canjo and volunteering his time to the Mingus Mill north of Cherokee. Bluegrass jam night, a few members of Balsam Range gave way to some talented locals of all ages. It was a blast, especially watching through my girls eyes, a few patrons were giving us the stink eye for keeping our children up past 11. Today we head to Nashville for the remainder of our trip, unfortunately I just had to dump our bowl of shelled boiled peanuts because we didn’t know they had to be kept in the refrigerator. You need to include that info in your education of us northerners. Happy trails.

    Reply
  17. Mary - June 28, 2019 1:54 pm

    Ah,yes. REAL COUNTRY music. Songs that remind you of where you’ve been and people you’ve loved. Sweet memories that sometimes bring tears with the joy of remembering.

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  18. Brenda McLaine - June 28, 2019 2:00 pm

    It certainly is a different sound now. That’s all it is sound!

    Reply
  19. Betty F - June 28, 2019 2:14 pm

    From one gentle Redheaded Stranger to another, eh?

    Reply
  20. Loretta in Alabama - June 28, 2019 2:20 pm

    Don’t it make my green eyes blue and goosebumps run up and down my arms. The drawing looks like my late father’s truck, “Ole Henry”. .God bless you for bringing memories long forgotten back into my mind time and time again.

    Reply
  21. Carolyn - June 28, 2019 2:23 pm

    Fifty years ago my husband and I lived in Quantico, Va. He wanted to go to Washington DC
    to a Merle Haggard concert. I didn’t want to go because I thought country music was redneck…
    but I went. Merle came on stage, sat on a stool and sang for two hours. That’s the night I became a country music fan…I LOVED it. It makes me so
    sad to see and hear what country music has turned into. I guess I’m just wishing for the
    good ‘ole days. Love you Sean.

    Reply
  22. Paul Sams - June 28, 2019 2:31 pm

    Every time I get my oil changed, I can hear my Dad’s voice: “A man who won’t change his own oil is just lazy, and has more money than sense.”

    Reply
  23. Lisa Perkins - June 28, 2019 3:18 pm

    Great column again! I agree totally about the demise of music these days – country and the other genres. ☹️ Thoroughly enjoy reading your stories every day!

    Reply
  24. Shelton A. - June 28, 2019 3:25 pm

    I’m a rocker but I have a big soft spot for Willie Nelson. I’ve got brown eyes-easier to make gray eyes blue.

    Reply
  25. Patricia Harris - June 28, 2019 3:30 pm

    This struck a chord. My darling husband of 56 years died in January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He was only 76. Still beautiful and strong. I was with him to the end for hours and hours every day. My eyes are blue. This was one of his favorite songs by Willie Nelson. It still makes me think of him singing it to me and I cry.

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  26. Linda Moon - June 28, 2019 3:59 pm

    My blue eyes have never cried in the rain. They’ve sometimes cried from your Posts with laughter and, today, with memories. You told us all that today because you needed to. “I don’t know why I just told you all that.” I said those EXACT WORDS to a friend yesterday after telling her about a young man who wouldn’t throw away leftovers but threw away something far more valuable. Sometimes we just need to tell it. I’m glad you closed your gray eyes and went back to that garage….the one that belonged to that skinny man.

    Reply
  27. Janie F. - June 28, 2019 4:04 pm

    This right here is What you do best Sean! You make me feel and think. I grew up listening to Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner. Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash and George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn & so many others. My mother loved country music when it was really country.
    Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain is my favorite Willie Nelson song. I love Willie because when my cousin drove his bus Willie treated him like family and still does many years later.
    I love that certain songs can bring back memories of our loved ones.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Edna B. - June 28, 2019 5:14 pm

    Growing up, there was always country music on our radio. Today it is still playing. The old country music, not that new stuff that they call country. that new stuff is really some kind of pop music. You have a wonderful day,, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  29. Belinda Crowell - June 28, 2019 5:25 pm

    Sean, I love your writings. I am going on 72 and I relate to so much you write about. I look forward to your stories every day because they take me back to a kinder gentler life in the old days. God bless you, Sean!

    Reply
  30. Linda Chipman - June 28, 2019 5:39 pm

    I too love Willie. Have seen him several times – once we sat on the first row! Pretty much spoiled us from going to any more concerts. Country music isn’t country anymore. But Willie has a new CD and even in his ’80’s he still makes pretty music. Guy Clark wrote two songs on this CD and they are great – real country music.

    Reply
  31. jnearen2013 - June 28, 2019 6:29 pm

    Love that song. Oh and congratulations. You’ve hit the big time. Saw you in The Mullett, Gulf Shores local advertising rag. See you July 10th. Awesome.

    Reply
  32. Jeanne Butler - June 28, 2019 6:31 pm

    Love the old country singers. Not fond of a lot of the new ones. Loved Charlie Pride and the Oak Ridge Boys. Thanks for the memories. Sad what country music has become. Love you Sean

    Reply
  33. Jeannie Schweck - June 28, 2019 8:36 pm

    Sounds so much like my daddy. We always thought we would donate his body to science so they could see just what his stomach was made of. He said green, moldy food was good for you. Only time he ever got sick was when he ate a whole bunch of “bad” oysters from the Piggly Wiggly. We all kept telling him they did not smell right! I still have his glass jars filled with nails, bolts, screws, carefully divided into the correct jar Miss that man who taught his family so much. Love, love, love me some WIllie and Jimmy and Rosalyn!

    Reply
  34. angie5804 - June 28, 2019 9:20 pm

    I never liked country music until I heard Willle at the amphitheater in Tampa years back. And I saw Loretta Lynn about 6-7 years ago. She had to be helped onto the stage because she had just had eye surgery, but she could still belt out the songs! Now I am a huge fan of the Avett Brothers – though not total country, they are the real deal . No dancers except themselves and the fans.

    Reply
  35. Dewey Fleetwood - June 28, 2019 10:49 pm

    You, my man, just keep getting better. Thanks.

    Reply
  36. Freddie’s daughter... Chasity Davis Ritter - June 28, 2019 10:50 pm

    This one had me big old ugly crying today. Missing my dad. Songs can do that. The ones that played at his funeral. Just ones that he loved or remind me of him. Amazing Grace was his favorite at the end. We listened to it daily. I played it over and over in the hospital. I bet it was something though to hear Willy singing it with Jimmy Carter. Dad liked all the old classic country singers. Just like he loved watching his westerns. He loved Garth Brooks too though. He knew him back when Garth was a teenager. Did a lot of business with Garth’s uncle here in Oklahoma. The Dance can get me and If Tomorrow Never Comes. We don’t have blue eyes either but Crystal Gale has is covered with Dont it make my Brown eyes Blue. But Willy sang it right when he said some day when we meet up younder we’ll stroll hand in hand again. Until then I guess I’ll just cry when those songs or moments come along. Thanks for sharing as always, Sean. The tears are ok because the remembering is so good for me.

    Reply
  37. Melanie - June 29, 2019 1:18 am

    😢

    Reply
  38. Abbe Laboda - June 29, 2019 2:13 am

    Sean, this was church on this Friday night. Thank you! Best story yet!

    Reply
  39. Stuart - June 29, 2019 3:02 am

    I’m right with your dad on fixing your own stuff, leftovers, cutting your own grass & country music. But praise for Jimmy Carter is a bridge too far.

    Reply
  40. Joe Patterson - June 29, 2019 12:11 pm

    Thanks again Willie and one you left out Waylon

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  41. Toni - June 29, 2019 12:23 pm

    Best line…your cousin’s church had a fog machine. I’m sitting here by myself reading this and laughing out loud!

    Reply
  42. Geri - June 29, 2019 3:48 pm

    Love all your stories…this one really touched my heart….aren’t memories wonderful?

    Reply
  43. Ken Dunn - June 29, 2019 4:29 pm

    I like Willie but my favorite was George Jones ‘Possum”. What a voice- won’t ever be another like him.

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  44. Clarine Best - June 29, 2019 4:59 pm

    Great story that brings back a lot of memories. I agree with you about the depths to which country music has fallen. To play in one of the modern bands, you don’t even have to be able to play an instrument. No wonder my husband and I watch reruns of Hee Haw. They had real music back in those days!

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  45. Janet Mary Lee - June 29, 2019 10:50 pm

    And Don Williams…God Bless Don Williams!! Jeanne covered Charlie Pride for me!!
    Pure Country!!!

    Reply
  46. Jack Darnell - June 30, 2019 1:56 pm

    I’m from a long line of DO IT YOURSELF people. It only makes sense. I fix it if I can, and always cut ‘m;own’ grass….. (and the neighbors when possible)
    Jack & Sherry over in NC

    PS: I like the ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’

    Reply
  47. Robert Chiles - July 1, 2019 3:16 pm

    My uncle Roy taught me how to fix brakes when I was 15. So I did that until I was about 62 and blew out a disc in my back. Now I let someone else do it.

    Reply

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