2: All-American Boy

2: All-American Boy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

All-American Boy

Story by Bobby Bare

Song written by Bobby Bare

Recorded by Bobby Bare

(under the name of Bill Parsons)

I grew up in southern Ohio, and I knew I had to go somewhere else to do something with my music. I couldn’t get anything going in Portsmouth, Ohio. I was too chicken to go to Nashville, because that was where all my heroes lived. I didn’t think there was room for me down there, so I decided to go to L.A. I was in Portsmouth one night and I saw a guy with a Palomino Club bumper sticker on his car with California plates and a Nudie suit who said he was going to L.A. So, my steel guitar player and I decided to go with him. I was always pretty loose like that. That was how I wound up on the West Coast. This was in 1954 and I was 19 years old.

In 1958, I wrote “All-American Boy” about a rock and roll picker getting drafted into the Army. I recorded it a few days before I went into basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I was doing a demo on my old buddy, Bill Parsons, back at King Studios in Cincinnati. There were about fifteen minutes left in the session and I’d been working on this song. It was an old “talking blues” kind of thing. We spent most of the time doing a song on my friend and then I put it down real quick, left the studio, and went off to join the Army.

This record label in Cincinnati, Fraternity Records, heard it and put it out and, within days, it was the biggest record in America, and here I was in the Army! And since Bill had booked the session, his name was on the record. It was my voice on the record, but my name wasn’t there!

I was drafted about six months after Elvis went into the service, so when the song hit, everybody thought it was about him. When it hit #2 on the charts, Bill called me up, scared to death, and said, “What am I going to do?” I said, “Just ride it out. Buy yourself a car or something. It will be forgotten in six months anyway.”

He said, “They want me to do the Dick Clark show in Philadelphia.” And I said, “Well, do it. You’re going to be lip-synching anyway. You can lip-synch me as well as I can lip-synch me.” So he went to Philadelphia and lip-synched my voice on American Bandstand, and then they had a big party for him in New York.

That was about the only hit that Bill had, as far as I know. I think a lot of people knew it was me anyway. It was probably fortunate that my name wasn’t on the record though, because I would have been labeled a novelty singer and it might have killed my career. I never would have had big hits like “Detroit City.” I would have been a one-hit wonder.

All-American Boy

Gather ’round, cats, and I’ll tell you a story

About how to become an All-American Boy

Buy you a guitar and put it in tune

And you’ll be rockin’ and rollin’ soon

(recite) Showin’ off, hittin’ hot licks, and all that jazz

Well, I bought me a guitar a year ago

Learned how to play in a day or so

And all around town it was well understood

That I was knockin’ ’em out like Johnny B. Goode

(recite) Hittin’ them hot licks, yeah number one

Well, I’d practice all day

And up into the night

My papa’s hair was turnin’ white

’Cause he didn’t like rock ‘n ‘roll

He said, “You can stay, boy

But that’s gotta go

(recite) He’s a square

He just didn’t dig me, at all

So I took my guitar, picks and all

And bid farewell to my poor ol’ pa

And I split for Memphis where they say “Y’all”

Them swingin’ cats are havin’ a ball

(recite) Sessions, hot licks.

They dig me

I was rockin’ and boppin’

And I was getting’ the breaks

The girls all said that I had what it takes

When up stepped a man with a big cigar

He said “Come here cat

I’m gonnna make you a star

(recite) I’ll put you on Bandstand

Buy you a Cadillac

Sign here, kid.”

Well, I signed my name and became a star

Havin’ a ball with my guitar

Driving a big long Cadillac

And fightin’ the girls off my back

They just kept a comin’

Screamin,’ yeah. They like it.

Well, I picked my guitar

With a great big grin

And the money just kept on pourin’ in

But then one day my Uncle Sam

said, (knock, knock,, knock) “Here I am.”

(recite) Your Uncle Sam needs you, boy

I’m gonna cut your hair off

Ah, take this rifle, kid.

Gimme that guitar. . .

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