9: Bobbie Ann Mason

9: Bobbie Ann Mason

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Bobbie Ann Mason

Story by Mark D. Sanders

Song written by Mark D. Sanders

Recorded by Rick Trevino

I always get a lot of ideas from book titles. That’s how I wrote the song, “Bobbie Ann Mason.” I loved the books In Country and Shiloh and Other Stories by Bobbie Ann Mason. After I heard the song, “Norma Jean Riley,” I think that name just stuck in my head. Later, I thought, “Bobbie Ann Mason” had a similar ring to it.

I actually wrote the song about a girl who I sat behind in English class when I was a junior in high school. Her name was Sue Struck. But the only words that I could think of that rhymed with Struck I probably couldn’t get played on country radio. But there’s a line in the chorus that says, “How was I gonna get an education / sitting right in back of Bobbie Ann Mason” that worked pretty well.

Bobbie Ann actually called me one day. It was down at the old Starstruck building on Music Row. The receptionist called me and said, “Mark, Bobbie Ann Mason is on the phone.” That shocked me. I didn’t know if she would be mad. It turned out that she was a little put off by the fact that I used her name in the song, but I think she got over that. Then she wrote a column about it later on the back page of The New Yorker. And then I was a little put off because she never credited me as the writer. In her article, she quoted about a third of the lyrics in the song but never credited the songwriter. She talked about Rick Trevino a lot, but I guess she thought it would mix people up a lot if she said that he didn’t write it, so she never mentioned my name. So we had an odd relationship there for a while.

The funniest thing about this, though, is that there is a bookstore in Oxford, Mississippi called Square Books. It’s a really quaint little place. It’s one of the few places that John Grisham has done book signings. They have a “signed first edition” club that I was a member of for about ten years. Every time Bobbie Ann would write a new book, she would participate in this signed first edition club, where the author will actually sign it to you if you want your name in the book. So she signed a couple of books to me and, after that, she started writing little notes to me like, “Okay, Mark, here’s another one for you.”

I still have those books with her curt little notes to me. But I don’t know if she ever put it together: that I was the one who also wrote the song with her name in it.

Bobbie Ann Mason

It wasn’t the books that I didn’t read

It wasn’t the teach that tried to teach me

It wasn’t that varsity baseball coach,

Kept on tellin’ them locker room jokes, it was:

CHORUS:

Bobbie Ann Mason, back in high school.

She was way too cute, she was way too cool.

How was I gonna get an education,

Sittin’ right in back of Bobbie Ann Mason.

Well, Bobbie knew her history, Bobbie knew her French,

Bobbie knew how to keep the boys in suspense.

She’d tease with a touch, she’d tease with a kiss,

I was three long years being teased by pretty Miss:

CHORUS

Yeah, Bobbie graduated first in her class.

Me, I graduated closer to last.

Bobbie went to college, she got a degree,

I got a guitar so I could sing about me and. . .

CHORUS

The years have taught me, the basics of math.

Divorce divides; time subtracts; takes away your hair,

Takes away your jump shot,

But it ain’t gonna take all the memories I got of. . .

Bobbie Ann Mason, back in high school

She was way too cute, she was way too cool.

I got most of my education

Sittin’ right in back of Bobbie Ann Mason.

Sittin’ right in back of Bobbie Ann Mason.

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