22: Good Ole Boys Like Me

22: Good Ole Boys Like Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Good Ole Boys Like Me

Story by Bob McDill

Song written by Bob McDill

Recorded by Don Williams

I have a fishing buddy, Tom Connelly, who wrote a bunch of Civil War books, and he reignited my interest in southern literature. He introduced me not only to Robert Penn Warren’s literature, but also to the man personally. I read his last novel, A Place to Come To, and it inspired the song. That song is just about trying to pack all the standard southern themes into three and a half minutes. There are some lines in there that some people don’t understand, but it worked anyway.

I don’t think many people knew who John R. and The Wolfman were, unless they grew up in the South listening to R&R music on the radio. Down in Texas on the coast, we got WLAC after 9:00 when all the other radio stations went off the air. We listened to WLAC out of Nashville, which played “race music.” The DJs there were John R. and Hoss Allen, and some others. We also got TXLR from Del Rio, which was another 50,000-watt clear channel station and we listened to Wolfman Jack on there.

I later became friends with Hoss Allen in Nashville. One day we were talking and he said, “Some S.O.B. put John R. in a song.” I said, “Yeah, I’m that S.O.B.” I was at Slick Lawson’s one time and was sitting next to Hoss on a bench. There was a girl about my age sitting on the other side of him. She said, “Oh Mr. Allen, I used to listen to you on a transistor radio when I was a little girl, under the covers so my parents couldn’t hear.” Hoss said, “We had no idea we had that audience. We had all those thousands of kids listening to us.”

I played “Good Ole Boys” for Don Williams and he wanted Kenny Rogers to do it. Don was already a big act. This was around 1980. He’d had several #1 records, but he wanted to do me a favor and pitch it to Kenny, who was doing a lot of crossover records then.

But Kenny said, “Nah, it’s too literary. It’s too esoteric.” So Don called me back and said, “I guess you’ll have to settle for me cutting it.”

I said, “That’s fine with me!”

Before I fell in love with country, I was living in Memphis trying to learn to write R&B songs, and we moved up to Nashville to be with Clement Music. I was trying to write all these little pop songs. I was riding around late one night with a bunch of guys and I was in the back of Vince Matthews’ Cadillac and George Jones’ “A Good Year for the Roses” came on the radio, and I had an epiphany. I got it. There was a real rage bubbling underneath that lyric that I’d never gotten before. There was a real rhythm that I hadn’t understood before either, so I decided I wanted to start writing country songs.

Good Ole Boys Like Me

When I was a kid Uncle Remus would put me to bed

With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head

Then daddy came in to kiss his little man

With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand

He talked about honor and things I should know

Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door

CHORUS:

I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees

And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me

Hank and Tennessee

I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be

So what do you do with good ole boys like me?

Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does

But you ain’t afraid if you’re washed in the blood like I was

The smell of cape jasmine through the window screen

John R. and the Wolfman kept me company

By the light of the radio by my bed

With Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head

CHORUS

When I was in school I ran with kid down the street

But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed

But I was smarter than most and I could choose

Learned to talk like the man on the six o’clock news

When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road

But it really doesn’t matter how far I go

CHORUS

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