78: The Famous Lefty Flynn’s

78: The Famous Lefty Flynn’s

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

The Famous Lefty Flynn’s

Story by Jamie Johnson

Song written by Jamie Johnson and Morry Trent

Recorded by The Grascals

One day back around 1994 or 1995, I was at this little tavern back home, The Railroad Inn in Milan, Indiana. There was this guy sitting at the bar, and he came up to me and said, “You’re Lee Johnson’s little brother, the singer, right?” And I said, “Sure am.” And he introduced himself. When he did, I just looked at him in amazement. I used to hear my brothers telling stories about this guy all the time and how tough he was. It seemed like he beat up pretty much everybody in town, including all the big, mean guys I knew growing up. In my imagination, I thought he must be huge, but he was about my size. I said, “You’re the guy that’s beating all these people up?” He said, “That’s me.”

At the time, I thought his name was Flynn, but I found out recently that his name was actually Flint. That event stuck in my mind for several years. Then six or seven years ago, I got the idea to write a song about a bank robber who was little and didn’t look like a bank robber. I’m left-handed, so I called him Lefty Flynn. The rest of the song — the singer going to prison and sharing a cell with this guy and breaking out and going to Mexico — pretty much came from the imagination of me and my co-writer, Morry Trent, who is also left-handed. We were just trying to be Tom T. Hall and make it interesting to the listener.

I actually had both of the characters in the song living at one point. They were sitting in the bar in Mexico together and enjoying life. I played it for Larry Shell, who co-wrote “Murder on Music Row” and all sort of hits. He is quite a character. He said, “That’s a good song, son, but somebody’s gotta die. You’re gonna have to kill one of them off.” So we did. I played with it for another year or so and we cut it and it eventually ended up being the title cut of the album we released in the spring of 2010.

I was really looking forward to taking this song back home and playing it for this guy who inspired it, but I heard that he passed away a couple of years ago, so he never got to hear the song. And The Railroad Inn just closed down recently, too. It was a bar and restaurant and hotel, and it took a lot of jobs. It’s kind of sad, really, because there’s not much else there. Maybe I can make enough money from the song to buy the place. If I do, maybe I could even name it “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s.” Talk about life imitating art.

The Famous Lefty Flynn’s

The walls are mighty high in Fort Worth Prison

And the cells are awful small for two grown men

The Warden slammed that heavy door behind me

And said “allow me to introduce to you the famous Lefty Flynn”

Well I’d read about ole Lefty in the papers

How he’d robbed all the banks out in the West

I figured he’d be bigger than a mountain

With chiseled arms and battle scars tattooed upon his chest

But he was small and looked just like a movie star

His teeth were pearly white and his hair was black as coal

And I’ll never forget the day that I shook his hand

And began my education from the Famous Lefty Flynn

I guess I must’ve asked a million questions

And he took to me — I was his only friend

He told me all about his hiding places

And all the money that he stole and never got to spend

He said there was an old abandoned farm house

And in the backyard was a dried up well

A million dollars lay there at the bottom

And we made a pact to not look back and break out of that cell

We barely made it out with lawmen on our tails

Well, the bullets were a flyin’ and they shot ole Lefty down

With a heavy heart, I headed for that pot of gold

And on across the border to the Gulf of Mexico

Now I’m living like a king in old Tampico

I’ll never have to steal or run again

And just like we planned, I built that little tavern

Where the neon light says, “Welcome to the Famous Lefty Flynn’s”

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