Follow us: Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Google+ Follow us on Linkedin Follow us on Tumblr Subscribe to our RSS or Atom feed
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Southern Weather Radar


Our Writers

  • Adam Peck
  • Alan Gordon
  • Alex Kearns
  • Alex Seitz-Wald
  • Alice Murray
  • Allison Korn
  • Alyssa Cagle
  • Amanda Marcotte
  • Amanda Peterson Beadle
  • Andrea Grimes
  • Andrea Lee Meyer
  • Andrew Bowen
  • Andy Brack
  • Andy Kopsa
  • Andy Miller
  • Andy Schmookler
  • Ann Marie Pace
  • Ann Woolner & Leonard Ray Teel
  • Anna Dolianitis
  • Anna Forbes and Kate Ryan
  • Annelise Thim
  • Anoni Muss
  • April Adams
  • April Moore
  • Ariel Harris
  • Armando
  • Arthur Blaustein
  • Austen Risolvato
  • Austin McMurria
  • Barry Hollander
  • Bert Roughton III
  • Beth Ostlund
  • Betsey Dahlberg
  • Bill Caton
  • Bill Hamm
  • Bill Mankin
  • Bill Montgomery
  • Bill Moyers & Michael Winship
  • Bill Phillips
  • Bill Semple
  • Bill Tush
  • Billy Howard
  • Bob Bohanan
  • Bob Pritchard
  • Booth Malone
  • Bootsie Lucas
  • Boyd Lewis
  • Brad Clayton
  • Braden Goyette For ProPublica
  • Brandon Collins
  • Brett Martin
  • Brian Randall
  • Brianna Peterson
  • Bruce Dixon
  • Bruce E. Levine
  • Burton Cox
  • Candice Dyer
  • Carl Kline
  • Carol Carter
  • Carson M. Lamb
  • Casey Hayden
  • Cathleen Hulbert
  • Center for American Progress
  • Chantille Cook
  • Charles Finn
  • Charles O. Hendrix Jr.
  • Charles Seabrook
  • Charles Walston
  • Chelsea Toledo
  • Chelsey Willis
  • Chris Bowers
  • Chris Kromm
  • Chris Wohlwend
  • Christopher Burdette
  • Chrys B. Graham
  • Chuck Collins
  • Cliff Green
  • Cody Maxwell
  • Collin Kelley
  • Craig Miller
  • Crissinda Ponder
  • Dallas Lee
  • Dan Kennedy
  • Daniel Flynn
  • Daniel K. Williams
  • Daniel Palmer
  • Danny Fulks
  • Dante Atkins
  • Darby Britto
  • Dave Cooley
  • Dave Johnson
  • Dave Pruett
  • David Bradford
  • David Evans
  • David Harris-Gershon
  • David Jenks
  • David Kyler
  • David Parker
  • David Roberts
  • David Rotenstein
  • David Swanson
  • Dean Baker
  • Deb Barshafsky
  • Debbie Houston
  • Deborah Chasteen
  • Denise Oliver Velez
  • Dennis McCarthy
  • Desiree Evans
  • Dian Cai
  • Diana
  • Diane Rooks
  • Dina Rasor
  • Dindy Yokel
  • Doc
  • Don Lively
  • Don O'Briant
  • Donnie Register
  • Door Guy
  • Doug Couch
  • Doug Cumming
  • Dr. Brian Moench
  • Dr. Dorothy Ann Boyd-Bragg
  • Dr. Nick De Bonis
  • Dr. Ravi Batra
  • E. David Ferriman
  • Earl Fisher
  • Eden Landow
  • Eileen Dight
  • Eleanor Ringel Cater
  • Elizabeth Shugg
  • Ellen Brown
  • Elliott Brack
  • Erin Kotecki Vest
  • Fatima Najiy
  • FishOutofWater
  • Francisco Silva
  • Frank Povah
  • Fred Brown
  • Frederick Palmer
  • Gadi Dechter, Michael Ettlinger
  • Gail Kiracofe
  • Gaius
  • Georgia Logothetis
  • Gib Ennis
  • Gina Williams
  • Gita M. Smith
  • Glenn Carroll
  • Glenn Overman
  • Gordon Anderson
  • Gregory C. Dixon
  • Gryphon Corpus
  • Hamp Skelton
  • Harriet Barr
  • Heather Boushey
  • Henry Dreyer
  • Henry Foresman
  • Hollis B. Ball III
  • Hugh
  • Hyde Post
  • Ian Kim
  • Ian Millhiser
  • Isabel Owen
  • Ivy Brashear
  • J.A. Myerson
  • Jack deJarnette
  • Jack Wilkinson
  • Jacklyn C. Citero
  • Jake Olzen
  • James Hataway
  • James Marc Leas
  • James N. Maples
  • Janet Ward
  • Jasmine Burnett
  • Jason Palmer
  • Jason Parker
  • Jay Thompson
  • Jaz Brisack
  • Jeff Cochran
  • Jeff Davis
  • Jeff Rayno
  • Jeff Spross
  • Jeffry Scott
  • Jennifer Hill
  • Jesse Harwell
  • Jessica Luton
  • Jim Allen
  • Jim Bentley and Jeff Nesmith
  • Jim Clark
  • Jim Cobb
  • Jim Fitzgerald
  • Jim Newell
  • Jim Stovall
  • Jim Walls
  • Jim Warren
  • Jimmy Booth
  • Jing Luo
  • Jingle Davis
  • JL Strickland
  • Joan Donovan
  • Jodi Jacobson
  • Jody Wegmueller
  • Joe Earle
  • Joe Shifalo
  • Joel Groover
  • Joey Ledford
  • John A. Tures
  • John Dembowski
  • John Hickman
  • John Hickman with Sarah Bartlett
  • John Huie
  • John M. Williams
  • John Manasso
  • John Sugg
  • John Tabellione
  • John Yow
  • Jon Sinton
  • Jonathan Grant
  • Jonathan Odell
  • Joni Hunnicutt
  • Jonna Pattillo
  • Joseph B. Atkins
  • Joseph Gatins
  • Josh Dorner
  • Josh Sewell
  • Joy Moses
  • Judith Stough
  • Judy McCarthy
  • Juli Ward
  • Julian Bond
  • Julian Riggs Smith
  • Julianne Wyrick
  • Julie Ajinkya
  • Julie Puckett Fodera
  • Just Plain Will
  • Kaili Joy Gray
  • Kate Greer
  • Kate McNally
  • Katherine A. Edmonds
  • Kathleen Brewin Lewis
  • Kathleen Harbin
  • Kathleen R. Gegan
  • Kathryn Hoffman
  • KC Wildmoon
  • Keith Graham
  • Ken Edelstein
  • Ken Haldin
  • Ken Hawkins
  • Ken Peacock
  • Kevin Austin
  • Kevin Duffy
  • Kip Burke
  • Kirk McAlpin
  • Kirsten Barr
  • Kos Moulitsas
  • Kristie Macrakis
  • Lacey Avery
  • Lamont Cranston
  • Laura Clawson
  • Laura Smith
  • Laurence Lewis
  • Lawrence S. Wittner
  • Lee Leslie
  • Lee Robin
  • Leon Galis
  • Leonce Gaiter
  • Les Eatwell
  • LikeTheDew
  • Linda Hunt Beckman
  • Linda Jordan Tucker
  • Lisa Byerley Gary
  • Lisa Kerr
  • Lois Beckett, Propublica
  • Lorraine Berry
  • Louie Crew Clay
  • Louis Mayeux
  • Lovell Jones, Ph.D.
  • Lucy Emerson Sullivan
  • Lucy Guest
  • Maggie Lee
  • Maisha White
  • Mandy Richburg Rivers
  • Margi Ness
  • Marian Wang, ProPublica
  • Marie Diamond
  • Mark Dohle
  • Mark Johnson
  • Mark Sumner
  • Martha W. Fagan
  • Mary Civille
  • Mary Elizabeth King
  • Mary Kay Andrews
  • Mary Lee
  • Mary Willis Cantrell
  • Matt Blakely
  • Matt Johnson
  • Matt Musick
  • Matt Renner
  • Matthew Wright
  • Maurice Carter
  • Meg Livergood Gerrish
  • Meghan Miller
  • Melanie Rochat
  • Melinda Ennis
  • Michael Bailey
  • Michael Beckel
  • Michael Castengera
  • Michael Ettlinger
  • Michael J. Solender
  • Michael Linden
  • Michael Lux
  • Michael W. Twitty
  • Mike ”Hunter” Lazzaro
  • Mike Copeland
  • Mike Cox
  • Mike Handley
  • Mike Lofgren
  • Mike Ludwig
  • Mike Williams
  • Mimi Skelton
  • Moni Basu
  • Monica Smith
  • Murray Browne
  • Myra Blackmon
  • Nancy Melton
  • Nancy Puckett
  • Nancy Robinson
  • Nancy Rogers
  • Neill Herring
  • Nelly McDaid
  • Nikki Gardner
  • Niles Reddick
  • Noel Holston
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Overman & Senn
  • Pamela Sumners
  • Pat Garofalo
  • Pat LaMarche
  • Pat Norman
  • Patrick Andendall
  • Patrick L. Ledford
  • Patsy Dickey
  • Patti Ghezzi
  • Paul Buchheit
  • Paul Krupin
  • Paul Rutledge
  • Paul Thim
  • Pete & Jack
  • Peter Crawford
  • Peter Turnbull
  • Phil Gast
  • Phil Noble
  • Philecta Clarke Staton
  • Philip Graitcer
  • Phyllis Alesia Perry
  • Phyllis Gilbert
  • Piney Woods Pete
  • Polly
  • R S
  • R.L. Miller
  • Rafael Alvarez
  • Randy Conway
  • Randy Schiltz
  • Ray Bearfield
  • Raymond L. Atkins
  • Reagan Walker
  • Rebecca Sive
  • Ric Latarski
  • Richard Eisel
  • Righton C. Willis
  • Rob Chambers
  • Rob Coppock
  • Rob Douthit
  • Robert Allen
  • Robert Dardenne
  • Robert E Hunt Jr
  • Robert Jensen
  • Robert Lamb
  • Robert M. Williams, Jr.
  • Robert Mashburn
  • Robert Weiner & Richard Mann
  • Robin Marty
  • Rodney Adams
  • Roger Gregory
  • Ron Feinberg
  • Ron Taylor
  • Rose Aguilar
  • Rose Weaver
  • Rosemary Griggs
  • Russ Wellen
  • Sam Morton
  • Sao Magnifico
  • Sara Amis
  • Sarah Ayres
  • Sarah Bufkin
  • Saralyn Chesnut
  • Scott Anna
  • Scott Borchert
  • Scott Keyes
  • Scott Wooledge
  • Sean Manion
  • Seth Cline
  • Shane Gilreath
  • Sharon M. Riley
  • Shay Dawkins
  • Sheffield Hale
  • Sheila Barnard Nungesser
  • Sigrid Sanders
  • SoniaTai
  • Sonya Collins
  • Soraya Chemaly
  • Spencer Lawton
  • Stephanie Taylor
  • Stephen Lacey
  • Stephen Wingeier
  • Steve King
  • Steve Krodman
  • Steve Valk
  • Stuart Liss
  • Sue Sturgis
  • Sujigu
  • Susan De Bonis
  • Susan Soper
  • Susan Wilson
  • Suz Korbel
  • Tammy Andrews
  • Tammy Ingram
  • Tanya Somanader
  • Ted Kooser
  • Terri Evans
  • The Barnacle Goose
  • Thomas A. Bledsoe
  • Tiger Liliuokalani
  • Tim Oliver
  • Timothy Freeman
  • Timothy Hurst
  • Tom Baxter
  • Tom Crawford
  • Tom Ferguson
  • Tom Millsop
  • Tom Poland
  • Tom Walker
  • Travis Waldron
  • Travis Waldron & Pat Garofalo
  • Trevor Stone Irvin
  • Tricia Collins
  • Troubadour
  • Valerie Evans
  • Viveca Novak
  • Waldron, Somanader & Garofalo
  • Walter Rhett
  • Wanda Argersinger
  • Wayne Countryman
  • Wayne Johnson
  • We The People
  • Will Cantrell
  • Will Nelson
  • William Cotter
  • William Hedgepeth
  • Yana Kunichoff
  • Yasmin Vafa
  • Zack Beauchamp
  • Zack Ford
  • Zaid Jilani
  • Zaina Budayr




  • Writer Login


    Southern Sounds

    Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan: Working Men

    by | 4 | Feb 28, 2011

    We Still Wave Old Glory . . .  Herman loved country music. He enjoyed playing guitar in country bands, but he knew it wouldn’t pay the bills. So he sought part-time jobs that would keep him close to the music business. On weekends he’d work in the record department of a Woolworth in southwest Atlanta. There, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the customer base was changing. An intriguing shift was taking place. One part of  the clientele was made up of whites smack-dab-in-the-middle of the middle class. Joining right in with them were the newly arrived blacks who had moved into close-by ranch homes in neighborhoods they’d dare not traverse a decade earlier. So much was changing so quickly with more change on the way. The pace was too swift for Herman. But he took care of his customers, whether they asked for the latest by Conway Twitty or Wilson Pickett.

    Herman also did stints at a country-gospel station. The music there dealt with matters of eternity. Twitty’s “Hello Darlin'” didn’t make the playlist, as neither did any of the latest hits by one of Herman’s favorites, Merle Haggard. At the time, Haggard was on quite a roll; he was getting lots of play on the traditional country stations and picking up interest in other quarters. Both he and Johnny Cash, particularly from ’69 through ’71, were adding to country music’s fan base. A lot of rock music fans were slipping over to the country departments of their local record shops to hear more of Haggard. After all, the Grateful Dead had recorded a lively but respectful version of the  Haggard classic, “Mama Tried.” The Byrds recorded his “Life In Prison,” while the Flying Burrito Brothers rendered versions of his “White Line Fever,” and “Sing Me Back Home” that clearly displayed Haggard’s skill at blending fervent stories with stirring melodies. His songs’ visuals came across splendidly; Haggard seemed one part Hank Williams and one part John Ford.

    Herman was old school: little-red-school-house old school. He was pleased country music had gained a wider acceptance instead of being looked down upon, but he cared little for the rock and rollers embracing it. Still he was impressed that the Byrds and Bob Dylan had recorded country albums, and that Ringo Starr had flown all the way to Nashville to record an album with Music City’s premier players.

    Herman’s uneasiness with the long-hairs playing fiddles and steel guitars was hardly atypical for the time and quite expected for anyone who knew him. He was a middle-aged man, but with a cantankerous manner which, at times, made him seem at least 10 years older. Yet he often conveyed a generous spirit. He made friends of a teenager who attended his church. On Saturdays, he’d have breakfast where the teen worked as a busboy. Herman and the busboy would mostly talk music, but now and then he’d spot something in the  morning’s Atlanta Constitution that set him off. Deeply conservative, there was always something in the Constitution to put Herman on edge.

    One story involved a teenager who declined a community award from the American Legion. The young man criticized the hard-right politics and zealous patriotism of the organization. He ridiculed the American Legion’s obsessive fear of communism. That got to Herman. Fast.

    Herman pointed his finger at the busboy, saying, “He’d sure better fear it and he better pray he never lives under it, although it might serve him right.”

    The subject quickly shifted back to music, but not so pleasantly. “And let me tell you,” he said as his eggs and grits arrived, “the reason you and your rock and roll friends like Haggard so much is because he’s an ex-con. Spend time in prison and you’re a hero to kids these days.”

    The Fightin’ Side . . .  Some of the younger workers and customers at the diner would often discuss the record reviews in Rolling Stone, which were generally informative. The reviews provided exposure to a wider range of music than could even be heard on the progressive FM stations of the day. The July 28, 1970 issue, for example, featured reviews of new albums by It’s A Beautiful Day, Buddy Guy, J. B. Lenoir, Free, the Grateful Dead, as well as Merle Haggard’s Same Train, A Different Time.

    Rolling Stone critic Andy Boehm had words of praise for the Haggard album, a 2-record set devoted to the songs of Jimmie Rodgers, and rightfully so. Same Train, A Different Time was the genuine article then and remains so today. However, Boehm came off as condescending when describing Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee,” “Fightin’ Side of Me,” and “Workin’ Man’s Blues” as “self-righteous paeans to the silent majority.” The love it or leave it attitude of “Fightin’ Side of Me” didn’t please Haggard’s younger and more worldly fans, but he was, as an artist, getting the stories in his songs across. He shed light on what was embraced in certain pockets of America, not what was widely held throughout the country. Haggard reflected on the people he knew and people like them. One didn’t have to agree with the perspective of the “Okie” to understand his feelings.

    In the diner, music was a hot topic, furiously debated and deemed important. The diner’s jukebox was filled with mostly country-western 45s and a smattering of rock and roll singles. The young waitress who stood by George and Tammy also liked Delaney and Bonnie. The optometrist had seen The Mamas and The Papas in concert, but he also liked watching Buck Owens on Hee-Haw. A young truck driver by the name of Toney would also join in the conversations. Toney was, in particular, like much of the diner’s clientele: his folks had grown up in the rural South during the Great Depression. They possessed, signified and carried all their experiences implied, and they held tightly to country music. Their boy liked Johnny, Merle, George, Tammy and that rising star, Charlie Pride. But the trucker liked his rock and roll too, even stretching out his tastes by purchasing Fragile, 1972’s groundbreaking album by Yes. He was surprisingly keen on Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson, but they and others always took a back seat to Merle Haggard, the working man’s troubadour.

    One day, over a sandwich and hash browns, it was suggested to Toney that Haggard’s main appeal was to hayseeds and rednecks. Toney’s good nature vanished. He pushed his food aside and said, “Look, rednecks — hard working people working with their hands — built this country, and they’re still out there doing the work you kids make fun of.” Just getting started, Toney fumed, “You guys are crazy. It shows how little you know about the way the world works. You’ll all go to college and you still won’t learn what makes it work. But rednecks, those guys working in the grit and the heat everyday, the ones Merle sings about, they keep things going.”

    Lotta Poor Man Make A Five-Dollar Bill . . .  Haggard’s character in “Workin’ Man’s Blues” had nine kids and a wife; he had no choice but to keep his “nose on the grindstone” and “work hard everyday.” He wasn’t all business; in the evenings he’d slip over to the tavern. Over a beer, he’d daydream about doing a “little bummin’ around.” He’d catch a train and leave his bills and the grindstone behind; but the kids need new shoes, so it’s back to the real world and the work that comes with it.

    Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues” is a tight, jumping number which should have done well on the pop charts. Still it reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in August ’69. At the time, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5%.  People complained about their jobs, but didn’t worry so much about finding work. Getting work, however, was difficult for the protaganist in “Cumberland Blues,” an impassioned song from The Grateful Dead’s album, Workingman’s Dead, reviewed in the same issue of Rolling Stone that critiqued Haggard’s Same Train, A Different Time.

    “Cumberland Blues” is an energetic song with an Appalachian mindset. Oliver Trager in The American Book of The Dead describes it as an “upbeat, uptempo nod to the rigors and sacrifices of basic, dignified survival.” The protagnist needs that job in the coal mine. It’s dirty work, but it’s that or nothing. Other guys will gladly take his slot.

    Lotta poor man make a five-dollar bill

    Keep him happy all the time

    Some other fellow makin’ nothing at all

    And you can hear him cryin’

    “Can I go buddy,can I go down

    Take your shift at the mine?”

    Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh wrote the music for “Cumberland Blues,” with Robert Hunter providing the lyrics. Of the song’s arrangement, Garcia said, “one part is modeled on the Bakersfield country and western bands like Buck Owens’s old Buckaroos and (Merle Haggard’s) Strangers. The first part of the tune is that style. And the last part is like bluegrass. That’s what I wanted to do: a marriage of those styles.”

    Hunter considered the song special, and recalled an amusing story about it in his book, A Box of Rain.

    The best compliment I ever got on a lyric was from an old guy who had worked at the Cumberland mine. He said, “I wonder what the guy who wrote this song would’ve thought if he’d ever known something like the Grateful Dead was gonna do it.”

    Even as the Grateful Dead paid tribute to hard working people, they seemed beyond the grasp of Herman and Toney at the diner. The old guy Robert Hunter met would’ve felt a kinship with Herman. There were stories about hard times in the ’30s they could have shared, all the while considering the young people around them as soft, pampered and afraid of real work.

    A New Path We Trod . . . Keeping in mind the current state of affairs, 2006 was a good year for American workers, whether working in the elements or a corner office. The unemployment rate was no higher than 4.6%. Still, Americans early in the 21st century, a prosperous time, realized vulnerabilities had been exposed. On September 11, 2001, the nation learned its sea-to-shining-sea boundaries were not invincible. Less than two years later, America, with 9/11 very much on its mind, was led to war under false pretenses. Then in 2005, nature and the political powers-that-be combined to cause great havoc along the Gulf Coast. So despite the boom in housing and the bull market on Wall Street, working people couldn’t be blamed for feeling uneasy. Thus, Bob Dylan’s “Workingman’s Blues #2,” from his 2006 album, Modern Times, seemed an appropriate reflection of the wariness and declining confidence felt across America.

    While “Workingman’s Blues #2” serves as a tribute to the great work of Merle Haggard, the song leads to different destinations than the factory and the tavern. This working man looks back, while taking in what’s happening around him at the moment. The fix is in:

    The buying power of the proletariat’s gone down

    Money’s getting shallow and weak

    Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory

    It’s a new path that we trod

    They say low wages are a reality

    If we want to compete abroad

    A guy in a landlocked state punching the clock everyday tries to absorb free trade and global markets, things he never thought about. It makes a difference in what he can afford at his local food market. Old resentments can’t help but fester as a working man sorts his way through the changes.

    I can live on rice and beans

    Some people never worked a day in their life

    Don’t know what work even means

    Dylan turned out one of his loveliest melodies for “Workingman’s Blues #2.” Its arrangement is quietly majestic.  Dylan’s piano and Donnie Herron’s violin provide a gentle and sweet setting for the lyrics. Yes, it’s a majestic offering by Dylan, but one tendered with a heartfelt simplicity as warm and filling as a bowl of rice and beans, a working man’s delicacy.

    ###
    Jeff Cochran

    Jeff Cochran

    Jeff Cochran worked in advertising at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 27 years before accepting a buy-out in the Summer of 2008. In the seventies/early eighties, he handled advertising for Peaches Records and Tapes’ Southeastern and Midwestern stores. He also wrote record reviews for The Great Speckled Bird, a ground-breaking underground newspaper based in Atlanta.

     

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

     

    • Clifford

      Workingmans Blues #2 is one of the most profoundly beautiful songs and performances of Dylan’s entire career

    • Caruso the Busboy

      After Bob’s pre Grammy speech I’d imagine lots of people will be revisiting the music of Merle, Tom T and Leiber and Stoller. No better endorsement than Dylan muttering your name. I’m taking my time with Shadows in the Night, goes to show that popular music pre Elvis lacked a pulse, blues and Hillbilly aside, but popular music, ie, Frank was well sung, but as Elvis said, he could take it or leave it.

    • maximus

      Saw Haggard open for dylan at a show in Pittsburgh. His between song patter was littered with resentful comments towards Dylan. Probably has a lot to do with Dylan’s comments last week.

  • Worthy of Comment






  • Bruce Springsteen Sings "Robert Mueller's Comin' to Town"



  • Come Back, Barack - SNL



  • Indivisible at One

    Green Day - Back In The USA



  • The Most Honest Three Minutes
    In Television History


  •  
     
     
  • %d bloggers like this: