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Realities of life commonplace in country music

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

We’ve been warned for years that some rock music, if played backward, would bring forth a dangerous, even devilish, message.

On the other hand, some folks say they believe that if you play a sad country song backward, you’ll likely get your job back, your doublewide trailer will be returned by the bank, your wife and/or girlfriend will come back with the kids, and the finance company will give you back your pickup truck, dog and all.

Years ago, as a college student trying to make a few bucks, I worked part-time on weekends as a country music disc jockey. 

I grew to love the music, especially the lyrics which told the unvarnished truth about life. Genius songwriter Harlan Howard said it best: “country music is three chords and the truth”.

My only complaint was that I hosted a Saturday morning radio show that started at 6 a.m. with the farm market report and ended at noon. 

Sometimes I felt silly talking about the “Early Bird Jamboree” at five minutes till noon. We took telephone requests and that was an education in and of itself.

One seemingly unhappy woman called almost every Saturday, asking simply for “a cheatin’ song” dedicated to her worthless, so-and-so husband. I finally got up the nerve to ask her if she really believed her husband was seeing another woman. 

I’ll never forget her answer: “On no, he’d never be that brave or that dumb. But I bet he thinks about it. Besides, I just like cheatin’ songs.” I remembered her about 20 years later when John Anderson scored a big hit with “She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs”.

One young girl called to ask me to play “that song about the crazy guy who talks to his house”. I figured out it was “Hello Walls” by Faron Young.

A minister phoned to tell me he was stumped for a sermon topic for Sunday morning. I suggested he use the words of “Wings of a Dove” by Ferlin Husky. I was having girlfriend issues that summer and Patsy Cline didn’t help much with the haunting lyrics of “I Fall to Pieces”. 

Not surprisingly, I had trouble balancing my social life and being on time to work so the station manager showed up one morning with my replacement…and fired me.

The friendly stranger told me his name was “Pee Wee” and that someday he was going to Nashville to become a famous songwriter and musician. He wasn’t kidding. 

Country music fans have known him for years as Tom T. Hall.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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