This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
There are a lot of good (and many not so good) songs about musicians' life on the road. Some say that this is sheer self indulgence but I disagree because I guess the songwriters write about what they know, which is what all writers are told to do.
After I collected the songs I realized that the baby boomers will love these songs. I know I do, but I'm technically not one of them (just a bit too old).
I'll start with the man who knows all about life on the road. WILLIE NELSON has written several songs on this topic.
You probably know the most famous of these but I'm not using that one. Instead, here's an earlier one, written when Willie wasn't so well known as a performer, but my goodness he was already a great songwriter.
This is Me and Paul, the Paul mentioned is Paul English, Willie's long-time drummer (and occasional bodyguard).
I don't know if CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL had problems on the road, but they certainly had possibly the best song about such things.
I know they had serious problems with their record company as they were screwed out of royalties for many years. That sort of thing was not uncommon in the early days of rock & roll, but a few nasty people continued it for far too long. Anyway, here is Lodi.
It's one thing to be on the road when you're the headliner. However, things aren't so good when you're just the opening act. The DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS tell us all about it.
They regale us with tales of sleazy bars and crowds who aren't interested in the music and such like. I'm pretty sure everyone today experienced that sort of thing when they were starting out. Today, the Truckers are The Opening Act.
I know of four excellent songs (all different) called On the Road Again. The best of those is by Tom Rush. Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan both have good ones but the one today, just for a bit of change of pace, is by CANNED HEAT.
My goodness, we're into sixties' hippie mode with this one. Although not their first single, it was the first to make a dent in the charts, paving the way for their better known Going Up The Country. Here we are, On the Road Again.
Several of the songs today are about performers who aren't very successful. GORDON LIGHTFOOT takes that another step further in his song.
His performer decides to chuck it all in and give up the game. Perhaps because he's at Boulder Dam and it's 10 Degrees & Getting Colder. That'd dampen anyone's enthusiasm.
JACKSON BROWNE really went all out to provide us with the full on the road experience.
His album "Running on Empty" was all about that. Several of the songs were recorded on his tour bus between gigs and others were recorded live at various concerts, including this one.
It's really two songs: The Load Out and Stay. Featured is the fine guitar of DAVID LINDLEY as well as his stratospheric falsetto on Stay.
Now we have Norma, the Assistant Musicologist's favorite steering wheel thumper. People who know about such things could probably guess that's it's by the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND.
They had a few songs that would fit that category but the champion in the A.M.'s estimation is Ramblin' Man, written and sung by their guitarist Dickey Betts.
On the evidence of his song, Paul Simon got jaded rather early in his career. This is one of the early hits for SIMON AND GARFUNKEL.
Rather than touring, it seems that they would prefer to be Homeward Bound.
If any band would know about life on the road it's the GRATEFUL DEAD.
Their song is not just about the normal life on the road but the perils of that existence as well. As with Willie's song that opened these proceedings, you have to be careful what you leave in your clothes (and elsewhere). They describe all that in Truckin'.
JERRY JEFF WALKER sums up all that's gone before with his song, and he also supplies the title for the column.
Jerry Jeff knows what he's talking about as he's been doing this for, well, forever. Okay, not literally, but he's been on the road since the sixties (or maybe earlier). He tells us about Life on the Road.