Thoughts on Jewel & Other Matters

Jewel Kilcher

The January issue of Cowboy & Indians features an article and interview with Jewel. This glossy, high quality magazine features an individual each month. I knew a few things about Jewel: that she lived in Stephenville, Texas with her now husband, Ty Murray, a seven-time World All-Around Rodeo Champion, that her song and poetry writing abilities are extraordinary, and that she was a decent actress (Ride with the Devil, a fine Civil War movie). She is one artist who paid her dues in life, made her music and made it her way. Joe Leydon’s article points out that Jewel lived in her car for the better part of a year. She played small clubs coffeehouses and “anywhere else she could pass the hat, or, when she was really lucky, receive payment based on the size of the crowd she attracted.” She said she began writing her own songs to have enough material for an act. The article continues, “Then she made the rounds of the venues open to eager nobodies . . . Jewel slowly accumulated a small but enthusiastic following in San Diego.”  Then through local broadcasts of a bootlegged tape, record company executives found her.

About herself, Jewel says, “I wasn’t doing popular music . . . I was a songwriter, I was a storyteller. I was a throwback to the types of music I like, which are–I don’t think serious is the right word, but just lyric driven. Nobody thought I had a chance in heck. Including me” (110).

Her artistic standards and individuality is why there’s always been a classification problem with her. Does she belong in pop or country genres? The article says, “Despite her absence on Country radio playlists, Country music fans gravitated to her concerts. ‘They woud hear my music because I was on . . . Leno or Letterman . . . So they’d find their way to me and I would find my way to them.’ ”

Pick up an issue  of Cowboy & Indians and read this article yourself. There are also some fine photos of Jewel inside.

Musicians News:

Jim Crowley – Dec. 11 Enoch’s. You should go experience the music of this Irish legend.

Jed Marum – Dec. 20 at Enoch’s. This Internationally known Celtic and Civil War musician is making history. You mark my words.

Here is a photo of me, along Louisiana Highway 165. When I took this, I was thinking of the epigraph in Fahrenheit 451 by Juan Ramon Jiminez, which says, “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.”

Mickey Newbury Song Lyrics: “Poison Red Berries”

Book Business News:

Here is a new video/interview of me at the Arkansas Reading Association in Little Rock. On the same page is another taken at the Texas Library Association.

Here’s another song by Mickey Newbury from his CD, Winter Winds.

Poison Red Berries

You know I don’t think much about her no more

Seldom if ever does she cross my mind

Yesterday’s gone Lord, it’s better forgotten

Like a poison red berry to die on the vine.

This morning at dawn Lord I pulled into town

Had some coffee and talked

With some old friends of mine

Laughing at all the good times they remembered

I remembered a time.

Lord I can see the bright lights back in Dallas

As Yesterday moves like a dream through my mind

I didn’t suppose I would ever forget her

And you know it took such a long time.

But I don’t think much about her no more

Seldom if ever does she cross my mind

Yesterday’s gone and better gortotten

Like a poison red berry it clings to my mind.

Black Friday Thoughts

Black Friday: It’s raining. I’m sure the deluge will ruin shopping in our area, but maybe not. On the news I saw footage of shoppers shoving their way into stores. Some had a crazed look in their eyes. I’m locking myself up in the house to work on my writing and music business.

MASON: Here are three photos of my grandson. First, as Spiderman (his Halloween costume), and then two of an afternoon together in Forsythe Park in Monroe. He is riding the dragonfly in the first, then he wanted me to take a picture of him in my hat.


On Nov. 7, I presented programs at Dubach High School.  The beautiful Amanda Cauley, a champion of literacy, arranged it.  Here are a couple of photos from that event. Part of my Civil War program involves teaching about Civil War Reenacting (Living History). I take both of my uniforms (Federal and Confederate, or if you prefer, Yankee & Rebel). The kids love to be dressed up. As I had on my Confederate uniform, this student had to make do with the Yankee getup. The second photo is of Amanda Cauley and a fellow teacher.  They wanted their picture taken with the Welsh flag I take to my presentations.

Dubach High School Reenactor

Dubach High School Reenactor

Thanksgiving 2008: “The Songs We Sing” by Jed Marum

In addition to the usual holiday chores and festivities of feasting and TV, Thanksgiving Day this year looks like it will be a day of music practice for me.  There’s so many songs I want to learn. Thoughts of music made me think of this article I’m posting today. I sought and was granted permission to print this article that will be printed Ceili Magazine. The insightful and thought provoking piece is written by a man I consider to be the penultimate artist–Jed Marum. I hope you enjoy it. If you’d like to know more about Jed’s music and his busy schedule, his website is here:

“The Songs We Sing” by Jed Marum (Used by Permission)

I play a mix of pubs, concert rooms and festivals around the country but in the last year or so, I’ve settled into working fairly close to home as much as possible and work a semi-regular circuit of venues around Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana. One of my regulars is a pub I play in Shreveport Louisiana called the Noble Savage. It’s a fine old drinking establishment and dinner place with pool tables and darts in the back room and a large room in front with a stage, a full bar and lots of tables and chairs. They host live music there almost every night of the week and they’ve posted a sign on the stage, with letters so big even a musician can’t miss that reads, “NO BOBBY MAGEE!”

It makes me chuckle every time I see it. Being a Louisiana pub with local and traveling musicians working that stage night after night, year after year, I suspect they’ve heard more then their fair share of Bobby Magee! The funny thing is; I like that song! I am happy to sing it anytime someone asks for it.

There is a whole class of songs like that – songs the pub owners and musicians alike have heard or played over and over and have to put up with, or come to terms with in some way – songs that people request night after night, year after, generation after generation.

Every year I play the pubs it always amazes me as a new crop of Irish Pubsters hits the scene. They learn the songs and they discover the stouts, ales and whiskeys, along with their Irish roots – and every year, some young pub-goer will come to me and ask with a glint in his or he eye, “Hey, have you ever heard that great song that goes ‘No, nay, never’ and then everybody claps their hands?”

“Oh, you mean everyone claps four times, two times and one time?” I might respond?

“Yeah that’s the one!” they’d say, barely containing their enthusiasm.  “Sure I’ll play that in the next set,” I’d tell them, “but you might have to remind me. I’m apt to forget,” is probably how I’d end the conversation.

I ask them to remind me for two reasons, the first is that I really might forget (but that’s another story). The second and more important reason is that it is their enthusiasm for the song that makes it fun for me to sing. I want to be sure they’re ready to participate, if I’m going to sing the song.

It’s easy to get jaded when you work the music world a lot and have the same songs asked for over and over – but songs like the Wild Rover are fun to sing because people love them! Audiences enjoy singing and participating in the Wild Rover. It’s their pleasure that keeps me singing (and enjoying) these songs.

I was playing at another of my favorite and regular pubs a few weeks ago, a place up near Kansas City called O’Malley’s. The pub was packed. People were jamming, drinking, listening to the music with one ear and just having a time! A wild hair got a hold of me and before I could think better of it, I was off and singing with gusto, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, comin’ for to carry me home, swing low sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.”

As I sang these first few bars of the song, you could almost feel the temperature of the room change. And when I got to the first line of the verse, “Now if you get there before I do,” there were a bunch of singers along joining me, but when the next line came, “comin’ for to carry me home” and for rest of the song, I had a good 150, variously alcohol impaired singers helping me raise the roof of the pub. It was a site to see and a joy to hear! Who would have guessed? The truth is; that song works. Everybody loves that song. Everybody wants to sing along when they hear it. The O’Malley’s crowd sang so beautifully and so lustfully (well maybe that’s the wrong word) that I told them they were certainly absolved of their hang-overs for the next day!

Sometimes I believe I have the best job in the whole world – not when I’m scouring the web and working the phones looking for work so I can stay ahead of the mortgage. I hate that part of the job – but when I get to sing songs for people and with people who love to sing them! Wow, that is a real treat! That really makes it all worthwhile.

My Dad used to sing. Every day of my life when I lived under his care as a child, even on those days when I visited years later as an adult, I heard my father sing. It just came out of him, sometimes at the oddest of moments. He’d be in the backyard raking leaves or in the driveway replacing the spark plugs of the old Ford and you’d hear him, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” he’d be singing out loud to himself, as if he were alone in shower, “nobody knows my sorrow.” Or he might sing,

Have ya ever been in love me lads and do ya know the pain?
I’d rather be in jail meself then be in love again.
The girl I loved was beautiful, I’d have all to know
And I met her in the garden where the praities grow

Looking back, I realize those were teaching moments for my father. He chose to sing songs he loved, songs that had a message or a bit of humor, songs that started conversations, “You know my mother’s father taught me that song,” he’d say to me about Praities – and then tell me all about my great-grandfather from Galway and my father’s relationship with him.

Dad sang the Irish songs he learned from his parents, grandparents, uncles and cousins. He sang spirituals. He sang pop songs and big band era songs. He really sang any song that pleased him in some way – or had a message he wanted to pass on.

I caught that song-fever from my Dad. I sing at the drop of hat now and I love to do it. There are all kinds of reasons for singing the songs we sing. In the pub or in the pew, singing just comes naturally to us all. Culture, humor and love shine through our music and the songs we sing. And if we’re singing at church or in the shower, at the graveside or in the pub; the life and the light of generations is passed through the songs we sing.

Twas the Day Before Thanksgiving . . .

Facts About Willie Nelson:

Here are some interesting facts I gleaned about Willie Nelson from Cowboys & Indians Magazine, Sept. 2008.  The article is written by Willie’s biographer, Joe Nick Patoski. (I hope to own Patoski’s book about Willie someday) There are several great photos of Willie in this issue. Speaking of that:  I’ve got a signed photo of Willie somewhere. There are several books written by and about him.  I remember watching Willie every Saturday night in Dallas on the Porter Wagoner show. I also remember many people not liking him or his singing. Boy, has that perspective changed!  There’s no shortage of Willie information on the Webb, but I found these points interesting.

1. Willie’s still on the road at 75. (I hope I can do that well!)

2. He is an actor, author, songwriter, former disc jockey.

3. He is an active supporter of American Indian and American farmer, animal, and rancher causes.

4. He sometimes lives in a tipi.

5. He plays a 30-year-old Martin nylon stringed, beat-up guitar that he calls Trigger. You can read more about the history of Martin guitars here:

6. The first Willie Nelson song I learned to play was “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” I do several of Willie’s songs in my Americana show.

ULM Tailgate Party , Nov. 1

Here I am at the ULM Chili Cook-off. I performed as Chili-Nelson.

ULM Chili Nelson

ULM Chili Nelson

Here is the whole Chili-Nelson Crew!  We didn’t win the competition, but we should have!

Day Before Thanksgiving . . . Various Thoughts

I’ve got one ENG class tonight–ENG 205. Then next week we have finals. How fast this semester has flown by. I have no classes tomorrow, but I have much to do. Today, thanks to the help of my devoted Delta disciple, William Cooper, I was able to clear my yard, so that now I’m  even able to mow the yard!


I’ve been doing some research, and I think one place I’d like to visit would be the Gulf Coast of Alabama, problably, Orange Beach, AL, near Gulfport. I don’t know why, other than it’s close to Mobile–one of my favorite cities. When I plan trips, I feel much like the protagonist in Heart of Darkness who puts his finger on a map and says I’d like to go there. I hope it’s my intuitive intelligence working and that great things await me there. I’ve always loved the Gulf Coast, and there’s something about “Orange Beach” that makes me stop and think. I’m writing the schools and libraries there immediately about my programs. Who knows? If you don’t play hunches, what do you do

Songs About Texas:

My beautiful friend, Bonnie Barnes, sent me this website on Texas history. It’s definitely going to be valuable for my Texas history programs in schools. You can find the site here:

Writing Contest News & The Parable of the Prodigal Confederate

I’m a Writing Contest Winner!

Though I don’t enter writing contests as often as I should, I do try to enter as many as possible. Though I didn’t win money with this one for the New Millennium Contest, I did win Honorable Mention in the short-short fiction category and future publication. Here’s the letter notifying me:

Dear Rickey Pittman: Congratulations on your Honorable Mention Award for your story, “Little Rose and the Confederate Cipher” in the New Millennium Writings competition that closed July 31, 2008. Your name will be included on the Awards page of our next issue of New Millennium Writings, 2009-10, due out in one year, and will soon appear at, along with other winners of our 26th Consecutive Awards. The winners and runners-up, including your entry, were selected from about 1,400 total submissions in four categories. The quality was high, and you should be proud of your accomplishment.

Issues and Views: So you still believe all blacks think alike? . . . Reporting from the frontline of dissent since 1985.

In my college classes, I often use articles from the above site to teach my students on various topics related to black Americans. This site is written by black intellectuals, some of the sharpest minds you’ll find anywhere. If you’re a teacher, you should consult the articles often and present the information to your students. After reading just a few articles you will see how not only has Southern history been rewritten, but black America’s history has also suffered from the hands of revisionists with a destructive agenda. There is a whole page of articles on the subject of reparations here:

Sometime ago, I wrote a piece that touches the subject of reparations. It’s called the “Parable of the Prodigal Confederate.”


After reading the one chapter in his college textbook about the Civil War, a young son once said to his father, ‘Father, I no longer want to live in Dixie. I am ashamed of my Confederate ancestor. I will not live in a house that flies and honors the Rebel Flag. It is a symbol of racial hatred and is not politically correct.

13 “Not long after that, the young son got together all he had, set off for Yankeeland and there squandered his Southern legacy. He lost his accent, and though his own ancestor had owned no slaves, he demanded that white America, especially those in the South, make reparations for the evils Southerners had committed against black Americans. He decided that even thousands of black Americans whose ancestors had never been slaves, and descendants of those blacks who had been slave traders, would be entitled to this “slavery tax.” These reparations would be paid by all states and the funds divided among black Americans everywhere.

He ridiculed those in the South who talked of honoring dead Confederates. “You lost the war!” he would cry. “Get over it!” He demanded that statues and plaques that honored Confederate leaders be hidden or taken down and replaced with statues of honorable men like Saint Lincoln or Saint Sherman. He campaigned for racial quotas in hiring.

14 After he had spent everything Southern within himself, there was a severe intellectual famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

15 So he went and hired himself out to the NAACP and the ACLU, who sent him into the fields to sue Americans. Before long, his Lords discovered that he too was a Southerner and they decided he must be punished, so he also had to pay reparations. 16 He lost his good paying job because of the quota system, grew hungry, and longed to fill his stomach with the pods (food stamps) that he saw the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything because he was from the South, and therefore, he was evil. No one cared that he felt guilty for his evil ancestors.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, People in Dixie have manners and food to spare, and here I am being insulted and starving to death! No matter what I give up, they are never satisfied. 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against Dixie, against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called a Southerner.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Dixie and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called a son of the South.
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best Battle Flag and wrap it on his shoulders. Put a book in his hand and brogans on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost to Dixie, and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Poems from a College Class

Sometimes, my students will share their poetry in their portfolios they turn in at the end of the course. Here are two from the Academic Seminar course I last taught at Delta Community College.

by Jessie Dunham

A Young man standing on the side,
Waits for a taxi to take him on his last ride.
“Where to,” said the Driver.
Take me to the end of this road.
This life has put on me a heavy load.
I’ve lost my daughter of only three,
and now there is no need for me.
I’m stuck in this world all alone.
The driver listed to the man’s tone.
He could tell that he was half gone.
His life flashed before his eyes,
As the window showed all his cries,
all his laughs and all his lies.
He saw that it was worth the while.
He tapped the driver with a smile
“Slow down!” the man cried.
“Stop the car
“Cease, subside!”
After all, it is a very short ride.

Whisper of the Past
by Heather Pruitt

Winter was in the air that night
As I set out on that long-forgotten road
To ease my pain and fill my heart
With memories of all things past

And on that empty road that stretched for miles
I found myself to be nothing
Not a whisper in the air
Not a name of one’s lips

Then there came a voice from far away
That chilled me to the bone
I had an urge to run to safety
Until I recognized it as my own.

It recalled the dark, unknown abyss
That masquerades as my past
Hiding in the smallest corners
Of the shadows of my mind.

And there I stood alone and cold
With nothing left on the old road
Not a thing to look back at
And only a whisper of the past.

Jed Marum: Notes and Lyrics for “The Shenandoah’s Run”

The song featured in this post was written by Jed Marum and is on his CD, Cross Over the River.  The notes below are from Marum’s lyric book and are used by permission. Go to Marum’s website for more information.  You can also go here to see a picture of the Shenandoah and a good article that tells of its journey.

“The Shenandoah’s Run”

The CSS Shenandoah had a successful career sacking Union merchant and whaling ships, causing damage to US commerce late in the war. Unfortunately for the Shenandoah, her voyage extended several months beyond the fall of the Confederacy. Once they discovered that Richmond had fallen, the Shenandoah and her crew raced back to Liverpool England in order to surrender to the British, rather then risk Yankee wrath and possible hanging.

© Jed Marum 2006

A hundred miles beyond Cape Horn
Head up and through the gale
Now both sheets aft we spread our wings
Runnin’ on full sail

The South Atlantic welcomes us
Gentle as a bride
We set our course. This long last run
Ends on the Mersey side

CHO:The Shenandoah’s glory should bring
Honor down on Richmond
Her shining deeds at sea should light the way
But now a Yankee flag is blotting out the sun in Richmond
And shadows over all the SDA

Eleven months we hunted them
We drove them Yankees hard
Then Richmond fell and if we’re caught
They’ll hang us from the yard

Now pray for me my children dear
That we might find our way
To make our port in Liverpool
And back to you one day – CHO

And if the English set us free
I’m bound for Charleston Bay
Though it breaks my heart their flag to see
And hear those Yankees bray

But cheer, my son no tears I cried
For when this day is done
They can’t deny that Southern pride
And the Shenandoah’s run – CHO

Note: I play this song using a DADGAD tuning. The standard chords listed here are correct, but they do not have all the flavor of the DADGAD version. You can try suspending these chords by leaving the high F# off the D chord – the high G off the G chord and the middle E out of the C chord. Experiment; you’ll find some things that work!
Pittman Book Tour News

I had a grand time at the ARA (Arkansas Reading Association) in Little Rock. I found downtown Little Rock beautiful and the most navigable capital city I’ve ever driven in. I think some other cities could take a lesson. I stayed at the Wyndham hotel (thanks to my publisher) and the conference was in the State Convention Center.  I booked some schools for future programs and several others (including districts) expressed interest in my coming to their schools.  Today, I’ll be at the Ouachita Public Library at 2:00 p.m. for a Scottish program. Should be fun!

Tom Geddie: East Texas Poet

At Mineola, Texas, this past Tuesday I met an East Texas poet–Tom Geddie. At the author event sponsored by Joy Stuart, he had the table next to me.  I bought two of his chapbooks of poetry–This Is Where I Find You and Eve’s World. There are many poets in this world, but few good ones. Geddie is one of the good ones. I found his poetry insightful, moving, and complex enough to hold my eccentric interest.

In This Is Where I Find You he has an entry entitled, “I Crossed a Bridge Over a Wide, Slow Moving,”  in which he talks of the influence that one of my favorite songwriters, Mickey Newbury, had on Geddie’s own writing.

He says, “These thoughts come to me as I listen to disc two of a CD, It Might As Well Be the Moon, culled from performances by Mickey Newbury more than 10 years ago at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  the simplicity– Newbury singing and playing guitar, Marie Rhines adding violin–emphasizes the quality of Newbury’s songs and his purity of vision.

Newbury helped reshape country, folk and pop music from the mid 1960s through the 1970s. Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Eddy Arnold, Solomon Burke, and others recorded his songs. His own hits included “San Francisco Mabel Joy,” Cortelia Clark,” “Frisco Depot,” “Angeline,” “Heaven Help the Child,” and “Easy Street.”

“Newbury took Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to Nashville for the first time, and helped Mickey Gilley get his first national recording contract. With old Air Force buddy Kris Kristofferson, Nelson and others, Newbury turned Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge into a tourist attraction and helped build the creative revitalization of country music that lasted until cautious corporate types–people of too much reason and too little emotion–took over the business.

About 15 years ago, Newbury told me people quit asking him for songs.  The songs may be too beautiful, too dark, and too reverent for today’s cynical society.  He continues to write [Newbury has died since this article was first written–rp] and–because he often sleeps poorly–to call old songwriting friends  from time to time to talk during the odd hours of darkness.

Often, Newbury’s songs explore the dual nature of sentimental humanity (lightness and darkness in the same soul) rather than the grey of reason.

In “Let’s Say Goodbye One More Time” on the new album, he sings, “one hand on the face has just made the big circle back to the same place,oh, the night it is falling away, but the dawn is not all that is breaking this day.”

In “Sweet Memories” he sings, “my world is like a river, as dark as it is deep . . . she slipped into the silence of my dreams last night, wandering from room to room turning on each light, and her laughter spills like water from the river to the sea, I’m swept away from sadness clinging to her memory.”
In “Willow Tree,” he sings, “a grain of sand is all I ever wanted to be lay, lay me down and let the water wash over me.”

During a recent visit to the pschyiatric unit at Parkland Hospital to watch a music therapist work, I listened to a woman with pain in her eyes do a slow, soulful version of the Gershwin classic, “Summertime.”   I felt outside myself, much like I felt during the quiet moment as I watched the snake in the green creek.

In “Lovers,” Newbury sings, “it’s not what we get in return but what we give, to think they once tore down a wall for a door, but now they don’t speak anymore.”  And I remember that without the fear of the snake in the silence, we can’t fully appreciate the joy in the music.”

I’ll have more posts on Tom’ Geddie’s poetry. If you want to order one or more of his three chapbooks I saw, write me at