It was late one Saturday afternoon in Camden AL. The dog days of August, 1974. I was between quarters at Troy State University. I had no plans except to drink some beer and, possibly, wager on a few major league baseball games. A few of my close friends, who shall remain nameless, and I had done quite a bit of gambling already that summer. And we hadn’t fared too poorly at it.
Back to the story…1974
My best friend, Hal Huggins, then burst in through the door, he was prone to do that, without knocking, almost “Krameresque” in a way. “Let’s go to Pensacola!” he commanded, equally abrupt. “Let’s take the Galaxy.” He was referring to my parents’ 70 something Ford product. We almost always did our cruising in his 1972 Impala, which also had an eight track tape player in it. The Galaxy had nothing but an AM radio, but that was all we needed to listen to baseball games and some music, which was often provided by “WLS music radio” out of Chicago, Illinois.
I checked with my folks on this and they seemed to have no reservations about our impromptu trip. I gathered what little I needed to take on the excursion with me, unhooked the car keys off the rack hanging on our den wall by the door, and off we went. “I’ll drive,” Hal informed me. So we headed to the Jr. Food store for some Schlitz and a bag of ice and we were southbound and down!
Beatrice (the Galaxy ran hot near there, but I can’t recall much of a delay or any trouble in particular), Monroeville, Frisco City, Uriah, Flomaton, and on into what remains my favorite place to “chill” right up to this very day, Pensacola.
Hal and I, along with Howell Lee (RIP) had thrown full bore into a huge time, three years prior, at Rosie O’Grady’s, and, thus, we chose Seville Quarter, where Rosie’s was located, as were several other spots, for those so inclined to imbibe in adult beverages and entertainment.
We parked the Ford, strode into the garden-like setting of the quarter, and made ourselves comfortable at the first establishment on the left. Hal ordered a Schlitz, unsurprisingly, and I, surprisingly, chose a Harvey Wallbanger. Bang your walls it will if consumed in mass quantities, which I discovered nine months earlier near here at another watering hole which was situated in a decorative hotel on Pensacola Beach. That would be our next destination.
An aside, that previous November, of Wallbanging fame, I was in the company of two young lasses and another gentleman at that lounge on the beach on a Thanksgiving night, oddly enough. We were watching the University of Alabama do battle with the LSU from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Huge game. Bama was undefeated and highly ranked and the Bayou Bengals were a quite formidable opponent that season. The Tide prevailed, 21-7, and went on to remain unbeaten until it was vanquished by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Sugar Bowl. That is another story which involved Hal, more wagering, and many other friends. Later.
The lasses, the other gentleman, and I stayed on after the game ended, to have a few more postgame rounds, until I somehow set my long flowing locks ablaze on of the candles that sat upon our four top table.
But I regress! Back to August 1974 and Seville Quarter! No excessive Wallbanging on this trip! And absolutely NO LOCKS AFLAME!
I was sipping on my Harvey, and Hal on his “Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” when the solo acoustic guitar player there at the Quarter, went into a song that completely caught my attention. What a pithy, touching, funny song.
The lyrics. The story. The humor. The grace. The humanity.
“Blow up your tv, throw away the paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own…”
The song was Spanish Pipedream. It was written and recorded by someone I was vaguely familiar with and it was the first time I had ever heard a song by this guy. His name was John Prine.
In a couple of more weeks I was back at Troy and asked a friend of mine, Mike “Jelly Rock” Jellison did he have any John Prine records. He did. It was entitled Sweet Revenge. He played me a song off of it entitled The Accident, but Spanish Pipedream was not on there. In fact, I did not know that the name of the song was Spanish Pipedream. All I knew was, “Blow up the tv, throw away the paper”, etc. The words, Spanish Pipedream are not in the song. No way to know that. Them I dropped it, for quite some time.
A few years later, the early eighties I do believe, I was purchasing cassettes instead of LP’s and would run across the John Prine section in some music store and purchase Sweet Revenge. This is fantastic, I thought! I gotta have more! So, logically, in my mind, I picked up his first album (cassette, I just have to call them albums sometimes). It was self-titled. And boys and girls, if there is one non-greatest hits record you ever want to purchase, it’s that one. The song titles are like a greatest hits compilation. Illegal Smile, Hello In There, Sam Stone, Paradise, Pretty Good, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore, Far From me, Angel From Montgomery, Quiet Man, Donald And Lydia, Six O’Clock News, Flashback Blues and, yes… AND… Spanish Pipedream!!! You can imagine my total exhilaration when that one leapt from the speakers to my ears!
“Blow up the tv, throw away the paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own.”
Since that day my collection of John Prine music has, of course, blossomed. His music has been a constant of mine for decades now.
Fast forward 32 moths to today, May 3, 2023. I began the previous wording of this blog back in September of 2020. Covid. John Prine departed our world in April of 2020 due to Covid. I did not like that initial attempt at articulating my romance with his music. I am now grasping at some inadequate words to conclude this musing.
My oldest and dearest friend, Hal Huggins, has left us to join John Prine and the heavenly hosts. I miss them both till it aches. They were both such great friends. May they rest in peace. See you later guys. I just hope it’s not in the near future.
“We blew up our TV
Threw away our paper
Went to the country
Built us a home
Had a lot of children
Fed ’em on peaches
They all found Jesus on their own”