Ghosts, Friends, Home and the Writing of Songs

I’ve been writing songs for literally as long as I can remember.  The earliest one I can recall didn’t really have a name, but it was about a llama, and mostly went something like “Mama llama, brother llama, sister llama too.”  I sang it in the bathtub when I was maybe 6 or 7.  I probably heard something on the radio and subconsciously stole it.  A year or so later I thought for a while that I’d written I’m a Girl Watcher, because my sister thought it was a hoot to have me sing it for her friends.

Later, the songs got at least a little better and more original.  Some of my friends got really into music, and actually formed bands that were good.  A few of them got really good.  I hung out with them.  Played the drums really, really badly for a brief spell.  Continued to mostly write songs.  Only much later did I learn to beat out enough chords on a guitar to recreate the music that I had in my head.

So for a while, I fancied myself the John Perry Barlow (Cassidy was named after one of his songs, and he has emailed her a time or two to say hi) of my friends’ bands.  I’d write with them.  Then they’d go on the road and do all the hard work, while I sat around dreaming up my next song.  Or sleeping.

One afternoon when I was in high school, I was hanging out at the public tennis courts in my hometown.  Someone came running over to me and said “you’ve got to come over here, right now!”  I walked over to a car, and there, playing on the radio, was a song I’d co-written with my friend Joe Middleton (yes, the same Joe mentioned in my factually accurate song The Kansas Reflector Incident).

That song is called “Princess.”  I’d written the lyrics, sort of as a tribute to a friend who had been in a car accident and sort of as an aid in girl chasing (“you know I really wrote that song about you”).  You have to remember that at that moment, I was really into Dan Fogelberg and Hugh Prather (thankfully, I later got back to my country roots), so the lyrics  probably read like watered down Bread (the annoying soft-pop band, not the food, or the money).  But Joe took those words and turned them into a darn good song.  He and his band recorded it, played it live and ultimately got it on the radio.  I don’t even have a copy of the song any more.

But it was on the radio, so it must have been good, right?

Anyway, I kept writing and playing songs.  Back in 1987, I had a mental reboot and threw all my unfinished songs in a dumpster off of Chimney Rock (a day or two later I made an unsuccessful dumpster dive trying to get them back).  Other than that, I have hundreds, and maybe thousands, of songs and song parts lying around.  A lot of the finished or mostly finished ones are available and can be streamed at Err Bear Music.

I’ve remained friends with Joe.  Like the rest of the world, we have communicated more in the Facebook era.  A few months ago, Joe and his band, Idlewilde South, got back together.  A few weeks ago, Joe asked if I wanted to write some songs together.  The rest is history.  Or the future.  Or maybe both.


The first new song we did is called “Ghosts.”  Idlewilde South will premiere it publicly at a concert in our hometown, Cheraw, SC, tonight.  They talked about it, and played it, on WCRE, the local radio station, earlier this week.  Here’s the relevant part.

There’s also a homemade, but well done, video of the song on Youtube.

It was fortuitous that Joe wrote me when he did.  I have not been writing or playing much the past few years.  I need to get back into it, because it’s fun and it is a great outlet for whatever’s bouncing around in my head.

Since we finished Ghosts, I’ve written the words and an idea for the music to another song, that I think could turn out really, really well.  I’m going to co-write that one, because it requires musical chops better than mine.

I’ve also just about finished up an old, previously half-written, song about another Cheraw childhood friend.

All in all, things seems to be looking up, musically speaking.