Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thirty years ago today...

...I arrived in Jackson Hole for Dirty Jack’s 1976 show, Paint Your Wagon. I didn’t own a car, so a friend – actually, the brother of a friend – drove me in his pick-em-up-truck from Powell, Wyoming through Yellowstone Park to Jackson Hole. He dropped me at the theater and drove off.

Within a matter of minutes I was buddies with Sean, Tim, Bob Adams, and the rest of the guys in the band. The Cowboy Bar immediately became our place. A man could sit in there on a fine early summer day and have a beer and a smoke, and contemplate the fates that had brought him to such a pass. Life was pretty frickin sweet.

The Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics were battling in the NBA finals on the TVs suspended from the knobbled pine ceiling in the Cowboy Bar. When I tired of the game I could watch the cowboys (real and of the drugstore variety) grunt and preen for the tourists. All the stools along the bar that stretched the length of the room were saddles, complete with stirrups and horn. Uncomfortable, but the touristi loved ‘em.

Silver dollars were embedded in the bar top. Behind the bar, as in any self-respecting honky-tonk, big mirrors reflected the patrons’ debauchery. One afternoon that spring I sat at the bar and noticed a cowboy who had had way too much to drink fumbling around under the shirt of his female companion in the next saddle. She watched it all in the mirror, as if it were happening to someone else.

That was thirty years ago today, give or take. At the theater we threw ourselves into rehearsals, focused on opening night. We played and sang the big production numbers over and over. Today, thirty years later, I was thinking about that.

So I clicked to and found the soundtrack to Paint Your Wagon. I listened to the song fragments they have there, and thirty years pretty much vanished. Most of the songs rushed back like it was last week: I’m On My Way, Wand’rin Star, Gold Fever, and, of course, They Call The Wind Maria. But the song that hit me hardest was The Gospel Of No Name City. THAT was the song we jammed on as the audience was leaving the theater. THAT was the song where I hit my best licks. It was the trademark jam for our band, and it was rippin’. It made me smile to hear it again. Actually, we played that song a LOT better than the band in the movie soundtrack. If you saw the show I bet you remember it, lo these many years later.