Pancho & Lefty & Carl Perkins

Before I begin, I must offer up an apology to my Aunt Eileen. When I was an annoying teenager who was into whatever one-hit-wonder band of the week was (Glass Tiger? Bananarama? Oran “Juice” Jones?), my Aunt Eileen made the mistake of telling me how much she loved the ol’ Red-headed Stranger. In fact, I think that’s what she called him. I had to ask who that was.

“Willie Nelson,” she said, and shrugged her shoulders suggestively while moving her eyebrows in a way that meant she found this red-headed stranger to be a hunka hunka burning love.

I dissolved into derisive laughter proclaiming that Willie Nelson was the nerdiest thing to ever happen to the Earth. Folks, this was back in the 80s where the worst thing you could possibly be was nerdy. Yes, I said, Willie Nelson was nerdy and nowhere as important to the history of music as, oh, I don’t know, probably Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.

Because my Aunt Eileen is a magnanimous and beautiful and wise woman, she just shook her head at me and said she didn’t care that she loved her some Willie Nelson.

At that point I probably rolled my eyes and said “gag me with a spoon.”

Well, if you couldn’t guess, I was wrong and Aunt Eileen was right. Willie Nelson is the bomb digs and Nu Shooz never lived up to the potential I saw in them.

This is an apology because I’ve spent the last week or so obsessively listening to my “Honky Tonk Angel” playlist. See, whenever I get bored with the current state of Rock & Roll (which happens a lot) I go investigate some sort of music that isn’t in my wheelhouse. It’s why it took me until like 2003 to really discover and appreciate the Rolling Stones.

So this Honky Tonk Angel playlist is filled with all kinds of old school and new school country music. On that list you’ll find Patsy Cline next to Dolly Parton and Neko Case, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash next to the Drive-By Truckers. It’s a glorious playlist and I spend a lot of time each day listening to it.

For most of the time “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” has been the shining star in the 87-song (and I’m always looking for more if you have some suggestions) list. It’s the way he sings “I guess Mr. Phillips did all y’all about as good as you deserve” at about 1:30 in the song. I could (and it seems I do) listen to that “all y’all” all damn day.

But within the last day or so, Carl Perkins has been usurped by Willie Nelson’s (with Merle Haggard) “Pancho and Lefty.” In this song it’s the way Willie sings all the federales say. I think it might even be that word, “federales.” What a great word.

So yeah, a little obsessed with the red-headed stranger of late. Sorry Aunt Eileen. You were right and I was wrong.

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  1. todd 21.Dec.11 at 10:15 am

    Hmmm? It must be a different “red-headed stranger.” Double entendre aside, if you’re in a position to do so, check out Willie Nelson’s STARDUST. Words really fall short trying to describe its beauty. I think it’s well worth a listen.

    1. Jodi 21.Dec.11 at 10:32 am

      @todd, No it’s willie nelson. though I am open to obsessing about other red-headed strangers. I’m a sucker for redeheads. Also, downloading Stardust right now.

  2. Lesley 21.Dec.11 at 11:54 am

    Willie is King. If you can find it, One For The Road, is a great live recording Willie made with Leon Russell.

  3. Tiptoptom 21.Dec.11 at 5:10 pm

    Check out the original Poncho & Lefty by Townes Van Zandt. All props to Willie, but I think Townes’s version is better. I’m a big fan of a Willie album called Crazy: the Demo Sessions. I think the album culls many of Willie’s early demos when he was just a songwriter trying to hawk his wares.


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