Michael Franklin: A Conversation with David Lynn Jones
Photo by Illa Jones
I've blogged about the great country musician and songwriter David Lynn Jones over the years, so I couldn't pass up the chance to post an entry concerning Michael Franklin's interview with the man, "A Conversation with David Lynn Jones," on his website Pointless Endeavor (September 13, 2013).
"Who's this guy Franklin," you ask. I don't know, but he seems to know who he is:
Michael Franklin is the Media and Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University's Visual and Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you're wrong. You better ask somebody.Iggy Pop? Well . . . he thinks Jones is great, so he must be right about Iggy. Here's what he says about Jones:
If there were any justice in the universe, David Lynn Jones would be a household name. He would sell records like Neopolitan ice cream and be considered the natural heir to Bruce Springsteen, Arkansas-division. Because he's that good.That's right! The interview can't prove this, of course; only the music can to that. But the interview is good, too, and demonstrates how sharp Jones is.
The conversation is a long one, touching upon Jones's life and music, and since I grew up in his neck of the woods, I'll just concentrate on some local anecdotes Jones tells and leave the music to be discovered on its own. Here's Jones describing a local scene:
There's a little café in Arkansas that says 'At The Crossroads'. It's the only crossroads, a paved road for miles in any direction. And that was where I went to school. And Bexar, where my studio was and where I was born and raised -- and where all of our family lives -- down one of those crossroads, there's a little cabin there and there always has been a café there. You know, a Dairy Queen. Not the trade Dairy Queen, but a little place to get ice cream cones and that kind of thing from when I was a kid. And over the years, it has become the gathering place for the morning café coffee drinkers club, you know? It was the place where everybody, all the old men whittling and spitting, was all in there all drinking coffee all the time. All the time. Some of them were in there three or four times a day. And when I came back from Texas . . . I’d been gone for a long time, so I'm a new guy. I'm basically a city guy at that point. I'm as country as anybody in the world, but I'd been on the road and living in Houston, Texas and living in other places for years and years. So when I came back, I had a publishing deal -- finally -- where I could just live anywhere I wanted to and write. So I came home, you know? I bought my grandmother's farm and moved into a house where I'd been as a kid. So anyway, I had this blank page in front of me, you know? It was a great creative time in my life and I'd go to the café of the morning and sit around and listen to all these guys. I knew most of them. I had known 'em from when I was in school there. Nobody really knew what I had going on. I had a big publishing deal happening and all kinds of stuff going on and was running with Charlie Daniels and…just had a lot of stuff going on. I moved back home and nobody knew, so I could just sit over there in the corner and watch all this stuff happening. It was like a little soap opera that played out there, a different version tomorrow than you hear today. And so it's about characters that go in there.I knew these people, not nearly so well as Jones did, but I was aware of them. As I told Mr. Franklin in a comment:
There was a lady who was the waitress -- she's the 'world's greatest food waitress' -- and her name was Vernelle. And so I changed her name to Willie in the song, because that's what some people called her. She was the greatest waitress. She was like the gal that used to be at the truck stop, whatever her name was [Flo, from Alice]. She was like that. She knew everybody, everybody loved her, she never wrote anything down, she never made a mistake. If you ordered one over easy and one sunny side up the morning before, she remembered it the next day. Even if she'd never seen you. And she was beautiful, too. She was a middle-aged movie star looking lady. And she was just a wonderful, wonderful person. And she spent all of her money feeding stray cats. She fed -- it says in the song -- a hundred stray cats. She actually fed more like 150 in a big lot behind her house. And she spent all the money she made as a waitress. I mean, you can imagine feeding that many cats cat food . . . she fed 'em scraps from the café, of course. Some of those cats ate better than people. But she spent all of her money feeding those cats and everybody was always joking about her cats, and how many cats she had now. And it just kind of developed out of that.
And the waitress 'hot-headed Brenda', she'd been through a divorce. She was married to a friend of mine. I was sitting in there one morning with who became my father-in-law, and he'd ordered toast with his breakfast. This actually took place at a restaurant across the street, this particular incident. But later, she worked in the Crossroads In I'm talking about. Anyway, my father-in-law ordered his toast [and] she didn't bring it to him. She went back in the kitchen and came out with two pieces of burned toast and just slid 'em across the table to him. And it was wheat toast. He hated wheat toast. Anyway, that's where that piece of the story came from. It was an actual event. Because of her divorce, she was mad at everybody. Hot-headed Brenda, she had a really bad temper and she was mad all the time.
And Rockin' Johnny was my cousin. He was the consummate lazy hillbilly, asleep on the front of the store with a hat down over his eyes. That's the way he lived. He never learned to drive. He wouldn't turn on a light switch because he was afraid of electricity. And he fox hunted. He carried a fox horn around, strung over his shoulder until he was past 80. And he'd come in the café and sit on the floor and talk and talk and talk and nobody would listen to him. But he was saying some fairly worthwhile stuff sometimes. But nobody ever paid any attention to Johnny. His name was Johnny Dillinger. My family on my mother's side were Dillingers, as in . . . John Dillinger. Same people. And Johnny was more than likely named after John Dillinger. Anyway, that's the story of that song . . . . Of course, he had no idea that he was even in my song. He was so out-of-touch with stuff like [that], it wouldn't have meant anything to him. He didn't listen to music -- he didn't care anything about music. He just liked fox hounds and Prince Albert smoking tobacco. And he walked everywhere he went. You could give him a ride, but he never owned a car, couldn't drive . . . . Smoked continually. He rolled his own cigarettes and could roll 'em with one hand. He'd talk to you, making motions with one hand and roll a cigarette with the other.
Great interview! I grew up in David's neighborhood of the Ozarks, though he was seven years older. One of his uncles was Archie Dillinger, and Archie -- probably Johnny's cousin -- was my step-grandpa, so I grew up knowing of David, and I knew he was smart, but I didn't know he was that smart. Reading your interview gave me insight into how articulate he is. I'm a writer, and I wish I could talk about writing the way David can talk about music! I'll be blogging on this interview!And here I am, blogging about it, but I've quoted enough and said enough. I'll leave the rest of the interview to all of you to read . . .