As a 17 year old, wannabe songwriter in Houston, TX in the late ’70’s who had possession of a pretty good fake ID, getting into clubs was not only easy, it was the coolest game in town, and somewhat of a responsibility that one had to rise up and fulfill.
I was at Rockefeller’s one night seeing Michael Murphy and his band, trying to figure out how to write something like ‘Geronimo’s Cadillac,’ and hoping that no one noticed my beer.
In the middle of his set he called a friend of his up on the stage, saying that he was one of the real songwriters, one of the legends. It was Sonny Throckmartin.
I don’t remember the songs that Sonny played that night, but I remembered his name. As I got older, I kept noticing that it popped up next to a lot of really great country songs.
“The Cowboy Rides Away”
“If We’re Not Back In Love By Monday”
“Why Not Me”
“The Way I Am”
“Friday Night Blues”
“Last Cheater’s Waltz”
See what I mean?
When I saw Sonny last night, I told him about seeing him play that night in Houston. He remembered the show.
But he had no recollection of the underage kid standing on the side of the stage trying to drink beer and take notes at the same time.
It’s a weekday morning, I’m 16, maybe 17 years old, listening to the radio, getting dressed for school. The radio is on, of course. Music is the constant of my world. KLOL, FM 101, the only station worth tuning into in Houston, TX in the late 70’s. Dylan’s ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ comes on. I stop, mesmerized. Just the bass line is enough to pull me in. I sit there, dazed, on the edge of my bed, one shoe on, one shoe off, staring at the stereo. I listen, trying to figure the song out. I can’t. What’s he singing about? The song comes at me as if from another world, someplace hidden. And wherever it’s coming from, I want to go there.
I’d been writing songs since I was 10. Guy Clark, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker records, those were my guides. Willie Nelson. Pretty straight ahead. Deep, good, the classic story telling line of thought. Folk songs. Country songs. I wasn’t into Townes yet. And here comes Dylan, knocking the legs out from under all that I knew, telling the story backwards, if at all. Starting at the end, then jumping to the beginning, the details filled in as if they’re an afterthought. I listened hard, thinking, how did he do that? How do I get what he has?
That moment was an invitation into the mystery. The song itself called out, “Follow me.” And from that day on I did, down into the swirl of words and melody, behind the dream curtain of song.