Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Songs of the South

I really like to travel. I think I may have mentioned before I’m somewhat of a nomad. It probably stems from my forefathers who traveled all over this great country of ours before settling in the beautiful state of Oklahoma (motto: Oklahoma is OK if you can’t move to Texas).

My wife and I recently took a trip to sunny South Florida and we decided to drive across the south to get there.

It is always so cool to see how people live in different parts of the country. But I also couldn’t help but notice something else: There is an awful lot of music written about the south.

We took the same trip last year and I noticed some of the areas written about in song. As we passed over the Suwannee River in northern Florida, they actually have a measure of music to the song on the sign announcing that big ol’ river. I don’t understand the lyrics to the song, but still it was there.

“Way down upon the Suwannee River, far far away. That’s where my heart is turning forever. That’s where the old folks stay.”

Maybe so. I saw a lot of old folks down in Florida. They may be there because of the song.
But before I even got to the Suwannee River this year, I noticed several other areas that were idolized in song.

As we cruised through New Orleans, I thought of the “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals.

“There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun. It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God I know I’m one.”

We went through New Orleans right before Fat Tuesday, so I’m sure many a poor boy were ruined that week. I, fortunately, did not get involved in the fray of Mardi Gras this year. After experiencing it last year, I figured I was “ruined” enough for at least another decade.

Just outside New Orleans, people traveling along Interstate 10 take the bridge across Lake Ponchartrain, or as I call it the Sea of Ponchartrain.  

The great theologian and philosopher George Strait wrote a little number called “Adalida,” about a “pretty little Cajun queen.”

The song goes on to say that George is so infatuated with Miss Adalida that he is willing to “swim the Ponchartrain” just to stand beside her.

I listened to that song for years without really understanding the true dedication it would take to swim the Ponchartrain.

Then I drove across it. And I drove across it. And I drove across it.

That is one big lake. Adalida must be some looker for anybody to swim that giant lake.

Leave it to Geoge to put together a song that describes his devotion to the south and Sweet Adalida, the Belle of the Bayou.

As you travel farther east along I-10, you will soon past a sign for an exit to Pascagoula, Miss.

Now, you may not be familiar with Pascagoula, but surely you’ve heard the great song “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” by the great Ray Stevens.

In that song, he talks about his visit to antebellum Mississippi each summer to visit his granny. One day, while running barefoot through the trees, the young Stevens catches a squirrel, which he promptly shoves in a shoe box.

Then one fateful Sunday, he decides to take the squirrel to church.

Here’s what happens:

“The day the squirrel went berserk, In the First Self-Righteous Church in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula. It was a fight for survival, that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!”

I had to admit I shouted Hallelujah a couple of times I as drove past that exit, in honor of that squirrel.

On over in Florida, just past the Suwannee River, you pass over another river that has garnered some fame in recent years: The Chattahoochee.

Alan Jackson grew up along the Chattahoochee and that is where he learned a lot about living and a little bout love.

I could see how you could learn a lot about life on such a river. It is a lovely river with a name that is really fun to pronounce. I probably would have struggled with the pronounciation had I not been an Alan Jackson fan.

But now I know.

“Yeah way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, it gets hotter than a hoochie coochie.”

Not sure exactly what a hoochie coochie is but I’m sure it’s hot.

Then we turned and headed south toward the Florida Keys and Key West.
It was a lovely drive down central Florida.

When we hit the Keys, we put the top down on the convertible and turned up the only music fitting for the Keys: Jimmy Buffett.

Of course if you ever travel to Key West, you have to listen — at least once — to the old spiritual classic “Margaritaville.”

I mentioned this last year, but I used to think Jimmy Buffett was an old no-talent hack. Until I visited Key West. Now I believe Jimmy Buffett is a Saint.

“Wasted away again in Margaritaville, Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, But I know it’s nobody’s fault.”

That song is all about finding yourself and blowing out flip flops.

The south is all about good food, good music, good people and great humor writers. That’s why people write songs about it. Nobody is writing songs about Nebraska. 

I’m glad I live in the south. I’m glad I discovered Key West. And I’m glad that it’s getting hotter than a hoochie coochie around here.

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