What the jukebox taught me about writing

Bobby Braddock’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. You don’t know the name, but I guarantee you know his songs:

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” by Tammy Wynette. “People Are Crazy,” by Billy Currington.

Here in Nashville, Bobby Braddock is a songwriting god.

Reading about him, I was reminded of something that’s easy to forget:

Songwriting, like any kind of writing, requires some talent, but mostly it takes a lot of work.

Songwriting is Bobby Braddock’s job. He can’t afford to sit around until something inspires him to write. He just has to write.

Listen to this. It’s from an interview Bobby Braddock did a few years ago with a website called larrywayneclark.com:

“Well, the people that think that lightning’s going to strike and that you can’t discipline yourself to do inspired work, I think that’s not true at all. You can make yourself write stuff, and you keep doing it and keep doing it and eventually the good stuff will come….”

That’s a great attitude when it comes to writing anything.

Here’s another example:

Couple years ago, I went to hear Bob McDill at the Hall of Fame. He’s another Nashville songwriter, one of the best: “Amanda,” by Waylon Jennings. “Good Ol’ Boys Like Me,” by Don Williams. “Gone Country,” by Alan Jackson.

Before he retired, he aimed to write a song a week. He had an office, and he went there, and he worked.

He said the song “Amanda” came in about 30 minutes, but “that’s the last gift I got. Afterward, it was blood, sweat and tears.”

He wrote a song with Dan Seals called “Everything That Glitters.” Here’s how it starts:

Saw your picture on a poster, in a cafe out in Phoenix;
Guess you’re still the sweetheart of the rodeo.
As for me and little Casey,  we still make the circuit
In a one-horse trailer and a mobile home.
And she still asks about you all the time;
And I guess we never even cross your mind.

There’s a lot of story in those six lines. McDill said he and Seals worked on that song for “months and months and months” until they figured it out, got everything just right.

Blood, sweat and tears.

Writing, any kind of writing, is work. It’s great if you’re inspired, but usually you’re not, and the only thing you can do is write through it, and if you’re lucky, the good stuff will come.

It’s a Southern thing

Saturday is the annual RC Cola and MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

It’s like a lot of small-town festivals. There’ll be live music and crafts and a 10-mile run. I’m guessing the race is for people who don’t eat a lot of MoonPies.

There are contests, too, like a watermelon seed-spitting contest and a hog-calling contest. Anyone can enter.

Last year, our daughter gave it a try. She’s not a city girl, but she’s definitely suburban. She did OK spitting a watermelon seed, but she wasn’t much at hog calling. You’re supposed to yell, “Sooo-EEEEEEEEY!” She went, “Sooey?” like she’s trying coax a kitten out from under a bed.

But all that’s just a prelude to the main event, the thing that makes the festival worth the 1-hour drive from Franklin: the serving of the World’s Largest MoonPie (see above).

If you’ve never had a MoonPie, it’s a graham cookie-and-marshmallow sandwich dipped in chocolate or some other flavor. They’re usually 3 inches across.

The World’s Largest MoonPie is 3 feet across, probably closer to 4, and it’s 5 inches thick.

It arrives at the festival bandstand on the roof of a golf cart. If it’s sunny, it’ll be warm and gooey. If it’s cloudy, it’ll just be gooey.

It’s better warm, but it’s OK just gooey.

It’s sliced and served by local dignitaries. Each piece is about the size of a silver dollar (kids, ask your parents), but it’s so rich, you probably couldn’t stomach a bigger piece if you tried.

You wash it down with a cold RC, which may be the only time all year you’ll have one.

As the T-shirts say, it’s a Southern thing.

The story goes that a salesman from the Chattanooga Bakery was talking to a group of Appalachian coal miners back in 1917, and they asked for something filling, because they didn’t always get to break for lunch.

Back in Chattanooga, the salesman saw some workers dipping graham cookies in marshmallow. Someone decided to make it into a sandwich and dunked the thing in chocolate.

By the 1930s, an RC Cola and a MoonPie were known as the working man’s lunch, which says a lot about the state of the Southern diet.

I don’t know how Bell Buckle (population 391, according to Wikipedia) ended up with the MoonPie festival. Bell Buckle is a pretty little Mayberry of a town, though. We always have a great time at the MoonPie festival, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Taking the kids to the drive-in

Saturday night, we took the kids to the drive-in. They’d never been, and my wife and I hadn’t gone since ’96, when we saw Twister at the Buccaneer in Richmond, Kentucky. (I Googled. It’s closed.)

The closest drive-in to our house is the Hi-Way 50 Drive-In, 45 minutes away in Lewisburg, Tennessee. The movie was Shrek Forever After.

We weren’t big on seeing it, because the last Shrek was so bad, but, really, we weren’t sure the kids would like seeing any movie at a drive-in.

We warned them the picture would be darker and muddier than the movies we watch at home. It wouldn’t be 3-D, like Shrek at the theater in the town where we live. Insects and cars passing by were the closest we’d get to surround sound.

We got there around 7:30. My wife worried that we’d have trouble finding a place to park, but it wasn’t too crowded, and we found a spot on the front row. She’d also wondered driving down whether there’d be a lot of teenagers, but it was mostly families.

Before the movie, a bunch of kids played football in the field in front of the screen while my daughter and I played catch (until Junior decided to turn it into a game of monkey in the middle and took off with the ball).

We settled into our lawn chairs at dusk, and around 8:30, the movie started.

Our daughter wanted to make an ice cream run about 30 minutes in, but other than that, the kids weren’t too fidgety. No one complained about the heat or the bugs or the crappy sound on the radio (drive-ins stopped using pole-mounted speakers years ago).

When it was over, we waited while a guy used our jumper cables to start his truck, and then we headed home. Junior was asleep before we pulled onto the highway.

“That was good,” our 10-year-old daughter volunteered, sleepily.

What was good? I asked. The movie or just going to a drive-in?

“Everything,” she said.