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Heard on the radio yesterday: An old norteño version of the old, old Hank Thompson hit “Wild Side of Life.” “Mi Nueva Casa,” I learn from musica.com, was a 1982 hit for Los Invasores de Nuevo León, boosting them to their first gold record. That is totally fitting in a number of ways, one being that Texas (Hank’s home state) and Nuevo León are neighbors, and one being that “Wild Side of Life” has a tendency to spin off hits.

Western Swing pioneer Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys were Billboard’s top country and western band of the year for 14 years straight, 1951-1964. The tune behind “Wild Side” itself is “an old traditional English melody” on which the Southern hymn “Great Speckled Bird” was based, according to a biography of Roy Acuff. “GSB” was Acuff’s first radio hit and got him a recording contract in 1936. In 1952, “Wild Side of Life” stayed at No. 1 for nine weeks, newly fitted out with lyrics about a temptress who breaks up a man’s marriage and then leaves him to go back to her bar-room good-timing ways – its most famous line being, “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels.” That inspired an answer song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the first country No. 1 by a solo female artist, which sold a million copies and launched Kitty Wells’ career. It put the blame back on men for cheatin’ and was considered so shocking that NBC and the Grand Ole Opry both banned it. Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter did a mashup of the two songs in 1981, which brings us neatly back around, chronologically speaking, to Los Invasores:

Hank Thompson:

Hank sang (not wrote, but sang):

You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
But there’s something I’m wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

Los Invasores’ lyrics with my translation (which reads very stilted because I’m not translating for the feeling of it but literally the words themselves. Language major, sorry 🙂 I like to know what the original words were and then fill in the feeling):

Te escribi una carta y no me contestaste         I wrote you a letter and you didn’t answer me
Fui a buscarte y ya cambiaste dirección          I went to search for you and you’d already moved (lit., changed address)
Como tengo unas cosas que reclamarte          As I have a couple things to complain to you about
me obligaste a que te cante esta canción        You’ve obliged me to sing to you this song

The song goes on to talk about how he gave up his home to be with her and is pretty miserable where he’s living now, a place that features bottles, a jukebox and a neon sign. “Y una cualquiera es la que ocupa tu lugar” — and her place is taken by whatever lady is around.

Kitty’s entry in this tune’s history books:

If you have something stuck in your throat and need to upchuck quickly, or alternately to gain an immediate visceral understanding of the Nashville tendency to slap sappy strings and gooshy backup singers all over a defenseless song that caused musicians like Buck Owens to rebel with the “Bakersfield Sound,” etc., listen to this alternate version of Hank’s “Wild Side.”

True story: I asked the guys at the table next to us once how you say “english” in Spanish. Took some demonstration before we were finally sure we were all talking about the same thing. The answer: “efecto.” You put english on a pool ball in English; you darle efecto a una bola de billar en español.

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Okay… maybe one massé shot.

Turnpike Troubadours have been closing some shows with an acoustic version of “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” a lovely Paul song whose description in “Revolution in the Head” is just so wonderful I wanted to share it here: “the simplest of descending-sequence guitar songs, made indelible by a melody based on” intervals of the A-major scale and paired with a “love-at-first-sight lyric … with its tumbling internal rhymes and gasping lack of breathing spaces.” Yup.

Turnpike (in this case Evan Felker soloing to start their encore) does it beautifully. The song’s been covered as bluegrass since the ’60s, maybe not a total shocker for a band the BBC said in 1962 was “not as rocky as most, more country and western.”

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“Revolution” analyzes each Beatles song, so that the experience of reading it is essentially like replaying them all in your head but learning about them as you do so, and while on Amazon I learned my hardback version of it is going for $115 now. Muahaha! Not for sale.

More Beatles/C&W: Ringo even sang Buck. A shame that guitar groups were on their way out 🙂

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The Class of ’94 gift to the University stands just outside the Association building, so clearly this is fate. Of course technically I fought this gift idea when I was on Class of ’94 Council 🙂 What, we needed more statues? I wanted us to make a large donation to A&M’s libraries. But you already knew I was a nerd.

Big change in my life — after 19 years of being a designer, reporter and editor at the Statesman, later this month I will jump geekstatically into my new job: communications specialist for the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M University.

This is really, truly dream job time.

The Association, one of the largest alumni groups in the world, works to help not just “Old Ags” like me but also current students and to help strengthen the university. I’ll be writing articles for the Texas Aggie magazine, helping with social media, publications, emails and other communications with Aggies, plus some fundraising and events that we hold or help with, like the Ring Day ceremony happening today or our football tailgates — did you know every former student has a standing invitation to the Association tailgate parties? Just c’mon by the building and get you some barbecue.

Call me — all 370,000 of you

In December 2013, Texas A&M had 370,579 living former students around the world, and thousands more have graduated since then. All of you guys: You need anything, you call me. I’m not kidding. I’m your girl. The phone number at my new desk is 979-458-2566, or email me at sue94@aggienetwork.com. Non-Aggies, if you want to visit A&M or learn about it, take a campus tour, just ask a question, I’m your girl, too.

Helping start A&M journalism board

My Statesman family… I’ll miss them and I’ll miss newspapering incredibly. But I’ll get to keep my hand in: Texas A&M’s director of Journalism Studies, Dale Rice, has asked me to help develop and launch a board of former journalism students and current working journalists to support the new journalism major in Liberal Arts. Can’t even express how honored I am by this.

Twitter: I’m keeping @aggiejournalist

Because of my volunteer work with A&M’s journalism program, my personal Twitter handle since 2007 has been @aggiejournalist, and I’ll be keeping that, but it’s amnesty time for anybody who wants to jump off my follower list: I won’t be tweeting my political reporting any more and I will be sharpening my focus on A&M news, specifically geared to the kind of stuff I personally want to know about at A&M — campus changes, some sports, a lot of good bull, major university news and gratuitous glamour photos of Reveille. I’ll keep tweeting journalism industry news and social media/new media developments and best practices. And music and Muppet noises.

Holy wow.

In a whole range of ways, I can’t believe this is happening. I started at the Statesman something like six days after I graduated from A&M, and I am as thrilled to be going to Aggieland now as I was when I was a little fishie. Wish me luck!

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Painted buntings are so colorful that when people spot them, they think somebody’s parrot has escaped. But these birds range across most of Texas. They just like to hide in brush, so they’re rarely seen. To make them pop out like magic, here’s all you need: white millet seed.

ImageI made this poster a few years ago from a photo I took at my folks’ place. We spread what I called “the river of millet” across the back porch and watched every day right before sunset; it only took the buntings a few days to start turning up en masse. Right about now is a good time to try this. From March 5 to May 22, says Texas A&M’s Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, painted buntings return to Texas from Central America and Mexico to start building nests and laying little blue-grey-white eggs with red markings. They’ll start heading back south at the end of June.

Painted buntings are found in other states, but Texas has the largest breeding population, with Oklahoma second. I won’t lie, it’ll be pretty hard to pull out as many males as you see in this photo. But they are total suckers for millet, so give it a try. There are probably buntings hanging out in your shrubbery right now. 🙂

I usually favor Guy’s album cuts because they seem to catch his meaning best and he tended to have people like Emmylou hanging around harmonizing, or Waylon sawing away at the top end there in the back of “Anyhow I Love You.”

An exception is the solo acoustic version of “Texas Cookin’ ” that was filmed for “Heartworn Highways,” in which Guy’s bluesy playing makes much more sense to me than what I decided at about the age of 10 was a kinda goofily over-produced album version, its musical style coming out of nowhere with a big banging synthesized sound, practically a comedy or novelty track. (I was, as I have noted elsewhere, a slightly weird 10-year-old.)

Stripped down with some quite lovely playing,  the song’s blues roots stand out clearly. That gives Guy’s little foray into funk here some context that makes sense with the rest of his music.

Guy’s goofiness of course is one of the most wonderful things about him. Watch him bend his body into the music in another clip from “Heartworn Highways” –he’s 33 or 34 years old here:

… and then watch that same goofiness pop up in an interview 27 years later or so. Guy gets playful and nostalgic and then suddenly there’s his young self, weaving around and almost laying his head on Susanna’s shoulder.

Lagniappe: From John Spong in January 2014, here’s what has to be one of the best features ever written about Guy.

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James-Dean-room-keyMarfa’s Hotel Paisano famously housed the stars of “Giant” during filming in 1955, and you can, if you like, throw rooftop terrace parties in the Rock Hudson Suite; the Elizabeth Taylor Suite has a kitchen and sitting room. Up-and-coming actor James Dean got a single room with its own bath, not a given in hotels of the day. Most of the hotel has been redone – Dean’s room is clean-lined, simple, with a pretty iron desk – but the 1920s bathroom fixtures are unchanged since the Paisano opened.

james-dean-room-deskJames-Dean-shower

westtexasiceSo, before we headed out to a fancy restaurant that night, I got to hop into James Dean’s shower. The vicarious movie-star feeling, though, really set in while I was getting ready to go out: If you want to feel like Elizabeth Taylor, then swanning around James Dean’s hotel room in a full slip while you put on your eye makeup will do the trick. You feel like he’s about to come back in with ice for the drinks.

 

 

Pics are mine except for Dean outside West Texas Ice by Richard Miller.