I knew when I recently mentioned folkies packing heat that I would hear from my friend Jim Pipkin. Jim took me and Jim Blum on a hike through the dessert mountain of Arizona last year (the same day that we attended the reunion performance of the New Christy Minstrels) and that’s when I discovered that he was a folkie packing heat – although not at the time. Now, I’ve been to Arizona before and gone hiking around Tucson only to be encounter by six Havelena and a mountain lion, so I would have felt a bit more secure if I had actually had some additional protection that morning.
The fact is, I grew up with guns all around me. My father was a gunsmith in his spare time and hunting was commonplace, especially in Hardy, Arkansas. The whole gun environment was such a part of my life that Sandra Perlman wrote a play based loosely on my family history, with guns and other topics that were of note back in the early ’70s. The play is named “Cliff Diving” and it ends with a scene that happened to me. After a long night of hanging out in the bars in Kent with my late friend Chuck Plazzo and our band, Good Company, my father (who was armed with a shotgun at the time) made the mistake of thinking that I was breaking into our garage. Well I’m still writing so I didn’t get killed, but I don’t want to spoil the play. The point of all of this is that I’ve had a long history with guns.
It’s interesting that to think that a genre of music may predict one’s propensity for packing heat. My man Hound Dog Taylor, who passed away in 1975, shot one of his band members on stage because he didn’t care for the way he played. Just a flesh wound, but it kept his band in line. I expect that from the Dog, but Joni Mitchell, well perhaps not. What about Bob Dylan? Wasn’t the last scene of Pat Garret & Billy the Kid Bob picking up Billy the Kid’s gun as the soundtrack “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” ended the movie? What does all of this mean? It’s a blog and therefore no meaning is required. It does make me a bit uncomfortable though to be sitting around some coffee house wondering if I should clap as to not upset the performer who might be insulted. Guns play a colorful part of America’s lyrical content. “Hey Joe” is a case in point, but there are many more. So, the next time I’m at a performance I hope I don’t have to worry about what else in the guitar case. Carry a good tune and, please, leave the guns at the door.