This is a story and a contemplation that gets pretty deep into the question of how music effects society and the difference between music and words. Don't miss this one. It even dips into politics.
A brilliant fan's brain fixes the lyrics in Half Asleep at the Wheel, without even knowing he did it. I had already spent 40 years trying to fix it without success.
James Lee Stanley and I wrote my hit song; Half Asleep at the Wheel
James Lee Stanley (a brilliant singer-songwriter) has been a songwriting partner of mine since 1973 and I'm very excited to be doing a California tour with him 9/16/16. This is a rare performance collaboration. Please see the dates if they are not already a memory of the distant past.
My friend, James and I, wrote Half Asleep at the Wheel. This was a very popular song, requested many times, especially during my solo singer songwriter appearances beginning in 1975. There is one part of one line that James wrote, that's always troubled my mind, because I am one who never liked promoting drug use in a song.
Angel Food Cake
I eventually did write Angel Food Cake which was a recognition of those that made drug use a hobby. They were friends of mine and I gave them such a hard time about it that I decided to write this song to make it up to them. Here is the Chamber Blues version of Angel Food Cake.
Fixing the song
The line segment in Half Asleep at the Wheel I wanted to change was:
These pretzel sticks and ‘bennies' don't give me much relief.
I tried to switch it out with;
These pretzel sticks and 'candy’ don’t give me much relief …
But nothing seemed to work as well as bennies.. Sometimes I just left the line out completely, but the 2nd part of the line was;
I got one eye on the state patrol, the other eye is asleep .. I’m 1/2 asleep at the wheel,
And that was sort of an important part of the song. So this was a struggle for me for 40 years.
One day one of my fans wrote me and talked about how much he loved a particular line in the song - and it was indeed the very line that was troubling me.
Mishearing words from songs
You know how we hear words in a song and find out later we got it wrong? Up until at least my 36 years on this earth I thought the words to the National Anthem were;
Oh say can you see by the dawnserly light...
I never heard the words dawn's early but thought the writer - Leo Kottke's great great grandfather* - was taking about a type of light like dappled or primrose. i.e. dawnserly light. So when I found out I had misheard these words I named my publishing company dawnserly music. in commemoration of my brilliant unintentional play on words.
A fan to the rescue
So this fan writes in and tells me how much he loves Half Asleep at the Wheel. And goes on to tell me that his favorite line in the song is; (not these pretzel sticks and bennies but)
These pretzel sticks at Denny's don't give me much relief.
What would we do without the fans! :-)
*I bet you didn't know that it was Leo Kottke's great great grandfather who wrote the National Anthem. Francis Kottke! Spelled; Francis Scott Key