Editor’s note: Ward Davis, a Nashville singer and songwriter, is a Drew County native. His new CD “15 Years in a 10-Year Town” will be released on May 12. It will feature eight of Davis’ original songs including “Unfair Weather Friend”, a song Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard cut, and the Ed Bruce classic, “Old Worn Out Cowboys,” which is a duet with a very special guest artist. The following story, written by Davis, reveals the identity of his guest artist.
I’ve got a story to tell.
When I was a real little guy, my mom and dad (Linda & Levi) would take my sister Susan and I on a family vacation every summer. We went every year, we always drove, we always camped, and we always went west. Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, The Petrified Forrest, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park… I could go on for a while, but let’s just say that my folks made it a priority to show us places beyond the borders of our little town in Arkansas.
Over the years, we went from camping in tents, to an old camper van, to finally traveling the west, sleeping in a luxurious pop-up camper. One thing that never changed, though, were the cassettes in my dad’s giant tape case. We were on a strict musical diet, to say the least. I won’t list them all, but I’ll try. Waylon, Willie, Don Williams, Johnny Horton, Richard Clayderman (look him up), Henry Mancini, James Galway and Merle Haggard. That was all, but for one, a CBS records compilation tape entitled, “My Heroes Have Always been Cowboys,” and was full of cowboy songs, by various artists. Besides the title track by Willie, there was “Ghost Riders in The Sky” by Johnny Cash, “Cowboys Don’t Shoot Straight,” by Tammy Wynette, and on and on. But one song was always my favorite, “Old Worn Out Cowboys,” by Ed Bruce. “There Must Be some place for old worn out cowboys, broken down pickers, and dreamers like me.” Who knows what ever happened to the tape, and for years I tried to find it online, but to no avail. But even still, I could close my eyes and hear that song, and there would be mountains, and memories, and smiles and my family.There is simply no better memories to be had by anybody – period. Don’t even try. Finally about 3 or 4 years ago, they re-released the Ed Bruce album on iTunes, and I was able to listen and listen and listen….There is a point here, I swear.
I needed a waltz for this record. I love waltzes…how can you not? There was only one song that I could think of in the whole wide world that would fit in on my album, and it was “Old Worn Out Cowboys.” Even though I didn’t write it, it is a part of my life, as much as any other song on the record. It’s my wonderful youth, in a cool twist of irony. If I was going to do it though, I wanted to do it as a duet, as the last line is, “they never stay home and they’re always alone even with someone they love” (also from “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” and also written by Ed Bruce) and I wanted to get somebody very special to sing it. I had a very, very short list of people I was going to ask to come in and sing on it, but that was only if #1 on the list declined. I knew it was a longshot, and a huge favor to ask, but this record… this album is my livelihood. It’s how I’m going to feed my family. If I don’t pull every favor I can, I run the risk of “almost,” and that don’t cut it with me. Fortunately, I will not have to go down that list. Willie said “sure,” and sang and played on my record yesterday. Willie Nelson. The Willie Nelson. He didn’t just do the one line though, he did more, and played his guitar, Trigger. I want to cry, but I won’t because it would bring too much joy to Buddy Cannon.
So, back to that little guy in the back seat of the car, going down the road with his family, listening to that song, looking out the window at the mountains. He dreamed a lot. He never dreamed this.