Episode 13 - Stay away from planes and automobiles
Direct link to mp3
[Dylan Email reading - from "Devil"]
"…I don't know what they're teaching in school nowadays, but here's a list for ya: Two princesses - Princess Grace of Monaco and Britain's Princess Diana; the famous 20th century dance innovator Isadora Duncan; Albert Camus, the author of "The Stranger;" James Dean, who died in his Porsche Spyder; action-painter Jackson Pollock; beautiful blonde actress Jayne Mansfield; and old blood'n'guts himself, General George Patton, Jr., all died in car accidents.
So be careful when you get behind the wheel. You never know when the checkered flag comes down and you find yourself in a race with the Devil."
[Dead Man's Curve excerpt]
Notably missing from Dylan's list in the "Theme Time" episode, "Devil," are any musicians. But, if you're a regular listener to "Theme Time," you'll know that Dylan has provided an ongoing roll call of musicians who have died in plane and automobile crashes since the first show, "Weather," and his introduction of "The Spaniels" version of "Stormy Weather."
The Spaniels were on the Winter Dance Party Tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in February of 1959, the day the music supposedly died, as Dylan relates with noticeable disgust in his voice, because the music can't die, of course. It's probably one of the few things in the world that's definitely indestructible, unkillable, invincible. But musicians are only human, and Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper all did die that day in the infamous plane crash.
It's not easy being a DJ, Dylan mentions in the recent "Radio" episode, and it's not easy being a professional musician either. Bad food, a bad lifestyle where bottles, pills and needles are all too available. And there's too much travel, and nights staring out at a sea of faces that you can barely see through the lights. And the next day is the next town, and you have to get there somehow.
You wonder whether Dylan thinks about that on the Never-ending Tour, looking out the window as the bus takes him to another town.
Patsy Cline was another star claimed in a plane crash, on March 5th, 19 and 63, along with her manager, Randy Hughes, who was flying the yellow Piper Comanche, and Cline's fellow musicians, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Dylan played Hawkin's Dog House Boogie on the 16th episode of "Theme Time." and Cowboy Copas' "Three Strikes and You're Out" on "Baseball."
As I mentioned in my last episode, Jack Anglin, of Johnnie & Jack, also died in 1963, driving alone to attend a memorial service for Patsy Cline not far from his home. Jack rounded a bend at high speed, crashed and was killed at age 46. Dylan hasn't played Johnnie & Jack yet on "Theme Time," but I bet he will.
Another artist who I'm betting will make a "Theme Time" appearance is Rick Nelson, who Dylan has high praise for in "Chronicles." Born Eric Hilliard Nelson in 1940, Rickie Nelson had the million-selling hit, "Travelin' Man" in 19 and 61. Shortly after the single topped the US charts, Nelson celebrated his 21st birthday and announced that he was changing his performing name from Ricky to Rick.
Ten years later, Nelson composed "Garden Party," an open letter to fans that he was determined not to become a living museum of `60s replays, like it or not. Ironically, "Garden Party" also became a million-seller and was Nelson's last hit record. On the 31st of December 19 and 85, a chartered plane carrying him to a concert date in Dallas crashed near De Kalb, Texas.
[Travelin' Man excerpt]
Planes are dangerous enough for musicians, as are helicopters, as Bill Graham among others would tell you, but for sheer body count, four-wheeled vehicles are the musician's major nemesis.
Eddie Cochran - Dylan played his "Summertime Blues" - was killed in England when his taxi suffered a burst tire and veered off the road and crashed. Gene Vincent was a badly injured passenger.
Keith Godchaux of the Grateful Dead - Dylan played their "Friend of the Devil," in the "Devil" show, although Pig Pen was still their keyboardist back then - was leaving a toll plaza and drove straight into the back of a flatbed truck, killing him instantly.
Speaking of the "Devil" episode, and as I mentioned in my own take on the Louvins, Ira Louvin died at age 40 in a head-on collision with a drunk driver as he drove home from a performance. Of course country music has a rich history of songs about car crashes, such as Porter Wagoner's "Carroll County Accident," which I think pretty much fits Dylan's recent exposition on what country music is all about.
[Carroll County Accident]
Tommy Perkins, the drummer for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys died in 2003 driving home from a festival celebrating the "King of Western Swing."
J.B. Lenoir from the "Mother" episode of "Theme Time" died in 19 and 67 from a heart attack following a car crash.
Bessie Smith - lost at age 43 when her car was struck head-on by a truck. She survived the accident, but legend has it that she was denied treatment from several "whites only" hospitals in Mississippi before arriving at a "colored's only" hospital in Clarksdale. But by then it was too late for Bessie.
And I could go on but I think that's enough. It's a jungle out there, as Randy Newman sings, and many of the beasts have steel skins. So take care of yourself, and if you think of it, say a prayer for all the musicians on the road.
This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show. Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio or Bob Dylan, and is obviously not associated with either the airline or automobile industries. Until next time, stay safe, and sweet dreams.
Links to music excerpted on the show:
Jan & Dean - Dead Man's Curve (Amazon link)
Rick Nelson - Travelin' Man
Porter Wagoner - The Carroll County Accident
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken - Wreck On the Highway
Thursday, September 14, 2006