Introduction

Highway 80 is a stretch of road that ran at one time from California all through Georgia and was once part of the early auto trail known as the Dixie Overland Highway.

However, the entire segment west of Dallas, Texas, has been decommissioned in favor of various interstate and state highways. Currently, the highway’s western terminus is on the Dallas–Mesquite, Texas city line. Highway 80’s last stop is Tybee Island, Georgia, just past Savannah.

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My focus will be the stretch from Dallas to the other side of Macon, Georgia.  I will weave a fictional narrative revolving around nine families and many secondary characters going back to when they first came to America. More specifically, when and how they got to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia. In the process the vicissitudes of American history will be the context for the lives, the successes and losses, of the characters in these stories and songs.

Although the stories and songs are based on real events and typical experiences of the people who settled the southern United States, all the characters and stories are fictional.

James Lamar Halladay (1973)

James “Jamie” Lamar Halladay was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1973.  His father was a musician, guitar player, Frank Halladay, who played in a series of bands, traveling Texas, Louisiana and eventually Nashville.  By the time Jamie was four, Frank Halladay stopped living with the family, which also included Jamie’s younger sister, Sadie, although not out of their lives altogether.  He would show up on birthdays and Christmas, when he could (see song “The Laughing Man at the Door“).

James Charles Halladay (1913-1995), Jamie Halladay’s grandfather, was a fighter pilot who served with distinction in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He learned to fly as a crop dusting pilot for the Huff Daland Dusters, as part of the eradication of the boll weevil. This company, moved from Macon Georgia to Monroe Louisiana, in 1925 but Charlie didn’t hire on until 1933, but stayed with the company as it became a regional commercial carrier, which eventually became Delta Airlines.

Hi son Frank showed a talent for music early on and learned to play the guitar listening to the Grand Ole Opry and especially Hank Williams when he was still pretty small. While in high school he started a band with some of his friends and they got pretty good. Good enough to become the backup band for Webb Pierce and played on the Louisiana Hayride.

It while he was playing with Webb Pierce that Frank met the woman who was to eventually become his wife and Jamie’s mother, Lee Ann Lucas. But while Frank and Lee Ann were in love and did get married, the itinerant lifestyle of a musician did not make for a stable home life and the marriage failed. Frank tried to see his kids as much as he could, but was not a regular presence in their lives.

Nevertheless, he did have an impact on Jamie’s life.

On his twelfth birthday, Frank gave Jamie a guitar and taught him a few chords, but that was just the start for Jamie. He eventually got good enough to move to Nashville and get some gigs there playing behind country stars. He ended up breaking into the studio scene and became a member of the “A list” players, i.e. first call musicians for recording sessions.

It was while he was living in Nashville, around 2003, that Jamie began visiting a bar, McLemore’s and became friends with the owner Jake McLemore (see song “McLemore’s“).

“The Laughing Man at the Door”

Jamie Halladay’s dad was a guitar player, in a traveling band, who only made it home for birthdays and a few Christmases. But he did teach Jamie how to play guitar, which Jamie also made his living from.

The Laughing Man at the Door
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

In Monroe, Louisiana, standing at a window
A four year old sees his father drive away
Cowboy hat on his head, six gun on his hip
Jamie waves goodbye until his next birthday

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know
As his car disappears down the road
Say goodbye, watch him go
On a gray December day in Monroe

His daddy plays guitar in a traveling country band
And don’ live there with them no more
Jamie has a sister, eighteen months old
Who don’t remember the laughing man at the door

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know …

When Jamie turned twelve his dad gave him a guitar
Showed him where to put his fingers for his first chord
His dad died in ’93, when Jamie was nineteen
And who played better than the laughing man at the door

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Rosalie”

Rosalie Broussard Tate has a history of running away from any relationship she is in.  This time she has run from her marriage leaving her husband Tully Tate and their twin girls at home.

Rosalie
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

In a cocktail lounge in Mobile
Just about closing time
Empty shot glass on her table
Rosalie shuts her eyes

Tully would always find her
Bring her home in the past
Rosalie looks around her
Guess he gave up at last

Anytime anyone loves her
Soon she’ll be gone
To the dim lights of a barroom
Where she feels she belongs
Mistrusting human kindness
She’d rather be alone
Telling herself she’s free
Rosalie, ah, Rosalie

She’d like to kick the habit
Always choosing to run
Since she was sixteen
It’s what she’s relied upon

There’s a devil lying to her
Whispering in her ear
She wants to ignore it, but
It’s the strongest voice she hears

Anytime anyone loves her …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“The Ballad of Sam McLemore”

Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) lived a violent and short life as an outlaw and gunfighter in Texas.

The Ballad of Sam McLemore
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

He can’t say how it started
One day he killed a man
It was in self defense
Still they called him the devil’s hand

That one became ten
Songs were sung in saloons
He couldn’t hang up his gun
There was always something to prove

No wife no home no one that he could trust
A gunslinger can’t outrun his fame
He’s called out, draws and falls down in the dust
Shot by a boy who wants to make a name

At first it was thrilling
He was fast as the wind
Those who challenged him
Wouldn’t challenge no one again

Then he was older, they were bolder
And knew he wasn’t as fast
He was still tough but all bluff
A shadow of his past

No wife no home no one that he could trust …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Anabel March McLemore (1796-1832)

Anabel March was a Tennessee girl who married Owen McLemore in 1812.  She knew she had some Indian blood in her, and this is how she described her background:

“My great-grandma Macum, Dilsey, was half Indian and half white and my grandma told me how it happened, just as her mamma had told her.   Back when the Macums had just come to Carlina from Pennsylvania they were living out on Bear Creek.  They had built a kind of lean-to under an overhang they had kind of framed up with poles and mud.  Well, while the men was buildin’ a real house, my great-great-grandmamma went out with a basket hoping to find some chestnuts in the woods.  She was about fourteen years old and while she was out there by herself she was grabbed by two Indians and taken off to Kentucky.”

Eventually Dilsey got away but was already about six months pregnant.  When she showed up back at her family’s place, she told them what happened and her brothers think they got the Indian who took her. Anyway, a few weeks later she gave birth to the child, who was Anabel’s great-grandmother, Beatrice Macum.

Anabel used to say, “I got the Indian look from my Pa’s side. And it is true I have his black eyes and hair. But I got Ma’s fair skin and features.”  By the time Anabel had come around, the March family had crossed the mountain from North Carolina to East Tennessee.  After her mother died Anabel pretty much raised her brothers and acted as the woman of the house from the time she was around ten.

The McLemores had the neighboring farm and Owen, who was older, began courting Anabel when she was around 15 and soon after they married. Anabel gave birth to seven children, all boys, by the time she was 36, but the last was a difficult birth.  She died during the delivery and the child was sickly, and lived but two years.  Owen grieved bitterly for his wife and left Tennessee taking his six remaining sons to Texas right after the youngest had died (see songs “My Anabel” and “Blinkin’ Back a Tear“).  He never re-married.

Anabel once described herself like this, “people always said I went my own way, and that much I’ll admit. Some said it was because Mama died when I was young, and I never had nobody to show me how a girl ought to be.  I turned out to be sort of stubborn more like my Pa and brothers than any woman around here. Others said it was the revival meetings that got me all mixed up and queer. And still others said it was because I read too many books. But I did love to read books, and always have, when ever I can.”

 

“My Anabel”

The memory of his wife, Anabel, is kindled by an old friend’s letter that Owen McLemore has kept all these years.  Alone and peering into the West Texas prairie he relives the grief of his wife’s passing, and friends and a life lost to time.

My Anabel
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

It’s a cold December day
The light is slowly sinkin’ away
What I feel I can’t hardly tell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Holdin’ a letter from an old friend
Golden leaves dance in the wind
Somethin’ broke in me, aw hell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Piece of paper creased and soft
Watery lines almost worn off
Raindrops spittin’ in an empty well
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

That dusty road is still the same
The prairie wind still carries a name
The tolling of a distant steeple’s knell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge “

In 1844 Celsie Monroe was born into slavery; in 1865 she was freed.  One hundred years later her great-grandson, Willie Harper, was one of those who joined the Selma March.

Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge

WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Named for a Confederate general
Who has all but faded from history
That bridge is a landmark of a struggle
Where slave descendants took a step towards victory

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery
But that’s not really how far it is
It was a hundred year long journey
Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Celsie Monroe was a slave woman
Her great-grandson was William Crawford Harper
He was just a few miles from that plantation
When he stood with the hundreds of other marchers

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery …

Four girls were bombed in Birmingham
“The eagle stirs her nest”
Jimmy Lee Jackson shot down in Marion
Willie Harper was on that bridge for justice

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

William Crawford Harper (1942-2001)

William Crawford Harper was the great-grandson of a woman born into slavery, Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936 ).   Willie Harper would grow up just a few miles from the former plantation where Celsie lived,  however he would join one of the landmark events of the civil rights era, the march from Selma to Montgomery (see song “Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge“).

William served in the Marines during the Vietnam War but came home and used his training to start an electronics business.  He married Corinne Morgan and they had one son, Morgan Harper. Morgan married Rosa Blanton, and they had three children, including one son Crawford Harper (1987).

Willie Harper always knew that his great-grandmother, Celsie, was half-white, and had given birth to a son Tully Tate in 1866 from her common law marriage to a white man, Joshua Tate.  Tully Tate married the illegitimate daughter (Pearl Robison) of a Louisiana prostitute (Ruby Robison) and Confederate soldier (Levi Motts) (see songs “Levi Motts is My Name” and “Fannin Street“).

The Harpers had lost track of the Tate side of the family.  But Willie Harper’s grandson, Crawford Harper, would end up coming into to contact with descendants from the white side of the family, Vernon and Donald Raney, in Meridian Mississippi, which is just across the state line from Demopolis, Alabama, where Crawford was living in 2007.

Unfortunately the Raneys were not exactly upstanding individuals.  Their family had  been involved in making moonshine, bootlegging and later drug distribution ever since Lonsom Raney established his copper pot still in the early 19th century in north Georgia.  Later members of the family moved to Mississippi (see songs “Lonsom Raney 1828” and “’57 Fleetwood to Memphis“).

Crawford and the Raney brothers would join up for a period of time which would have greatly disturbed Willie Harper, who had tried to instill only the highest values in his children and grandchildren.  However, Willie never lived to see how his grandson turned out, dying in 2001 from a heart attack.

Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936)

Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936) was born into slavery but was freed by Will Monroe, a wealthy white planter and her father, in 1863 as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Celsie’s mother, Jessie Crawford (1828-1905), was a slave from a neighboring plantation of whom Will Monroe had grown quite fond. Monroe made sure Jessie was provided for and also insisted that she be freed in 1863 by paying off her owner Carson Crawford.

Celsie was what was called a “yellow gal”, and quite beautiful.  Once she was freed at age 19, Celsie began seeing a white man, Joshua Tate (1828-1867), and their relationship developed into a common law marriage, although the possibility of such a union was denied at the time.

The Tates were a wealthy Alabama family held in high regard and Joshua’s indiscretion was of course never openly acknowledged by the family and surrounding community, although everyone knew of it and the child it eventually produced.

Joshua was nominally a lawyer handling cotton trades and other mercantile business for the planters. But as was the custom for sons of his class, his hours were at his own instigation. Although he made a daily trip to town, he might only spend an hour or two in the afternoon in his office, often asleep on the leather couch sitting against the wall, next to the large hearth fire.

After the War, Republican “carpetbaggers” entered the former Confederacy and worked to overturn every vestige of slavery and the old ways at every turn; Alabama was no exception.  These men were hated since they were seen as enemy outsiders, and interlopers and exploiters who added insult to the injury of losing the war.  It was during this turbulent period that Joshua Tate was murdered in 1867 in his second floor office by a man with a three barreled derringer pistol, while Joshua was relaxing on the couch with a volume of Homer.

Some said the motivation behind the killing was Tate’s relationship with Celsie Monroe; others said he was killed because of his covert support of the Republicans.  Still a few others said he was killed by a carpetbagger.  However, no one was ever accused much less arrested and convicted of Josh Tate’s murder.

Tate lingered for two days before dying, leaving Celsie with a son, Tullison Monroe Tate (1866-1948). Tully Tate was one-quarter African-American, light-skinned and who would marry a white woman and whose descendants would all be considered white, Tully’s blood becoming less and less present with each successive generation.

In 1872 Celsie’s first official marriage was to a African-American man, Jesse Harper (1850-1922), and Celsie and Jesse enjoyed a long and happy union, raising four children, seven grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. However, Celsie’s oldest child, Tully, was raised by his spinster Aunt Ruth, his father’s sister.

One of Celsie’s great-grandchildren, William Crawford Harper (1942-2001), marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 (see song “Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge“). Willie Harper lived to see most of the Jim Crow laws reversed even as the stubborn stain of racism remained.

“Out on Cross Lake”

Mike Broussard and Jake McLemore were friends with D.W. Washington.  Today they are out at Cross Lake, just outside Shreveport, drinking, fishing, and remembering D.W. after burying their friend earlier that same day.

Out on Cross Lake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down

Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
No one can tell me why he had to die
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy

Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around

D.W. worked for Mike forty year
D.W. worked for Mike forty year
Mike’s lookin’ in the tub for another beer
D.W. worked for Mike forty year

Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down

Now D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Yeah D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Even if he was born in Detroit
D.W. was a good ol’ boy

Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Might as well go in, they ain’ bitin’ no more
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)