“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)

“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)

“Shreveport, 1963”

Mike Broussard recalls how he and his brother Luke spent summers in Shreveport during the 1960s.  Mike was 15 and Luke was 17, a few years before each would go off to fight in Vietnam.

Shreveport, 1963
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Twenty-five cent a gallon gasoline
’53 Studebaker, three on the tree
The Kokomo drive-in onion rings
Shreveport, 1963

Strawberry icebox pie at Strawn’s
My big brother Luke and me
Southern Maid donuts at dawn
Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

The Cub drive-through liquor store
A couple of Coke’s and a pint of Jim Beam
Watchin’ the planes at the airport
Shreveport, 1963

My brother Luke died in ‘Nam
Time seemed to stop for me
No matter where I am
It’s Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

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

“A River Runnin’ Wild”

This story takes place in Conyers, Georgia, early 1933.  Clara Sprague Robison (1911-1993) sees her future husband, Johnny Campbell (1905-1944), at church one Sunday.  Clara had met Johnny before, but only briefly, and she knew he lived off the mountain. The fact that he came to her church as opposed to the one he regularly attended was significant to her, letting her know that he made the trip specifically to see her.  Clara is the great-grandaunt of Pearl Robison. Clara and Johnny would have three children, Marcus, Nora and Emily before Johnny is killed in WWII.

A River Busting Free
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Johnny came to our church that Sunday,
Him on the mountain was a surprise
I’d have to walk right past him
Lord I thought I might die

I seen the look in his eye
Like there was no one but him and me
Something rose up in my heart
Like a river runnin’ wild busting free

Johnny touched his new wool cap
As I hurried past him up the steps
All through the preachin’ I felt his eyes
On the back of my neck

I seen the look in his eye …

Soon as the service was over
Goin’ outside filled me with dread
Johnny took my hand, we started walkin’
I couldn’t tell you a word of what we said

I seen the look in his eye …

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

“King Cotton”

It’s July 1899 and Tullison Tate (1866-1938) is sitting in his wagon, loaded with cotton, in line waiting for it to be ginned.  The Monroe family has owned most of this Perry County, Alabama, town’s businesses including the gin. Tully’s grandmother was a slave from a neighboring plantation, Jessie “Crawford” (1828-1905), who was impregnated by Thomas William Monroe (1812-1909), producing a mixed blood daughter, Celsie in 1844, Tully’s mother.  Tully’s status in the community is as complicated as his blood.

King Cotton
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Line of wagons filled with cotton
Moving up one by one
Line ends at Tommy, Jr.
Ol’ man Monroe’s son

Monroe owns the gin, an’ smith
The bank, an’ the store
It’s been a Monroe town
Since before The War

Heard ’em say cotton is king
Well, I ain’ seen one yet
The more I work, all it seems
The more I get in debt

Price of cotton keeps fallin’
Soon it won’t make sense to plant
Most are still plantin’ and pickin’
A few walked off their land

Sittin’ in a wagon of cotton
Won’t get ginned ’til ‘roun’ four
Tommy says what I got comin’
Less my bill at the store

Heard ’em say cotton is king …

They call me Monroe’s Tully
Makin’ sure I know my place
Tom Monroe is my granddaddy
But my grandma was a slave

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

“Feel Like Dirt”

Ruby Jones Robison (1955) is Pearl Robison’s aunt, her father’s sister. Ruby met Darrel Haynes (1951) at Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX, and they were quickly married settling into a house in Midland in 1977 where Darrel had gotten a job at Baker Oil right out of college. They were happy for a few years, but when they lost their first child, a girl, it broke the marriage up. Ruby was 32 in 1981 when she decided to leave Darrell and go back to Conyers, Georgia, her hometown. This song encapsulates a conversation she had with her sister, Ruth Ann, told in both of their voices, several years after the events.

Feel Like Dirt
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

She got on the Greyhound with her suitcase
And her little patent leather bag
Had two Cokes, a package of peanuts,
And a fifth of Ancient Age

“I nursed that bottle all across Texas,
But I was sober when I crossed the Georgia line, in fact.
Lord, I cried those first few weeks
But I didn’t look back; couldn’t look back.”

“It was either kill the man or leave
Killin’ was more trouble than he was worth
Gettin’ on that bus made sense to me
First time in a long time I didn’t feel like dirt”

She left everything in the house
And nothing of herself behind
She dropped her keys on the kitchen table
Along with the reason why

It was a matchbook she found in his jeans
A heart with a phone number inside
All those loads of laundry
The dreams she compromised

“It was either kill the man or leave …

She got on the Greyhound with her suitcase
And her little patent leather bag
Had two Cokes, a package of peanuts,
And a fifth of Ancient Age

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). (Hat tip to Dorothy Allison for the image that inspired this song.)

“My Pocketknife”

It took a couple of years longer than in other towns, but The Great Depression finally hit Oil City, Louisiana in 1932.  The price of oil plummeted and work ground to a stop.  They capped the wells and hauled the rigs away, to wait for better times.  In 1934, out of all other options, Lee Allen McLemore and his thirteen year old son Charlie hit the road looking for work, and like many others head west to California.

My Pocketknife
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Charlie and his father crawl up the embankment
Hidden by the bend they crouch and wait
The train’ll have to slow down maybe just enough
With any luck they’ll grab that freight

Charlie and his father left Oil City at dawn
Somethin’ called The Depression had arrived
Work was for the takin’ out in California
Pickin’ cotton under sunny skies

Long as I have my pocketknife
I’ll be alright, be alright
I can make it through the coldest night
Long as I have my pocketknife

Charlie and his father join a migrant army
Ride the rails with tramps an’ hoboes
Tent camps were jungles, danger everywhere
Do your best to hang on to your coat

Charlie and his father dodge a railroad bull
Hidin’ in the tender ’til he’s gone
A man was crumpled in the corner, frozen overnight
It’s a damp and cold L.A. dawn

Long as I have my pocketknife …

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

“Oil City”

Charlie McLemore, Jake’s father, talks about growing up in his hometown of Oil City, Louisiana. During the first decades of the 20th century oil was discovered in Texas and Louisiana and until the Depression forced the speculation to pause, fortunes were made and lost. Oil City and the McLemore family were a small part of that history.

Oil City
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Oil City is my home
Ain’ pretty but I belong
Grey and gritty, right or wrong
Oil City is my home

Aught-five oil came from the ground
Oil City was a wildcat town
Wooden sidewalks and hitching posts
Boom towns ain’ got no ghosts

Aught-six grandpa McLemore
Had a little money but wanted more
Oil City was where grandpa came
Gamblin’ on the big oil game

Oil City is my home …

Few years pass and the fever died
Were other towns, other strikes
1917 it almost burned down
The whores all left town

Dad went to work at J.M Guffey
We stayed in Oil City
Grandpa went broke in the Depression
Kept chasin’ oil, died in Odessa

Oil City is my home …

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

“A Rusted Plow”

Jed Phelps describes life after his Pa died:  His sister Nellie marries a Texas rancher who brings them all to his ranch and puts sixteen year old Jed to work.  However, after a few years Jed doesn’t take to ranchin’.  He’d heard heroic stories about the Texas Rangers and joins up.  When that isn’t all he dreamed it’d be, he decides to go back to their farm in Tennessee only to find something less than he expected.

A Rusted Plow
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

After Pa died Nellie married Bob Dorsey
Brought us to Texas to the biggest ranch I seen
Had me punchin’ cows and breakin’ horses
I joined the Rangers when I turned nineteen

I’d heard about the Indian Wars
But by then the Kiowa were off the plains
We were so good they don’t need us no more
‘Cept to chase off a few fence cuttin’ gangs

Things won’t be how you remember
The truth ain’ what you want to hear
Leave the past behind you, it’s better
Than seein’ what’s waitin’ there

1888 I went to Tennessee
Wondered how the ol’ homestead looked now
Rode for a week and what greeted me
Was a crow sittin’ on a rusted plow

I found the block where I split wood
The barn was all but fallin’ down
Squattin’ on my heels, chewin’ a cheroot
Thinkin’ how Pa had been so proud

Things won’t be how you remember …

Went around back, found th’ graves
Cleaned them up as the sun sank down
A part of me wished I had stayed
But back then I couldn’t wait to get out

Spose I got what I came for
It’s sure all that’s here to be found
I’ll ride away to return no more
Not for any crow sittin’ on a rusted plow

I’ll ride away to return no more
Not for any crow sittin’ on a rusted plow

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