“Demopolis, Alabama”

James Matt Broussard (1985) is the grandson of Michael James “Sarge” Broussard (1948-2014), whose daughter Rosalie Broussard (1969) gave birth to James when she was sixteen (see songs “Jenny or James,” “Sarge” and “James“).

Even though Rosalie Broussard was from Vivian, Louisiana, she had James in Shreveport, where she lived initially after giving birth. Eventually she left James with her parents and left for Alabama with a guy she ended up marrying, Tully Tate (see song “What Tully’s Done“).

Once James turned 18 he also moved to Shreveport.  This song describes a two-year period, from 2016 to 2018, when James lived in Demopolis, Alabama.  He was interested in Alabama since that was where he thought his mother was.  He had taken up with a woman in Shreveport who was from Demopolis and she convinced him to move to Alabama with her.

That relationship didn’t last, but James didn’t immediately leave Demopolis. Maybe, he had in the back of his mind that he might get back together with the woman. But once James realized that he didn’t even want to get back together, he finally decides to leave Alabama and return to Shreveport.

James liked guns, and enjoyed shooting guns; something about shooting lifted his spirits. So, on his way out of town he stops at a pawn shop to see what kind of guns they had, but unbeknownst to James there was a robbery in progress. James instinctively tries to stop the holdup but the robber panics, takes a shot at James, missing by a wide margin.

That was enough for James, who runs to his truck and tears off on 80-W to Shreveport. The robber also exits the pawn shop, ignorant of the fact that his getaway car has a bad fuel pump. He doesn’t get very far before it breaks down and he is apprehended without much trouble by a Marengo County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Demopolis, Alabama
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana
But for about the last two years now
Been living in Demopolis, Alabama
It ain’t never felt like home somehow

I came here on account of a woman
But we didn’t last too long
Stuck around, I guess, looking for something
Months ago I should’ve been gone

Gonna get my gun, get my gun
Wanna shoot some, shoot some
Buy some more, at the range
A pump shotgun, a thirty eight

There’s a market with a wooden Indian out front
An old man we called Shakespeare was the owner
It’s been there since the fifties, untouched
I put some pork rinds and a beer on the counter

Handed Shakespeare the cash for my provisions
I remarked that the Indian was a little weird
He said, “ain’t you ever heard of Hank Williams,
‘ Kaw-Liga’ was a pretty big hit ‘round here”

Gonna get my gun, get my gun
Wanna shoot some, shoot some
Gonna get my gun, change my mood
Wanna shoot some, improve my attitude

I’m sitting in my truck outside her house
She’s got a new boyfriend, from Alabama
I watch him take all her garbage out
Guess I’ll head on back to Louisiana

But before I do I stop at a pawn shop
A guy had a gun, “gimme all the cash,” he said
Without thinking I yell, “hey fella, stop”
He whirled around, threw a shot at at my head

Gonna get my gun, get my gun
Wanna shoot some, shoot some
Gonna get my gun, that’s what I’ll do
Put Demopolis, Alabama in my rear view

© 2020 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Lowndes County”

This song takes place in 1933, during the depth of the Depression in North Alabama. Lamar Hooper, Levi Hooper’s grandfather, was born on Sand Mountain and when he was in his early 30s chose to go south to look for work. He walked to the nearest road and then put up his thumb hoping for a ride.

It wasn’t long before a truck picked him up and brought him all to way to Lowndes County in the central part of the state. However, that night he got into a little trouble in Lowndesboro, a small town on Highway 80.

Lowndes County
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Sand Mountain’s where I’m from
Traveling South on my thumb
Until I heard a jail door slam
In Lowndes County, Alabam’

I’d just been there a week or two
What they said I done, I did not do
They picked me up Saturday night
Charged me for damage and a fight

I told them it was self-defense
What I said made no difference
They held me over for trial,
“Be a few days,” they smiled

The Judge was deaf to my plea
“Son, you look guilty to me”
Thirty dollars or thirty days
Up to you, it’s all the same”

“Thirty dollars I ain’t got
I might as well sit in jail and rot”
Just came south to look for work
Never thought things’d be worse

Teenage girl brought me a plate
Then sat and watched as I ate
A biscuit and slice of ham
She even gave me some strawberry jam

Slipped the fork back through the bars
Said she’d come around after dark
If I could get myself free
She just might run away with me

Sheriff came to check my cell door
Said, “One day done, 29 more
Get some rest tomorrow you’ll work”
I fingered that fork under my shirt

They call this place Alabam’
But Hell is surely where I am
I forgot why I chose to come
Never should’ve left Sand Mountain

Don’t know why I chose to come
Never should’ve left Sand Mountain

© 2020 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Riding Shotgun in Phenix City”

Josh Tate, Tully Tate’s nephew, the son of his sister Ruth, was born in 1985 in Phenix City, Alabama.  This song is a coming of age story, describing Josh’s first two loves: his girlfriend Sally Anderson and his car, a 1978 Chevelle.

Josh and Sally met in high school and were best friends which developed into their first experience with love.  As soon as he could Josh saved up and bought a 1978 Chevelle, which he worked on and got running.  With his new drivers license in hand he and Sally would go driving on Highway 80 outside of Phenix City.

Until the summer night that changed Josh’s life

Riding Shotgun in Phenix City
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Phenix City, Alabama
We were in high school
Talked like we were slick
Walked like we were cool

I got my drivers license
Summer of 2001
Bought a green ’78 Chevelle
You rode shotgun

Didn’t know how brief
Our time would be
That summer was sweet
You rode shotgun with me

We rolled the windows down
Laughin’ in the wind
I’ve never loved anyone
Like I loved you then

Never knew what hit us
80 at Evans Road
A little cross stands at that corner
The Chevelle was sold

Didn’t know how brief
Our time would be
That summer was sweet
You rode shotgun with me
That summer was sweet
You rode shotgun with me

Phenix City, Alabama
We were in high school

© 2020 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“James”

Rosalie Broussard found her self pregnant a week after turning sixteen (see song “Jenny or James“).  Though her boyfriend wanted her to have an abortion, and even offered her the money, she refused, because Rosalie had a naive understanding about what having a baby really meant, and also because she just didn’t like the idea.  However, she eventually realized she couldn’t handle the responsibility and when James was three she handed him over to her father and his second wife, MaeAnn.

When Rosalie was twenty she left Vivian, Louisiana and married Tully Tate, a man she met while waitressing at a truck stop.  They had twin girls and lived in Mobile, Alabama.  But Rosalie never could make peace with domestic life and would run off from time to time, ech time Tully would find and bring her back home (see song “What Tully’s Done“).  But eventually he grew tired of chasing after his runaway wife and Rosalie finally left that family as well (see song “Rosalie“).

Mike and MaeAnn dearly loved James since they saw that his mother had not shown him the natural love of a mother.  But James still felt an emptiness which was only relieved when he played catch with his grandpa.

James
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

James was Wednesday’s child, full of woe
His mama left when he was just three years old
Rosalie was only sixteen when she had him
Left him with her parents; he was raised by them

James grew up wondering if he’d done something wrong
That made his mama leave him at his grandpa’s home
His father was a shadow, a name that wasn’t said
But Mike and MaeAnn did their best

When James played catch with Mike
For a little while everything seemed alright
A peaceful feeling settled in with the dimming light
On those summer days when James played catch with Mike

He overheard bits and pieces about his mama’s life
She was living in Mobile, a truck driver’s wife
At Christmas she might visit but wouldn’t stay too long
Gave James some toy he’d long ago outgrown

MaeAnn said he had twin sisters in Mobile
James really hoped that they had a better deal
But soon Rosalie would run off from them too
It seemed that’s all his mama was cut out to do

When James played catch with Mike
For a little while everything seemed alright
A peaceful feeling settled in with the dimming light
On those summer days when James played catch with Mike

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“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 songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“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). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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.

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Tullison Monroe Tate (1866-1948)

Tullison Monroe “Tully”Tate was the direct descendant of the major landowner and planter of Perry County Alabama, Thomas William Monroe but was not considered an heir because he was an illegitimate offspring.  Tully was just another cotton sharecropper, on his grandfather’s land with no more status than any other black farmer  in Alabama around the turn of the 20th century.  The reason he was not acknowledged as a true Monroe heir was not simply because he was born outside of marriage, but more importantly, because his grandmother was a slave whom Will Monroe had impregnated in 1844.  The result of this miscegenation was Tully’s mother Celsie Monroe.

Celsie was briefly married to a white man, Joshua Tate, and Tully was their only child before separating. Josh Tate was unusual for that time, he was sympathetic to the plight of negroes and his marriage to Celsie was one of love.  After the war the years of Reconstruction were hardly less violent than the war itself. Joshua Tate wished to see the local political power elites toppled and sought to help the Republican elect suitable progressive candidates, including whenever possible negro men.  And he was shot down in 1867 at one of these elections when he confronted a mob that was attempting to control who was allowed to vote.

Tully was a cotton farmer whose status within the community was complicated by the fact of his heritage, which everyone knew, calling him Monroe’s Tully (see song “King Cotton“). After leaving Tully’s father, Celsie would go on to marry Mingo Harper, also a former slave, and they would have four other children, two of whom would play a not insignificant role in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s.

Tully Tate would marry Pearl Robison, the daughter of Ruby Robison and Levi Motts resulting in the birth of Hazel Tate.  Hazel would in turn marry Virgil Raney, descendant of Lonsom Raney producing a son, Vernon Raney, husband of Molly Motts. This created the complicated reality that Tullison Monroe Tate’s mixed blood ran through the various strands of the Tate, Raney, Motts and Robison families.

Almost exactly one century later there would be another Tully Tate, the son of a country singer in Louisiana.

“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)

“The Langfords and the Littlejohns”

The Langfords and the Littlejohns
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

The Littlejohns were ner-do-well
Soon as tell you hello as “go to hell”
The whole bunch was on’ry and mean
They’d fight for the least little thing
The Langfords on the other hand
Were a church-goin’, peace-lovin’ clan
When Emily turned sixteen
She was George Littlejohn’s dream

When George Littlejohn came to court
Lige Langford wouldn’t open his door
George stayed on the porch all night
Just a-singin’ in the yellow moonlight
Next mornin’ he was still there
Snorin’ in the rockin’ chair
Alma kicked him and said “come on in”
Emily hid a sly little grin

The Littlejohns were ner-do-well …

Now George wasn’t like the rest
Emily brought out his best
The lone white sheep in a fam’ly of black
She made sure he kept comin’ back
At the weddin’ Lige stood next to Anse
They drank, laughed and shook hands
When Em’ly married George Littlejohn
The two fam’lies were joined into one
When Em’ly married George Littlejohn
Those two fam’lies became one

The Littlejohns were ner-do-well …

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