Jake McLemore (1951- )

An American historian in the 19th century described the frontier vanguard in the following words:

“Thus the backwoodsmen lived on the clearings they had hewed out of the everlasting forest; a grim, stern people, strong and simple, powerful for good and evil, swayed by gusts of stormy passion, the love of freedom rooted in their hearts’ core. Their lives were harsh and narrow; they gained their bread by their blood and sweat, in the unending struggle with the wild ruggedness of nature. They suffered terrible injuries at the hands of the red men, and on their foes they waged a terrible warfare in return. They were relentless, revengeful, suspicious, knowing neither ruth nor pity; they were also upright, resolute, and fearless, loyal to their friends, and devoted to their country. In spite of their many failings, they were of all men the best fitted to conquer the wilderness and hold it against all comers.

The Anglo-American 18th-century frontier, like that of the Spanish, was one of war. The word “Texan” was not yet part of the English language. But in the bloody hills of Kentucky and on the middle border of Tennessee the type of man was already made. ”

These were the McLemores who left Tennessee for Texas.

Owen McLemore was born in 1791 in Tennessee and married Annabel March in 1816.  Together they worked a sustenance farm in Tennessee and began to build a family outside of Nashville, seeing their first son Jacob McLemore come into the world on  Christmas Day 1818.  Annabel gave birth to six other sons before dying in 1838 at which time, Owen took his seven sons to West Texas (see song, “Blinkin’ Back a Tear“).

Jacob “Christmas” McLemore, as he was known his entire life, was Jake McLemore’s great-great-great-grandfather. There was one other Jacob McLemore, “Christmas” McLemore’s grandson, who got in on the first oil boom in 1911, made a killing, losing it, getting rich again before ultimately losing all his money and dying with empty pockets if you don’t count bitterness.

Jake McLemore’s father, Charlie McLemore, was farmer and small businessman of Nacogdoches, Texas where Jake was born in 1951 and where he spent his early life.  charlie moved the family to Shreveport in the 1960s after he got a job at United Gas Corporation.  Shreveport would be Jake’s home until he graduated high school, and went to Louisiana Tech University at Ruston.

Jake decided to make his way in the world by returning to the family’s old territory of Tennessee and moved to Nashville in 1978.  After investing in several businesses, he came to own a bar, which he had won in a poker game.   He promptly changed the name and settled down as proprietor of McLemore’s Bar in 1984 (see song, “McLemore’s“).

By that time Jake had already married and had a son, Lee, in 1982 (Jake’s wife Amerlia died in childbirth) who would go on to join the army and fight in Iraq.  On March 31, 2004, five U.S. soldiers were killed by a large IED on a road a few miles outside of Fallujah, one of the soldiers who died that day was Lee McLemore. But before he had gone to Iraq, Lee had a son himself in July 2003 (a child Jake knew nothing about) with Ellen Brewer whom he secretly married shortly before being shipped out in December 2003.

Jake kept the bar going for several years after Lee died but ended up selling it in 2008 and buying some land outside of Shreveport, Louisiana near Caddo Lake where he used to go fishing with his father as an adolescent.  Being bored with retirement, Jake bought a diner in Shreveport where Pearl Robison happened to enter one day in January 2010 (see song, “Pearl + Jake“). After five years of on again off again, but during which time they had a little girl (Sadie), Pearl grabbed up Sadie and took to the road again, heading west on U.S. 80, leaving Jake to wonder what he did wrong  (see song, “The River and Jake“).

Jake is living out the rest of his days fishing and shooting the breeze with Mike Broussard and other men from the area until the day Jake met his grandson, Charles, named after Jake’s father, in 2016.  It remains to be seen if he will ever see his daughter again. I expect he’ll make a trip back to Texas and find Pearl and Sadie.

Jake is currently raising Charles outside Shreveport, Louisiana, to be a sturdy young man in the long line of McLemore men.

“McLemore’s”

McLemore’s
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Walked in there first time in aught-four
Took a stool by the pinball machine
Come to know the owner Jake McLemore
Dropping by each day became routine

He looked to be about my dad’s age
If my dad ain’t died in ninety-three
Jake was always adopting strays
Like a three-legged dog and me

Time seemed to pass a little slower
Behind soft country music and bumper pool
The world looked a whole lot better
From where I sat on that bar stool

Pickled eggs and pigs feet in a jar
Antique cash register, black dial phone
Scratches ‘n’ nicks in a hickory bar
Left by those who are never really gone

He pointed to a snapshot of some soldiers
Leaning on a tank in Iraq
“They call my son a hero,” Jake told me
“Would’ve preferred if he’d just made it back”

Time seemed to pass a little slower …

Jake sold out last year with a big payday
Bought 26 acres outside Shreveport
I don’t drink much anymore and anyway
Can’t find a bar like McLemore’s
No, there ain’t no place like McLemore’s

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)