Musical Interlude: Butch Hancock at the Cactus Cafe

This week Butch Hancock, one of the members of the legendary Flatlanders, is playing for five nights at the original Butch HancockCactus Cafe in Austin, closing out what is being referred to as the “iconic years” — after this week the Cactus is being taken over by KUT Radio and may change dramatically (no one knows for sure).

The five nights are billed as “No Two More Alike,” a reprise of an earlier Hancock stand at the Cactus where he played for five nights, did only his own songs, and never repeated one.

I’ve got tickets for all five nights. I missed the earlier event by living on the East Coast at the time he did it, though I did buy the series of cassette tapes (this was pre-CD era) and still have them, so I wasn’t going to miss this event.

Why? Because Butch writes songs that aren’t like anybody else’s. If I have to classify his music, I’d call it West Texas Zen.

Here’s a verse from one (out of many) of my favorite Butch songs, “Boxcars”:

Big ol’ Buick by the Baptist Church,

Cadillac at the Church of Christ.

I parked my camel by an old haystack.

I’ll be looking for that needle all night.

Maybe you have to grow up in the Bible Belt to really appreciate that one.

Or how about this take on a road song:

He just went out and he bought the fastest bike he could buy.

Popped a wheelie in the alley, headed straight for the sky.

He bit the dust on the highway, doing 90, 95

Just east of Albuquerque, singing ‘Sweet By and By.’

That song — “Already Gone” — was one of the inspirations for my story “Running the Road.” (The other inspiration was writing up product liability lawsuits in my day job.)

Here’s another one, which I first heard Joe Ely (another Flatlander) sing at the long gone but still lamented Armadillo World Headquarters, about that male West Texas rite of passage, crossing the border into Mexico to find a girl:

She said if you’re from Texas, son, where’s your boots and where’s your gun?

I smiled and said I had guns no one could see.

She laughed at that. We both agreed: Spanish is a loving tongue.

But she never spoke Spanish to me.

And just in case you worry that he can’t do a rowdy song, here’s the last version of the chorus of “Sucking a Big Bottle of Gin,” which was apparently a hot number back when Butch and the boys played the old Cotton Club in Lubbock:

[God] was fondling Lucy, Singing to Suzie,

And sucking a big bottle of gin.

I don’t know how many songs Butch has written, but I figure he’s going to sing somewhere between 100 and 150 over those five nights, so it’s at least that many, counting the ones he dreamed, but not the ones that are collabortations. Some of his songs are pretty long — such as “Split and Slide” — which is why I can’t quite predict the length of a set list. I’ve got 14 cassette tapes of his last adventure like this. Just remembering the words to that many songs is a major achievement, and he knows a lot of other songs as well.

I can’t find a good link for Butch’s songs online, but they’re available through iTunes. Invest a few bucks and take your pick.

Or, if you’re in Austin this week, come on out. The show started on Tuesday, but the five nights run through Saturday, August 14.

Y’all come.

Brewing Fine FictionI have two essays in the lastest Book View Cafe anthology, Brewing Fine Fiction. My 51 flash fictions and a few other stories are available on Nancy Jane’s Bookshelf, and anthologies containing some of my stories are available through Powell’s. The free, chapter-by-chapter version of Changeling starts here. And check out my stories in the Book View Cafe anthologies The Shadow Conspiracy, Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls, and Dragon Lords and Warrior Women.
And you can also read my latest story — “Or We Will All Hang Separately” — on Futurismic.


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