We went to hear legendary singer/songwriter Guy Clark at the wistfully named One World Theater in the hills west of Austin last night. Clark is ill and in pain, but “he’s still jumping off the garage.” He walked out slowly with a cane and sat in a cushioned chair. Clark was joined by his longtime writing partner, Verlon Williams, who sings like the Southern cousin of Steve Goodman.
It was a small, quiet crowd in a small quiet venue. The pain got to Guy more than once and he forgot the lyrics to several songs. He’d mutter, “Shit,” or, “Y’all are being very sweet about this mess.” His wry humor was there, you bet. There was no nervousness in the audience, no impatience, no tension. Just sympathy for his pain and joy at his effort.
Anyway, he launched into “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” He got through the verse about “they called me sidekick,” then he stumbled. The words escaped him. A moment later, faster than a mad dog cyclone, the audience sang them for him like they’d planned it all along. Hell, they even sang a little harmony. They sounded reverent and heaven-bound, like the choir that sings with Alison Krauss on “Down to the River to Pray.” Here’s what they sang:
One day I looked up and he’s pushin’ eighty
He’s got brown tobacco stains all down his chin
Well to me he was a hero of this country
So why’s he all dressed up like them old men
And that’s why I still love Texas. Guy’s love of people with all their faults and beauty is there in his lyrics. He made it real tonight with his very presence. His fans love of his love for people was there when they stepped in to sing a song they knew so well because they’ve been waiting, too.