By Sonny Bohanan
Feb. 15, 2013
DALLAS, TX — Ray Wylie Hubbard came home to Oak Cliff on Friday night, and he brought his grandaddy’s guitar with him.
It’s an old beater that wouldn’t stay tuned, he said, but he seemed happy to be playing it for the sold-out Kessler Theater crowd of 300.
He said he drove 36 hours to get the guitar as his grandaddy lay dying 38 years ago, only to find out the old man meant to sell it to him, not give it to him.
So Hubbard paid him with a check.
Yeah, the check bounced. But Hubbard had the guitar that he’d been asking his grandpa to let him play since he was kid.
The Kessler is an art deco theater that was a thriving movie house in the Winetka Heights neighborhood back in the 1940s. (See a New York Times op-ed piece about the building’s recent revival.) It was the perfect venue for Friday night’s show featuring Hubbard, his guitar and harmonica, and a percussionist.
Hubbard, 66, played about 15 or 20 songs, including “Snake Farm” (twice, at the beginning and the end), “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” “Rabbit,” “Mother Blues,” “Conversation with the Devil,” and a new song he co-wrote with Jonathan Tyler. The aging hometown crowd ate it up.
“Well Ramona’s got a keen sense of humor
She got a tattoo down her arm
It’s of a python eatin’ a little mouse
Wearin’ a sailor hat that says snake farm.” — Verse 2, “Snake Farm”
He took a break for one song and returned to sing his perennial anthem “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker in the 1970s. Hubbard described it as a song that “should have died 20 or 25 years ago.” But he wrote it, and he dutifully played it, because that’s what everybody wanted. He did change the lyrics a bit — instead of saying “E is for eggs,” he sang “E is for enough of this.” He seems tired of it, and told the crowd, “When you write a song, you have to ask yourself: Do you want to play this for the next 40 years?”
Yes, he’s been at it that long. He was one of the original Texas Outlaws, back in the days of Willie and Waylon and the boys. After the show, I bought a beer and turned away from the bar, and Ray was standing right behind me. We shook hands, and I thanked him for the show and thought, Anytime you can see Ray Wylie Hubbard for twenty bucks at the Kessler, it’s been a damn fine day.