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I spent the next few years pipelining and when I wasn't off doing that I lived with Mae Dell (my maternal grandmother)

When did you first decide you wanted to write and play music?

I'd always liked music and always sang along with the radio or when I was doing some tedious job like cutting and raking hay. I'd sit on that tractor all day and sing every song I could think of. I know literally hundreds and hundreds of songs.

A lot of my teenage activities happened in the woods around a campfire where everybody sang along with the radio and if there wasn't a radio we just sang along with each other. Even now when I'm driving I sing to myself and I do a lot of my writing while I'm driving. I first got interested in at least thinking about playing music when I was about 12 after seeing a band of local high school kids play an FFA event. The guys in that band were three or four years older than I was. They played all the local beer joints but they also played the talent shows and sometimes just parties at somebody’s hay barn. They were called the Skoal Brothers and to me they were bigger than the Beatles. I used to get to their FFA event gigs early just to watch them set up. It seemed almost unreal to me that they could actually play songs.

The drummer was fellow named Kevin Reily. Kevin would sit behind that kit and just hammer on his drums. After seeing them play a few times I talked Sissy into getting me a drum kit. I never did really learn to play it though.

Kevin Reily has played some shows with me in the last couple of years. There's a live YouTube video of me playing “Tore Down in Texas” at GiddyUps in Austin that features Kevin drum- ming.

After I bought that first guitar I spent a few years learning how to chord it. Whenever I was in off the pipeline I started carrying my guitar along with me wherever I went. Me and another friend of mine started singing around the camp- fires and that got to be a regular weekend thing. I was 21 when I started a band with some friends of mine from high school. I never even knew they

played...but then again I didn't notice stuff like that before I started playing. We were terrible but we got a lot of gigs because there wasn't much in the way of compitition. We played a lot of VFW dances and weekend fish fries. That first band was a spoiler. It forever ruined real life. I never wanted to do anything else again. I came in off the pipeline and just didn't go back. I'd saved enough money that I lived a year or so without having to worry about it. I just hung around the house playing the guitar sixteen hours a day.

It never occurred to me to try to write a song. I just played songs I heard on the radio or songs I liked from growing up.

My girlfriend at the time had an older sister who lived in Austin. The sister and her boyfriend came to Livingston for some reason or another and he told me I should come hang with them sometime.

That's how I wound up here. After beating around Austin for a couple of years I started playing with a couple of brothers. Ricky Davis and Charlie Bledsoe.

Ricky Davis went on to play steel with Gary P. Nunn and Dale Watson and I don't even know how many other people. He also did that mon- commercial with the runaway truck. His brother Charlie Bledsoe was a pretty hot gui- tar player and later played with Pat Green on at least a part time basis.

That band was called The Honky Tonk Cats. I had started writing a few of my own songs but it was still pretty hit and miss. Charlie was the one who told me I should bear down on writing. For the longest time I didn't think about my songs as being anything but fodder to fill out the sets.

Who were your major influences back then. Have they changed since you have grown up?

It's funny but some of my biggest influences weren't artists that I noticed were influencing me at the time. From the time I was a little kid I had listened to Johnny Cash and the Sun Records guys and Ray Price and Jim Reeves, Merle and Buck because my folks listened to those records.


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