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Road Journals - Vol 7 (July 2003)
The Last Train Song

(PLAY A FUCKING TRAIN SONG) 
Moments like these make me wish I could spell and punctuate better. 
telling and singing stories has always been easy 
standing in the middle of them even easier somehow. 
Typing? Not my strong suit......but I¹ll try......
Lots of dots means......
i skipped English and don¹t know what to do so I do this............
dig?. dig. 
I also wake up very, 
very early......usually before six am
I like to wake up and walk when nobody else seems awake.
I have a specific route I like to walk through little Hollywood......
which is our neigborhood.
It passes by all my favorite Spanish style homes......
i usually make five laps around the three block circle......
One morning, when I was just new in the neigborhood, as my walk turned the corner 
towards one of my favorite Spanish homes......
and I got closer to the house 
I saw three rough looking guys who looked like they had stayed up late rather than got up 
early......
one of them looked exactly like one of the guys from BR549......
they were on the porch drinking beer in leather coats with there hair all slicked back......
I passed by ......
a few minutes later my lap had me back in front of the same house......
this time as I passed one yelled.

"want a cigarette......" they all laughed...... I kept walking......
about a week later...... I pass the house again......
this time just the one older guy was on the porch...... he was drinking whiskey with his 
shirt off...... as I passed he yelled 
" you know all that exercise is going to kill you someday!"......
I thought that was funny......

A few months later I was home getting ready for happy to be here to come......
one morning I wake up for my walk......
this time melita was up early and came with me......
as we turned the corner toward the green Spanish house I heard this guitar part that 
sounded familiar...... it was ringing up the whole street......
Then the vocal came on "theres a truck turned over on the highway.......flares burning out
of the snow" 
(WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS.) 
Getting closer I see the shirtless whiskey drinking old man with a shit eating grin on his 
face......
I said "where¹d you get that music?" 
He said "I could tell you but I¹d have to kill you"
I figured it wasn¹t that important. 
He offered us whiskey......
we accepted......
He offered us pot......
i accepted. 
And that's when the laughing started............the laughing that just ended. 
Temporarily. 
(I hate to ruin one of skips good stories, but this is how we met. 
He never had me and melita arrested for skinny dipping in his pool.
it wasn¹t even his pool.) 
(I¹LL PLAY YOUR SILLY LITTLE GAME) 
A few days later......
I¹m sitting in the radio cafe alone at the bar......
behind me I hear these three people talking about this cop chase that had happened a few
weeks earlier...... it went right passed the radio cafe......
some crazy old man on a harley with a broken moped helmet pulled up to the stop sign at
about seven miles an hour with ten cops behind him...... 
the girl telling the story said the old guy stopped at the stop sign, honked and then 
waved at everyone in the bar......
......
Well, I'm a collector of this kind of shit, 
so immediately I was sitting with these people and needing to know more about this slow
speed cop chase story...... 
They said it was the guy who worked running sound at the bar......
skip.
They said he was always doing shit like that......
i asked what he looked like and she described the old man from my street.
I said "does he introduce himself as uncle skip" 
"that¹s him" she said......
no shit, I thought...... now that is fucking funny......
unless your one of those people who thinks it not...... which is fine......
(maybe you like the show where the four thespians do improv skits.) 
(somebody does)

from that day forward my morning walk ended at uncle skips......
i first wanted to hear the cop chase story but that evolved into a longer better story that 
skip was almost finished telling me when he died......

(THE VERSION I HEARD) 
skip was from maryland 
his dad beat the shit out of him and his brothers 
he would get drunk and make them play russian roulette 
he did three tours of duty in vietnam 
One night in maryland, after the war, in the seventies he was sitting in the basement of a house he was 
renting...... 
At some point he heard a noise that drew him to the window......
Outside the window he saw a man dressed in all black with a rifle crawling across his 
yard......
instinctively he reached for his gun and fired......
he says he yelled "fuck you motherfucker!" first...... then shot...... 
Then there were cops everywhere......
and I don't mean in minutes I mean seconds......
it seems the cops were getting ready to raid his coke dealing neighbor and hadn¹t told 
anyone...... 
the guy didn¹t die......
but they arrested skip......
even though the guy was crawling with a gun on skips property.
Skip thought he was being railroaded and that no judge would believe him so he decided 
to escape......
Now I cant remember exactly how he escaped but he says he did......
I do remember him saying he used card board to pad the barbed wire 
which it didn't. 
Then he ran through some woods......
they shot at him and he thought he was hit......
He kept running through the dark until the ground under him surprisingly dropped about 
ten feet to a small river......
he says he went as far down river as he could and made it to a friends house......
cops searched the friends house with him in it but did not find him......
he then went to check on his girlfriend......
he stayed at her house a couple of days until they got in some kind of fight. 
She turned him in. 
Later he went to trial for the shooting and was found innocent.
Later, on trial for the excape, he was found guilty and given a year.
After prison he joined back with his motorcycle gang......
not long later he had a heart attack and nobody came to see him in the hospital......
which pissed him off. 
When he was healthy again......
he took his bike and just drove away......
landing in michingan for a while and then cincinatti ohio where he tour managed a band 
called red bud thunder for a while until they folded. 
Then he said he lived in homeless shelters for a while......
Trying to put his shit together and having loved the roadie gig
He decided to grace Nashville. 
After a few years on the circuit......
his appetite for life began to take its toll so he decided to take the house sound gig at the 
radio cafe......
this is where he became the unofficial mayor of east Nashville......
If you wanted something and I mean anything...... you called skip.
It reminded me of the big lebowski when john Goodman says.,
"you need a human toe dude? I'll get you a human toe"
Skip never got human toes but he got jumper cables, rides, pot, bootlegs, pills, 
Christmas lights, cigs, fake I.D., guns, fake community service letters, gigs whatever......
The music at the radio cafe always sounded great when skip was working 
melita and I went there all the time......
skip was our best buddy......
we shared our last four Christmas eves with skip...... 
ill never forget them...... he was a saint...... a legend......

(LIFE IS GREAT) 
Every night he had six or seven bars that he had to stop by......
there were bar tenders who needed joints. 
women who needed to be told how pretty they were......
skip never forgot to tell women how pretty they were and he honestly thought all of them 
were pretty......
he was one of those guys from the movies......
he drove a long black beat up caddilac with no plates and no drivers license......
he always had pot in the trunk and he always sped and when he pulled into a bar he
literally parked on the side walk right up to the door where you had to sidestep his car to 
get in......
but the owners never minded because they all new that the site of that car meant there bar
would soon be full of musicians and girls...... .its just the truth......
ask anyone around here. 
Everytime skip entered a bar with music playing he'd yell play a fucking train song til he
got one 
and he always got one......everybody learned train songs for uncle skip 
Lots of traveling singers who live here just pop up unannounced and play the radio and 
the slow bar, 
it happens all the time. 
Me, hank 3, Gillian, Lucinda, josie kuhn, george felton, the slow beats , tommy womack, 
tim carrol,will kimbrough, duane Jarvis and even emmylou......
we all played train songs for skip and only needed him to yell it once. 
Young singers who tried to fight it lost. 
The club and the crowd were always on skips side.
I saw once at the French quarter a young band from texas who took a break to tell the 
owner that they didn¹t know a fucking train song and that they weren¹t playing another 
set til the owner got the drunk train song heckler out of there......
The owner fired the band...... 
Also another time , at the same club, skip was up in the front row watching a songwriter 
and yelling for a train song...... 
The guy said he didn¹t know a train song, but that he had had one of his songs cut by 
garth brooks and george jones......
he then went into a song he said he wrote called 
beer run......
well......
Skip......
Without ever mentioning my name...... he got on stage and and made the guy stop. 
" I saw some barefoot kid in Memphis play that song ten years ago you fucking 
thief...... if you actually lived out your songs you wouldn¹t have to steal them"......

somehow, knowing that skip knew I didn¹t think that song was stolen from me or keith 
christofer, and knowing that skip knew he was lying about having heard the song, and 
personally thinking skip was probably wrong to bother the guy, somehow made it all 
seem even funnier to me in some absurd way. 
I don't know why.
the singer obviously didn¹t get it and was pissed...... 
The guy went into another song 
Skip sat back down and started singing my version of beer run at the top of his lungs......
Once again, another musician was in a "he goes or I go" situation with skip. 
It was the last thing the guy ever said in the French quarter......

Skip loved to tell these stories on himself......
He never talked about the childrens charities, native American charities, wildlife charities, 
and starving songer singwriter charity cases that he was always helping out with 
some thing or the other......

Skip had a million sayings and slogans

He always said he wanted to "die peacefully in his sleep like his grandfather 
And not screaming and whining like everybody else in the car"

He said "dying is the best part of living that's why I saved it for last"

He said "never go straight always go forward"

He said "never apologize to me......i don't care enough"

He called me "sunshine"

He answered the phone "I'll play your silly little game"

Once while after making a hair pin turn at eighty miles an hour with semi trucks on both 
sides of him......
george felton asked "how do you drive like that" 
He said 
" its simple...... .i don't care if I die...... and I sure don't care if I kill you two."

He had a little childrens song he sang in the morning that went 
"sunshine lollypops and laura tabs...... tra la la la la la lala la." 
There¹s more......more and more and more.

"its just another bump in the road" 
right on.

(IM GIVING BIRTH TO A BABY ALIEN ELEPHANT......
THE TRUNKS ALREADY OUT. 
WANNA SEE IT? 
About a year and a half ago......
after being told he was already on his last leg
skip started feeling worse...... 
one night in his house he passed out from pain and woke up in a normal hospital......
Not the shitty V.A. hospital 
he called all excited about the morphine drip......
I heard a nurse in the background say 
"you cant smoke in here mister litz" 
and I thought to myself ............ I'll take that bet. 
After a week in the hospital, and hundreds of visits from hundreds of friends, 
the doctors told his wife mary joe that this would be the end. 
The next afternoon I get a call from him saying that he did not want to die in the hospital 
and could I please come get him, bring him home, and grill him a hamburger......
I said sure...... he said pick up some southern comfort on your way over......
When I got to his floor I heard a bit of a commotion. 
Then I saw skip. 
He was in his hospital gown and boots with a joint in his mouth and plastic spoons taped 
to his head......
he was in an old dying mans room making jokes about how they fucked up his plastic 
surgery (plastic...... get it?) 
he said "I don't look anything like elvis" 
The hopital was trying to get him to go back to his room......
the old man very obviously wanted him to stay......
so he stayed...... (that was skip in a nutshell actually......
right and wrong......)

The nurse said sadly "are you taking him away from us?" 
They loved him......
The doctor told me personally that he wouldn't make it through the night. 
It was scary......
but we wanted to honor his wishes so we drove home and had a cook out. 
The cook out turned into a party ,
that turned into a trip to the bar. 
By 2am I thought I was dying ......
Three days later skip shows up in some pickup with a couple of chicks and an electric 
piano in itŠŠ..
He handed me the piano. Driving off he said...... 
"you saved my life so I brought you that keyboard......
If you were single I¹d a brought you these chicks......"

Not long after that
I was sitting down at skips house listening to some music while he went through his mail.
Laughing he showed me a bill from the hospital
It was steep. 35,000 and some dollars if I remember right......maybe more......
He wrote DECEASED on it 
and sent it back. 
We never heard another word about it.

Six months ago or so......skip was very obviously still alive and in pain. 
The doctors said there was a surgery that wouldn't cure him but would ease his pain......
the only problem was that he probably wouldn¹t make it through the surgery......
well that¹s a pretty big problem if you ask me, 
but with skip I liked the odds......
The night before his surgery he called meV
" sunshine!...... bring me twenty bucks" 
ok. 
When I got there he was dressed and out of his hospital garb......
He had ripped out his I.V.'s and still had the tubes hanging from his arm 
" lets go" he said 
" skip?......"
" shut up! ...... fuck you!" 
ok......
the next thing I know were in a bar by the belcourt with tubes hanging from his arm, 
telling the bartenders girls that he's gonna die the next day and 
"could you please show me your breasts"......
Of course they did......
Then I took him back......
I was in philly when the operation went down the next day......
i was waiting in the dressing room for the call......
"he made it" said melita 
of course he did......

ON THE ROAD AGAIN......
(THE LIFE I LOVE IS 
MAKING MUSIC WITH MY FRIENDS) 
Pretty soon skip was up and around and looking better and sounding better than I had
ever seen him. 
My tour manager chris had just been picked up by shedaisy and skip, who knew 
everyone, was trying to help me replace him. 
My buddy george felton said he'd try it
Skip agreed to come along and show george how to do it. 
george hated it...... he's a singer and a songwriter...... always will be. 
Skip took over...... 
He said he hadn't felt that usefull in a long time. 
He was a natural tour manager and contrary to all the wild stories I like to tell about him
He was mostly just really smart and really giving
skip decided he was gonna tour manage me until he found me someone else 
or got sick of it or me......
He was the best tour manager I ever had......
perfect combination of keeping everything safe 
while at the same time helping me get wreckless. 
We saw the brewers play in Milwaukee, saw dylans childhood home in Hibbing, saw the 
place wherre buddy holly died, drank southern comfort on the beach in santa cruz, raised a 
lot hell in airport bars, Took over a radio station, got followed by a film crew, rented 
convertibles, stayed in casinos, drew pictures , made songs , and we even swam in the 
ocean off palm beach 
(this will always be how I remember skip...... 
july 3, 2003...... 
swimming like a kid in the ocean...... 
skip,melita, me and crusher......we didn't even talk......
laughing and crashing and laughing and crashing...... 
maybe the most fun I ever had.

(DYING IS THE BEST PART OF LIVING 
THAT'S WHY I SAVED IT FOR LAST) 
our next trip was supposed to be to Virginia where his daughter and grandchildren lived. 
He used to live a block away from me...... 
Just recently he'd moved about twelve blocks away so I walked over less and called 
more......
the day before we were supposed to leave I called in the morning to see if he wanted to 
drive over and read the news paper like we had been doing since he moved. 
For those of you reading into that, you're right, but we also really read the paper. 
Anyway, there was no answer.
I didn¹t think anything of it 
He often stayed at the van zant house and I just figured that¹s where he was......
We called and called all day...... 
no answer. 
We tried the cell ......no answer 
We started to worry.

By happy hour we were out on the porch......
our friend libby decided to make a beer run and a cig run. 
She said she¹d swing by skips and see if he was there yet.
Less than five minutes later she called saying 
" come quick" 
So sam and Lindsey knight, 
melita and myself 
dove in the van and started flying......
When we got there libby was on the phone on the porch yelling 
"just fucking hurry!" to 911 
as I moved passed her towards the door she handed me the phone and said 
"will you please talk to this women" 
I'm no doctor but I think libby was in shock. 
As I entered the house the lady on the phone was saying they we're almost there 
and that they just wanted to keep us on the phone. 
Just as I was hearing that
I saw skip 
Like I had seen him many times before 
On his sofa with his hands under his head like a pillow 
The lady asked if we thought we could help him 
"maybe?" I said 
She said put him on the floor...... 
but as sam and I went to lift him......
We touched him and we looked at each other and we knew......
We both started crying.
...... we knew. 
For sure. 
We knew. 
In the same second I noticed his face.
It had a smile on it. 
He died laughing......

(SUNSHINE LOLLY POPS AND LAURATABS) 
Just yesterday I was on the computer......
the instant message thing that tells you when a friend is on line
made that sound it makes......
I looked to see who it was......
it said uncle skip.
I ran out to the car and raced over.
I knocked and nobody answered .
I called skips best pal mack hill...... the owner of the radio cafe......
He said skips brothers and friends from home were in town......
He said they¹d gone to eat......
Having only met one of them
and wanting to meet the rest 
we headed over to wait for them......
They had run for beer......
Skips friend dj was already with them.
We called melita and libby and they called skips other two best pals 
jim cryner and josie khun. 
At first we just all sat quiet looking at each other. 
That lasted about a beer 
By the top of the third the house was filled again with laughter......
Skips brothers decided to bury him in his 
"your favorite band sucks" t shirt. 
Then somehow ,
I was either elected or volunteered 
to make the call to the paper about the obituary. 
Just before they answered the phone skips brother Norman said something......
......I don't remember what it was......
But everybody laughed ......
The first thing the lady at the paper heard was a room full of laughing.
Then she asked if I she could help me..
Still laughing I said
" yeah...... I need to ask about obituaries" 
at that ...... the room erupted even louder in laughter and I thought 
skip would like this.

Later peter cooper from the paper came over to ask some questions about skip for a story. 
He ended up just joining the party. 
In fact, 
him and I and mack made what I would call the most unsuccessful beer run in history......
i got carded without id...... 
mack went in and they said no because they knew he was with me. 
Finally, at another store, we got beer 
Walking into the house too many minutes later, 
I dropped a case of bud and shattered about five cold beers. 
Skips brother doug said 
"your not going for beer anymore"
again the room erupted in laughter and I thought 
skip would love this.

Towards the end of the party a wobbly peter cooper tried to get back to work. 
He asked skips brothers 
"was skip drafted or did he volunteered for Vietnam?"
" neither...... he went to avoid jail"
loud laughter 
"how come he was in jail?" 
"he stole the mayors car"
loud laughter

into the night

Laughter . 
Laughter......
and more 
laughter 
It¹s just so funny...... 
unless your one of those people that thinks it's not.
(I'll bet your show is on right now) 
Sorry to be so brief but that's it for july. 
And just in case nobody has told you how beautiful you look today 
I want to 
Because I think you really look beautiful. 
HOTTER THAN THE HINGES ON THE GATES OF HELL 
Get your train song ready townes.

 
LAST UPDATED: Saturday, March 11, 2017 8:16 AM