Live: Gary P. Nunn (Playing Wednesday at Main Street Crossing)

garypnunn1DOSEY DOE MUSIC CAFE — 6/1/13: When Gary P. Nunn began to play “What I Like About Texas,” I said to Dosey Doe Music Cafe house photographer Dave Clements, “It reminds me of when Ray Wylie plays ‘Redneck Mother’.”

“Ray Wylie hates playing ‘Redneck Mother’,” Dave said. But Gary P. Nunn was smiling. I’d meant the reaction from the crowd was similar. It’s an old song, of a particularly regional Texan origin. A song of a particular time and place that means different things to different people, but that crowds react rapturously to. You won’t hear it on many radio stations, but it resonates in the hearts and minds of a set of honky tonk afficionados, barflies, and dance hall patrons of a certain age.

“Gary was a rocker at first, you know,” said Roger the road manager. “That’s in the history books. You can look it up. Don’t take my word for it. He was in a band called the Sparklers before he got the call to play in Jerry Jeff‘s band. Then when he went off on his own he put the [cowboy] hat on just to pay the bills. You know, to do the dancehall thing.”

And I saw the rocker in Gary P. Nunn that night. He spent the evening strapped to a Stratocaster. His sideman played the same Telecaster all night. A three-piece drum set and a stand-up bass filled out the band — part dance hall, part rock’n’roll. The musical marriage of Carl Perkins and Bob Wills.

garypnunn3And even as Nunn’s band played a swing number, an upbeat (yet fiddle free) hymn to Bob Wills, that’s when I realized it takes a lot more than Western Swing to make people dance these days. It takes some rock. And for a guy who’s manager claims he cashed in to play dance halls, I kept thinking he belonged at the Continental Club.

That’s when Gary called on us to pray with him — to Willie Nelson — that Willie might bestow upon him one more blessing of recording this next song. Years ago, Willie had recorded “The Last Thing I Needed the First Thing This Morning,” and it was a #2 hit in the U.S., plus #1 in Canada.

That, coupled with “London Homesick Blues,” the theme song to the Austin City Limits television program, had sustained Nunn’s career to a huge degree, and he explained that this one more tune, if recorded by Willie, would just put him over the top. And if we didn’t all exactly pray, we did what we could and cheered as if Willie might hear us.

I didn’t catch the name, but the song was perfect for Willie. I wish I’d written it down, but not to worry. Since everybody in Texas knows Willie Nelson, I’m sure it’ll get back to him soon. END

Live review by . Live review posted Tuesday, July 9th, 2013. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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