What are country singer/songwriters if not storytellers. Heck, most country songs tell a story with their titles. Who can forget: "I Gave Her the Ring (She Gave Me the Finger)"? Or how about "If My Nose Were Full of Nickels Then I'd Blow It All on You"? Or "My Phone Ain't Been Ringin' So I Guess it Wasn't You."
I'm not sure those are true song titles, but they sound good, don't they?
Robert Hicks, a New York Times best-selling author (The Widow of the South), along with singer/songwriter John Bohlinger and writer Justin Stelter, have put together A Guitar and a Pen (Center Street, 256 pages, $23.99) — a collection of stories by "Country Music's Greatest Songwriters," as the subtitle states. Vince Gill provides the foreword.
There are some recognizable names in the bunch — Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson, Hal Ketchum, Janis Ian and Charlie Daniels, to name a few — and some not so recognizable names. If I hadn't seen Bohlinger's name on the book cover, I wouldn't have known who he was. One name, likely recognizable only to Chicagoans and fringe country fans, is Robbie Fulks...
Fulks' essay, "Career Day," recounts the troubadour's reluctant foray into the suburbs to speak to high school kids about his job. He gives the students a realistic look at the life of most musicians, trying to let them know that even though he's not the least bit rich or famous, he's still been able to make a living doing what he loves.
"I had quite comprehensively bored these people," Fulks writes. "Had there been fundamental changes in the teen outlook since Jimmy Carter? Or was the thing that had absorbed me for the last two decades considerably less romantic than I assumed?
"But hark: a voice from the gallery! It belonged to the brunette, who had been regarding me with a dim but growing curiosity. Evidently she was fishing for the right words. They now rose to her lips. 'What are you going to do ... when you're sixty?' "
Here's a little YouTube look at what Fulks does when he's not writing essays or visiting suburban high schools: