It’s all Willie Nelson’s fault. He made a VH1 Storytellers record with Johnny Cash.
It had that American rootsy feel that I just couldn’t get enough of, and it opened the door to a generation of musicians I had not given a second thought to.
Then there was the O’ Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which brought bluegrass to the rest of the world, which didn’t like bluegrass until bluegrass was cool.
Subsequently, records in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band series actually began leaving the shelves, and people started turning out for small-town bluegrass festivals by the tens.
About a week later, Dolly Parton called Sugarhill Records and said, “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years!” This is the story of how she dusted off her rhinestone boots and nearly ruined my life.
I stood there, innocently enough, it seemed, and perused the country stacks, looking for new releases. They sat there on the racks, singing to me of worn boots, steamed hats and polished spurs.
And after all, who can blame me? Doesn’t every little boy want to be a cowboy?
They stare back at me with rough beards and tough-guy grins. All the huge names, huge hats, huge hair.
Speaking of wigs, I look down to see Dolly Parton smiling warmly up at me.
“Aw …” I say to myself, ” … the Duchess of Country is at it again. We can trust her, can’t we? Good ol’ Dolly would never put us in harm’s way. Let’s have a listen.”
By the way, the New England Journal of Medicine identifies this as the same mental process junkies go through before they try smack for the first time.
The first sample track pumped out some authentic bluegrass ear candy. The second track was more of the same.
As I listened, I looked at the back of the CD and wondered if she was actually playing that guitar in the photograph.
I also noticed a familiar, and very popular, title at the bottom of the playlist so I reached up, out of sheer morbid curiosity, to hit the “Next” button.
Have you ever done a thing that, had you to do it again, you would have not only abstained, but also burned to the ground everything within 10 miles?
As the laser was finding the track, I noticed a slight burning in the pads of my fingers where they touched the CD. “That’s odd,” I thought.
In the next few moments I was subject to the most aurally crippling disappointment imaginable. It was so bad, I thought I was going to go blind right on the spot.
I stood there cursing myself for not buying that Ron Popeil “Pocket Lobotomy Kit” when I had the chance.
Remember that burning in my fingers?
That was my “bad-music-spider-sense” warning me to rip the headphones off and run.
Of all the songs, she picked this one. Of all the songs we thought were sacred.
For all these years, there seemed to be a mutual respect and understanding among musicians that this song would go untouched into the annals of rock history; she did it anyway.
Yep … she covered “Stairway to Heaven.”
The moral of this story is: Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowgirls … because one day they just might get too big for their chaps.
Charlie Trotter is a junior majoring in mass communications.