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Remembering Vet John Sides...Best Beach...Album Release Party

Feb 27 | Posted by: Bill Whyte |

Thursday morning in Nashville and the temp is on the freezing mark of 32. It do get your attention when you step outside. 



Early yesterday morning I got a sad text from one of the great volunteers for Freedom Sings U.S.A…the group that pairs of songwriters with veterans to write their stories into songs and help them heal a bit from pouring out their stories. 


Last year in Little Rock at the VA Hospital they helped John Sides roll into my writing room in his wheelchair. A great Arkansas writer sat in too…his name is Greg Shively and I surely appreciate Greg’s contribution.


The nurse who brought John in kept checking on him to see if he was okay which meant to me he needed constant over-watch medically.  He had his oxygen with him. John was pretty much living in the VA in Little Rock. 


We talked and I found out John was from Missouri so right away we had something in common.  He was a country boy at heart…could fix most anything and was a heck of a driver. In Viet Nam he drove a souped up cargo truck (he rigged himself to make it go FAST) dodging bullet and bombs for supply runs. And John D. Sides laughed and had a great time as we molded his story into an up-tempo bluegrass song that we performed the song on the same night in front of John and a crowd of veterans and friends and staff.  He passed away this week.


Paul Tull is the nice volunteer and songwriter who texted me and said, “John truly loved and lived his song.  You were a bright spot for a rough time in his world.  I know he was grateful to you”. I’m just so sad to hear this news.  You get attached to those vets when you sit with them and hear their personal stories.  I’m so glad I got to write John’s song.  Thank you John for your service, your ingenuity and your bravery.  RIP.


This morning I would like to at least share with you the lyrics to John Side’s song…this is his story.





Raised in Missouri a country boy at heart

Grew up milking cows and I learned to work hard

I could drive a tractor and a combine anything with wheels


Wound up in Vietnam 67 68

Who knew I’d drive for Uncle Sam on the jungle interstate

And I rigged my truck to fly up every mountain down every hill

Sandbags on the floor, gunner in the back

And I ran for steaks and ice cream and taters in a sack


Highway 1 was dotted with land mines and potholes

And I learned to swerve and miss em’ driving fast as I could go

My Sergeant Major told me soldier don’t you ever lift off of the gas


One day a second Louie was riding shotgun next to me

He ordered me to slow down and I just grinned big as could be

My Sgt. Major lit into him and we both had a really big laugh

I kept my foot on the floor and a gunner in the back

And I ran for beer and sausage and taters in a sack



I’d push anything slower that I could see

Richard Petty had nothing on me


January 31 1968

The Tet offensive broke out bombs and mortars stared to rain

And I was 60 days and a wake up call from flying that freedom bird home


July 4 couldn’t stack up to the fireworks I saw

The draft board had my number but the devil never called

Now I still lean into the curves just like I did 50 years ago

When I had sandbags on the floor, and a gunner in the back

I ran for my life and taters in a sack



Yea I ran for Uncle Sam and Taters in a sack



I did write yesterday on Music Row with Paul Bogart and Dan Wilson.  Paul’s been on the road and working on his new album.  Dan is one third of the trio MamaDear and they’ve been out opening some big show with Josh Turner.  Traffic made me a bit late and by the time I got there Dan had this great up-melody rolling of his guitar.  So we bounced around ideas until we found something that would fit Dan’s melody. After the sad news I got earlier?  It was great tonic to help lift my spirits. 


I also found out that Paul is going to be in Phoenix when I get there Tuesday.  He’s out there competing in a team-roping contest with his Dad.  They grew up in Oklahoma…on a ranch and they know horses and roping and they have the gigantic winner belt buckles to prove it.  So, Paul and I will be able to hook up at some restaurant for dinner before he has to fly back while I stay out a few days to watch Spring Training baseball.  Can’t wait.



Pretty good chance our “Evening In The Round” show could be making a trip to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina next April.  We’re waiting on confirmation on that one.  But I would not mind seeing where Orville and Wilbur did the “he watch this” thing off one of those big hills there. 



I’m hooked on almost any kind of “Best Of” List I see.  This morning I ran across a “Best Beach In Every State”.  I had to look.  I get that Gulf Shores (where I go a lot) was listed best beach in Alabama.  I would have guessed Osage Beach in my home state of Missouri. But a beach here in Tennessee?  No clue.  Turns out they named Percy Priest Lake.  That Lake is just minutes from my house.  I’ve never seen any sand and apparently you don’t need sand to make the Best Beach list.  A rocky shore in this case is enough.  No Spring Breakers for sure.


If you’re curious about yours?  Here’s the LIST.


“The Nicer The Car…The Meaner The Driver”.  I doubt that’s true but for the record I drive an old Toyota RAV 4 that has 220,000 miles that’s been in the shop for brakes, and struts and tires.  Just sayin’



5 AM every morning when I’m in town I’m at Starbucks.  Now, I’m not a foo foo coffee drinker as I explained in this song “Good Cup Of Coffee” that I wrote with Aussie Phil Barton and my buddy Steve Dean.  Mine is a Grande Pike…no room…nothing in it…black.  So if I were to add up what I spend per year on just that plain ole coffee?  Well...I ain’t gonna look.  But, it does make the new offer just rolled out from Panera tempting.  For about $9 bucks a month you can get unlimited coffee.  Problem is…there’s not one close…and I don’t think they’re open at 5 AM.  But that’s a pretty good deal for those of us hooked on caffeine.



“Exploding Hammer Festival Injures 45 In Mexico”.  Ya think?  Another one of those to file under “Watch This”



Big day today.  I’m writing at Irene Kelley’s kitchen table this morning with her dog and her Parrot who always want to help out.  So far nothing they’ve offered has stuck…but maybe today is the day.



Kristy Cox who’s from Australia and just won a big Golden Guitar Award in Australia (the equivalent of a CMA Award) and she has recorded FOUR of my songs on her brand new album that debuts tonight when she and her band sing all the songs off of the album “live” at the Station Inn here in Music City.  One of those four songs is titled “Finger Pickin’ Good” that features world-class guitar player Tommy Emmanuelle.  I can’t wait for folks to hear his incredible picking on this song I wrote with Kristy and producer Jerry Salley.


Have a great Thursday!






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