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Veteran John Sides...Taters In A Sack...Two Shows This Week

Sep 23 | Posted by: Bill Whyte |

Monday Monday.  And it’s the first day of Fall?  Temps will be in the mid 90’s here again this week.  Don’t feel much like Fall around here.



It was a red white and blue weekend in Little Rock for me and 5 other Nashville songwriters and the organization Freedom Sings USA.  Friday evening we gathered at the Douglas MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History for a meet and greet with those who work for the organization and the veterans participating in the weekend.  And then we had a mini concert for those vets and guests as each songwriter got up and sang a couple of songs.


Besides myself my longtime friend Steve Dean was here as was Don Goodman who wrote “Ole Red” for Blake Shelton.  Young talented Hunter Girl was also with us as was Billy Crain who a guitar playing rock wizard.  Billy played with the Outlaws, Charlie Daniel, opened in bands that played around the world with Lynard Skynard…even the Rolling Stones and was on the road with the Bellamy Brothers for years.  He wrote “Let It Rip” for The Dixie Chicks and on and on.  A true 80’s rocker and a great guy that I got to know pretty well on the road trip to Little Rock and back.


Then Saturday morning all of us gathered at the VA Center and Hospital in Little Rock for breakfast and we were then assigned our Veteran.  I actually wrote in the chapel of the VA alongside local writer Gregg Shively.  And they rolled our Viet Nam Vet John Sides into us.  John was in a wheelchair because of a motorcycle accident of all things.


John drove a truck over the Viet Nam roads that he rigged to run 80 mph or better.  A Missouri boy and only 18 he took the stock Army truck that was geared down to 40 mph and got it to go 80 as he’d fly up and down those roads and mountains trying to avoid bomb crater holes in the road and mines to run supplies to the troops.  So it’s ironic that he managed to somehow survive that…and then ends up in a bad cycle accident here in the States after he got out.


So we did what any songwriter would have done.  We wrote a country-bluegrass truck driving song.  I don’t normally share lyrics until a song has been released but because this is a veteran’s song I want to share it here.  Here’ are the lyrics to Viet Nam Vet John Side’s song.  Thank you for letting me help write this John…and thank you for your service.




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 any thing 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 sent him home and we both had a great 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 also want to mention that on our lunch break Saturday afternoon we gathered for a POW-MIA ceremony complete with a motorcycle patriotic group that conducted ceremonies alongside local ROTC students that was very moving.  There was a table with plates, wine glasses, silverware…but nobody in the chairs to honor the missing in action.  The placed (reverently) one cap from each branch of the service onto a plate turned the wine glasses upside down and no one was there to drink…and stood at attention and gave a slow salute.  Moving for sure.



And then the weekend wrapped up with a show at the Vet Rec Center Saturday night where all the writers performed the songs written that day with their veterans.  Mine rolled in on his wheelchair later than the others and I told John I was worried he wasn’t going to make it.  He told me he had to stop his domino game to make it…and that of course made me laugh.  He sat right beside the stage and beamed when I performed his song.  I don’t know who was happier…John or me. 


Looks like we’ll be back in Little Rock next February to write with more veterans.



So after getting home mid-afternoon Sunday it was feet up time.  There’s a busy week ahead full so songwriting, showcases, and two gigs for me this week.  So I was happy to be home to do nothing for a few hours and really enjoyed the latest installment of the Country Music series from Ken Burns on PBS.  We got a lot of Loretta, Dolly, Cash and Haggard last night.  There was a pretty amazing scene last night where Dwight Yoakam is on camera crying as he tries to read a lyric from a song Merle Haggard wrote that obviously hit Dwight somewhere deep down.  If you’re not watching…you should be.



Now someone claims that they have invented a cap that you can put on your head that will then zap your noggin’ and grow hair that will reverse male balding.  So…I wear a ball cap all the time.  If you see me walking and twitching at the same time…you’ll know what’s going on.



Another warning.  If you see me boarding a plane with an “emotional support Gerbil”?  That’s just me trying to be trendy.  Everybody got an animal on a plane these days.  Even a horse for one flyer.  Uh huh.  I’m in favor of their being an “Emotional Support Airline” just for those who need their animal on board.  Equine Airline. 



Just want to share this great new song “Ocean” from Lady Antebellum featuring Hillary Scott. Not only is this a great and well-written song…but Hillary’s emotional performance makes this worth sharing.  Watch and listen yourself.



I have a writing appointment this morning and I’m prepping for a couple of shows this week…both in town.


Wednesday night I’ll be at the Bavarian Bierhaus located at Opry Mills Mall with “Hits & Grins”  Think Oktoberfest.  Long picnic tables, beer in steins, pretzels, bratwurst…looks like you walked into a beer garden in Munich.  Show time is 7 pm.  No…I will not be wearing lederhosen.


Then Friday afternoon at 3 pm I’ll be at the “Nash Bash” at the Opryland Hotel for a big Parrot Head gathering.  I love shows where formal wear is flip-flops and shorts.


Have a great Monday!





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