Share Me With Texas Words & music by Steve Gillette
Every year in mid-May, I've been getting ready to go to the Texas Hill County to a festival I've attended since 1984. My old friend and collaborator Charles John Quarto was the first to tell me about it, praising it as a place to encounter and spend time with many giants of the singer-songwriter genre which in recent years has been given the label Americana. This year all events like the festival have been canceled. If lives are saved then it's all worth it, though I will miss seeing so many old friends.
The roster of famous performers who have been on the Kerrville stages is pretty much what you would expect from a major music festival with a forty-eight year run. It includes just about every major folk and Americana artist from Willie Nelson to Peter, Paul and Mary. But those with whom I've been able to sit and trade songs make a pretty good list by themselves. At the risk of leaving some out, I would like to mention many, enough to give you an idea of what the campfire circles can be like. I apologize to those I've missed.
Over the years I've taken turns in the song circle with Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bill Hearne, Michael Hearne, Chuck Pyle, Bob Livingston, Shake Russell, John Ims, John Inmon, Mike Williams, Gamble Rogers, Nanci Griffith, Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Michael Smith, Bob Franke, Bill Staines, Amelia Spicer, Hal Ketchum, Fletcher Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dan Boling, Holly Near, Steve Fromholz, Bill Oliver, Cindy Greene, Ken Gaines, Linda Lowe, Mike Sumler, Beth Galiger, Jim Hancock, Tony Byrd, Alan Damron, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Hills, Jim Stephenson, Melissa Javors, Sara Hickman, Jack Hardy, Steve Seskin, Crow Johnson, Chris Chandler, Anne Feeney, Peter Yarrow, Guy Davis, Amy Speace, Slim Richey, Suzie Boggus, Kathy Mattea, John Vesner, Ronnie Cox, Jack Williams, Jonathan Byrd, Johnsmith, Karen Mal, Freebo, Cosy Sheridan, Tish Hinojosa and many others.
The need for an actual fire is rare but not unheard of, and campfire circles vary in character and in characters. Camp Cuisine is famous for its pizza oven, its industrial wok, talented chefs and sophisticated wine list. Cuisine has also served as the A-room, the high-end venue with a rented rain shelter stressed to withstand the most terrific storms, not an unusual occurrence, but not a dampener to the music at Cuisine. There is also an acoustic benefit to the shelter that makes it a musical sweet spot on the ranch.
Mike Williams has held forth as Cuisine's host for forty-some years with his immense baritone twelve-string guitar, always meticulously in tune and in time. It's one of the high points for me to take a seat in that circle, although it can be intimidating. There's a glimpse of Mike and that guitar along with Bill Hearne and me in the video I've made which you can view by clicking on the link below.
Camp Coho is a more calm, listening space with generous hosts in Gary Martin and Bob Drake. Coho started as a group from Seattle who would bring large fresh salmon for a feast, and which began to be shared and supported by songwriters from Dallas. With the influence of Jack Hardy, many of the New York and Boston writers have become regulars. Some of the best large circles can be found there with an outstanding quality of listening. Buddy Mondlock, Jack Williams, Ann Zimmerman, Jonathan Byrd, Bruce Balmer, Lisa Markley, Gina Forsyth, David Dersham, Karen Mal and so many others contribute to the magic there.
There is a place at the top of the hill known as Crow's Nest established by Crow Johnson in the late seventies, and the first place I came forward to join the circle in the anonymity of almost complete darkness except for the campfire. It's one of the few circles which regularly has a fire, and lately one that can be relied on to last into the dawn, something I rarely do myself these days. Just after dinner in the staff kitchen and before heading to the concert stages, there's usually an early sundown session known to include close friends Brian Cutean, Steve Fisher, Howie Richey, and often Mark Ettinger, Bayard Blain and Chuck Brodsky.
Kerrville is one of those places which might raise an eyebrow among those who wonder if it's a cult. I don't think that's the way I would characterize it, but it has been life-changing for many, and as it says on the bumper sticker, “I wasn't born here, but I got here as soon as I could.”
Many weddings have been conducted on Chapel Hill. Second or third generation members of the Kerrville family have taken roles on the staff and on stage, and some calculate that they may have been conceived at the festival. I've heard, well overheard, old friends greeting each other on the first day of the festival when one said, “I got a new job this year, but they wouldn't give me time off for Kerrville so I had to quit!”
Rod Kennedy, who created the festival and was its director until he turned that responsibility over to Dalis Allen in 2002, used to say that we were changing the world one song at a time. But in a world where so many feel disenfranchised and unable to make a difference, it's not surprising that bright, talented, confident young people would be creating meaningful art in a tradition which has nurtured us all with songs — songs which gave us a way to understand and grow in the world. World-class songwriting is there to be appreciated and emulated at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
Dyanne Fry Cortez wrote a very entertaining book about the Kerrville experience called Hot Jams and Cold Showers with a forward by David Amram, available from the publisher's website.
Erinn R. Barefield has created a surprisingly thorough history of the Kerrville Folk Festival and it's offered as a free PDF download here.
When Cindy Mangsen and I got married in 1989, I took her to Kerrville for the first time. She could see why I was so drawn to the community there, and how it had become my musical tribe. She understood how important it was for my songwriting as well as my being able to relax and be myself in a truly informal setting, while sharing a few ceremonial duties as MC and mentor to the emerging songwriters. This song, which is based on the warning, “You're gonna have to share me with Texas” fortunately did not disqualify me from her company, and I'm grateful to Cindy for her support and understanding.
Speaking of mentors, the ranch is rife with them. Many find inspiration there. Hearing lots of songs, dozens each day, can be very stimulating for the creative process. It's also easy to pick up new guitar ideas and improve one's technique. At one point I sat down with Slim Richey, the resident country-swing guitar master and asked him to show me some swing chords. This song came out of my experimentation with the augmented chord he showed me.
In the key of C where I do the song, the second chord is the G augmented chord. In the simplest form of an augmented chord the fifth degree is raised one half step. The D is the fifth of the chord and it's raised a half step to D#. There are several ways to play the notes for this chord, but Slim showed me to simply raise the normal D note on the second string to D# by moving from the third fret to the fourth fret. This worked for me, but swing players have several patterns and inversions to choose from, in closed positions up the neck of the guitar. This one chord was enough to get me started on my first country-swing song.
Another chord of interest is the diminished chord at the end of the chorus. The ending sequence of the chorus is set up by going to an E chord at the end of the third line which has the effect of bringing the harmony to a momentary pause before going into the ending sequence. The last few chords are a classic turnaround from a typical Dixieland or ragtime song. The last line of the chorus goes to F, then Cdim, then C with a walk in the bass down to A, then D, G, and ending on C. Each chord has the duration of one bar of music. The turnaround is repeated in the tag.
A diminished chord is a chord built on stacked minor thirds. In this case C-Eb-Gb, it creates tension and tends to bring the harmony to a sense of pause as if asking a question. The question is then answered by reaffirming the C key sense by playing the C chord again, but then going around the circle of fifths from A through D to G and back home to C. This is another use of the borrowed dominant; that is the dominant chord of the C which is G, preceded by the dominant chord of G which is D, preceded by the dominant chord of D which is A. These are also usually played as dominant seventh chords so that each creates the expectation of resolving to the next chord until the final resolution back home at C.
The theme did seem to call for a declaration of obeisance to the Lone Star State. Given my extended state of euphoria at the eighteen day festival, that was easy. Many of the ideas for the song come right out of that sense of declaration, lines like: 'you're gonna have to find me with the fireflies, starin' at the stars 'til I go blind,' and 'you know I'll always be true. Just as long as I can wander in the meadow down yonder, when that Hill Country moon comes shinin' through.' I was trying for a little bit of playful double-entendre with the line 'and hold me when you're so inclined.' It's similar to one of my mom's favorite plays on words, 'As Cleopatra said to Mark Anthony, I'm not prone to argue.' That might be a little risque for most of the Texas two-steppers I know.
Pretty clearly pandering, but then that's part of the tradition which has produced songs like "Miles and Miles of Texas," "Luckenbach, Texas," "Waltz Across Texas," Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues," not to mention "Deep In the Heart of ..." Of course there's a lot more to write about from the Texas experience, not all of it glowing boosterism; some of those songs will be covered in future articles.
Chuck Pyle was a good friend, and one of our heroes. I first met him at Kerrville in 1984. We traded our lists of places to play and collaborated on what later became the Kerrville Directory of venues and resources for traveling performers. I visited him in Palmer Lake to write and over the years I would hear him perform at Kerrville, and also trade songs in the circle at Camp Cuisine. That's where I last saw him.
Chuck's guitar style was unique and wonderfully affecting. There is a lope to his drop-thumb finger-picking which instills a breathing heartbeat into the song. So many have been drawn to his songwriting. John Denver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Chris LeDoux, Suzy Boggus and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have all recorded his songs. His version of "Share Me With Texas" lends new credence to my intended tribute to the Texas Hill Country and the Kerrville Folk Festival.
In this video I've used a lot of photos from Chuck's web pages as well as many from mutual friends. In cameo appearances you may recognize Gordon Burt on fiddle and Don Richmond on mandolin, two of his favorite collaborators. Also present are Pete Wasner, Michael Hearne, John McEuen, Bob Livingston and Terri Stewart.
Chuck Pyle's version of "Share Me With Texas." Video by Steve.
Our friend Steve Ide has posted six videos from Chuck's live performance at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse in Massachusetts, available in this YouTube playlist.
My own version of the song is from my CD, The Ways of the World, produced by Jim Rooney in Nashville and featuring the playing of Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Mark Howard on guitar, Kenny Malone on Djembe, and Roy Husky Jr. on bass. The video includes some images from the Kerrville Folk Festival:
Steve's ecording of "Share Me With Texas." Video by Steve.
"Share Me With Texas" is available on my CD, The Ways Of The World, which can be purchased as a CD or MP3 album here.
Here are the lyrics:
You're gonna have to share me with Texas You're gonna have to let me take my time. From the honky-tonks in Dallas To the banks of the Pedernales Wherever that county two lane road may wind. You're gonna have to leave me to the wildflowers When I can't get that highway off my mind. You're gonna have to share me with Texas, 'Cause I can't leave Texas behind. I do, love you, And Babe, you know I'll always be true. Just as long as I can wonder in the meadow down yonder When that Hill Country moon comes shinin' through. So, You're gonna have to take me Where the traffic won't wake me And hold me when you're so inclined. You're gonna have to share me with Texas 'Cause I can't leave Texas behind. You're gonna have to find me with the fireflies Starin' at the stars 'til I go blind. You're gonna have to share me with Texas 'Cause I can't leave Texas behind. You're gonna have to share me with Texas, 'Cause I can't leave Texas behind.
© 1990, Foreshadow Songs, BMI
Left to right: Rod Kennedy, Peter Yarrow, Brian Cutean, Steve Gillette