Local singer/songwriter Roger Alan Wade wrote me way back in 1994 saying, "Some records are produced just perfect and the songs written right out of the rule book, but it ain't crippled, man, it ain't lumber with the bark still on it. I like to see things you can just taste, things just a little bit crippled. Let's get a jug of wine and hitchhike to Mississippi and sleep in the Old Zion churchyard by Robert Johnson's grave, just off the Dixie Highway. He might have missed a few notes and got a little out of time, but that's what makes it last. It's not like those generic things, those elevator and dentist office things. I don't buy those records. I don't know who buys them. It must be the same people who collect state spoons and thimbles and things."
You don't have to be a great songwriter like Roger to understand what he is saying. Just think of your favorite singers, and you will realize some of them have some rough edges. Like Johnny Cash. He was not smooth. He was soulful. After Columbia canceled his contract, some of his best work was just him and a guitar pouring out pure soul on the world.
I have always loved stylists more than great singers. People like Floyd Tillman, Leon Redbone, Martha Carson and Hank Williams Sr. From the first note of a song, you knew exactly who they were. They'd reach inside your head and put a half Nelson on your brain cells.
When Willie Nelson first came to Nashville, I went to hear him with Billy Joe Moore, a Chattanooga boy who wrote Eddy Arnold's "What's He Doing in My World," Willie was playing in a beer joint located under a pawnshop. After Willie did his thing, Billy Joe said, "That poor guy cannot keep time."
Willie doesn't sing in time. Everyone knows that. But he's such a great writer and stylist that no one seems to care. It's a crippled thing, but we love it because it is beautifully crippled.
I dedicated my first book, "Things That Really Matter," to Lamar Sliger who had polio when he was 6 months old and never weighed more than 70 pounds. When the older boys went fishing or swimming down in Chickamauga Creek, I'd swing him up on my shoulders and take him along. I did not befriend him because he was physically crippled. He was my friend because he was intelligent, funny and tough.
Thanks to Mayor Ralph Kelley, he worked in the city accounting department. When he died at 33, his co-workers were devastated. So was I. The truth was that the longer you knew him, the more you loved him. His personal qualities so overwhelmed you that you forgot his physical appearance and condition.
It is encouraging that we do not have to be perfect to be memorable. Perfection is overrated. It only exists in the minds of obsessive-compulsives who roam the world making everyone miserable. They are all perfect bores.
There are 7 billion people in the world but only one you. Concentrate on bringing out the best, most unique and, yes, the most unusual parts of yourself, and you will be remembered and relished long after all the perfect bores have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com