Songwriters, Cowboys and an Itinerant Artiste

September 2004

My raggedy backpack was stuffed with paint tubes, half of ’em having dried up years ago, brushes, fragments of conte crayons, crumbling erasers, rags, jars of rubber cement, again, dried up and hard as a rock, colored pencils of various lengths and brands, and a variety of loose change at the bottom. An artist-for-hire walking the halls of a seedy motel. Actually it was a nice hotel and the door to the suite was answered by a quiet, respectful gentleman who ushered me in and made small talk until the rest of the characters in this story arrived. Turns out, the talk wasn’t small at all. As I listened to his humble story, I was amazed to find that his Mama was the woman sung about in the song he co-wrote with Larry Collins and performed by the likes of Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy. The man’s name was Alexander Harvey and his song was Delta Dawn.

Alex Harvey

(Photo: Alexander Harvey)

Soon enough, the door swung open, and a tiny, energetic man in a wife beater and a trucker’s cap strolled in. His first words were, “Is the ballgame on?” Teenie was his name and he flopped on the couch, claimed the TV remote and turned on baseball. Next through the door was Roger. Hawaiian shirt, ukulele, British accent, engaging personality. The next man in the door was bigger than life, in every way – size, smile, personality, presence, bling. His name was Mack. Sir Mack, that is.

So who are these guys and why am I and my bag of dried up paint tubes in a room with them? Well, a friend of mine had a wife, whom he then divorced. So he hired a divorce lawyer. The lawyer had a couple of friends that old Cowboys fans like me may remember: Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, 43 and 41, respectively. The two former defensive backs chaired a fundraiser for The American Diabetes Association, and fundraiser means live auction. Through this arduous path of connections I was invited to help create two unique pieces for auction. So that there is the ‘why.’

As for the ‘who,’ they, in addition to Alex, are . . .


(Photo: Alexander Harvey & Teenie Hodges)

. . . Mabon Lewis “Teenie” Hodges who, along with my all-time favorite Al Green, wrote Take Me to the River. I daresay the number of artists who have covered this song is in triple digits, though my favorite versions are those by Al Green, Talking Heads and Annie Lennox. Teenie himself did his own soulful version later that night, along with other Al Green tunes he helped write, Love and Happiness and Here I Am (Come and Take Me).

Teenie Hodges-Roger Cook-Keith Sykes

(Photo: Teenie Hodges, Roger Cook and Keith Sykes)

. . . Roger Cook, who writes his songs while plinking on an ukulele. He is responsible for co-writing Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress) and I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony). Remember the latter from the old Coke commercials? The song was originally written as the jingle I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.

Sir Mack Rice

(Photo: Sir Mack Rice)

. . . ‘Sir’ Mack Rice. Who doesn’t love – and who hasn’t belted out – that greatest of juke joint tunes, Mustang Sally? Sir Mack wrote this classic.

Daylight was a-wastin’ and it was time to get to creatin’ some one-of-a-kinds for auction. For these I teamed up with Alex and Roger. My first task was to paint a woman and a large faded rose (from days gone by) onto a battered old suitcase (’cause she walks downtown with a suitcase in her hand). In his own hand, Alex added the lyrics to the painted suitcase. On the back of one of Roger’s ukuleles, we did a similar treatment. I painted a long cool woman in a black dress and Roger added the lyrics in silver in his own handwriting. I was very proud of the way each piece came out, and I found out later in the night that one anonymous buyer had paid a pretty penny for both pieces.

The fundraiser was somewhat of a sensory overload, for the simple fact that everywhere I turned I found myself facing one of my Dallas Cowboys heroes, most notably Roger Staubach. I guess Harris and Waters had invited their NFL buddies to this shindig. Talking to these guys, all thoughts of asking for an autograph or taking selfies with them went out the window and, looking back on it, I’m glad I didn’t. It would have been unseemly and I’m certain the looks on my face would have been hideously comical.

After all the glitterati had forked over their bucks for a great cause and gone their separate ways, it was time for the songwriters to get together and jam. This truly was the highlight of the night, with these talented gents sitting around downing their hooch, caressing their instruments and singing songs of their own composition.

Shit, now I’ve got Mustang Sally stuck in my head.

One thought on “Songwriters, Cowboys and an Itinerant Artiste

  1. Whoa…how did I miss the news that such an amazing opportunity/experience presented itself to you?! This is karma at its best – you sharing your talent/time/generosity for your fellow human beings and a great cause…and the universe rewards you with a night surrounded by your childhood sports heroes…that’s just too danged cool. (But shit…now ‘Mustang Sally’ is stuck in MY head, too!) 🙂


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