Deadlines, that is. And this one sure snuck up on me. I got an e-mail from editor Jeff Remz as I was leaving the house for Walt Disney World on a family vacation. "The column is due," he said. And I didn't even have a little germ of an idea in the back of my mind like I usually do when it's time for a new column.
"Don't worry," my wife told me, as we drove south on I-95, "something will come to you; it always does."
I wanted to believe her, but early the next morning as we're walking through the gates of the "Happiest Place on Earth" and my mind is still as empty as my wallet will be before the day is over, she sees the worried look on my face and tells me:
"The great thing about a column like yours is that you can write about anything you want as long as it has some correlation to country music. Just relax, and I'm sure you'll find something here that you can tie in to what's going on in country music these days.
That sounded like pretty good advice, but nothing really jumped out at me. I mean, I lost my umbrella, and I'm sure every country singer - not counting the ones who have what US magazine calls PUHs (Personal Umbrella Handlers) has had this experience, but it didn't seem like it would make for compelling writing.
I was still fretting about what to write about when we went to the Country Bear Jamboree. You're familiar with this attraction, right? Animatronic bears with names like Liver Lips McGrowl and Teddi Barra sing tunes like "My Woman Ain't Pretty (But She Don't Swear None)" and "Mama, Don't Whip Little Buford." These bears are so backwoodsy they make the Clampett clan look like sophisticated international playboys.
The Jamboree was there when Disneyworld opened in 1971, and it's still popular today, but it's kind of controversial. A lot of people say it's old-fashioned and out-of-date. That it needs to jazz things up a little bit with new songs - new kinds of songs, songs with more modern sensibilities. That tunes like "All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down" are corny and an embarrassing throwback to a less-enlightened time in our history. The bumpkin bears are boring and need to be modernized.
And other people say the unsophisticated ursines are fine just the way they are. There's nothing wrong with those great old songs and those great old bits of wordplay. That it's important to preserve tradition and honor your roots rather than chasing blindly after every trend that comes along.
I'm on the fence myself. I would like to preserve the best of the old and incorporate some new ideas without throwing the bears out with the bathwater.
But all of that doesn't help me get a column written. After all, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with modern country music.
Sorry, Jeff, I'll try to do better next time.