Let’s Dance! (A Story In Waltz Time)

One night in the foggy past, circa 1983 I suppose, I was at the Cherry Tree Music Co-op, a long-deceased and seriously-missed folk music venue in Philadelphia. A Cherry Tree devotee, I took in at least 150 shows there. Anyway, on the night in question the band that commanded the stage played a song that has stayed with me all these years. I have no recollection of who the band was. But the song? It was Waltz Across Texas, which I’d never heard before. It is as sweet and pure a number as you ever will encounter.

I recall that the band’s lead singer mentioned that Waltz Across Texas is a tune by Ernest Tubb (1914-1984), a country music legend. And indeed his fans craved his version of it. However, as I discovered on the day that I began to compose this essay, the song was written not by Ernest but by his nephew Talmadge Tubb, a country music semi-obscurity. Hell, Talmadge Tubb deserves to be as famous as Ernest on the basis of this one song alone.

When we dance together my world’s in disguise, it’s a fairyland tale that’s come true.
And when you look at me with those stars in your eyes,
I could waltz across Texas with you.
Waltz across Texas with you in my arms, waltz across Texas with you.
Like a storybook ending I’m lost in your charms,
And I could waltz across Texas with you.

Ah, beautiful. And let’s add some music to the fine words. Here’s Ernest Tubb performing the song:

Now, I like music that rocks and roars. But I also enjoy the slow and uncomplicated, such as Waltz Across Texas. And ever since that fateful Cherry Tree evening I’ve held a soft spot in my heart for songs written in waltz time, of which Waltz Across Texas, almost needless to say, is an example. Waltz time’s one-two-three, one-two-three rhythmic pattern seems to perfectly mesh with my emotional makeup. When I hear a worthy waltz-time number, such as Bob Dylan’s Winterlude or the Eagles’ Take It To The Limit, I start to soften and melt . . . and then I dreamily drift within a higher realm.

All of which leads us to the morning of February 23, 2019, a Saturday. The living room radio was tuned to WXPN, a Philadelphia station that I’ve mentioned so many times on these pages, its general manager should make me an honorary DJ. I was communing with the living room sofa when my ears perked up at about 9:45, caught by a soft, alluring song issuing through the speakers. One-two-three, one-two-three it flowed. The repetitiveness of the beat induced that softening, melting and drifting syndrome. The song was Johnny’s Blues, written and recorded by little-known Denny Brown in 2008. A pared-down look at insecurity, at the difficulty so many people have in feeling at home with themselves and with the world, Johnny’s Blues is a country waltz lifted, as many country waltzes are, by fiddle playing that bores deep into your heart.

For the rest of the day I couldn’t get Johnny’s Blues out of my head. And it became the spark for the story that you now are reading. Yeah, for a long time I’d had it in mind, amorphously, to write something or other about pop music waltzes. At last the story began to become clearer to me. And the story’s biggest point emerged after dinner on the following day.

Truer words never were written than these: I can’t dance worth a shit. Man, I sucked at dancing even when I was fairly nimble and agile. But nimble and agile are not words that have applied to me, a septuagenarian, for the last 10 years. Awkward as a motherf*cker is more like it. Yet there I was, following dinner on Sunday the 24th, waltzing around the living room with my wife Sandy, in search of story-writing inspiration. We glided to the accompaniment of Johnny’s Blues, courtesy of YouTube.

We didn’t set the world on fire with our performance, but we weren’t bad. That’s one of the beauties of waltzes: Even an oaf like me can move to a waltz pretty well, since it doesn’t require any amazing techniques. All you have to do is become one with the music, hold onto your partner, and ease yourself from here to there to there.

It was fun. We got into it. Hey, we hadn’t danced in years, so we were overdue. And you know what? I believe that we’re going to dance again, occasionally, in our living room. To songs in waltz time more likely than not. Dancing, I realized, is very freeing. It’s a natural thing to do. But I ain’t about to enroll in a dance class to learn, after all these years, how to shake my boney booty to hip-hop or swing music. I’m too inhibited for that. Nor shall I invade a local mosh pit and become the oldest nitwit ever to jump and spin spasmodically at a punk rock concert. Yo, not only am I inhibited, I’m also fragile! Better that I stick to my living room and to waltzes with Sandy.

At long last you have the opportunity to listen to the song that I’ve been making a fuss about. Perhaps it will inspire you to dance inside your house. Here then is Johnny’s Blues, by Denny Brown. Before I remove my fingers from the keyboard, though, I’ll say what I always seem to say at the ends of my pieces: Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article. Gracias.

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96 thoughts on “Let’s Dance! (A Story In Waltz Time)

  1. George March 1, 2019 / 2:38 am

    Lovely song. As you say, the fiddle makes it—very haunting. I like the idea of you dancing round the living room to this with Sandy. Romance isn’t dead!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robert Parker March 1, 2019 / 6:39 am

    Keep dancing. I’ve always liked tunes in 3/4 time, and wondered why there aren’t more. I like this Texas waltz.
    I don’t have the link but try The National’s song “Fake Empire” 3/4 and 4/3 at the same time (or something like that). Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 12:20 pm

      Hey there, Robert. There’s something nice and easy about waltzes. They are easy to like.

      Like

  3. Paddy Tobin March 1, 2019 / 6:41 am

    Yes, an age comes when our dancing is best done around the living room floor. The best and most forgiving partner in the world is at hand, the lack of audience spares embarrassment, the proximity of the sofa guarantees refuge in case of crisis and we can close our eyes and let the music and moment take us…wherever! I’m with you all the way on this one – equally useless at dancing and dreadful at singing but that never stopped me!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Anonymous March 1, 2019 / 8:02 am

    With the snowy day l guess you will be home dancing to Johnny s Blues.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Graves March 1, 2019 / 8:56 am

    A lovely post about how music touches us and how, on occasion even nondancers—I sympathize!—can be moved. Thanks for posting the links to the song. I especially liked “Johnny’s Blues,” the sad, sweet music, the whiskey voice, the lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 12:26 pm

      Afternoon, Laurie. I can’t remember ever hearing anything by Denny Brown before I heard Johnny’s Blues. I’m glad that WXPN played that song while I was tuned to the station.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael Richards (certainline) March 1, 2019 / 8:58 am

    Ah, this has made my Friday lunchtime – may you and Sandy keep finding excuses for a waltz for many years to come. I’d better not listen to the music in the office, but I will do when I get home. Many thanks for such a delightful story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 12:32 pm

      Hi Sam. We probably were at many of the same shows. So many musicians played there. Silly Wizard, Chris Smither, Michael Cooney, Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Priscilla Herdman, and on and on.

      Like

  7. sniderjerry March 1, 2019 / 9:45 am

    I look forward to watching you on “Dancing With The Stars”

    And as long as were talking about the Tubbs – Google Justin Tubb Lonesome 77-203

    Have a great day! See you at Aruther Murrays Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jacqui Murray March 1, 2019 / 11:00 am

    I used to teach ballroom dance and used lots of Western songs for fast waltzes/slow Viennese waltzes. Delightful. Johnnny’s Blues would be gorgeous done Viennese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 12:38 pm

      Hi. You know, that’s a different song. Similar title, though. It’s real good. Emmylou is one of my favorites.

      Like

  9. tylerus March 1, 2019 / 1:32 pm

    Nothing like a good song / sweet music to beat away the doldrums, put a kick in a stop, bring a smile to a pouty face. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 2:37 pm

      Hello there. You’re right. There are a bunch of good reasons to dance. Have a terrific weekend, Tyler. See you!

      Like

  10. JT Twissel March 1, 2019 / 1:52 pm

    I love to dance too but like you, my dancing days are limited to waltzing – no more Can-Cans for me. I like a good C&W song every now and then!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 2:41 pm

      Hi JT. I grew up with all kinds of dance styles going on: The Frug. The Mash potato. The Twist. I never was any good at any of them, or at any styles that followed them over the years.

      Like

  11. Cindy March 1, 2019 / 4:41 pm

    I love this story! It brings back many memories of Gene and me slow-dancing years ago in my old apartment. We still dance at home (and ONLY at home!) once in a while, though it usually devolves into fits of laughter because we’re so klutzy–not to mention so vertically mismatched. But at home, no one judges!

    Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 5:51 pm

      Right, that’s the beauty of it: No one judges. Thanks for stopping by, Cindy. See ya!

      Like

  12. Helen Devries March 1, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    The second video won’t play in Costa Rica…but I enjoyed the first.
    I grew up on the offerings of Jimmy Shand and his band…play at your peril!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. alhenry March 1, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    “I like music that rocks and roars. But I also enjoy the slow and uncomplicated, such as Waltz Across Texas.”

    Yes, waltzes are music of the heart, the perfect rhythm for lovers. Your talking about waltzing with Sandy reminded me of Ed and myself–one of the formative memories. Having just introduced him to my then teen-age daughter, we three were cooking dinner and I put on the Byrd’s “5D (Fifth Dimension).” Away Ed and I waltzed in my cramped kitchen, pasta bubbling on the stove. Some things you never forget. I encourage you and Sandy to keep waltzing. As for WXPN, they should definitely make you an honorary DJ.

    And “by fiddle playing that bores deep into your heart” is sheer poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 9:24 pm

      That’s a great scene that you describe, Amy. It meant a lot to you, because you haven’t forgotten it. Have a terrific weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. greenpete58 March 1, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    I’ve got a CD comp of Ernest Tubb music. Sure enough, “Waltz Across Texas” is included as the closing song. This song is a great primer for “The Last Picture Show,” which is coming up on TCM. Love that pedal steel.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. America On Coffee March 1, 2019 / 8:45 pm

    The video is unavailable Neil. But, I watched it on Youtube. I loved it and I love Country music. Southern hospitality is an unusual community and well maintained in music, food and dialogue. Nice share Neil. Enjoy yiur weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 1, 2019 / 9:20 pm

      Thanks for visiting, AOC. I’m always glad to hear from you. Put a country waltz on your music system and start dancing! Take care.

      Like

  16. andrewcferguson March 2, 2019 / 6:19 am

    Johnny’s Blues is fantastic! Thanks for sharing it. I have a (very friendly) argument with my sister, who claims all pop songs are done in straight 4/4 (she’s a music graduate, so favours classical). That’s not exactly the reason some of my songs turn out in 3/4, but there are so many great songs based on that country waltz….

    One of these days I’m going to go on that musical pilgrimage to the South, taking in Nashville and New Orleans, but I also want to go to the Appalachians, where the Scotch-Irish left their mark on the music…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Still the Lucky Few March 2, 2019 / 5:27 pm

    Country music never fails to touch my heart—I’ve never heard this one but it brings back many memories of growing up on the prairies (Where Country was king)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 2, 2019 / 6:18 pm

      Hi Diane. There’s a lot of down-to-Earth storytelling in country music. That’s probably why it’s popular.

      Like

  18. jeanleesworld March 2, 2019 / 10:41 pm

    Ah, this reminds me of dancing with Bo to the Glenn Miller band in his living room. Such moments make the sweetest memories. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Isabelle March 3, 2019 / 3:22 pm

    I just listened to Waltz Across Texas, and sensed the charm in the melody, the lyrics, and the movement. It was a very nice feeling, as if I was watching a good old movie. It put me into a dance mood. A lovely ending of this rainy Sunday. Have a great week! Isabelle

    Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 3, 2019 / 4:34 pm

      Hi there. Tomorrow I won’t be dancing. I’ll be shoveling snow. We’re going to have a heavy snowfall overnight. Oh well.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Joe March 3, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    Hey Neil, Thanks for the dance music and inspiration to get up off of the couch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 3, 2019 / 7:35 pm

      Thanks, Lynne. There’s an amazing amount of good music available from the past and the present. It’s impossible to keep up with it. I gave up trying to do so quite a few years ago. See you!

      Like

  21. Alyson March 3, 2019 / 7:32 pm

    Keep on waltzing round the living room – a fine pastime we should all do more of. As for the song-writer, never heard the name Talmadge before, and now I’ll never forget it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 3, 2019 / 8:20 pm

      Hi. Sandy and I are listening to folk music shows on the radio right now. If a song in waltz time comes on, there’s a good chance we will dance!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. cath March 4, 2019 / 5:12 am

    How lovely – both your story, and the way it took me right back to my childhood – my parents loved country and western music. I see what you mean about Johnny’s Blues. That is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

      • cath March 4, 2019 / 12:25 pm

        It would be lovely to think so. My dog thinks I’m crazy when I do, and hides under the table. Good job he’s not able to give me a score out of 10.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. pjlazos March 4, 2019 / 11:00 pm

    You lost me with Ernest Tubb, but were redeemed with Johnny’s Blues!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2019 / 12:09 am

      Hi Pam. Denny Brown has a bunch of good songs in addition to Johnny’s Blues. I looked at his website. Seems as though he isn’t doing concerts anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Cristina Crawford March 5, 2019 / 9:31 am

    Alas I’ve never been terribly excited about country music….that is, until recently during a few years of living in Huntsville, Alabama. Hubby is a huge CM fan. A couple of years ago he scored tickets through work to a Trace Adkins concert and of course didn’t want to go alone (Yes, Adkins is country-music present). Begrudgingly, I agreed to go fully expecting to cringe throughout the entire evening as often that slide guitar sounds like nails on a chalk-board to me. Let’s just say that when Trace walked out onto the stage, cowboy hat tilted just right…and he started singling “Ladies Love Country Boys” I swooned… big time! I was ready to step over my husband’s head and run off into the sunset with Trace and his guitar. Since, that night I’ve been much more open to listening to country music though Classical will ever be my first love. Nice post! Think I’ll grab hubby tonight for a quick spin around the living room sofa :-).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 5, 2019 / 1:43 pm

      Hi, and thanks for stopping by. Have you heard an album called Grievous Angel? It’s by the late Gram Parsons. Emmylou Harris sings with him on it. You can find songs from that record on YouTube and lots of other places. Great album.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. cincinnatibabyhead March 5, 2019 / 2:03 pm

    I can think of quite a few ‘Waltzes’ I like. Really dig the Brown cut (going on the spin list) CB cuts a mean rug especially when he’s half cut. Well I think I can..

    Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead March 5, 2019 / 4:33 pm

        No I’m not. His style caught me right away. Like I said I am going to give him more of a listen. Has that Waits/Sprinsteen street vibe. Love it. Maybe the strings and the waltz helps. You know CB’s a romantic bugger anyway. That’s why I tune into your station. You get it right once in a while. The guys real good. I might give my Gal a spin tonight to that tune.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead March 5, 2019 / 4:37 pm

        One other thing, when I said there are lots of “Waltzes” I like. Check out Joe Ely’s ‘West Texas Waltz’. I think you might dig it.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. tanjabrittonwriter March 5, 2019 / 9:22 pm

    Somehow, the first name that comes to mind when I think of waltzes is Strauß, one of the many members of the musical family. I had not given much thought to the fact that modern musicians might still write them. Thank you for the reminder. And I hope you and Sandy will glide smoothly across your living room floor again and again. Keep on dancing!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mellow Curmudgeon March 6, 2019 / 10:09 am

    Thanks for sharing 2 fine waltzes.

    The string accompaniment to *Johnny’s Blues* reminds me of Pachelbel’s Canon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 6, 2019 / 11:00 am

      Hi there. Good to hear from you. Last night my wife and I danced to another song in waltz time (Hickory Wind). It’s becoming a habit!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. cigarman501 March 6, 2019 / 3:24 pm

    My parents were Ernest Tubb fans but I’m having a bit of trouble visualizing them waltzing. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. johnlmalone March 7, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    I like this: an essay written about a song, about a particular style of music. I would like to attempt it — and ,oh, I love ‘Hickory Wind’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 7, 2019 / 4:41 pm

      Hickory Wind is such a great song. I had forgotten that it originally came out on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, a fabulous album.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. K E Garland March 8, 2019 / 5:25 pm

    Oh, Neil. You’re never too old to learn how to dance to a little Hip-Hop. And jumping into a mosh pit might be yield another blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 8, 2019 / 9:35 pm

      Kathy, I’m going to stick to slow dances. I won’t embarrass myself too much that way. Enjoy the weekend. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. smilecalm March 9, 2019 / 1:41 pm

    left me feeling
    ready to two
    or three step,
    west coast swing,
    then a calm waltz 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. betunada March 9, 2019 / 6:04 pm

    ahhh, 2 suite ! we awl know how a tune can knit/sew/weave/embroider AND “FIX” (azzen ‘tie’) a moment. e.g., I can’t hear Dido singin’ FEELS LIKE FIRE (off Santana’s Shaman album) without startin’ to cry, as that was the tune for the father/daughter dance @ my daughter’s wedding ~

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Jina Bazzar March 10, 2019 / 5:16 am

    I loved this post, it brought a smile to my face. And it reminds me i haven’t dance – though i can’t dance either – in ages.

    Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 10, 2019 / 8:27 am

      Hi Jina. You know, it just occurred to me that dancing maybe should be taught to kids in school. I wonder if any school systems do that. Thanks for stopping by. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jina Bazzar March 11, 2019 / 9:25 am

        That’s a good question, Neil. Maybe in the future they’ll add dancing lessons to kids too.

        Liked by 1 person

  34. srbottch March 12, 2019 / 6:44 am

    Loved this story. Will write more later but I need to rush off to my job, standing on a sidewalk and crossing kids across 4 lanes of traffic to their schools, while dressed in yellow. And sometimes, during interludes if kids, I get a song in my head and dance in place. I don’t want drivers to think I’m nuts. Well,
    I am partially…aren’t we all. Later…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 12, 2019 / 12:40 pm

      Hi. I am partially, too. Like you say, we all are.
      I’m going to follow your website. Take care.
      Neil Scheinin

      Like

  35. Imelda March 13, 2019 / 10:55 pm

    IS it just me, but I thought I heard a little bit of Canon by Pachelbel in the intro to Danny’s Blues. IN fact, if I listen to it really closely, I can even hear the melody underpinning parts of the song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 14, 2019 / 7:44 am

      You know, you’re right. I just listened to both numbers. I wasn’t familiar with Canon before. But Denny Brown knew about it when he wrote Johnny’s Blues, it seems! Thanks very much for your insights, Imelda.

      Like

  36. Linda Thornton March 20, 2019 / 4:15 pm

    Great timing for this post; my husband and I moved from Chicago to
    Texas and are taking the next level of Texas Two Step classes; very fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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