“Colombia Nashville.” “Hello? Yeah this is Marty, Marty Robbins and I need Mr. Tom to give me a call back.” “Well I’ll certainly tell him.”
Well I called yesterday and he hasn’t returned my call yet. I have a few things to discuss with him.”
“Yes, sir Mr. Robbins I’ll let him know. He has been in and out of the office a-lot this week. He hasn’t been able to attend to much anything.”
“Well see that he does.” And then changing his tone as if they had been in the midst of a pleasant conversation, he added, “Thank you M’am.” He hangs up. He fumes. He walks outside. He goes to the garage. “They don’t take me seriously” he spat on the driveway. “They think I’m just another horse in the stable.” He was puffed up like a peacock, darting around his backyard. “They don’t know what I can do for them, what I have to offer. I bet he thinks I’m just some dumb hick from Arizona; he doesn’t owe me the damn time of day. I get so sick of these people glad-handing each other, like some damn country club. Some days I have a mind to quit the Opry. Trifling bullshit.”
He looked at his yard. Green grass was beginning to sprout amidst the dirty dead bristles of last summer’s grass. The sky was blue. An airplane buzzed overhead sounding like TV white noise. He leaned against the wall of the garage and the cinder blocks felt cool through his cotton shirt. As he pulled away his shirt stuck to it in picks, he heard the snap sound of the fabric releasing its grasp. He took out a cigarette. He struck a match against the side of the building. He puffed as it lit. He thought to himself, I’m going to call New York. I have just got to settle my mind on this issue and I cannot wait another minute and if they don’t pay me the time of day around here then I’ll just go over their heads. Colombia Records ain’t only in Nashville. They think I don’t know what’s what? He went through his wallet. He found the name and number of Mitch Miller, New York City.
“Looky here, its Quick Draw McGraw,” said a man at a table close to Marty’s. Marty turned and smiled at Marizona, “And Shit Fire McGuire too” and hee hawed. “Do you have to be so awful?” she said with admonishing stars in her eyes. Marty laughed and pinched her thigh under the table. “Baby we were there, me and the band, this feller here, standing in the wings waiting to watch Elvis.” Marty opened a pack of cigarettes while he talked. He motioned to the two men as they now passed by his table. “I’d just recorded “That’s Alright Mamma” back the year before. Elvis didn’t even chart with it. We got a hit on it. I remember, this was back before the music really started to take off. I think we were still driving a Ford baby. Yeah, yeah, we got that first Chrysler about then.” The two men impatiently waited while Marty filled Marizona in on the setting and the context. Marty rose and shook hands. He looked back to his wife. She stayed seated. She stayed elegant. She lifted her hand; the farthest man took it and gave it a dainty shake. The closest man leaned down and hugged her neck. “Good to see you, see you both.” The men moved on.
The Captain’s Table on Thursday nights was vibrant. It shined. Patrons and waiters moved through the tables in a tight dance. Oak wood walls, turquoise tablecloths and a sea of chairs. After a few drinks and the later the hour the more it looked like a Spanish Galleon in the Caribbean. The women wore tight crisp dresses, heels, and gloves. The men sharp blazers.
“I remember when I first heard it” Marty said to himself. “It was on the radio. WLAC? I heard it driving home from playing Texas. We put Texas fiddles on it when I did it since no one in our band could play like Scotty Moore no how. I remember buying it at Buckley’s. Like I said it didn’t even chart but I bought it. I got the only copy in Nashville.” He laughed at this and then spoke clearly to Marizona, “I bought it and brought it home and it was late. I’d been downtown close to here, checking out some fellas playing, drinking soda pops, it had set in my car all day. Liked to melted I bet. The light from the kitchen shined on the living room in a box of light. I pulled the record from the sleeve the black caught the light shining like gasoline on pavement. I put it on the player. That big A chord strutted like a bull. That upright bass was like my hand on your hip baby. Steady like I gotcha. The electric guitar chimed in like a bird whistling Dixie. It pushed every side of the song and made room for itself. Then there was the voice. “Well that’s alright mama, that’s alright with me” with an open shout of verve and chills. I listened to it again and lay there in the floor.”
“We cut it. Mine wasn’t as good, I’ll tell you that. But like I said, we charted on it. Got to #7. People knew me. They knew my name. That’s all. We got to play some shows with him. Us and Rose Maddox and the boys. We were down in Texas and Alabama, Florida. Shit it was wild. I guess he heard me do that song. I know he had to know. He’s in this. We all look. We all can’t wait for Billboard or Cashbox or Hit Parader to come out when we got a record were working. We all do it. We want to know. We want to see we outdid the other fella. Well we were supposed to headline these package shows. Pfft. Unh Unh. No way Jose. That first night, the girls were screaming their heads off. They were clawing themselves, they were crying like they were looking upon some sort of king. You would not have believed it. Well I guess you’ve seen him sense then, when was that? We went, a few years back, but you know, you remember. Those girls were sweating and a crying like you wouldn’t believe. Them girls wanted every bit of that man they could get.” Marizona looked slightly troubled and disapproving. She said, “Well Marty I bet the girls like you too, they just better not that much" with a lilt of her eye brow she seemed to crack her knuckles like a back alley brawler. Marty finally took the cigarette from his pack. He said nothing.
“Chicks dig Rock n Roll man.” Lightnin’ laconically said twirling a drum brush along his fingers. “Well you don’t have to tell me twice Buster.” Marty said. “We got “Maybelline” and “That’s Alright” and “Long Tall Sally.” Probably a Hank William’s number we could put a spark to. Bob Wills is some boogie. Yeah. Maybe some Louis Jordan too?”
“We can’t do that.” Lightnin’ Chance lit a cigarette while he eyed the cheeseburger he laid on the table when this conversation began. “Who we playing with tonight?” Lightning asked. “Buddy Holly and the Crickets.” “Oh yeah, yeah, “That’ll Be the Day.” “Dig those B.C.’s” he wears. “huh?” “His specs.” “He wears glasses? On stage? Uh hu. He shorely do. Marty walked out of the diner and stood by their car and trailer, on the side it read Marty Robbins and the Teardrops. Marty looked at the teardrop shaped trailer and said, “I wish we had a different name.” The guitar sitting on the trunk of the car said, “You do man, your Marty, we are the tear drops. It sells records.” Marty pursed his lips,“Well I still want to get rid of it one day.”
They played the show. They shucked, they jived like Crackers from the desert. Marty crooned. He yelped. The band wore it out. They came off and had nowhere to go. The radioman working the show called around. They got the last room somewhere. They drove. They got there. They hopped out. Tired and rolling.
Marty licked his pinky and flattened his eyebrows and pursed up his lips. He sacheted across the parking lot swinging his hips wide. His band hooted. He shook his wavy hair made of gold locks and said, “I can’t wait to get in that room boys, me and Wright are gonna wrestle.” The desk clerk approached her eyes wide and indignant. Marty couldn’t cool it. Between breaths they tried to explain. We just goofin off. We a band. Blowin off steam. You gotta unde-stand. Marty grew tired of waiting for her to understand he went back and sat in the car. He got out pad and pen. He was laughing to himself. He sat with the car door open, one leg in the car, the other out.