Tag Archives: songwriting

My Wife and I Shacked Up

This past week my wife and I did something we have never done – we shacked up!  We have been married forty-four years, so in a sense, we are old timer shacker uppers, but this time it was different.  We drove to North Mississippi and spent five nights at the Shack Up Inn located on the Hopson Plantation outside of Clarksdale on Highway 49.  The rustic stopover with authentic renovated tin roofed, rough wood-sided sharecropper houses as well as a cotton gin and grain bins reimagined and converted to overnight hotel apartments may not be for everyone, but it is certainly unique, and for us, a perfect getaway.  The whole complex is a historical marvel to behold, but at the same time, it is one of the most ironic places I have ever visited.  Over seventy-five years ago, families scrapping out a meager living farming another man’s land lived in these two maybe three-room shotgun style houses.  They spent their lives struggling, working from first light to sunset, to have a better life than living in a shack.  In contrast, today, people pay more money for a night’s stay in one of the shacks than most poor sharecroppers made in a year.  It is also sobering to think there are families across Mississippi still living in such poverty.

We stayed in the Crossroad Shack, relocated to the Inn from nearby Duncan, Mississippi.  The shack, although weathered and worn both inside and out was clean, warm on the cool nights we encountered, free of leaks from the rain that came later in the week, and peaceful and relaxing for a good night’s rest.  It would have been difficult to find a speck of paint anywhere, but it had all we needed for an enjoyable and comfortable stay.  The little two room building had indoor plumbing complete with a flushable toilet and hot water for a shower.  There was also a piano, a microwave oven, a coffee pot, a refrigerator, a gas wall heater, adequate lighting, and glory of glories NO TELEVISION!  The Internet was a bit sketchy, but that was okay.  Few people go to the Shack Up Inn to watch television or roam the Internet, but if that is your thing, some of the bins are equipped with television.  Like my wife and I, most people go to the Shack Up Inn to escape the everyday hustle of life, and relax away from Facebook, CNN, and Fox News.  The Inn is a place to put worries and trouble on hold and relax in a rocker on the screened back porch, read a book, take leisurely strolls around the grounds, and in the evenings kick back with a cold drink of choice and listen to the best Mississippi Blues you will find anywhere.  Of course, you can always jump in your car and head into Clarksdale to visit Ground Zero, The Blues Museum, Hambone’s, and Reds Lounge as well as many other local establishments and landmarks.  Despite being off the beaten path, there is no shortage of things to do at the Shack up Inn and in Clarksdale.

While at the Shack Up Inn, I attended a songwriting workshop I have been wanting to attend for some time.  Songwriting is a passion of mine regardless of success or lack of it, and by writing my own stuff, I don’t mess up anyone else’s music.  The workshop exceeded all expectations!  I have never been made to feel more at ease and appreciated in a workshop, and I have attended many.  Songwriters from all over the country were there, and I can truthfully say, I learned something from each of them.  If you are a songwriter or would like to be, and you are interested in learning the nuts and bolts of the songwriting craft, Ralph Carter’s “Songs at the Shacks” workshop is a no brainer.  However, don’t go if you are not serious about your craft!  You will work your butt off writing and performing, but by the end of the week, you will be thankful of the blessings that allowed you to attend.  I found the workshop well worth the money, time, and effort.  Thank you, Ralph, I can’t wait to be a part of another of your workshops.  I left the Shacks, tired, renewed, and for the first time ever with confidence I am headed in the right direction.  As an important bonus, the friendships made during the week were worth the price of admission alone.

To say, we had a wonderful week at the Shacks would be a huge understatement.  We had a super week!  How can shacking up with a beautiful woman, writing music, singing your songs, listening to great music, and being around friends be anything but fantastic?  We will certainly do it again soon, but for now it is back to writing songs, writing my blog, and writing short stories.  I hear a song, “Mama, Take Your Teeth Out,” calling.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 16, 2018

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Mississippi Stud with Apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford: Mississippi Education in Perspective

Recently, I was playing some old songs on my guitar when I came across the classic Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons.” After thoroughly murdering the song, I lay my guitar aside, but I could not get the lyrics out of my head. Something about the words would not let me go, so I picked up the song for another look. The relevancy of the words to today’s world simply amazed me, especially their relevance to education in Mississippi. As I poured over the lyrics, I found myself tweaking them a little here and there until I had an updated version I call “The Mississippi Stud.” Of course, nothing can ever replace the original lyrics or the rich bass-baritone of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “Sixteen Tons,” but the song’s original lament of hard times and struggles with “the man” experienced by coal miners of the 1940’s and 1950’s was so easily identifiable with the persecution of Mississippi educators by the Governor and other self-proclaimed education experts that I just could not resist. Like those miners, today’s educators in Mississippi are the victims of shameful bullying by the Governor and many legislators in Jackson, and unfortunately, like the miners, Mississippi educators have little choice but to obediently bow to the injustices of the “man.”

The Mississippi Stud

[“Sixteen Tons” adapted by Jack Linton with apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford]

Phil Bryant believes he’s the Mississippi stud;
He believes teachers are little more than mud.
Made of sand and mud and tears and moans,
He likes weak minds with backs that are strong.

He puts teachers down just to see them sweat;
Treats them with disdain with no regrets.
He believes educators are a bunch of duds;
No one knows better than the Mississippi Stud.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

Teachers were born in the drizzlin’ rain,
Disrespect and trouble their middle names;
They were raised to be feisty by an ol’ mama lion,
But the Mississippi Stud commands they walk the line.

They arrive at school before the sun shines,
Carrying sacks of supplies bought with their dime;
Greet twenty-nine kids with one common goal,
And the Mississippi Stud says, “Well, a-bless your soul”

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

If you see him comin’, better step aside;
A lotta teachers didn’t, a lotta teachers cried.
One fist of deception, the other of lies;
If the right don’t a-get you, then left one flies.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

But, Phil is not alone, there are many more –
Reeves, Gunn, Tollison, and Moore;
A pack of wolves smelling educator blood;
All paying homage to the Mississippi stud.

Kick out MAEP, Initiative 42, and Common Core;
Who knows what next they have in store.
Their vouchers and charters will drain public schools,
But, the Mississippi Stud says, “Hey, that’s cool.”

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

So, if you see him comin’, better step aside;
A lotta teachers didn’t, a lotta teachers cried.
One fist of deception, the other of lies;
If the right don’t a-get you, then left one flies.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

Disclaimer [The small print]:  The chances of royalties for “The Mississippi Stud” are mathematically in line with the possibilities the Mississippi Legislature will fully fund MAEP for the 2015 – 2016 school year. However, sometimes it’s fun to dream. Maybe, teachers should have a pajama day to express that they have not given up on the dream.

Let me know what you think, and if you would like to add a verse or two, fire away. If you would like to change the title to “The Mississippi Dud,” that’s okay too. If Governor Bryant and his cronies in the state legislature can appoint themselves education experts, I am confident the rest of us are just as qualified to be songwriting experts. So, I hope educators have a little fun with the adaptation; the Lord knows they are due.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 15, 2015