A blogger on NPR’s website this week did a post called “What was your father’s favorite song?” And suddenly, a song I swear I haven’t thought about for over 40 years popped into my head. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?
My religious beliefs fell more in line with my father’s (he claimed to be an agnostic, maybe because he didn’t have the guts to go all the way to “atheist”), while my mother was as fundamentalist Christian as you could get. Talk about opposites attracting.
My mother liked the pop music of the ’40’s and ’50’s, and so did I. I played her records over and over (we had 78’s!) I must have played Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in the Game” a million times. My father, meanwhile, loved country and gospel (in spite of that agnostic thing). I was kind of okay with the gospel part, but I absolutely hated country music.
So whenever he wanted to drive me crazy, which he apparently got a kick out of from time to time, he would sing a particular song. That song was “Leona”, by Stonewall Jackson. If they held a contest for worst country song ever, Leona would be it.
Now, Leona is not the perfect country song, but it contains many important elements. In the immortal words of David Allan Coe, it can’t be the perfect country song unless it mentions Momma, trains, trucks, prison, and getting drunk. Leona has two of those qualities.
Now, sometime in my 30’s, some country music gene in my brain switched on and I started loving country music. At first, of course, I only liked the sanitized versions–you know, the quasi- Rock and Roll type. But as I became more (or less?) sophisticated, I began to appreciate the artists of yesteryear a lot more.
Regrettably, I haven’t been able to find a video of Stonewall Jackson singing Leona, so I’ll have to make do with the lyrics:
Leona, Leona, tell him you’re through. Tell him Leona, about me and you. Tell him you’re married with a baby or two. Tell him Leona, tell him you’re through.
You laughed as I pleaded, and walked out the door. To meet him, to kiss him, to shame me once more. I knew where to find you, just follow the sign. Dancing and dining, cocktails and wine.
The sidewalk was crowded in front of the bar. I heard the sireens [no, not a typo, it must be pronounced this way] of the black police car. Two bodies lay crumpled, a woman and man. His wife stood there by you, a gun in her hand.
Leona, Leona, it’s over and through. The baby is crying and calling for you. For me there’s no difference, I’ve knew all along, that someday you’d leave me and now you are…gone.