Meyer & McGuire
Song of the Month #9 - “The Ballad of Bruce Weaver”
(Track #4 on the Home Town CD)
Lyrics: If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read. Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Home Town Songs from Napster”. Then, click on "The Ballad of Bruce Weaver." You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).
*Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.
Back in 1976, I played guitar and sang songs at The Whipple Tree, a bar and restaurant in Shortsville, NY. Now, it is called Buffalo Bill’s Family Restaurant and Taproom, the place I described in my “Song of the Month” article about “Your Local Star.” If you haven’t read the article, after you read this one, click on the Previous Songs of the Month link below, and you’ll find it there.
At the time I met Bruce Weaver, the Whipple Tree was owned by Joe and Dorothy Pietropaolo. Dorothy was a guidance counselor at Canandaigua Academy, the high school where I taught English. Every Friday after work, I’d grab my guitar and equipment, and head over to play at Joe and Dorothy’s place for the evening. On one of these nights, I met Bruce, and our first conversation eventually resulted in a song.
Before I get into the nature of my conversation with Bruce, I feel it is necessary to give you a sense of the man. Bruce was a “good ol’ boy.” He worked and played hard. He drank too much, was way too boisterous, and scared those who were unable to identify the redeeming qualities that lay deep beneath his rough exterior. If he were still alive, he would have changed the channel whenever Hillary appeared on TV. If he had dated your mother, sister, or daughter, you probably would have been very uncomfortable. If you were a dog, senior citizen, or handicapped, he would have treated you like royalty. If you were in a fox hole or a barroom brawl, he was the guy you would have wanted to have beside you. I could go on with more details, but I think this little description gives you a fairly good idea of what Bruce was like.
On the night I met Bruce, he was engaged in his usual Friday night behavior. He sat at the bar pounding beers and talking with the patrons. Occasionally, he drifted over to the pool table to shoot a game or two with one of his friends. As the beer intake increased, Bruce, his friends, and many of the other patrons began responding to my songs. The music started to generate hand clapping, foot stomping, singing and hoots, all desired objectives of any musician. When Bruce, the most energetic of the group, stomped his feet so hard that it set off the reverb chamber in my amplifier, I knew it was time for a break.
On my break, I headed over to the bar to grab a beer and visit with some of the patrons. Bruce happened to be sitting on the bar stool next to me, and as I sipped my beer, we struck up a conversation. After he told me a few stories about his life on the road as a trucker, he asked me if I made a decent living gigging in the bars. When I told him I played music for fun and a little extra money, and teaching English was my day job, he got a little uncomfortable. I immediately sensed that Bruce and school went together about as well as oil and water. He proceeded to verify this by telling me about his horrific experiences with education. He concluded his tales by expressing his regret for not having graduated from high school. While I knew I had to get back to playing my tunes, I did not want to leave him feeling as he did. Before I left him, I pointed out that, even though I had a great deal of education under my belt, it would be very interesting and entertaining to watch me try to drive his rig. His chuckle indicated he understood what I meant, and as he shook my hand, he told me to keep spreading this idea to kids because the world would be a lot better if we all knew how important we were to each other.
The following day, while sitting in my little studio apartment in Canandaigua, I thought about my brief meeting with Bruce. My thoughts drifted back to my college days when I studied the transcendental writers of the nineteenth century. More specifically, I thought about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “The Over-Soul.” The gist of this writing is the universe is one soul, and we are all little parts who are interdependent upon each other. Since my conversation with Bruce confirmed Emerson’s point, the theme for “The Ballad of Bruce Weaver” was born.
In this song, I reconstruct the story of my meeting with Bruce. When Bruce delivers his point in the final verse, he becomes a very simple version of Emerson because he, like Emerson, sees the beauty and importance of every being. The chorus, a description of Bruce’s life, contrasts greatly with the life of the narrator. This difference only helps to reinforce and accent Emerson’s theme of interdependence.
Today, over thirty years later, some nights I’ll sit at the bar at Buffalo Bill’s and think about Bruce. It usually happens when someone plays his song. Whenever I hear the song, I think it’s Bruce reminding me to keep spreading that idea that we talked about so many years ago. Quite often, I quietly promise him that I will.
Because of the nature of the topic of the song, I chose a sensitive delivery. With a guitar, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and bass, John and Joe Dady help me create an atmosphere that cleverly enhances the intimacy Bruce and the narrator share during their conversation. Lyrically, it lacks the sophistication of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and many of the twentieth century beat poets, but I like its simplicity, and I hope you do, too.
I dedicated this song to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson, along with many other transcendental writers, helped me at a time in my life when my esteem was very low. His writings encouraged me to recognize the value I brought to the world, and as I became more and more aware of my own worth, I got better and better at seeing the importance and beauty of everyone and everything around me. Seeking to identify and appreciate the value and magnificence of others has made my life more satisfying and complete. Thanks for the tip, Ralph!
I recorded this song in 1993 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York. The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians. When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing. I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording. Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland. Check them out on the web at www.dadybros.com.
Well, there you have it. I’ll have another song of the month for you next month. If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me. This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.
E-mail us at McRiley@Frontiernet.net