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Kimberly Parish Davis: Cheating Songs

“K-k-k-katy, beautiful Katy…” I can still hear my father singing. Daddy had a beautiful voice, rich and deep. To my child’s ears he sounded like Johnny Cash, who, in the 60s was just about the coolest country singer around. He had a TV show and everything. I don’t know if Daddy sang for everybody, but he sang for me when we were riding down the road together. In my memories of Daddy singing, we were usually alone together. I guess that explains why he was surprised later in life when I’d brag about his beautiful singing voice. When I was little, he drove an early predecessor of the Chevy Suburban called a Carryall. It was red and often pulled a matching red horse trailer.

In his later years, Daddy had his own button on the radio in my car. It led to Willie’s Roadhouse on the satellite radio. They played the old country music, the kind Daddy liked. He said that new stuff, was Rock and Roll, and he didn’t care for it. I didn’t care for the old country tunes, but I could listen to them for the few hours it took to get him to and from the doctor. He would close his eyes and hum along to the golden oldies. I could see him relax all over, adrift in the music.

It wasn’t my taste but for a few exceptions like Patsy Cline and Marty Robbins. I could always listen to Marty Robbins with the Spanish guitar in the background. I’d fallen in love with his music when I took his 1959 Gunfighter Ballads album home from our store when I was about six years old and played the grooves off it. It was the only musical record I remember wanting to listen to. The other’s I took out of the inventory were Bible stories: Noah’s Ark, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath.

The songs Daddy loved best were by men with deep voices like his. He knew every Jim Reeves and Eddie Arnold song. He loved Ernest Tubb and the Statler Brothers. And if a man sang a cheating song, he sang along. And there were so many cheating songs. If it wasn’t a man singing a song about cheating on his woman, it was a woman singing about how she was going to get her man back from some other woman. In Daddy’s mind, he was the hero of every one of those songs. The irresistible man women fought over.

I was disgusted by the lyrics to most of those songs. In my mind’s eye, the cheating skank ho always looked like my stepmother. And Daddy, though he was an old man with prostate problems, was revealed to me as the sexist bastard he always was at his core. Willie Nelson gave some good advice when he sang “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”

Copyright 2021 Kimberly Parish Davis

Kimberly Parish Davis is the director of Madville Publishing, and she spent five years on the editorial staff at Texas Review press. Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various literary journals, both online and off, including The Helix, Jerry Jazz Musician, époque press, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (FLAR), Flare: The Flagler Review, Kestrel, 50-Word Stories, and the Sad Girls Club Literary Blog. 

Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

by Ed Bruce

Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold
They'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded levis
And each night begins a new day
If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young
He'll prob'ly just ride away

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
'Cos they'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornings
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night
Them that don't know him won't like him and them that do
Sometimes won't know how to take him
He ain't wrong, he's just different but his pride won't let him
Do things to make you think he's right

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
'Cos they'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Lyrics included in Vox Populi for noncommercial educational purposes only.

10 comments on “Kimberly Parish Davis: Cheating Songs

  1. Barbara Huntington
    June 26, 2021

    When I was little my parents called me by my middle name, Karen, and Dad changed that to Katie snd sang that song to me. But then I watched Cosmo Topper and the maid was Katie snd she was not a sleek Hollywood star, so I decided to use my first name instead. My fad knew the country western, but he was a reporter for a cut newspaper. That’s how he ended up singing eith the greats in their homes. Bing Crosby sang with him snd gave him records I can’t find, and he a Nat King Cole had some arguments ( Dad thought he should stand up for “Negro” rights-“Negro” was The PC word at the time-before they became friends singing at the piano. My family loved music and sat for hours with my uncle Keith at the keyboard. We sang all the pop and country western songs starting with the 1920s. I can still remember most of them word for word, but Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys was a bit later. More, but one finger on the phone isn’t cutting it today. Thanks for the memories😂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Tony Gruenewald
    June 26, 2021

    Terrific essay, but since this is a writer’s forum we should give proper credit to the late Ed Bruce for writing “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

    Liked by 3 people

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