This one comes courtesy of what I had thought was just going to be a semi-clever, throw-away headline. But then it gave me an ear worm and you’re just going to have to learn to relax and enjoy the results.
Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” is another one of those AM radio staples from the early ’70s which has stuck with me for whatever reason, but I’m hoping to figure out why before we’re done here this evening. And although I’ve known every word by heart for many years, when I sing along with it alone in the car I always change the line “You’re not a kid at 33” to “You’re not a kid at 43.”
Even my revised line is out of date by nearly two years. Stupid middle age.
While the rest of the album, Breezy Stories isn’t nearly as bad as Starbuck’s Moonlight, Feels Right LP (discussed in hilarious detail here), the two albums share one thing in common in that they’re big disappointments compared to the popular chart-friendly single people actually remember. Try to love it as I might, but BS rarely lives up to the downbeat bluesy charm of “Good Time Charlie.”
What I didn’t know about this song until looking it up for tonight’s FNV is that O’Keefe had written it and recorded it in 1967, but that record was never released — and maybe be for good reason. Apparently his original record was more uptempo than what you hear tonight, which musically doesn’t suit the lyric. At all. Imagine Sinatra singing “One For My Baby,” while wearing jeans and a novelty t-shirt for a similarly inapt pairing.
The Bards were the first to release the song a year later. That record didn’t go very far, but after O’Keefe’s ’71 re-recording, the song went on to be covered by Elvis, Rita Coolidge, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and bunches of others. Maybe they found in it the same thing I find in it still after four decades of listening: A sad and relatable story, well and simply told.
So, yes, I’ve nailed down this song’s old hold on me.
If you’ve ever lived or spent any time in the Pacific Northwest, maybe you’ll find it as relatable as I do.