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Meet Mr. McMurtry

Okay, last time I said we were about to go see a Santa Fe, New Mexico, which required a 700+ miles trip on our part...given by someone who lives less than 30 minutes away from us in Georgetown, Texas.

No. Really. On some twisted level, it actually makes sense.

Here’s the story: James McMurtry is an American musician. Wikipedia describes him as “an American rock and folk rock/americana singer, songwriter, guitarist, bandleader, and occasional actor...” (1)

He’s a Texas-boy. His father, in fact, was the late but decidedly great writer, editor, playwright, and bookstore owner Larry McMurtry. (2) You may know Larry McMurtry from his Lonesome Dove series of books, which were later made into a TV miniseries.

But, for James McMurtry, the most important of his father’s works was perhaps the film “Falling from Grace” because it starred rock and country singing star John Mellencamp. (3) At that time, James was a young, aspiring musician who had bounced around the southwest for a while before moving back to Texas. But, the link through his dad allowed him to send Mellencamp a demo tape...who loved it, and shortly after that, with Mellencamp producing, McMurtry had his debut album, “Too Long In The Wasteland.”(4)

I don’t remember how we came across McMurtry, but it was about 1989, and the first CD we have of his is, indeed, “Too Long.” I’m guessing Martha heard him on the radio while we were still living in Boston and we sought out his (at that time) only album.

About the photos: First, the only half-way good picture I got of McMurtry when we saw him perform in Santa Fe. I’ll check and see if Martha has any others.

Anyway, we were soon fans and have been such ever since. Why? Well, McMurtry’s music appeals to us. He’s a storyteller, and remember, Martha and I are literary types. We like stories. He’s a talented musician, which is also good. And, well, we are left over liberals from another day, and McMurtry’s characters tend to be good, working- to working-middle class men and women who find themselves in hard situations, doing their best to survive in a system which seems calculated to grind them out of existence. Which is another way of saying that he comes out of the protest song tradition...which we also like.

His songs have their share of villains--that is, the people who benefit from harming other people. Sometimes these are the rich and the powerful -- for example, "Cheney's Toy” and "We Can't Make It Here" (that last being a compilation of the voices of working class people who find their lives have been devastated by an economic elite shifting production overseas while leaving Americans to rot).

But, McMurtry is no bigot. He knows that there can be blue-collar monsters as well. And he sings about them. One of my favorite of his works is “Choctaw Bingo,” a major character of which is “Uncle Slayton.”(5) We learn in the song that Slayton is an aging country patriarch...who happens to make and market crystal meth now that the moonshine market is depressed--“...he likes that money, he don't mind the smell...”(6)

So, anyway, we turned into McMurtry fans. We used to catch him, now and then, in the Boston area. He had a son going to Tufts, for a while, and so he’d come to visit him and perform at local venues. And, later, when we moved to New Mexico, we were able to see him a few more times in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

But...then we moved to the Austin area, and we thought we’d hit McMurtry jackpot. You see, that’s where he lives. He’s an Austinian now. More specifically, he lives in Lockhart, Texas, which is just south of Austin. Plus, he regularly performs in Austin itself, to be precise, at The Continental Club on Wednesday nights.

Cool, we thought, as we packed up and prepared to leave Albuquerque. We’ll be in to see him all the time. You betcha.



Only there proved to be a few small difficulties.

More to come.

Second, a photo of Martha dating back to a trip we made in 2017. This is her at the Guadalupe Inn. The room we stayed in had a lovely little patio and we could sit out there and read in cool Fall weather.


1. James McMurtry has a wikipedia entry here: His personal webpage, meanwhile, is here:

4. Too Long In The Wasteland has its own Wikipedia page, here:

6. The writer Ron Rosenbaum jokingly proposed that the United States adopt Choctaw Bingo as its new national anthem. It was, he said, the perfect symbol for the money-grubbing, amorality of our age, “Any difference here between Uncle Slayton and the white-shoe investment bankers who knew the stench of the toxic derivatives they were cooking up but were only too happy to keep the addled customers satisfied?”

See “Choctaw Bingo: A modest proposal for a new national anthem,” Slate Magazine,

Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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