Music for Enthusiasts: Tending bar at the saloon


No one is ever surprised to hear I work in a bar. What usually causes a few confused stares and a snicker or three is that I work in a country western bar—a saloon, actually. If the 8-foot sign reading “SALOON” by the front door does not alert you to the fact that you have atmospherically left Southeast Portland and been transported to somewhere in the middle of Montana or Wyoming, the saddle atop an old wooden barrel in front of the bar, the sepia-inspired lighting and extensive bourbon selection ought to do the trick.

If, however, your senses are too bewildered and booze-hazy for all of this to make an impression, the sounds of Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams (yes, Sr. and Jr.), or Johnny Cash will eventually tip even the most overly-enthusiastic of you off.

Now I don’t particularly enjoy country music. We’ve all heard worse sound combinations, but a banjo just doesn’t do it for me. That said, there are enough key words of wisdom—true gems of seasoned-drinker (and seasoned-drinker-worthy) advice—that make their way through the speakers and across the bar to have this particular Enthusiast reevaluating this often underappreciated genre. While you may not necessarily want to sing along or dance to some of the following, as you will see from these lyrics, the heart and soul of classic country music is definitely amber colored and best served neat.

So for better or for worse, here is a small sampling what we, at the Landmark, listen to. And what you, my dear saloon-bound Enthusiasts, will inevitably find yourselves humming over that first cup of morning-after coffee—even if you can’t remember where you heard it.

Merle Haggard — “Swinging Doors” (excerpt)

This old smoke filled bar is something I’m not used to
But I gave up my home to see you satisfied
And I just called to let you know where I’ll be living
It’s not much but I feel welcome here inside

And I’ve got swinging doors, a jukebox and a bar stool
And my new home has a flashing neon sign
Stop by and see me any time you want to
Cause I’m always here at home till closing time

I’ve got everything I need to drive me crazy
I’ve got everything it takes to lose my mind
And in here, the atmosphere’s, just right for heartaches
Thanks to you I’m always here till closing time
Yeah, I’m always here at home till closing time

Hank Williams Jr. — “Family Tradition” (excerpt)

Hank why do you drink?
Hank why do you roll smoke?
Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
Over and over everybody met my prediction
So if I get stoned I’m just carryin’ on an old family tradition

I am very proud of my daddy’s name
Although his kind of music and mine ain’t exactly the same
Stop and think it over, put yourself in my position
If I get stoned and sing all night long it’s a family tradition

Lordy, I have loved some ladies and I have loved Jim Beam
And they both tried to kill me in 1973
And when my doctor asked me
“Son, how’d you get in this condition?”
I said “Hey sawbones, I’m just carryin’ on an old family tradition”

George Jones — “Honky Tonk Song”

I saw those blue lights flashin’ over my left shoulder
He walked right up and said get off that riding mower
I said sir let me explain before you put me in the tank
She took my keys away and now she won’t drive me to drink
I need a honky tonk song a cold cold beer
A hardwood floor a smoky atmosphere
A pocket full of change to last me all night long
I gotta hear old Hank a moanin’ a honky tonk song

He didn’t show me much compassion when I tried to walk that line
As he put those handcuffs on me I said give me one more try
He never even cracked a smile when he threw me in the car
So I said sir if you don’t mind oh would you drop me off in a bar
I need a honky tonk song…
I gotta hear old Hank a moanin’ a honky tonk song

Saloon photo courtesy of pixelens photography, flickr.

Home photo courtesy of jasmined, flickr.

Family photo courtesy of mike3k, flickr.