The Great Match (5:39)
Song & Video:
I had wanted to do a song about Ruffian, so I started my research by visiting
as many websites as I could that were devoted to her. Then I bought a copy of
the book "Ruffian: Burning From The Start" by Jane Schwartz. Still not having
anything started on paper, I was able to find copies of three different TV
documentaries so I could actually see and hear some of the people involved in
her life. Then, I found copies of the original track tapes of all ten of her
career races. Still, about 9 months of research wasn't getting me started on a
song. Then, a chance encounter, on the net, with someone who had been in the
stands the day of The Great Match, provided the inspiration needed to start
building the story. July 6, 2005 marked the 30th anniversary of The Great
One Bad Ass (3:49)
Song & Video:
I wasn't looking for this subject, I received this story in an e-mail message
one day. Just a one paragraph story with several pictures. The pictures helped
me fill in the blanks that the printed story left out. I don't know the mule's
name, only that this took place out in Arizona somewhere. That's me on both
the rythm and lead guitars, plus I made the sound of hoof beats in the
background with a plastic cover off of a bulk CD-R canister.
Oh How That Pony Could Run (with race calls) 4:06
Song & Video:
This song is about Eclipse Award winner, Lost In The Fog. Reportedly
one of the best horses to come out of California since Seabisquit. He was
undefeated in his first ten starts. In 2006, something started to go
wrong, as he won only one of his next four starts. Acting colicky, he was
taken to the vet clinic where it was discovered he had cancer. Several small
tumors were located along his back and a rather large football sized tumor
was pressing up against his spleen. When the pain became too much, he was
euthanized in September of 2006.
Barbaro - Be It Known (with race calls) 6:06
Song & Video:
I started writing a song about Barbaro during the 2007 Oklahoma ice storm, when my power was out
for 11 days. At that time, Barbaro was still alive and, like a lot of other people, I was now sure
he was going to make it. Unfortunately, that all changed a week later. Sadly, I had to start
reworking the lyrics to reflect his passing. It is now complete and I hope meets with approval from
his many fans.
Poco Lena (6:13)
Song & Video:
Just like my songs about Dan Patch and Ruffian, this song started out as a
completely different one. The melody and story line just weren't working, so
I "borrowed" the melody and chord pattern, used it on Highland Dale which
I wrote in one evening, then started all over on a song about Poco Lena.
I wanted something more upbeat that might be able to take on a "Texas swing"
feel when elaborate instrumentation was added.
I finished this song shortly
after midnight on May 1st (2005). When I got up the next morning, I quickly
put it down on my 16 track. This song hits a little closer to home since Poco
Lena turns up in the pedigrees
of five of my horses through Doc O'Lena. Three of them are my young Quarter
Horses and two are my younger Appaloosas. Had Poco Lena not survived, I
might have five totally different horses standing in my pastures today!
Billy Silver (2:36)
Song & Video:
Everyone remembers the great Secretariat, but few remember his pony
horse known as Billy Silver. Billy Silver had obvious Appaloosa markings and
turns up in many of the old pictures of Secretariat. While he was
called Billy Silver, if he was registered with the Appaloosa Horse club, that
was not his registered name. There is a Billy Silver registered with the
ApHC, but that Billy Silver was born in 1971 and would have been too young
to have already been working as a pony horse on the tracks.
The Parson & Dan Patch (10:05)
Song & Video:
This was my very first "horse" song. I knew the basic story about Dan Patch
long before I ever started writing my own material, so he seemed like the
logical place to start. Both Marion Savage and Dan Patch were rags to riches
stories, in their own right, before they came together as a team.
(The Parson) was raised on an Ohio farm and tried many unsucessful business
ventures before hitting it big with his International Stock Food Company in
Hamilton, Minnesota. Dan Patch had such crooked legs when he was born that
he needed human assistance to stand and nurse the first few days of his life.
Dan was a fast horse by the time he was aquired by The Parson and the stock
food company was already a $1 million a year business. Within the first year
together, Dan started breaking track records and Marion's feed business went
from a $1 million to a $5 million a year business. They both
left this world within 36 hours of each other. Today, twin radio broadcast
towers stand on the site that once was home to the Parson's famous training
One Last Call (4:07)
Song & Video:
Not about one horse, but a whole group of horses. By the mid 1920's, the fire horse had pretty
much disappeared across the country, having been replaced with mechanical engines that ran on
gasoline. This song is a composite of several stories I ran across while studying the subject
of fire horses. I believe Jim, the horse mentioned in the song, worked for the Toledo Fire
Department, while the pictures are from departments from the east coast to the west.
The Foaling Barn (2:42)
Song & Video:
What do I do when not searching out another great horse story to (hopefully)
work into a song? I spend some time with my own. I bought my first horse back
in 1974 and things sort of grew from there. I've never built any kind of building
from the ground up and from scratch, but I think my new two stall foaling barn
turned out quite well for a one man project, even if it did take me almost a year
This is just a little instrumental I used for a YouTube video showing
the progress of a two stall foaling barn I built. I was
playing with the guitar one day and came up with this, but never added
words to it. Then, I thought it may sound good on a banjo...........
Old Sam (5:50)
This is one the three songs about horses from the Civil War. Old Sam
didn't belong to a famous General or other commander, he was a carriage horse
from Michigan that ended up pulling artillary. It wasn't long after I
stumbled across this story that I knew I had to put this into a song.
Little Sorrel (4:14)
Captured from a Union supply train, two of the horses taken were presented
to Col. Thomas Jackson. He planned to keep the larger of the two for
himself and give the smaller one to his wife. However, the larger one
proved to be too rough of a ride, so he kept the smaller one instead.
Col. Jackson, who would later be promoted to a General in the Confederate
Army, called the horse "Fancy" while the enlisted men refered to the horse as
"Little Sorrel". The latter name stuck. Stonewall Jackson didn't live to see
the end of the war and Little Sorrel was sent home to the General's wife.
Aquired by General George Gordon Meade, of the Union Army, early on during the
Civil War. Baldy would remain with General Meade up until the final days of
the war when he was sent to the General's home for a well deserved rest.
Baldy was wounded several times during the war and, at one point, was even
left for dead. After the war, the General would take Baldy for an occasional
ride. Just like General Robert E Lee's horse, Traveller, and Stonewall
Jackson's horse, Little Sorrel, Baldy would outlive the rider he served
so faithfully during the war. ~ Baldy Memorial ~
Highland Dale (3:43)
Probably the most sucessful "stand alone" equine actor ever to set hoof in
Hollywood. By "stand alone" I mean he wasn't part of an act, like Trigger or
Topper or Champion. He was owned by his trainer, Ralph McCutcheon, who leased
or rented him out to the studios. Ralph never called him a trick horse, though he
knew dozens of them. He prefered to call Highland Dale a highly trained horse. Ralph
did say, however, that his best trick was earning $5,000 per week!
His "career" started, at age 3, when he got the leading roll in the 1946 version of
"Black Beauty". He won Patsy Awards (the animal actors' Oscar) for his roll in "Gypsy Colt" and the
black horse, Beauty, in the movie "Giant". He had leading parts in a total of
13 movies. His 21 year movie career came to an end in a 1967 episode of
"Bonanza", at the age of 24. He lived to a ripe old age of 29, despite being
plagued with heaves, an equine breathing disorder like asthema, that bothered him most of his life. He is
best remembered as the black stallion, "Fury", in the television series of the
same name, from the late 50's. The melody came from a song I was working on
about Poco Lena, but it just didn't seem to fit her, so it's back to the
drawing board on that one.
Bamboo Harvester (5:12)
Mister Ed 1
~ Mister Ed 2
While maybe not as sucessful, dollar wise, as Highland Dale and having a much
shorter career, Bamboo Harvester is one of the most easily recognizable equine
actors ever to hit Hollywood. After I had written the song and had it
copyrighted, I found out the part about the peanut butter was incorrect.
Originally, Alan Young, who played "Wilbur", said that they got "Ed" to move
his lips by feeding him peanut butter, suggesting that the peanut butter stuck
to the roof of his mouth.
Within the last year or two, he has since said that
he made that story up and they actually placed a piece of soft nylon
between his gum and his upper lip, which he then tried to remove. After about
a year on the set, he became so used to the routine, that all "Wilbur" had to
do was stop talking and "Ed" would start moving his lips. Bamboo was already
11 years old when the series first aired and 17 when it ran for the last time.
He lived for two more years after the series ended. This song is dedicated to all the
animal heroes I had while growing up in the '50's, including Lassie, Rin Tin
Tin, Trigger, Flipper, Fury, Flicka and, of course, Mister Ed.
Toledo Peoria & Western 1887 (6:12)
This song is about one of the worst train wrecks in Illinois history.
The rail line actually ran from New York to Iowa, and this particular
night train was making stops along the way, picking up travelers on
their way to Niagra Falls. Before passing through the town of
Chatsworth, Illinois, the lead engineer could see an orange glow off
in the distance. He figured that something up ahead was burning, but
wasn't able to see what it was. The train was traveling about 60 mph.
As they drew closer, the engineer decided that because the fire was so close to
the ground, it must be a brush fire. It wasn't until the train was too
close to stop that he realized the trestle was burning. The lead
engine had enough speed and momentum to make it to the other side as
the trestle began to collapse under the weight of the train. The
coal tender, behind the lead engine, and the second engine went down
with the burning trestle. The train's momentum sent five wooden
coaches, filled with passengers, down into the revine on top of the
second engine and a pile of burning timber.
There was speculation, at the time, that the trestle might have been
deliberately set ablaze to get the train to stop so its passengers
could be robbed while they were groggy with sleep. There was never
any real evidence to prove or disprove that theory.
Boynton Post Office (3:44)
I passed through Boynton, Oklahoma, for the first time in November of
2003. It's about as close as you can get to being a modern day ghost
town. All along the main drag, the structures that are still standing
are either boarded up, or have "For Sale" signs in the windows. At
the far north end of town, one building stands with lights on inside
and is open for business - the Post Office. I never forgot my initial
reaction, but it would be five months later before I would sit down
and write this song. Once started, the song came easy. From start to
finish, it took about an hour.
Fire In The Mine (5:04)
One of Illinois' and the nation's worst mining disasters. A chain
reaction of "errors" that was compounded until things were out of
control. The Cherry mine was huge. It had three levels, but it was
also modern, having electric lights down below. That was a big thing
in 1907. However, the lighting system developed a short and the mine
reverted to kerosene torches stuck into the mine walls for light.
This went on for almost a week without mishap.
The mine was so large, they had actually carved out a large room
where the mine's 41 mules, used to pull the loaded coal cars,
could be stabled. It was near closing time and two workers had loaded
up one of the coal cars with hay for the mules. They shoved it down the
tracks to where the mule stables were then turned out and walked away.
When the cart stopped, it stopped right underneath a dripping kerosene
torch. It wasn't long before the cart caught fire. However, small
fires were common in the mines in those days, so several miners
actually walked by this burning cart of hay and paid little
attention to it. When someone did finally decide to take action, the
fire in the cart had gotten so large that they couldn't put it out. A
decision was then made to dump the load of hay down to the bottom of
the shaft where it would burn itself out.
Once at the bottom, the fire didn't go out and soon set fire to the
timbers lining the shaft. Since fire, by nature, rises, it wasn't
long before the whole shaft was ablaze. The whistle on the surface
soon sounded three short blasts, a signal to the townfolk that there
was trouble in the mine. George Eddy, the manager of the mine, heard
the signal. Though up in years, decided he needed to go down
personally to do what he could to aid the miners below. George was
soon trapped below with 19 miners. George was very well versed with
mining and all the dangers it involved. Everytime something
changed below, he knew what they were doing and thinking up above. He
was able to lead that group of 19 to a far corner of the mine, where
they walled themselves in for seven days before being rescued. It was
the only bright spot in a disaster that would claim the lives of some
Cow Chip Throwing Contest (4:24)
There are a few people who have heard most everything I have written, my
Illinois horse trainer being one. One day she was "hinting" that I had used
just about everyone's name at the barn in a song except her's. On April
Fool's Day, 2004, I sat down and wrote this one about an actual event that has
been going on every April 19th in the town of Beaver, Oklahoma, for
almost 40 years now and I stuck her name in it. Back in the days of the giant
cattle drives, Beaver was a stop along the way. In those days, the people of
the area didn't have much, so they had to make the most out of what was
available. One thing they had a lot of was cow chips. The town's annual
celebration is a humorous way of remembering those times gone by.
I made this recording shortly after getting my 16 track recorder, then
never updated it. My playing is a little less than accurate, but I did have
fun experimenting with channel seperation for the stereo effect.That's me on
guitar, banjo and bass box (a sort of giant thumb piano). The rhythm is a computer program.
Potts' Tavern (9:39)
They say truth is stranger than fiction and this song is based on historical
fact. The only part that has been made up was the part about Billy's wife being
unfaithful. I put that in there as a way to show how I, the storyteller,
happened to know all of this information. At the time this story unfolds,
Illinois had been a state less than ten years. Law and order was almost
non-existant. The southern tip of Illinois was a dangerous place in those early
days. Travelers that made it the entire length of Ford's Ferry Road, without
being robbed by one of the members of James Ford's gang, were likely to stop in
Potts' Tavern, where they were just as likely to be robbed and murdered. There
was speculation that James Ford and Billy Potts might have worked together for
awhile, but recorded documents from that time period leave plenty of room for
speculation. I have a sister song to this one called "Ford's Ferry Road" that
continues the story.
Ford's Ferry Road (4:30)
Another piece of early Illinois history. This is also a sort of
campanion piece to Potts' Tavern, in that it's from the same time period, the
early 1800's. Many travellers heading west never made it to Potts' Tavern
because of the dangers lurking on Ford's Ferry Road. Mr. Ford owned the ferry
that crossed the river and also had a gang of thieves working for him. When
someone, who appeared to be well-to-do, crossed the river on the ferry,
one of the gang would ride along and befriend the traveler, eventually robbing
the person. This song is based on fact, but no particular incident.
Diamond Mine Disaster (7:44)
This is one of my earliest songs, written in September of 2003, and my first
historical song. Material for this one was easy to come by since this happened
in the town I lived in back in Illinois. Braidwood is located just 45 miles
southwest of Chicago. Back in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the area was a
thriving coal mining area and Braidwood was Will County's second largest town.
The area is extremely flat, so water generally has very little place to go. Some
mines were strip mines, while others went underground.
The Diamond Mine was an
underground mine with a small earthen dike to prevent water from running in.
Like many mines, however, water would continuously seep in the walls of the
mine. The weather had turned warm for a February day, in northern Illinois, and
it began to rain. The snow that was already on the ground prevented the rain
water from penetrating into the soil and it began to collect on the surface.
Down below, the "pump man" noticed the water inside the mine was rising and
thought the problem was with the steam pump on the surface. A trip to the top
found the pump running full speed with the engineer, the person who actually ran
the pump, indicating no trouble on the surface. However, the incoming water
continued to outpace the pump until the earthen dike on the shaft's east side
gave way, sending all the water that was collecting on the surface from the
unseasonable rain down the mine shaft.
Alice Paul (4:13)
Inspired by an e-mail that was going
around a few months before the 2004 election, aimed at those people who have
sort of taken the voting process for granted. I did some research and had
ordered the DVD "Iron Jawed Angels", in hopes of adding a little more insight to
what I had already learned. I didn't wait for the DVD to arrive. The history
lessons taught in school are, many times, glossed over footnotes to events that
actually happened. This most certainly is an example of that.
This song is unual in that after I recorded it, I sent the song file north to
IL, where a contact recorded the violin part and sent the file back to me. I
downloaded the violin part into my 16 track then mixed it. I've never met
the violin player and the two intruments were recorded in two different states.
Ah, the marvels of modern technology.
Heavens To Betsy (5:01)
From the webmaster: After listening to Gerry's work over these last few years, this
is the only overt love song of the bunch. It is filled with the sweetness of an
old fashioned and genteel era. To his listeners' loss, Gerry seems to be an historian
rather than a balladeer. This song is one of my personal favorites. (One perk to being
Gerry's webmaster is that I get to listen to his songs while I work!)
Mr. Moffat envisioned a rail line across the Rockies from Denver to Salt
Lake City. The rail line actually went up over the top of James Peak and on
top of the mountain. A small resort town sprung up, which became quite
popular with the folks in Denver. A hotel and Post Office were built there.
Because of the elevation, however, snow had to be plowed from the tracks
nine months out of the year, which virtually consumed most of the entire
year's profit. The line never made it to Salt Lake City as Craig, Colorado,
would be the end of the line. By the later half of the 1920s, a 6.2 mile
tunnel was completed through the base of James Peak, making what had
become known as "the Hell Hill Route" obsolete. The track "over the top" was
eventually pulled up and the D & S L was merged into the Denver & Rio
Grande (D & R G). While the tunnel still remains, the Denver & Rio Grande was
bought up and merged into Union Pacific.
What They Saw (2:16)
One of my earliest songs to be included here, written in the fall of
2003. In September of 2003, I was still living in northern Illinois. About
that time, on I-55, south of Chicago, Tina Bell, a construction worker, was
holding a "Slow Down" sign at the mouth of a construction zone. There
she was struck and killed by a driver under the influence, driving without
a license. Both she and her husband worked full time to support a total
of seven children.
Thank You, Come Again (5:39)
I never intended to write this song. I wanted to write a song about
how people wave at each other on the back roads as they pass by. I
thought the idea was good, but I wasn't getting anywhere. Weeks went
by and I had nothing. One day, I said to myself, "You're going to write
that song today, PERIOD!" So, I started by sitting myself down on that
gravel road, at the beginning of the song. However, by the end of the
first verse, I found myself in the cafe in town! Now, what? I no
longer had a plot! I liked the melody and what I had to that point,
so I decided to "press on". As long as I was in the cafe, I needed
some people. Started naming them after real people at my horse
trainer's barn. I'd write a line, find a rhyming word, then build a
sentence around it. I kept going for three more verses that way.
Then the song started to get long and was losing it's direction, so I
needed a way out, a closing. I figured that might be a good place to
stick in an instrumental break while I pondered the problem. A short
while later, I began to ask, "Just how does one leave a cafe?"
From that point on, I knew how I was going to write the closing.
The four final words ended up becoming the song's title to boot!
I probably had more fun writing this song more than any of the others.