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Veterans...Great Songs...Little Rock Weekend

Apr 29 | Posted by: Bill Whyte |

Back home in Nashville after an inspiring weekend in Arkansas.



Friday our wheels were rolling west to Little Rock  for an “Operation Song” weekend. In the renatl car with me were two great Nashville songwriters Wil Nance and Tim Buppert.  Wil wrote “She’s Everything” for Brad Paisley and Tim wrote a number one song I’ve always loved for Kevin Sharp “She’s Sure Taking It Well”.  So I had some good company that helped make the 6 hour drive over for fun.  We hit our hotel in Little Rock just in time to drop bags and head for the Douglas McCarthur Military Museum of Arkansas where he met some of the veterans and organizational staff and volunteers we’d be working with.


And I gotta say…if you’re ever in Little Rock do tour this museum which is housed in an old building that’s been lovingly restored that was originally built in the 1800’s.  It’s nice to know that some preservationists made sure this place stands today and houses the memorabilia and war artifacts many associated with McArthur who was born in Little Rock.


After shaking hands and having a light dinner each Nashville writer got up and performed a song.  I chose “I’ve Got A Face For Radio”.  Wil Nance sang “Don’t Go To Hawaii On Me” that Chris Janson just recorded…a song I’ve loved ever since I heard Wil sing it for the first time and I would not be the least bit surprised if this is a HUGE hit for Chris.


Don Goodman and Steve Dean both sang and they are the two guys responsible for the retreat we were at and have been the “boots on the ground” for this organization that is growing I’m happy to say.  Don sang “Ole Red” that he wrote for Blake Shelton and Steve sang the most played song of the last decade on country radio “Watching You” that Rodney Atkins had a smash with.


Then David Kent whom I met for the first time sang his Blake Shelton song “Austin” and our Arkansas friend Wood Newton sang “Riding With Private Malone” that was so appropriate with what we were doing.  Now THAT was a heck of a Friday night concert!



It was back to the museum where each Nashville writer was assigned a veteran as well as a local songwriter from the local Nashville Songwriters Chapter based here.  My songwriter was Rodger King and my veteran was Carlos Cervantes.  Carlos sat down and read his story to us as he had typed it out on his phone.  And it took awhile to read because of what you’re about to read here. 


Carlos was a radio guy.  His Captain in Nam was just 29…”the old man” they called him.  And he loved his Captain.  The Captain had a chance to go home but didn’t want to because he did not want to leave his troops.  At a dinner the night before where conversations over smokes and coffee is at “whisper” level because of the enemy…his guys convinced the “old man” to go home!  So the next morning they set off their red flares for a Huey chopper to come in.  To keep this from being too graphic…the chopper tried to land on a slope that tilted the chopper blades as the young Captain was to board.  He was killed instantly by the big blades of that Huey.  My soldier has lived with that memory for 50 years of how they told him to go when he didn’t want to and then his life was taken like that. 


As I sat with Carlos I thought was how am I going to write his story without it being too graphic.  And secondly I knew that all I cared about was Carlos being happy with the end result.  I’m happy to say he was…and this is what I wrote.


0700 is locked in my mind

Like a video tape stuck on rewind

How can 50 years ago feel like just yesterday?

Company Commander but he was a hell of a lot more

A big brother and Father and we shared the same war

We called him the “old man” though he wasn’t yet 30 that day



Captain my Captain I still blame myself

The wars come and gone but I’m still living in hell


Quiet whispers in the CP that night

We shared smokes and hot coffee before morning light

He didn’t want to leave his boys be we encouraged the old man to go

We say that Huey hover and they explained it this way

Ground casualty death non-hostile they’d say

I was right behind that medic when my tears started to flow



Captain my Captain I still blame myself

The wars come and gone but I’m still living in hell


Though I wasn’t sure that I wanted to at all

26 years later I made my way to that wall

I reached out to panel 37 and I swear I felt the old man’s hand

And I heard him quietly whisper “Sargent it’s alright”

I left my map and my compass and those tears that I cried

But there won’t be a day I don’t see it again and again



Captain my Captain I still blame myself

The Viet Nam war is over but I’m still living in hell


Saturday night each writer got on stage with their veteran and sang these songs we had written just hours ago.  The Veterans all spoke…we all sang THEIR songs.  8 new songs for veterans.  I’m so proud of what this organization is doing and especially proud of Don Goodman and Steve Dean who have been with it since the idea hatched.  It’s a small way for guys like me to say “thank you” and give back and I certainly hope this is just the first of many of these kinds of weekends for me.


If you check my “socials” online you can see some pictures taken over this weekend.



And then Sunday morning it was back to Music City where I woke up this morning to the streets being empty from hundreds of thousands of crazy NFL Draft fans, marathon runners and Jimmy Buffett Parrot Heads who all hit Nashville in one weekend where maybe close to million folks scrunched up on Lower Broadway having fun.  Kinda glad I was out of town writing a song with a soldier.


Not surprisingly because our city was so featured on national TV for several days in a row there’s talk that Music City could get a Superbowl in the future. 



When you travel with other creative folks…not only is the craft of songwriting and music discussed over beers…but a lot of funny lines get dropped too.  The funniest of the weekend belongs to my friend Wood Newton who wrote the song “If You’re Not Careful, My Wife’s Gonna Leave You” with me.


Friday night our group was talking about how some parents are encouraging their kinds to NOT play football because of the increase of concussions and the danger.  Wood revealed to us that he played High School football as a linebacker and “every time I got a concussion I woke up loving country music even more”. 


We’re still laughing.



And now I’m the only one I guess who has not seen either “Game of Thrones” or the new “Avengers” movie.  The new Marvel movie this weekend shattered all box office records taking in over 1.2 BILLION dollars.  And that’s not counting the popcorn sales. Superhero folks are just dominating the movie business…one after another.  Yep…it’s official now…I’m out of the loop.



She just named her new fashion line “Idylwind” which was taken from the name of her horse.  I had a cat once named “Tassles” so I’ve decided to name my strippers clothing line after her.  We’ll see who sells more pretty soon.


HOW BOUT A RIDE?         

Canada’s Wonderland…a theme park just out of Toronto that I’ve been too once has just opened the world’s largest, tallest, and fastest roller coaster.  Would you ride THIS?  Oh yea…once at least.  Remove all your loose change and hold on.



Catch up stuff today after the road trip this weekend and the weather is perfect for just getting outdoors to at least take a walk so if ya need me…I’ll be in tennis shoes somewhere.


Have a great Monday!




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