|The Tale Behind The Tune: "Restless Spirits"
It’s time for a Texas Red Dirt Music history lesson. In order to consider oneself a true fan of the genre, it’s important to know about one of its more obscure, though very influential pioneers. Bob Childers is one such individual.
I was first introduced to the man’s music through the golden pipes of Jimmy Lafave. I used to hear Jimmy play Bob’s “Restless Spirits” all over Austin, and Jimmy is part of the reason I’m writing this article about Bob’s song to begin with. I interviewed Jimmy a couple years ago after he finished his album Blue Nightfall. Somehow we got to talking about Bob Childers and Jimmy mentioned to me that Binky Records had just finished a big “tribute to Bob Childers” compilation and that I should get in touch with Mr. Childers about doing a show around the CD.
The first thing I did was get myself a copy of the Binky Record’s product. Appropriately titled Restless Spirit, it’s one impressive piece of work There are no fewer than 57 cuts on the three disc masterpiece. While every one of the tracks were written by Childers, Bob only sings one of the songs himself. The rest were recorded by some fifty different acts. Brandon Jenkins, Stoney Larue, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and Lafave himself are just a few of the more notable contributors. Any songwriter would be thrilled to have someone else cut one of his tunes, but to have fifty different acts record fifty different songs, that’s something. I gave Bob a call.
It would have taken all day to have Bob comment on all fifty-seven cuts, so I picked twelve of my favorites. I’d just done a show with Darren Kozelsky. Darren had a version of “Restless Spirits” on his Let Your Mind Fly CD that was just fantastic. Jimmy Lafave’s live performances of the song were my introduction to Bob’s music, and since “Restless Spririts” was the title track for the tribute CD, I knew before I dialed his number that it was “Restless Spirits” that I most wanted to learn about. I’m a firm believer in optimum satisfaction through delayed gratification, so I waited until we’d discussed the other eleven tunes I’d selected before I asked Bob to tell me what he could about “Restless Spirits.”
Here’s how that conversation within our conversation went:
I left my favorite Bob Childers tune for last. What can you tell me about “Restless Spirits?”
I’ve heard several stories repeated as to how I wrote that song. I have only a very vague recollection of even writin’ it. I know I did. I know some of the things that went into writin’ it, but actually sittin’ down and writin’ it . . . I don’t remember that.
Part of it was inspired . . . there was these girls that sang around Stillwater; one of ‘em I later married, and I was goin’ over to their house to jam one night. As I got out of the car, I heard ‘em singin’ inside, and it was just so beautiful that I just sat out there and listened for a little while. And it just sounded like angels singin’.
The image of the angels weepin’. . . we were playin’ a private party out by Lake Carl Blackwell, and you had to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom . . . I remember that, and on a mantle kinda deal above the bed, there were these two little statuettes of these weeping angels, and that image just kind of stuck in my mind . . . and several other things, you know, (the line about) walkin’ down the alley. There was this alleyway here in Stillwater . . . I used to use as a short-cut, and that’s as much as I can tell you about that one. I’m just not real sure about how that one came to be written.
Jimmy told me that the story he remembered was that you saw the ladies singin’ there and that you did marry one and that ya’ll lived in that house. He told me that Garth and Sandy Brooks lived in it after ya’ll moved out.
Well, it was somethin’ like that, but I just can’t say for sure. Jimmy’s version might be exactly right.
Well, it’s a good story. I used it in his show.
Well, it might be right!
Bob explained to me earlier in the conversation that he “used to drink,” and that it was the drink that is most responsible for his spotty memory. In some respects, the accuracy of the tale behind this particular tune is less important and probably less significant than its inaccuracy. If a 57-track tribute album isn’t an indication that a person like Bob Childers has had a tremendous impact on Texas Red Dirt Music, then the fact that folks are telling stories about his stories certainly is.
George Bancroft lives in Big Spring, Texas. He has a radio show called The Texas Tunesmith and can be heard at KBST 95.7, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and on the internet on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (CST) on tossmradio.com.
You can contact our TMT writers from our contact page.