When I was in the eighth grade, I was a founding member of a bluegrass boy band. It is a little-known genre. It was 1976, the year of the Bicentennial and the age of velour and macramé.
Verona Junior High School staged a talent show that my group was part of. I remember we all ordered matching red and white gingham western shirts with pearl snap buttons from Sears. We all had western belts with our names stamped into the leather, and rodeo-style belt buckles, and of course, cowboy hats – outlandish, giant cowboy hats like a frontier pimp would wear. I played a mail-order mandolin, and my friends played guitar, bass, and harmonica.
For the talent show, our big number was a cover of “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” by Larry Gatlin. If you were to Google the lyrics to that song, you would find they are wildly inappropriate for an eighth-grade talent show, as well as completely foreign to our real life experience of romance, which for me was limited to the occasional naked-mannequin-spotting and the ‘Intimates’ section of the JC Penney catalog. The gist of the song is that the narrator has seduced a woman, had his way with her, and then realized she was you know, OK, just not “someone he could love.” I still have the chorus in my head: “I did not mean to mislead you. I never intended for push come to shove. I don’t have one thing against you, I just wish you were someone I love.”
We were terrible, but we got a warm response. Looking back now, I imagine the grownups in the audience – our teachers, our parents, people from our churches – must have been both amused and filled with melancholy to hear a group of pubescent boys sing about themes so clearly beyond their grasp – longing, disappointment, rejection. “Too soon, too soon,” I imagine them thinking. “You will all join us in the broken, compromised adult world. Enjoy your youth. Be good to your friends. Maybe rethink the hats.”
David Pannell describes himself as “a recovering farmer and the reluctant pastor of Common Ground Christian Church in Wren, Mississippi.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.