Songs of Will T. Massey — “A Dying Breed”

Today is my cousin, Will T. Massey’s 52nd birthday — wherever he may be.

It’s been 4 years to the day since I last heard from him as he slipped back into the shadows of the schizophrenia that haunted him whenever he left it untreated. I miss him more than I can describe and the pain hits hard when it hits. I share his songs here as my simple way to keep my memories of him alive at least — and a hope he might re-emerge again someday.

For this song, let’s let Will introduce it just as he did at the cassette release party for Slow Study at the Chicago House, back on 9-9-89. Sadly, the recording level on the raw audiotape makes his patter between songs almost impossible to hear, or I’d provide that directly. Hearing him perform with the vigor and bravado of his youth always brings a smile to my face. Will made instant fans in his early days of touring, not only for his songs but also his powerful stage presence, on proud display that evening years ago.

Why did I name a song “A Dying Breed’?
If anyone can answer that, I’ll give ‘em a free tape. All right, c’mon, why’re you shy?

Why did I name a song “A Dying Breed’?
It’s about a train…it’s about a guy riding a train…nobody knows…

I’ll tell you why — because I rode this train for 3 days. (“And you almost died” Peg Miller says) As Bill Ward would say, I vowed then and there, by God, I was gonna be a cowboy. And I thought that was kinda a cowboy thing to do. And all the cowboys in the movies they’re so cool, man? They got a wad at back of their mouth and they got their faded jeans on — they see a pretty girl as the train rolls by, no big deal, it’s going 80 miles an hour, they’re cowboys, they just jump off.

So, I’m trying to get back to Austin. I’ve been to Corpus, I’ve been to Houston, I’ve been to…uh…Fort Worth, and I’m just not gonna like, get on the right train getting back here…

This is a true story, by the way! (distinct laugh) I can always tell my Mom’s laugh! (prolonged laughter from his Mom and the crowd)…used to find her in the grocery store by that laugh.

But I was having no luck coming back to Austin, whatsoever. We were going into Mexico and I got my best cowboy pose, I put my tobacco in, I thought this is gonna be really cool. I’m gonna feel like such a badass when…we’re rolling through there…I’m confident, I jump off. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in a hospital and my Daddy’s standing over me.

So that’s why they’re a dying breed— being a hobo is hard! Tough to survive…and I’ll tell you something:

It sure is cold
When you grab a-hold
Of a free ride for the night.
It ain’t slowing down
If you’re leaving town,
Buddy, you better hold tight.
You’ve got a hat for a habit,
You better grab it,
You might not make it back —
You’re guessing where you’re going
When you’re hoboing,
Never knowing the next track.

Let the driver decide
Don’t let him see you, son.
Hang out and hide
If you like your freedom.
Howl into the wind,
Tell her what you need,
She’s a true friend
To a dying breed.

Hey, if you’re eastbound, buddy
I know a little honey
Cooks a mighty fine French toast
If you’re going west, son,
Better pack a gun,
Man, they’re weird out on the coast.
And if you’re southbound, neighbor,
Won’t you do me favor,
Tell Mama that I’m okay.
Now I won’t mention the north,
They think they won the war —
That’s all I’ve got to say.

Let the driver decide
Don’t let him see you, son.
Hang out and hide
If you like your freedom.
Howl into the wind,
Tell her what you need,
She’s a true friend
To a dying breed.

Now, there’s an old angel
She guards the rail
And watches from a mile.
She’s a lonely lady
Hey here lately,
They’re going out of style.
She don’t hear so well,
You gotta yell
If you want her for a guide.
She’ll blow back your hair,
She’ll be there,
Wherever you’re gonna ride.

Let the driver decide
Don’t let him see you, son.
Hang out and hide
If you like your freedom.
Howl into the wind,
Tell her what you need,
She’s a true friend
To a dying breed.

REPEAT CHORUS

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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