Saturday, April 19, 2008


Chris Gaffney passed on a few days ago. One of the last Honkytonkers. I've seen George Jones in a big honkytonk in Texas, and I've seen Gaffney in a bar in Artesia California and I'd rate both experiences about equal. Gaffney was a Golden Gloves boxer, born in Austria, and seemingly raised by bob cats in the Arizona desert. A tough and tender guy and a blood curdling singer. He recorded my song "The Eyes of Roberto Duran," and coming from a boxer, it was chilling. He was Dave Alvin's best friend and my heart goes out to Dave. Dave and Chris stopped by my house here in El Paso about ten years ago. I was having deadly problems with the woman I'd moved out here with, and she had just bycycled away, probably looking for a store to buy a gun. Gaffney and Dave tried to calm me - then Gaffney looked up to the top of my adobe house, and spied what he thought was an old gun turret. "You could hide up there," he said, "and pop her off when she comes riding in." He didn't smile. He was a very funny guy with a deadpan delivery. Here was a man who had to make his living putting up dry wall and scraping the rust off the bottom of ocean liners in the San Pedro harbor. A cross between Charles Bukowski, Johnny Paycheck and Roberto Duran. A blood and guts American character. I recorded his great song "The Gardens," on the "Rose of the San Joaquin" record. You can read his obit at:,1,4527969.story?track=rss
Bless him. May the angels above San Pedro carry his songs on and on and on above the harbor lights at dawn. TR


editor said...

Saw Gaff several times with Dave and The Guilty Men. Missed an opportunity tocatch the Hacienda Brothers, which I will now always regret.

We need to celebrate the journeymen. They are the bedrock of this kind of music. I'd rather see Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men at the Domino Room in Bend than The Rolling Stones in an arena any night of the week.

For one thing, they're a better band and I'd stand on Mick Jagger's coffeetable in my cowboy boots and say that.

More importantly, they are what rock-n-roll and blues and country music and folk music is all about: music of the people, by the people and for the people. Not of by and for the glitterari.

God bless Chris Gaffney. I like to think he's playing in a bar on the other side.

Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . coicidence or not. I am having breakfast at Newton's Outpost Cafe in Hesperia, CA. Sitting across from me is Huey " The Hitman " Hilliard who was an east coast welterweight pro boxer from 67' to 80'. Huey made his bones starting out in " old Smokers " bar room betting fights. Fighting in a circle of car headlights in drive-in movie theatres. He looks and sounds like Di Nero. He had a mean left hook. You sold your soul to go pro back then. The ruin of every good boxer is:
" good drugs and bad women " says Huey.
( cont'd )

Saddle Tramp said...

- Page 2. "Ode to a Boxer"
Huey sends a clasped gloves over his head to Chris. Huey condemned to the road like me is on his way to Vernon. I'm on the way to Fontana.
Road report from Newton's, one of the holdouts on " Old 66 " where emblazoned across a ceiling beam Whitman sends Chris and the rest of us road tramps on our way.
" Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road healthy, free the world before me . . . "
- Walt Whitman

Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . that is " coincidence ". This damn predictive text, auto spell or whatever the he'll it is will be the death of me. Along with this minerature keyboard and my weary mind many errors slip through the gate. I hope the content remains solid at least. Worth the price of admission to keep up with you and your fans that enhance your much deserved prestige.
In the spirit of Chris Gaffney.
" Fists Up ! "

Saddle Tramp said...

auto spell continues . . . he'll for hell, minerature for miniature. Apologies to your grammatically fastidious fans.
" Someone, even at their own peril must build the stairs for the rest of us to climb. Chris and Tom have done just that and likewise to greater heights. There are also many hidden shoulders far from the glare of fame. Long live Chris, boxing, music and love and pain".

Between the lines . . . driving and reading.

Tom Russell said...

I shall make some future remarks about The to the heavy bag. Blogger Maniac

Saddle Tramp said...

Yes TR . . . we are treading on sacred ground when it comes to The Stones. This is my first blog experience and am unsure of the ground rules. I anticipated some reaction from you, knowing your last El Paso experience with them. Trying to keep it friendly and informative but if the truth be told . . . Not trying to steal your thunder Tom, just providing a little lightning bolt warning before hand.
Road report from Three Sisters Truck Stop in Fontana where a who're in a confrontation with a customer was blocking the driveway on my way in this morning.
Road mayhem. -ST. (BM)

zog said...

nice words for our friend chris, tom.
the afternoons and evenings i spent at the swallows in san juan cap were the best there is (except maybe that night @ the beatnik cafe in joshua tree with you, steve and dusty).
S.T.- i grew up in norco and we used to drive up to the fontucky turckstop to get "girls for bachelor parties"
until they fenced the damn thing in!
love to all

Saddle Tramp said...

Hey Zog . . . I don't know how she penetrated the line of defenses. I will spare you the graphic details of the event. Bukowski already covered that territory well. Suffice it to say that she fit the description Buk gave of his first encounter. You can't improve on genius. I will add this: the jeans on her bulging legs were sliced open just below the saddle. Her twin monsters were barely suspended by a thin strap. Worst though, was a mean look that could wilt daisies. By the way, I go to Norco Ranch on Mt. Ave. quite often. Not much ranch left in Norco. On up Archibald in Corona trees lay slaughtered like soldiers at Wounded Knee. It's like a town sprouted overnight. Where have all the cows gone? From over the hill in Wheeler Ridge. -ST

zog said...

gaff sang about "when the wind from out of artesia"...we had the same effect when the wind blew from mira loma. my godparents owned one of the first massive dairies out on river road in corona and to this day when i get a whiff of that cow piss-water smell it takes me back to the 60's.
they sold the dairy in the 80's and raise avocados outside bonsall now.
sadly,river road (and archibald) is asshole-to-elbow tract homes today they reek worse than cow piss in my book...

editor said...

Hey, Saddle Tramp:

Not trying to kick dirt on sacred ground. I love the Stones.

I just like the guys in the trenches better.

A couple of the Dave Alvin shows I've seen were the best rock-and-roll shows I've ever seen. The band was tight; they ripped and tore and turned on a dime and just generally kicked ass better than anyone I've seen... Stones, Springsteen, Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, anyone.

These are guys who'll never have Martin Scorsese doing a documentary nor have presidential candidates and A-list celebs turning out for shows and photo ops.

I love that. I love that you can get that kind of experience with a hundred people, looking the musicians in the eye. For me, it doesn't get any better.

Saddle Tramp said...

Editor. . . duly noted & appreciated. This is Tom's show and possibly my final post. In defense of Molly and by the way she has balls. I don't think "Molly" was trying to steal the show, but was passing on respect and information that Molly thought Tom would enjoy. Meanwhile, Huey ( a real tough guy ) no shadow boxer is shifting gears with a mean left hook, because his right hand hangs dead from an undisclosed accident. I am nearing the end of my limited room format and cannot rail on in long tirades. I've earned the right to sing the blues, but like Huey. Don't complain . . don't explain. So long Last Step. -ST

zog said...

anyone in so cal- theres a benefit show at the cellar in long beach 4/30
at 3:00 pm. dave & the guilty men, the hacienda bros. and the cold hard facts all paying respect to gaff and family. should be a nice gathering...