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Duck Bobby Dylan, Wherever You Are

There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes.

John Prine

Here it was 9 A.M., and John Prine hadn't had a single brew so he hollered for somebody to go fetch some Heineckens. Shortly thereafter the guy returned to the record studio with five bottles. Prine looked at him with amazement before explaining, "We need cases of the stuff."

Prine got his cases of Heineckens that morning and every morning thereafter. With the help of the' beer, plus aid from his brother, David Bromberg and Steve Goodman, Prine laid down all the tracks for his just released album, "Diamonds in the Rough."

It's only Prine's second album, but critics already-are-calling him the country's best songwriter and making noises about the 'new Dylan.' (Indeed, one of Prine's biggest fans is Dylan who made an unexpected appearance with Prine when John, performed at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village recently.).

It's all happened very quickly to Prine who just two years ago was slogging thru the snow on his mailman's route in a Chicago suburb. The story of his discovery already is something of a legend. John's friend and fellow Chicago folk-singer, Steve Goodman, was working in front of Kris Kristofferson at the Quiet Knight in Chicago while Prine played nearby at the Earl of Old Town.

At Goodman's urging, Kristofferson went to the Earl's place after his last set. The chairs were upended and the bar shuttered by the time Kristofferson arrived. Prine was sleeping on a back table.

He was shaken awake and did a half dozen songs. Kristofferson wasn't a Rhodes scholar for nothing. He saw the talent. With his help, Prine soon had a recording contract with Atlantic. Prine's first album is a minor 'classic with songs like "Sam Stone," the story of a Viet vet who became a junkie. The song features the strongest single line ever written on hard dope: "There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes."

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There is a kind of lunch-bucket honesty to Prine's writing. His songs are of shot-and-a-beer bars and worn-out factory workers and waitresses who work at the drive-in.

Though many of the songs' etch the gray life of perpetual losers, there is a lusty sense of humor that comes stomping thru in others. Thus, there is Prine's delightful tribute to pot smoking, "Illegal Smile," which features this lyric:

  • When I woke up this morning
  • things were looking bad.
  • Seems like total silence
  • was the only friend I had.
  • Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down
  • and won.
  • You may see me tonight with
  • an illegal smile.
  • It don't cost very much
  • but it lasts a long while.

As he edges nearer fame, Prine makes a show of being unconcerned by it all. But he has been. felled by an ulcer, people are getting on him about his drinking, and the images in his songs are getting more complex and, in some ways, more bleak.

It's hard to stay balanced when the velocity of the success trip has you whistling down the track. In a song on his second album, "Rocky Mountain Time," Prine catches the feel of disorientation:

  • Walked into the restaurant
  • for something to do.
  • Waitress yelled at me
  • So did the food.
  • And the water tastes funny
  • When you're far from home.

Prine holds tight to his cheap apartment in the blue-collar suburb of Melrose Park -- the same place he and his wife Ann Carol, lived in when he was delivering mail. On the wall, there are shellacked jigsaw puzzles and a felt banner with his name which used to hang behind him during his first club dates. That was when John used to work the door and get half the gate as his pay. "I used to let a lot of people in and I'd go home with something like $3 when there were 20 people in there. I remember one night about six. folks came in and I think they had $1.50 between them and they wanted to give me that -- they didn't know there was a cover charge, so I told them to just come on in. It's kind of bad to put an entertainer in a position where he's got to get the cover charge," Prine says as he peers into the keyhole of an empty Bud can.

It's not likely he'll have to worry about that again.

"I don't guess so," Prine says, opening another beer. "I got a bunch of concerts lined up and some folks are talking about a movie and I expect I'll be going to Europe soon. Sure is funny the way things happen, isn't it?"

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John Prine

Here it was 9 A.M., and John Prine hadn't had a single brew so he hollered for somebody to go fetch some Heineckens. Shortly thereafter the guy returned to the record studio with five bottles. Prine looked at him with amazement before explaining, "We need cases of the stuff."

Prine got his cases of Heineckens that morning and every morning thereafter. With the help of the' beer, plus aid from his brother, David Bromberg and Steve Goodman, Prine laid down all the tracks for his just released album, "Diamonds in the Rough."

It's only Prine's second album, but critics already-are-calling him the country's best songwriter and making noises about the 'new Dylan.' (Indeed, one of Prine's biggest fans is Dylan who made an unexpected appearance with Prine when John, performed at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village recently.).

It's all happened very quickly to Prine who just two years ago was slogging thru the snow on his mailman's route in a Chicago suburb. The story of his discovery already is something of a legend. John's friend and fellow Chicago folk-singer, Steve Goodman, was working in front of Kris Kristofferson at the Quiet Knight in Chicago while Prine played nearby at the Earl of Old Town.

At Goodman's urging, Kristofferson went to the Earl's place after his last set. The chairs were upended and the bar shuttered by the time Kristofferson arrived. Prine was sleeping on a back table.

He was shaken awake and did a half dozen songs. Kristofferson wasn't a Rhodes scholar for nothing. He saw the talent. With his help, Prine soon had a recording contract with Atlantic. Prine's first album is a minor 'classic with songs like "Sam Stone," the story of a Viet vet who became a junkie. The song features the strongest single line ever written on hard dope: "There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes."

Sponsored
Sponsored

There is a kind of lunch-bucket honesty to Prine's writing. His songs are of shot-and-a-beer bars and worn-out factory workers and waitresses who work at the drive-in.

Though many of the songs' etch the gray life of perpetual losers, there is a lusty sense of humor that comes stomping thru in others. Thus, there is Prine's delightful tribute to pot smoking, "Illegal Smile," which features this lyric:

  • When I woke up this morning
  • things were looking bad.
  • Seems like total silence
  • was the only friend I had.
  • Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down
  • and won.
  • You may see me tonight with
  • an illegal smile.
  • It don't cost very much
  • but it lasts a long while.

As he edges nearer fame, Prine makes a show of being unconcerned by it all. But he has been. felled by an ulcer, people are getting on him about his drinking, and the images in his songs are getting more complex and, in some ways, more bleak.

It's hard to stay balanced when the velocity of the success trip has you whistling down the track. In a song on his second album, "Rocky Mountain Time," Prine catches the feel of disorientation:

  • Walked into the restaurant
  • for something to do.
  • Waitress yelled at me
  • So did the food.
  • And the water tastes funny
  • When you're far from home.

Prine holds tight to his cheap apartment in the blue-collar suburb of Melrose Park -- the same place he and his wife Ann Carol, lived in when he was delivering mail. On the wall, there are shellacked jigsaw puzzles and a felt banner with his name which used to hang behind him during his first club dates. That was when John used to work the door and get half the gate as his pay. "I used to let a lot of people in and I'd go home with something like $3 when there were 20 people in there. I remember one night about six. folks came in and I think they had $1.50 between them and they wanted to give me that -- they didn't know there was a cover charge, so I told them to just come on in. It's kind of bad to put an entertainer in a position where he's got to get the cover charge," Prine says as he peers into the keyhole of an empty Bud can.

It's not likely he'll have to worry about that again.

"I don't guess so," Prine says, opening another beer. "I got a bunch of concerts lined up and some folks are talking about a movie and I expect I'll be going to Europe soon. Sure is funny the way things happen, isn't it?"

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