Bo Carter has stories to tell.
He once shared a cup of coffee with Bob Dylan. His band opened for The Kinks. He has even had a moderate hit or two. He is a self-proclaimed two-hit-wonder.
But that was a long time ago.
Bo knows his days on The Road are numbered, but he is not quite ready to hang up his rock ‘n’ roll shoes.
He has one more album in him. He just knows it.
Now all he has to do is convince everyone else.
Chapter One: The Whitmore Years
– 1963 –
Old Man Whitmore hands Bo Carter the sheet of half-finished lyrics with a flourish usually reserved for actors performing in Off-Broadway stage plays. To suggest that he is displeased would be a supreme understatement.
“It should surely be known to you by now, young man, that professional songwriters do not write songs about the writing of songs. That would not be unlike a serious author writing books
about an author writing a book. It simply is not done. Do I make myself abundantly clear?”
“Crystal,” Bo says.
“My apologies, dear boy, but is that meant to imply a response in the affirmative or the negative?”
“Well, isn’t that wonderful news,” he says. “I could not be more relived should you have informed me that Satan himself had been vanquished.”
“My, how I long for the days of yore,” Old Man Whitmore says as he marches back to his office.
Jesus, Bo thinks to himself. He wonders how the Old Man would have reacted if he had received a song about being hung over.
And given that Bo is too hung over to think about -let alone write about- anything else today, he has no choice but to take the day off from writing songs about being hung over or anything else.
If only his life were so easy.
Bo is a songwriter-for-hire. Every morning at or about 9:00 A.M. he shows up for work, pencil in hand, and begins to work on a song. Any song. His choice. Well, his choice just so long as the song is catchy and not too maudlin and has a good hook and has the potential to become a huge hit single that will bring in untold millions for the company but leave him more or less as penniless as he was when he first rolled out of bed feeling hung over and feckless.
So “hanged over” songs are not considered to be worthy of a days’ pay, even a meagre one, but songs about love lost and found and songs about crimes of passion and summer days in the park with George are quite acceptable. All one needs to write such songs is to have won or lost at love.
Bo has done neither of those things.
He is 18 and chubby cheeked and gullible and… well nice. He is quite certain that at some point he will learn about those other things but for the moment he has been hired by the firm of Whitmore & Sons solely on the basis of an oddly poignant song he wrote two years ago entitled “Coal Miner’s Blues” that just happened to become a moderate, regional hit for a moderate, regional singer named Bobby Key.
How he came to write such a song is a bit of a mystery, even to the author. Bo has never been much of a believer in things he cannot see with his very own eyes, but he does have a curious interest in what might be called his ‘past lives.’
Early on in life he had an odd notion that he might have been a coal miner. There is nothing in his history, that he knows of, that would indicate such a thing might be true.
It was only after he wrote “his song” that he discovered, quite by happenstance, that his great-great grandfather had worked in a coal mine in Scotland.
Were those experiences passed on to Bo in some fashion, allowing him to capture the essence of the coal miner’s blues?
He will never know for certain, but the song was at least good enough to earn him his start in a ‘career’ as a songwriter. So Bo was brought into Whitmore & Sons, told to sign a contract that made certain that he would be screwed every way imaginable until he could afford to pay a lawyer to extricate him from the contract and that was that.
He does not know it yet, but the experiences he is going through now will one day allow him to write, with some authenticity, songs about things like other workers who sweat and toil for the company store without any hope whatsoever of ever getting ahead, let alone paying off the debt to the company. He will, he hopes, one day understand what that does to a man. It is doing it to him now. He just does not realize it yet.
In the meantime it is all whimsical, all the time. Except for today. Today is internal agitation. He stomach is like a roller coaster bound for hell.