By Sam Burnham
There's a theory about everything these days. Crop circles, cattle mutilations, aliens, overlapping plot lines in Disney animated films, even one that suggests that Ferris Bueller's Day off was nothing but a dream in one boy's mind and nothing more.
I don't usually subscribe to silly theories and such but there is one that I have in my own mind. There are two songs that are obviously connected in my mind. Oh, there are a few little edits involved to try to throw us off the trail - a few additions or omissions to make the conspiracy and maybe even some mystery to prolong the controversy while attempting to deny any connection at all. It makes for a typical Southern storytelling experience.
In 1968, just months after the death of our first storyteller, Otis Redding celebrated sitting on a dock on San Francisco Bay doing a whole bunch of nothing, something Southern men have a gift for doing. Give us a porch, a dock, a riverbank, or a place around the fire and we will put on a clinic in the art of accomplishing nary a single thing. Nil. Diddly-squat.
So that is what the subject of our first story is doing when we meet him. Nothing. He has his reasons. He explains some of the reasons but not in a lot of detail. We don't know what all led him to this lonely state. But we can always listen to the rest of the story
Because five years later, Gladys Knight and her Pips released the sequel. While a Southern man is capable of doing nothing better than anyone else, there is one thing that can catch his attention, and make him get up and accomplish more than anyone could ever imagine possible. That one thing is a good Southern woman.
So what happened, if you can see the whole story, is that our hero left Georgia, young and stars in his eyes, he hit L.A. with big dreams that crashed hard, drifted north to Frisco and reverted to his roots, just a Georgia boy taking in the sights and relaxing in an attempt to lick his wounds and regroup before deciding his next move.
That is where our heroine makes her entrance. I see the visual in my mind. Looking down the dock. Her graceful silhouette approaching the stack of crates supporting the reclined silhouette of our hero.
We aren't privy to the conversation. We're not sure exactly what she says or does, not specifically. It was likely something on the range between "sweetie, let's go home and have some beans and cornbread" and "get your sorry butt up off those crates and let's go home". Probably a bit of both as Southern men can be stubborn. But as the sun makes its way to a dark concealment somewhere beyond the Pacific horizon, our hero stands up on his own feet and starts strolling back towards town. Our heroine takes over the vocals for the second half of the story and our couple find themselves on that Midnight Train to Georgia.
Sure, there will be naysayers, but I won't be deterred. Our hero doesn't mention L.A.? How many of your failures do you sing about? She'd rather live in his world? They're going to live in his hometown. It's so obvious as to not even be humorous. The songs are inextricably connected and I cannot be deterred.
Now, I'm off to do a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm sure not going to be doing it in San Fran.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire