Dudley Songs

As Dudley’s son, I have experienced the lyrical storytelling of my father countless times. The way Dudley captured a room with his booming voice was trumped only by the way he set it to music. And oh what music it was. More than a few have witnessed the magic of having a days events turned into pros and chords—flung strumming out of a guitar played upside-down. He was so quick and prolific with his writing that only Dudley could know the full volume of his discography. In all the years I have seen him play, he always played his own work—save two covers: 1. All Along The Watchtower by Bod Dylan and 2. LA Woman by The Doors.

Once, while helping him work on our VW bus, I asked my father if he remembered songs that he wrote five years ago. His eyes darted, then squinting he said, “Son, how old are you now?”

“Thirty”, I answered. His head tilted slightly back, eyes closed and then he suddenly started singing a cappella.

With long blond hair that brushes across my chest…

Within the first short burst of words, it was immediately clear that it was a song about my mother. Soon as the song ended, he gave a little context, telling me about when he lived in Michigan, working in county parks and the city sewers of Grand Rapids. He described his boss, a huge man with two beautiful daughters, then sang a song about him.

You ain’t no kind of man if you can’t lift up a manhole-cover with just your index finger.

“And he really could do it!”, he interrupted his song for a bit of the story he just remembered. Now acting out the scenes, caricaturing mannerisms and voices—the garage a stage. Story chasing song, rabbiting down the Dudleyhole of amazing tales.

So many songs. So may stories. Some scribbled on cocktail napkins, more than a few scratched in the margins of a day planner, most lost to stray leaves of coffee stained legal pads.

I was with him in LA when he recorded Morrison Hotel. It was January 1991, the Persian Gulf War was in full swing. A rough mix was ready by the time I flew home. Two days later, I foolishly hand-delivered my only cassette to radio station WGRD. After all this time, I can only remember some of the lyrics:

I read the whole story, I know the book well.
I’ll be in LA Jim, at the Morrison Hotel

The surfers out here man, they ride a new wave
Eagle Rock and desert cave

It’s a real beauty, man, a poet like you
Play whisky a-go-go, drink that fine brew.

Out here on the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned. Immaculate. I-I-
I read the whole story, know the book well.

There must have been other recording sessions. There must be someone out there that remembers fragments of songs like I do. If ever you stumble across a forgotten recording of Dudley. If one morning you remember the lyrics to one of his songs—even a if it’s just a hazy, partially remembered orphan line—I beg you please, please write it down and share it.Dudley was a man that sometimes had to sing for his supper. But maybe Dudley sang mostly to nourish a war ravaged soul. He sang for you, for me and for this, his legacy.

3 thoughts on “Dudley Songs”

  1. I met Dudley in Page AZ in about 1983. It was in my Brother Ed’s restaurant, Strombolli’s Pizza. We ended up drinking beer on the deck many evenings or hanging out at the lake or at his place on 8th Ave. I had been a “juggie” for a siesmograph crew, and Dudley had flown helicopters for Siesmo. He had written a song “Street Jockey Gypsys (Street Jocky Jets)” about doing the job. At one time I knew all the words, they excape me now, but it was a cool song about a crazy job. He and I also wrote a parody of “We are the World”, called “We are the Worms”. Seems that only he and I thought it was funny!

    1. The last time he ever performed Street Juggie Gypsies, I shot it:
      Check out Baja or Bust, Part2, about 20 seconds in.

      “Street Juggie Gypsies, on the run
      Street Juggie Jets, fly for money
      Juggies handle dynamite, plant geophones
      Jets go….”

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