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.