Seeing Dwight Yoakam as one of the talking heads on Ken Burns’s Country Music documentary took me back to my wild and crazy days as a young lawyer in New York. (Yes, that was a combination of things that was possible.) By day, and most evenings, I’d sit in the library, walling myself in behind towers of the Federal Supplement. Then around 10 I’d find a fellow night owl to run out to the Lone Star Cafe or another honky tonkish spot.
An edgy young person, if only in my own mind, I favored rockabilly and reggae and acts like Buster Poindexter. It was a time when Los Lobos was playing small halls where you’d stand for the whole show, and when k.d. lang opened for Steve Earle and sang the last notes of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” lying on the floor in fully fringed cowgirl regalia. In terms of country, the twangier it was the better I liked it. No half measures.
My favorite outfit for a non-work night out: navy blue Frye cowboy boots, jeans, and a red mohair off-the-shoulder sweater from the Esprit 75% clearance. I think it’s safe to say that it brought the boys to the yard, or at least got them out to hear music they weren’t strictly interested in.
Which brings me to Dwight Yoakam. I liked him so much, without realizing that he represented a new generation of the Bakersfield Sound, or even knowing what the Bakersfield Sound really meant. I practically wore out my CD of Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc.
Later on, I would see Dwight Y on the TV in passing, and feel kind of embarrassed that he was still wearing his jeans leotard-tight, with a cropped jacket and a cowboy hat pulled so low you couldn’t see his water-blue eyes. If I gave up my red mohair, he should have to grow up, too. Get some dad jeans, Dwight!
After seeing him on Country Music, I fell in love all over again. How can you not love a man who chokes up recalling the lyric of a Merle Haggard song, or is still holding a grudge—real tight—against Columbia Records on behalf of Johnny Cash? He was a wonderful addition to the mix, holding his own in that group of great storytellers. He’s just lovely. I’m fine with the jeans, OK? It’s called show biz.
In the MDK Shop
And so off I went on a YouTube tumble. Here’s a Dwight Yoakam playlist for your Saturday enjoyment. (I also note that a lot of his music is streaming on Amazon Prime.)
And here’s WFUV’s Rita Houston’s 2013 interview of Dwight Yoakam.
For the full effect of The Jeans, I recommend the official video to Yoakam’s cover of “Suspicious Minds.” It’s from the early ’90s, but it’s so ’80s it’ll make your hair perm up.