Momma's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be "Guitar Players" - 11/18/13
When country legend Waylon Jennings passed away in 2002, I wrote a story about his life and career as one of the most significant figures in the country outlaw movement. I interviewed fellow country singer Ed Bruce for the piece. Bruce was a friend of Waylon's and was one of the writers of Jenning's smash hit "Momma's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys."
That legendary song was really what led to request an interview with Mr. Bruce who was living outside Centerville in Hickman County at that time. When I asked Bruce about being a co-writer on the song, he bristled and told me while his ex-wife Patsy shared credit as a songwriter, that tune was his. I could tell I had touched a nerve, certainly without intending to.
Monday, I had lunch with Patsy Bruce and a handful of other people to talk about the state's "Season To Remember" event on December 5-th at First Baptist Church downtown. It's a great event that remembers the victims of violent crime and their families who are dealing with the pain of loss at a time so many other families are reconnecting. I didn't immediately connect the dots that Patsy was "the" Patsy Bruce. When I did, "Momma's" immediately came to mind.
After we had talked for awhile, I decided I had to ask about the song. Ed Bruce's feeling about sharing writing credits was hardly a surprise. Patsy Bruce shared the story behind that great tune from her perspective. She told me the original line was "momma's don't let your babies row up to be guitar players" Patsy says she told Ed it wasn't commercial enough and that "Cowboys" was the perfect fit. And Patsy Bruce says the second verse is all her. She suggested I give it a fresh listen and see if I could detect a change in perspective. Patsy says Waylon and Willie knew the truth. Waylon is gone of course but if I ever get a chance to speak to Willie I plan to ask.
Suffice it to say, I have been treated to two sides of the story behind one of the most recoginizable songs in country music history. Most days I just love my job and this is another one of those days. Only in Nashville.