San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

May 18th, 2008
Hap Mansfield’s Blog: Swingin’ on a Saturday

Good ol\' Herb Remington takes Remington\'s Ride as smoothly as ever. In the background, loving every second of it, is singer Jody Meredith.The festivities for Texas Natural Fest/Western Swing Hall of fame last Saturday were chock full of amazing sights and sounds. The blacksmiths hammered away, people chatted happily in their summer finery and the sweet notes of Texas Swing serenaded us all.

LBJ’s hat, a sample of the LBJ museum items on display, was oddly moving. It was a much smaller hat than I expected, given the former president’s Texas-sized personality. The fellow from the museum explained that LBJ didn’t want the hats to be too ostentatiously big. It was a metaphor, for me, of Natural Fest; full of wonders and treasures that were huge yet looked so oddly simple. Life is like that.

I had a cotton-candy-flavored snow cone (for a buck – not bad) and appreciated watching people enjoy the food and the booths around the lovely town square. But one is inexorably drawn to the music. On stage, acting just like regular folks, were some of the legendary figures of Texas music.

When Herb Remington played “Remington Ride” on that steel guitar, my mouth dropped open in surprise. That guy can still really play. He sounded every bit as fresh as the day he recorded that song in 1949. As he played, you could almost hear Bob Wills saying, “All right Herbie! Herb Remington and that little ol’ steel guitar!”

Singer/host/ Super Swing Review band leader, Al Dressen said it best, ”Herb, I don’t know how you do it, that’s as good as you’ve ever played that—you seem to be getting better with age!” The sentiment was often repeated in the crowd.

Long-time musician Jody Meredith got up and beautifully sang the Nick Lucas classic, “It’s Been A Good Life,” remembering to mention that his “good life” was because of his wife of 50 years. Mrs. Meredith and I chatted later in the day about how we thought a Western Swing Musician’s Wives Hall of Fame would not be amiss. Those gals lived through some tough times.

Meredith had a pocketful of good one-liners, or, at least, jokes I’d never heard before. When he was on stage, he quipped, “My girl lives south of the border and last night she came across.” (Think about it.)  Later, when I was talking to him, at the urging of his wife (who knew his shtick like the back of her hand) he told me about the hunter seeing an elk for the first time and saying, “Who goosed the moose?” Well, I thought they were funny, anyway.

The band onstage featured such luminaries as Maurice Anderson and Bob Boatright. Dayna Wills sang like a Patsy Cline songbird and Dressen did a great job of keeping things moving right along in a pleasant Texas lope.

When Dressen sang a signature tune of Western Swing, “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” he was joined onstage by the velvety voice of Hall of Fame inductee, “Mr. Texas,” Jim Gough. There wasn’t a person in the crowd who didn’t sing along or lip-synch with the band. Even I was doing it.  People just walking along outside of the bandstand were doing it. I imagine that people driving by on the street were doing it. Bob Wills, my friends, is still the King.

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