1. Give Him Grace

From the recording Mandalay

Give Him Grace turned into a co-write with Chris Baron. It started as mine, but Chris started performing it and he used his own version of the lyrics. He also added the chords at the end of the solo. In this version I’ve reverted to using most of the lyrics I gave him in the first place, with some of his additions.

The song started in college when my roommates and I hung out in a neighborhood dive, Rudy’s Inn, where we played shuffle board and drank lots of cheap beer. The floor show was free.

Rudy’s was populated by Old Guys chased out of the house by their wives. Their interactions with Rudy, the owner and barkeep, were notable because these guys had fought World War II, and Rudy was German. I remember more than once one of the Old Guys coming in the door and yelling, ‘Hey you fuckin’ Nazi! Gimme a beer!’.

There was a skull on the bar with a German Wermacht helmet on it. Rudy’s during the war?

The Old Guys were monumental, even though they’d never look at themselves that way. They had gone into Hell, with honor; they saved the world from tyranny. But they’d never think of themselves as heroes. It was unlikely, but if you were to actually get them to talk about their war they’d say something like, ‘Oh things weren’t so bad for us. Now the 157th. Those guys had it bad’. Even though they had faced grievous danger and unimaginable horrors.

Most of them are gone now, and I don’t think we’ll never see the likes of them again. I don’t believe it’s possible for this country to produce another generation so willing to sacrifice. In these times, even if we faced a common enemy, social media and politicians would find a way to divide the country over it. We can still produce individuals who will put their lives on the line for the safety of people they don’t know, but a whole generation? I doubt it.

So the guy in the song is a distillation of all these Old Guys. I met them in church, at Rudy’s, in my dad’s shop, they worked in banks and stores around town, they were my teachers. This guy was the one at the end of the bar, who everyone was glad to see, who had a million stories that might have stretched the truth a bit. Who always had a joke and a way of using profanity that raised it to artistic heights.

But you never saw him talking with anyone. No one knew much about him and he didn’t have any close friends. And when you heard he died, you felt compelled to warn God that he’s on the way. Because he’s already had a pretty bad day and he’s probably not in any sort of mood to take any shit.

So, many thanks to the Old Guys. I suspect God has gotten used to them by now.


He said, ‘I found it ‘neath a stone
By the throne of King Tut
Cigar box banjo
Pencil for the nut
In Egypt with the cavalry
In both the Boer Wars
Where I played it for a living
Can’t do that no more’

He says, ‘There’s leaks in the plumbing
I’m all down the drain
There’s a rat in the attic
Bastard’s nibbling at my brain
Got no use for that banjo
If you want it, that’s fine
It was always on loan
No, it never was mine’

Oh Lord above
Set a watch in place
There's a pissed off old guy
Headed up to your gates
He won't try to fit
In your Almighty Plan
Please give him rest;
Give him grace if you can

He chased the Germans across France
Back in ‘forty-four
But I knew he’d found peace
When I saw him on the floor
Got this song and a banjo
I’ll play ‘em, and grieve
We’re just ashes and love
That’s all that you leave