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From Toilet Paper To Tombstones-The Odd Ways & Places Songs Are Written

Music makes the world go ‘round. Where would we be without it. And some of the most amazing places have inspired some of the best songs. Like Amarillo By Morning, Tupelo Honey, and New York, New York. But unfortunately, songs have a way of not caring where you are at when inspiration strikes.

As a matter of fact, it can happen at the most inopportune times.  I thought it would be fun to explore the interesting places and ways a song was initially written. When the song wants to come out, it's like a baby, it's gonna come out! :)

Thankfully, in the end, the song was written and all was well with the world once again, sigh..

Arguably, the song that put Garth Brooks on everyone's radar was Friends in Low Places. It still is one of the most iconic and successful songs in country music history. The songwriters Earl Bud Lee, and Dewayne Blackwell were playing hooky from church, lol, and sipping champagne at a local eatery having brunch when Earl wrote down the iconic lines Blame It All On My Roots, I Showed Up In Boots, and Ruined Your Black Tie Affair on the back of a napkin.

Dewayne wrote the next line, and they kept trading off lines. The iconic title, and last line did not come until Dewayne told Earl he had left his wallet home when it was time to pay the champagne brunch tab.. Earl responded, don’t worry I have friends in low places, and the rest is country music history. 

The bathroom seems to be a pretty popular way of writing a song. I guess the solitude of your thoughts in a somewhat vulnerable position can open the gates of inspiration. The classic Kingsman Louie Louie, and Kenny Rogers Lady are

fine examples of bathroom inspirations. Not to mention that Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, and Taylor Swift have also admitted to writing in the bathroom..

Possibly the most recognizable living country music legend is Dolly Parton. The trajectory of her career, and her staying power are rivaled only by her humanitarian efforts, and love for people. One of Dolly’s most memorable songs was written on a tour bus when she was still performing with her then duet partner Porter Wagoner.

The song was about growing up poor, and the coat of many colors her momma for Dolly to wear at school. Dolly later shared that the coat was the only top she had, and the bullies in school tore the buttons off of it by tugging at it. They also locked her in a closet, and would not let her out. She said the memory was horrific, and made the song painful to sing early on.

Incredibly enough, Coat Of Many Colors was written on the back of one of Porter’s sales receipts for a Nudie suit he bought. He was so proud of Dolly’s composition that he recorded it first, and framed the receipt. You can see it at  Dollywood. 

Jail is another odd place that has inspired artists to write about their woes. The late great Lefty Frizzell, one of the kings of Honky Tonk music along with Hank Williams is a great example. He was the only artist that rivaled Hank’s popularity in 1951. At barely 19 years of age, Lefty was cooling his heels in a Roswell, New Mexico jail cell, when he wrote one of his biggest hits

“I Love You a Thousand Ways..”  


Maybe it's fitting that one of the most stirring songs written from a jail cell came from The Hag as he was greatly influenced by Lefty. On some songs, I almost think it's Lefty singing as the similarity is uncanny..

Back to our theme, the song in question was written when the mighty Merle was in San Quentin at the same time that Caryl Chessman was. Merle observed all the preps taking place for Caryl’s execution. The chilling experience inspired one of my all-time faves from Merle Sing Me Back Home. The details concerning the background and success of the song can be found in one of my previous blog posts. Check back next week for as I'll have a new installment for Back Stories: The Story Behind The Song.


And by the way, the oldest full musical composition known is the Seiklos Epitaph. It was written on a tombstone, and still standing. The translated song is as follows:

While you live, shine

have no grief at all

life exists only for a short while

and Time demands his due..

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Love these interesting stories Sana!

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