Billy Don Burns: Songwriter of the Tear
I met Billy Don Burns tonight for the first time and got to see him preform with banjo picker Buck Thrialkill. The word was he had broke his collar bone and in a sling. His partner Aaron Rodgers had a gig in Nashville and couldn’t make it back to his home state of South Carolina. Upon entering I noticed Billy Don was smoking a cigarette close to the door and introduced myself to a guy who’s lyrics I respected the hell out of. I asked him how he was feeling and was he able to play the guitar and with any hesitation he shook his head after a drag from his smoke and proclaimed “Hell yeah man “. It didn’t take too much longer in the conversation we had in front of the venue while it drizzled rain I knew we the same limited edition assembly line. Some one brought a menu to Burns and he didn’t even look at and says “Ahh just get me a Cheeseburger!” to the legendary songwriter learning they didn’t have that on the menu. “Just get me whatever your having” and he handed the menu away giving me the thought he isn’t a picky eater. We talked about 15 minutes of small talk before he had to get on stage. Southern Culture seem to be a ungiue place to play and the food looked top-notch and smelled like Dixie. The stage was beautiful set up with two chairs with a guitar on one side and a banjo on the other.
“If It all ended tomorrow and I am dead and gone I will have no regrets for I got to do what I love and meet and work with my heroes” proclaim Billy Don.
I felt he was telling the truth for I felt the energy drain off him like rain flows down a storm drain. He told me stories of how well Mexico would pay him to play, or how good of a boy Aaron Rodgers was and his dad owned a John Deer dealership, and about that time he sold his best guitar. The set was short but honest songwriting to I saw a select few actually got it. I was proud to know that I got it what was going on right in front of my eyes and I may never see the likes of it every again and soaked it up as much as I could. One of my favorite Billy Don Burns song is Is he the Writer . The narrative is about a guy who sits down to write soon sits down to write a song and the song ends up becoming him in spirit. Its pure genius and I began to wonder why he doesn’t he have the respected he has earned.
He is quite charming and once you know him your never a stranger and thru out the night I keep hearing “Come over here with us brother” along with “your a good boy and I am proud of you.” Upon outside with another smoke break he begin to tell me tales of struggle, heartache, and following the lonesome highway. He told me of writing songs for his own sake and writing songs to help pay the rent. I realize that when this rebellious dinosaur is gone that this era of pure songwriting will be gone forever. No one can replace him not even the hipster guy who lives on the opposite side of the songs he sings and lives. I learned that once you get to where you think you wanna be its a lonely ass place that you keep trying to fill that void.
I have the up-most for Billy Don Burns as a human being and a songwriter. The place was packed out and a select few got it in which he was doing. I know for one I did for I felt it in the Carolina air. Tonight I heard him laugh and carry on and it seem like how he was dealing with it all. The battle scars seem so deep yet the fight to keep on keeping on is a constant blessing and a curse. The highway is tough and tires don’t always hold up but you keep going. He informed us he wasn’t going to stay at local motel but he was going back home 400 miles to Arkansas as he grasp his bread and butter guitar and disappeared the rainy lonely night like a bandit.
He’s holed up one night as usual, alone
he’d been drinkin’ and druggin’ and writing his wrongs
there’s no more to lose, nothing to fear
takes out his knife and cuts off his ear
Poets like Dylan live in his brain
is he a writer or is he insane
he dresses in black and he goes it alone
is the writer or is he a song