Monty Warren Raises Up Poor Mama and Puts Down Fat Cats with “Grace of God”
Mama grew up in a Depression
10 years old in ’32
Left this world with a confession
There but for the Grace of God go you
–“Grace of God” by Monty Warren (Album: Far Out Close Up, Monty Warren & The Friggin Whatevers)
Every day is Mother’s Day for Monty Warren, devoted son and dedicated roots rocker, whose alt-country/honky-tonk “Grace of God” graces Monty Warren & The Friggin Whatevers’ Far Out Close Up (an LP CD released last year on Keith Richards’ birthday).
“I’d rather people take away their own meanings,” Warren stated during our recent phone interview. “But ‘Grace of God’ is one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written.”
Since it is Mother’s Day and I am Monty Warren’s sister, it seems fitting that this should be my first contribution to No Depression. The life events that helped create “Grace of God” involve our mother’s nosedive into near-poverty after our parents’ divorce, and homelessness while my brother was a Pre-Law undergraduate at Emory University. Being newly arrived and temporarily homeless myself in California, there was nothing I could do when my brother called to tell me. So Monty moved Mom into his student living quarters. His roommate, Victor Reyes (aka “Judge Vic” the harp player on all three of The Friggin Whatevers’ albums) gave a big thumbs-up to what had to be an incredibly difficult living arrangement.
That is how much heart they had. And how much heart echoes throughout “Grace of God.”
When I asked Monty what ignited his passion for roots rock, he answered, “The music you played for me before I knew how to curse.” In fact, our history is so much like Cameron Crowe’s film, Almost Famous, that he called me from Florida when it came out to say, “You have to see this!” Years later, I did see it, and the beginning is a mirror image of our own story. Mom and I were always at odds. Her instability and mood swings scared the heck out of me. When I finally fled to Boston in the early 70s, I left my albums behind, not realizing that my much younger brother–who sang Beatles songs in public when he was two, and played the drums in our living room while listening to Beatles’ tunes–was falling deeply in love with what we now call “roots rock.”
Although he always had a garage band going and the occasional gig at a County Fair, Monty stuck to his lucrative “day job,” making sure with every breath he took that Mom not only had a roof over her head, but in her later years, a lavish assisted-living home that had a canal running through the courtyard with swans! Not to mention the excellent medical care he made sure she received when she had her psychotic break and stroke that took away most of her speech but not her laughter.
It was not until 2008, after Trudy Warren passed away from cancer (Monty was at her bedside for that, too) that he made long overdue forays with a creative fervor that stunned the seasoned musicians who came out of the ethers to help make the foot-stomping, heartbreaking sound that is Monty Warren & The Friggin Whatevers. To date, three albums have rolled out: Trailer Park Angel (2008), Let’s Go to Therapy (2012) and Far Out Close Up (Dec. 18, 2015).
And now you Fat Cat Politicians
Gotta miss a meal once in a while.
And work up some contrition
before your returnin’ soul stands trial.
I don’t know if Monty Warren would rather be remembered as a great rock musician or a son who saved his mother’s life, but both are right up there with the Grace of God. Our mother–who played the piano by ear until she could save enough money for piano lessons and who would break into a dance in the supermarket when her favorite song came on and who played “Twilight Time” when she was nine months pregnant with Monty while Hurricane Donna raged outside and who told us we could do anything because we were so smart and talented–would have been proud to know her son not only wanted her to be happy, but to honor her.
Listen to Far Out Close Up on No Depression New Release Page:
Monty Warren & The Friggin Whatevers Website:
“Grace of God” YouTube Video by Marlan Warren features family photos: