Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On the Greyhound

Note: This is a weekly element of the MUSINGS where I share music I've been working on, as well as other original works or interpretations by musicians who submit things to me at 

The purpose of this segment is to get feedback from viewers on the work that is presented. Please offer respectful ideas and/or criticism, with the intention of improving the music presented. I hope you enjoy.

I was talking to my friend Brian earlier this summer, and he told me this story about two brothers who owned a grocery store in his hometown in central Illinois. It was a locally owned grocery, the type you don't see around much any more. The store wasn't a warehouse of pristine florescent light and overwhelming options. It was dimly lit, sparse, and dingy. Scores of students had worked in this little shop over the years, earning cash to be spent on a sultry Saturday night, put down towards a beat up old car, or tucked away for a college dream. They bagged, checked, swept, and stocked their way to a meager check at the end of each month.

The owners were well known in the community. Not necessarily well respected, but everyone knew the brothers. They were a little eccentric, but nothing that made people leery. They weren't the type of guys you'd see on the City Council, but neither were they considered low life's. The high school guys who worked at the store were privy to a stash of dirty magazines that one owner kept in the back room. It was rumored that one of the owners carried a gun while taking the deposit into the bank.

Then one day, the two brothers got into an argument. They began yelling in the store, stormed outside, where the altercation escalated to physical violence. Some say it was about money, but no one knows for sure. The only thing that is for certain is that at the end of the day, one brother lay dead in the parking lot, gunned down by his own flesh and blood. The rain fell intermittently as the investigators assessed the situation.

The day the incident happened, a friend of ours was on a bus in a near by town. The bus driver received a call and, upon hearing of the tragedy, pulled the vehicle over and began sobbing uncontrollably. The event literally brought this little town to a standstill.

This story has a sepia-toned, reminiscent imagery about it, at least for me. It feels like the small town in which I grew up, where everyone knows everyone's business, and news travels faster than the afternoon papers can report. The scandal, the horror, the foundation shaking magnitude of this event makes everyone question what they've known to be real in their own lives.

So out of that story, a song was born. Brian and I discussed how this story was so human. We could relate to it because we've all been at our wits end with someone close to us. But most of us don't take it to such a drastic level. We curse, we scream, we punch, but do we ever think of actually ending that persons existence? In this song, I attempted to convey the idea that this could have just as easily been any one of us. Who knows what any of us all capable of.

On the Greyhound
Times are hard for everyman
To each his own doing the best that we can
As for me, I'm just traveling through
finding work and doing the best I can do

Middle America, late July
Hot enough to make the Devil cry
Greyhound bus grinds to a halt
Ain't going no further tonight on the old asphalt

Tensions rise in the July sun
when your 'gainst the wall there's nowhere to run
Behind the counter's more than tobacco and gin
Blood runs thick from your next of kin

Money turns a man's soul black
Jealousy cannot bring it back
One man dead, one man in chains
A family torn 'tween prison and the grave

Sometimes I think about those times
When everything was yours and mine
In the end there's no way to share
and now there is no one. There is no where.

Tensions rise in the July sun
when your 'gainst the wall there's nowhere to run
Behind the counter's more than tobacco and gin
Blood runs thick from your next of kin

On the greyhound no one knows your name
fade away everyone's the same

If you have any ideas or comments, please post below. Feel free to offer suggestions on style, technique, recording methods, instrumentation, lyrics, or anything else. Again, the purpose of these entries is to spur dialogue that will improve the level of this piece.

It's October, so If you've been working on a piece of music that is morose, sinister, or downright scary, send it to me at, along with the back story and lyrics and I'll post it. It doesn't have to be polished or well produced, just an original composition or interpretation. I'll be posting one song each week.


  1. I really like this, Chris. I think the words are REALLY good. Instead of posting something of my own, maybe I can overdub something on top of what you have here? In essence, add to your creativity :-) Because with all of our resources, it's really easy to just multi-track with friends over long distances, which (in my opinion) is REALLY cool and one of the greatest collaborative tools we have!

  2. Brian,

    Definitely. Let me know what you are thinking of adding, and do it! I can send you the original audacity file if you want.

    I was thinking a good kick drum underneath would tie it together well. I was also thinking of layering in some organ-like drones on the squeezebox.

    Let me know what you think.