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  • Jon Houlon

Musings on No 2 Unalike (# 5)


From Night One, No 2 Unalike, Wednesday, November 4th, 2015, Fergie's Pub Merle Haggard's "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)” paired with my own, "Lord Baltimore”

Sometime in the late 80s (or it mighta been the early 90s), I saw Merle Haggard play the Birchmere. I've seen him several times since but this was my first Hag show and I was in full fan-boy mode. I picked up an 8 x11 glossy photo of Merle at the merch stand after the show and walked over to his tour bus to see if I could get a signature. Bonnie Owens (former wife of both Buck and Merle) answered the door. I asked if Merle might sign the photo and she replied "Of course, hon!" Getting called "Hon" by Bonnie was pretty cool in and of itself. She closed the bus door and in a matter of seconds opened it back up and gave me the "signed" photo. I dunno. Not to make assumptions here, but the words "Merle Haggard" were written in the girliest hand I'd seen since prom queen April Wheeler wrote "Why are you so weird?" in my high school yearbook. Whatever. Bonnie called me "Hon" and anyway the damn thing was smudged to the point of illegibility as I walked through the drizzling rain back to my car in the massive Birchmere lot. I definitely had Hag in mind when I wrote "Lord Baltimore". Hag is a fine songwriter in his own right (possibly only second to Hank when it comes to the "country" idiom) but "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad) was actually written by Hank Cochran (a legendary Nashville songsmith). It's pretty easy to hear how I copped the arrangement of "Lord Baltimore" from "It's not Love". The lyrical theme is similar too as it deals with one of Country Music's favorite subjects: infidelity. I couldn't have written it without having absorbed dozens of Hag weepers. I must also nod my head to the late great John Updike. When he died in 2009, I went back and re-read a number of his novels including "Couples." Motel parking lots feature prominently in the book ... and provide a setting for my song. For those keeping score, the Lord Baltimore is in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware ... on Baltimore Avenue.

- Jon Houlon


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