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Brand New Tennesse Waltz

Pap and granny early 80s
Pap and Granny early 80s

Funny how we view our parents in a one dimensional manner. Often in our mind's eye their only function in life is to be parents-our parents. It hard to imagine them in the role of anything other than parenthood. 

A year or so ago the girls and I saw a man in town. He spoke to us and went on his way. I couldn't resist telling the girls that he used to like me. Almost in unison they said "What do you mean he liked you?" I said "Well it was when we were in school and I mean he liked me. He thought I was pretty."

I could literally see the wheels turning in their minds: "Wow someone besides Dad liked Mom; wow Mom was young like us and had boys who liked her; wait a minute we're her life what about us-Back off buddy!"

I'm the same way about Granny and Pap. Its hard for me to picture them without us, hard for me to realize they each had lives that didn't include the words Steve, Tipper, and Paul-not to mention all the grandkids. But they did.

At a family reunion a few years ago, some old photos were being passed around. I heard somebody say this one is of Jerry (Pap)-I couldn't wait till it reached me. I fully expected to see a boy in overalls-or maybe a young handsome dark haired man holding a baby Steve.

Brand new tennessee waltz

The scene in the photo was startling. It was Pap-on a boat-in shorts with no shirt and no shoes-Pap with longish hair whipped around his face. My mouth wanted to say no this is not Jerry! But one look at his face told my brain it was indeed Pap.

In my entire life I have never seen Pap in anything but boots or Sunday loafers-not one tennis shoe. And Pap in shorts? Get out of here! For sure something I've never seen before.

I was reminded of the astonishing photo of Pap a little over a year ago when Paul decided he wanted us to learn the song Brand New Tennessee Waltz. The song was written by Jesse Winchester. I was most familiar with The Nashville Bluegrass Band's version. Although the Nashville Grass is among my all time favorite artists-I didn't like the song. I wasn't excited about learning it and once I realized it had a funny beat I was even less excited.

After a few weeks of practicing the song we were getting the hang of it. One Sunday afternoon Paul and Pap got the harmony perfect-and in the excitement of us actually liking how the song sounded, Pap said "You know that song reminds me of this girl I knew when I was living in California." One of us said why? Pap said "Well there was this girl that I liked. She lived with another girl and when I'd get off work of the evening I'd stop by their house on my way home. Well one day when I stopped she told me she'd had enough of California she was going back to Tennessee. I was young and hot tempered and her leaving made me mad. I didn't want her to go."

After that little story I decided the song wasn't so bad after all. A few weeks later we had the song down pat and were really enjoying it. Paul went to the wrong chord-or said the wrong word or something. We quit right in the middle of the song to start over and Pap said "We were going along so good why I could see the blue strings on her apron." I said "You mean the girl from California?" Pap said "Yes she was a waitress and she wore this apron that had blue strings coming out of both pockets." 

Once I heard about the blue strings I decided Brand New Tennessee Waltz was my new favorite song-at least when we sing it.

See what you think about it.  

Hope you liked the song!


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Love this song. I sing it sometimes, but only in the house. I was looking at the picture in the background, of The Last Supper. I remember growing up everybody we knew had either that picture or one of Jesus in the same frame. I always wondered where they all came from.

Skippin Church this Sunday to go to the Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest at the old Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura California. We need the Pressley Girls at this event! Maybe next year? It's hard to think of my Smokey Mountain parents as Non committed younguns, but I have heard of a seductress named Eula McGahay at Oconaluftee.

I was comin from the mill with a sack of corn
That's George Howell's car as sure as I'm born Sittin in the middle of the creek so proud He couldn't hear me comin, cause the creek's too loud He couldn't hear me comin, cause the creek's too loud
Eula McGahay's head in his lap
& Him a sitting there a grinnin with his head laid back Grinnin like a Possum with it's ears laid back

My Mother didn't like Eula McGahay all that well

Beautifully, insightfully, thought-provokingly written. And what a great rendering of a good song. Thank you for sharing.

I love this so much and the story as well. I can relate so much.. I think of ya'll often and still praying for all.

LOVE this, Tipper!

My younger work colleagues often surprise me by saying I'm calm, organised, hrd-working etc. If only they knew the unruly mess I was when I was their age!

awww tipper i sure love the story of pap and the blue apron.. and the song is gorgeous.. harmony is perfect as usual.. i get so nostalgic when i see old pictures .. dont you? and look how cute the twins were as babies.. sigh..
thanks as always for sharing.. sending big ladybug hugs.. p.s what is your favorite color??
i agree also.. that our parents.. seem that they just arrived as our parents.. to us children.. as our lives wouldnt be the same if they had married other people.. lol

What a great story, Tipper. And I love the picture of Pap!

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Joan Baez sings my favorite version of it. Love your version as well.

When my kids ask me if I had done this or that before I settled down I tell them, I didn't but if I had I'd still tell you I didn't. They don't know what to say next. They know the answer to the next question will make me a prude or a liar. Try it on your kids. Its fun watching their reaction.

It's funny how we react when our preconceived notions of our parents are challenged! It's as if we have blinders on-our parents surely couldn't have existed(& quite happily)without us, why, their poor lives just couldn't have had any meaning at all. And I don't know that it's a lesson we ever truly learn until we see it reflected in our own kids eyes-

I bet it was a little shocking to
learn of your daddy's life before
you came along...Ken

Very nice. Being from Tennessee, I always like the original Tennessee Waltz and I like this one, too!

I have heard the Brand New Tennesee Waltz quite some time ago. I believe it was by Colleen Petersen the rendition I heard, but I am not sure if it was her as it's been a while since I heard it. Your rendition is wonderful, but I find the instruments almost too loud to hear the voice. He may need a microphone to increase his vocals. Great job and I look forward to hearing "banks of Ohio"

Love it! I know what you mean about parents though, I just completed an album of my parents as a young couple. Eye Openr.

I like this, my son has sing a lot of these songs, he listens to them over and over, until he knows them,and he can really pick good. Thank for sharing this kay

PS....I did want to mention that I love the picture of the "Last Supper" over the doorway in what appears to be an original frame....and also the picture of Deer Hunter and you and the girls at their first birthday celebration...
Thanks again Tipper for a great post...

ha! my granddaugther and I were talking once about relationships and I made a comment (perfectly nice mind you) about her grandfather, Roy, and I -- her reply was "Arrgghh, I have to go and wash my brain!" This was a bittersweet read today as I lost Roy last Sunday.

On a lighter note -- the deer hunter is one handsome fellow and so was(is) Pap!! Keep on enjoying that family to the fullest. Roy said that children were great, grandchildren were better but great-grandchildren were pure blessings.

and the boys...I loved the song and I am partial to the old Tennessee Waltz...even though I'm a Tar Heel thru and thru...
I loved the mandolin sound that Paul did...I quickly looked to see where it came from...LOL
The story is wonderful...but I thinks there is more to it...Would that apron be worn by Granny now....
Wonderful post and family story,
Thanks Tipper,

Oh Tipper, I love your pictures! How in heaven's name did you look so good that shortly after having twins? And Pap sure is a handsome devil!
I have heard a few stories about Mom and Dad's romances before they found each other, it is impossible to imagine either of them with anyone else.
A few years ago I was in the local library, just digging around in our old newspaper microfilm. There was a blurb in one of them; my greatgrandfather had squired a Miss Smith to a local picnic. Even that was hard to wrap my head around! Thank goodness our ancestors made the choices they did - else we wouldn't be here!

Love the song. It is so funny how that we think our parents didn't have a life before us. I loved the pictures you shared. You have a nice looking family Tipper for sure.

Wow! I learned "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz" from an old (REALLY OLD) Joan Baez album -- the one that included "The NIght They Drove Old Dixie Down" - anyway, I sang the song to my new sister-in-law recently because she told a story that reminded me of it. What a small, beautiful world. Thank you for sharing this version. I'll pass it along.

I haven't heard this one before. Pap's comment about the apron strings just goes to show how big of a part that music is in our lives.

Tipper, I could see the face on the boat as well as Ed . I was wondering if I was seeing things. I know my grand kids are very possessive of their parents, even though some of them (grand daughters) are about to be married. I remember when they were very jealous of their mom's prom date, (not their Dad). Great singing as usual.

Enjoyed the story, and it is so true. It is hard to imagine our parents or grandparents as being young once and that they had a life without us. And, our children think the same about us, I am sure.

Great story and familiar thoughts. Song is good too. I feel sad for all the people who do not have that old box of family pictures to go back to for a visit with the past.

Sweet song! Love the story, too. I look forward to your posts every day.

This is an awesome post Tipper.. that's the way I feel about my dad and mom..I love the song..Hope you have a good day..Susie

Pap doesn't look like Pap in that picture. He looks like a fetching young man.
Once as a teenager I was in the grocery store with my mother and a man came up to say hello to my mother. She introduced him to me and before walking away he turned to me and said " your mother was one of the most beautiful women ever to live in this town" then he went on about his business. Wow, I thought!
I guess you're right, they did have a life before us.

Pretty pretty song and yes.. its so hard to conceive of our people having had lives without us.. or of them ever being young. I used to love to hear my mama tell of things she did when she was little. But I could see that better than her being 20, and having boys that liked her. No one is supposed to look at our parents with love, other than the one they ended up marrying. And they were supposed to be unhappy until they got us too! hah!

Life is richer and more textured than we ever give credit due- but you have the pictures to prove it!

Beautiful harmony!

What great fun! Good memories for you to share with the girls!

Really nice song, but I don't believe your Dad and Brother could sing a bad song, they do such a good job always, they'd make a bad song sound good.. :)

great story!

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