July 24, 2014

Pining for a Hit

Time for another edition of Royals Record Club! It's the thirty-first anniversary of the Pine Tar Incident, and we've got a single crafted to cash in on that historic moment. No, I'm not talking about "Pine Tar Wars" by that fake truck driver. We covered that last season. This is better than that song, but then again, it would just about have to be.

I'm talking about "The Pine Tarred Bat (The Ballad of George Brett)" by singing cowboy "Red River Dave" McEnery. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. I only discovered it last year, and I actively collect this kind of crap.


Probably the best thing about this 45 is its packaging. It's not just a blank paper sleeve or a plain artist name/song title cover like most record singles come in, but actually has art. We get a drawing of Red River Dave and some sort of dirt-cloud brawl, with arms and legs and hats that say "Ump" sticking out of it. My favorite part is the bottom of the pile, which features what appears to be a dead George Brett.


Now obviously the image doesn't reflect the reality of the incident, but it may have sold a few extra 45s to Yankee fans. Once they bought it, they were probably disappointed since the song is primarily a celebration of Brett.

We'll get back to the song in a little bit, but first, let's talk about Red River Dave. Born in San Antonio in 1914, his initial claim to fame goes all the way back to the 1930s. He was a singing cowboy, adept at rope tricks and yodeling, and often appeared on the radio in Texas and Mexico. A song he'd written and performed called "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight," which capitalized on the recent disappearance of the aviator, gained national recognition when he performed it at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Interestingly enough, many people who saw Red River Dave perform at the fair didn't see it in person. You see, RCA introduced the television set to the general public at this event by broadcasting Franklin Rooselevelt's Grand Opening speech. One of the other things shown on the television at the fair? Red River Dave singing about Amelia Earhart. In case you're curious, other firsts at the fair included air conditioning, flourescent lightbulbs, color photography, and a seven-foot tall robot named Electro the Moto-Man that could talk and smoke cigarettes.

Red River Dave had a long and varied career. After a stint as an infantryman during World War II, he got into the movies. He was featured in one full-length western and eight shorts between 1944 and 1948. He spent a large chunk of the 1950s hosting a local television show in San Antonio. Following that, he sold real estate. All the while, he continued recording and releasing songs based on current events. Among these were "The Ballad of Emmit Till," "The Flight of Apollo 11," "The Ballad of Patty Hearst," "Viet Nam Guitar," "The Ballad of Three-Mile Island," and "Shame is the Middle Name of Exxon," which wasn't about the famous oil spill, but rather was just Red River Dave bitching about high auto repair costs from his local Exxon station. He even wrote a song about the Manson Family, and it's one of the weirdest country songs ever (though Eddie Noack has him beat in that category). As a bonus, here's Red River Dave's "California Hippy Murders":


Red River Dave was ridiculously prolific, releasing hundreds of  songs through various labels and independently. He said, "I write a song every day after checking the daily newspapers." On a bet, he once wrote fifty-two songs in an eight-hour period while handcuffed to a piano. Somehow, through this long life of writing and recording music and appearing in film and on TV, he also found time to paint. In fact, if you have $3500 (plus $50 shipping/handling), you can be the proud owner of this Red River Dave original:


McEnery passed away in 2002 at the age of 87. I think it's appropriate to share his Royals-related song just a few short months before what would have been Red River Dave's 100th birthday, on the anniversary of the event he memorialized. Here is "The Pine Tarred Bat (The Ballad of George Brett)" by "Red River Dave" McEnery, followed by the lyrics poorly transcribed by me. Turn it up and sing along.


"The Pine Tarred Bat (The Ballad of George Brett)"

Come and gather around
all you baseball fans
and a tale you'll hear from me
about George Brett
and his pine-tarred bat
in the year of '83.

Oh the pine-tarred bat
that's where it's at
in the game of baseball today.
Don't rub it too high
or someone will cry
and they'll steal your home run away.

Oh the inning was nine
and there on the line
was Brett with confidence.
He wiggled his shanks
and shook up the Yanks
when he knocked it over the fence.

Billy Martin of course
with his voice gettin' hoarse
was screamin' as he thrashed about.
He claimed that the tar
was up too far,
then the umpire called Brett out.

What a hullabaloo,
boy I'm tellin' you,
in the baseball world what a noise.
Giving pine tar the blame
and stealin' the game
from the Kansas City boys.

Well the ploy did fail
cuz Lee MacPhail
big president in baseball
took Brett off the hook
"Let the record book
show a homer, tar and all."

Well I hear folks chat
about "Casey At the Bat"
and tell it how Casey did fade.
I'll tell 'em, you bet,
about young George Brett
and the pine tar escapade.

Whoa the pine tarred bat
that's where it's at
in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
Let's give three screams
for both fine teams
and the great American game.

(Humming)

Let's give three screams
for both fine teams
and the great American game.

--------

Go Red River Dave! You're the Best!


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