Watermelon Dream (Guy Clark)

This is probably my all-time favorite summer song — partly because of the lyrics and the way they fit with the melody, and partly because the guitar arrangement fell together so comfortably. It may have taken an hour or so, just playing and seeing what felt right, and that was over thirty years ago, and I don’t think I’ve changed a note.

I’d been aware of Guy Clark sort of tangentially for a long time, but tended to scratch my itch for Texas songwriters with Townes Van Zandt and Joe Ely (and, via Ely, Butch Hancock). Then Guy started coming through the Boston area regularly, and the first time I saw him I was blown away. As it turned out, almost all the songs that blew me away were from his first album, Old No1. Over the years I’ve learned half the songs on that record, and wouldn’t mind learning the other half, but as with Kris Kristofferson, I pretty much got stuck on the first album. Except…

…this is the song of Clark’s I play most often and it’s from a much later album, Old Friends, which I don’t even remember owning. My guess is I got it as a comp back when I was reviewing for the Boston Globe, listened a couple of times, and that was that, except for this one, which I instantly fell in love with. As it happens, the only other Clark song I’ve put up in this series is “Anyhow, I Love You,” which is from his second album, though I picked up from a Kerrville Folk Festival anthology. None of which is particularly interesting, but they’re both pretty songs.

As for the guitar part, I started playing this when I was getting seriously into Congolese acoustic styles and exploring rhythms that were not straight-ahead, 2/4 alternating bass. I suspect Jimmy Buffett was the person who got me thinking about using a Caribbean lilt on country songs–especially warm, summer country songs–along with Ry Cooder’s version of “He’ll Have to Go,” which I originally played in E, pretty similarly to this one. By the time I added that one to the Songobiography, I was playing it in F and got a lot fancier and more Caribbean, but this has more interesting chords and the break just sort of rode in on them.