When I was busking around Europe in the late 1970s, “Windy and Warm” was pretty much obligatory–particularly in France, which I assume means Marcel Dadi recorded it. I didn’t know it when I left the States, and for the first year or so I satisfied requests for it by playing Bert Jansch’s version of “Angie,” which was a somewhat similar instrumental in A minor and tended to fit the bill. Then I spent a couple of weeks in Antwerp in the summer of 1979, staying with a guy named Marc who played terrific guitar using just his thumb and middle finger — I have no idea why he didn’t use his index finger, but he didn’t — and he had Doc Watson’s recording and I learned a half-assed version of it.
“Windy and Warm” was composed by John D. Loudermilk, and I read somewhere that he composed it because Chet Atkins wanted something that sounded kind of old-fashioned, in a Merle Travis bag. Be that as it may, everyone I knew learned it from that same Doc Watson album, and to this day I’ve never heard either Loudermilk’s or Atkins’s versions — though I recently saw a nice video of Tommy Emmanuel playing it, which presumably is close to the Atkins version.
Doc played it with only his thumb and index finger, but I played it with thumb and two fingers, because I couldn’t figure out how to get the rolls otherwise — and frankly never worked it up into anything worth playing. Then I went to Africa and got into playing with just thumb and index, and a dozen years later Ernie Hawkins showed me how Rev. Gary Davis got those rolls… and I worked out how to play this, mostly as a finger exercise. I wasn’t happy with how it came out, because I never had a touch like Doc Watson, much less like Travis, Atkins, or Emmanuel… but after trying to play it like them for a few years, I finally decided to just play it like me, and enjoyed it, and here it is.
I still think of this as a Doc Watson piece, in part because I have no sense of John D. Loudermilk as a guitarist. He has always been a name I saw in song credits, probably first for the Lou Rawls version of “Tobacco Road,” and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play or sing. There’s also another problem–
The only other Loudermilk composition I ever learned is a teen novelty song “Norman,” which was a hit for Sue Thompson in 1961 (which I see is also when Atkins recorded W&W). I probably learned “Norman” as a joke when I was in my teens, and almost fifty years later I’m still stuck with it:
Billy asked me to a show, but I said no, cannot go,
There’s a dress that I’ve got to sew,
And wear for Norman…
Jim invited me on a date, he wanted to take me out to skate,
But I told Jimmy he would have to make
Arrangements with Norman…
I may have those names and a few words wrong, and briefly considered listening to Thompson’s recording to check them, but there might be some verses I’ve managed to forget, and, if so, I don’t want them back in my head.
Fortunately, “Windy and Warm” has no lyrics.