A Walk With Wardlow

A Walk With Wardlow

Originally posted on BLUES-L
Copyright 1999 by Suz

Every once in a while you just hit one of those sweet spots in life. Happened to me last weekend. Along with several others in the Dallas area, I had the chance to spend some time with Gayle Dean Wardlow.

Without going into all the details - I found him to be one of the most endearing people I have met in a long time. I talked with him throughout the weekend about life as well as music. Don O did a terrific show on Friday night which had a lot to do with a good turnout at his book signing on Saturday as well as the bookstore selling out of all available copies of his book. He had a discussion that lasted about an hour and a half allowing for questions when they arose. When he speaks - it is with passion, animation and knowledge much more so than that of the "authority" that one might expect (altho there is no mistaking that he is one in his chosen field). His book, "Chasin' That Devil Music" as many of you know, is fascinating in the aspect of documentation of the music he so dearly loves and has spent all his life pursuing.

During the course of our conversations I found out that he was born in Texas :) where his father worked on the oil rig "circuit", moving to Mississippi, and losing that father, at an early age. His initial music fascination was with Roy Acuff. He still has great admiration for the man who allowed a kid with a box full of old Acuff records backstage. They became friends and Roy eventually took him him to some of his different shows. He has many different stories about the houses he visited asking to buy old 78's which years later have accumulated into one of the largest and most valuable collections around.

Gayle also enjoys Western Swing and has a deep knowledge of that genre too. I think he would eventually like to put something together that celebrates its' history and roots. He admits to being able to play guitar, altho humbly so, stating that he cannot play well enough to keep up with any of the professionals. Says he plays best with a dobro flat in his lap :). I watched in fascination as he showed one of Dallas' incredibly talented players where to add another slap or beat to a particular song for that "delta" timing. Also dragged out of him was that he loves to write songs. Hopefully we will be able to hear some of these one day.

A collection of guitars and banjos is growing too. Windows of opportunity in the 78 trade have allowed him to accumulate 50 or 60 to this point and he is always on the lookout for more.

Gayle spent some time with another talented researcher and writer from the Dallas area, Jay Brakefield. Jay has just published a very good book, co-written with Alan Govenar, called Deep Ellum and Central Track, which goes into the music and commerce of that area in Dallas in the 20's and 30's (published by University of North Texas Press and available in book stores). Chuck Nevitt, Owner/Producer - Dallas Blues Society Records, receives thanks in the acknowledgments for his contributions to the research. Jay and Gayle also have newspaper backgrounds in common.

Contact Info:

We talked about this several times, and I warned him what we might be doing here, but he still said it was OK. For any DJ's, publications, Blues Societies, colleges etc. that might be interested, I believe Gayle is open for interviews and discussions, by phone or in person. He loves what he is doing and it shines thru. He has also opened himself up to fans with serious questions. If there's something that you've been wondering about and have researched in vain, he said he would be glad to try and help.

P.O. Box 138
Long Beach, MS 39560

601.868.7226 (call around 11:00-12:00)

This post is not w/o bias as I will always be grateful for the time he shared during our first encounter in Mississippi and for his incredible passion, humor (he sometimes refers to himself as "Blind" GDW) and compassion which came to light this last visit. In answer to some questions I have had about music and feelings (which translates into life in my world), he dropped some quotes and explanations at just the right time. They were pieces to my personal puzzle of life which I had been searching for desperately over the past several years. They were not the easy edge or corner pieces, but the ones that go right in the middle of a multi-colored pattern. Soul to soul.

Move me, groove me, set me free!

Cordially yours ;) -


Both books can be bought at amazon.com
Interesting Site on Wardlow
Dallas Blues Society