That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 11: Full Moon
‘Full Moon’… the album of DEATH…
At least that’s what I jokingly have called it over the years.
Over half of the songs on ‘Full Moon’ are full of death, with the exceptions being “South Seas Song,” “Carolina (I Remember You,” “Money” and “In America”.
In the other 5 songs, you have 9 people (possibly 10) and 1 bull. Of course, you can take that to over 600,000 (or possibly 1 more) and 1 bull if you include all of the Civil War in “Lonesome Boy From Dixie,” but I usually just stick with the lower number.
And, tragically, the recording of one song on ‘Full Moon’ coincided with the death of a CDB family friend.
As I mentioned in my last soapbox, ‘Full Moon’ is one of my favorite albums, not just of dad’s. The album features so many different musical styles, it just never gets old to me.
The band lineup and the production team stayed the same from ‘Million Mile Reflections.’ Producer John Boylan and engineer Paul Grupp – who I failed to mention last soapbox – were back. Dad was highly impressed with Paul Grupp’s engineering when he worked with him.
So, let’s get to the music.
The album kicks off with a classic CDB staple, “The Legend of Wooley Swamp.” One of the best ghost story songs ever.
Some people write great stories, some people write great songs, but dad had a knack for being able to do both at the same time, as with “TDWDTG.”
Just in case you haven’t heard this song – and shame on you if you haven’t – it’s about a greedy old miser, Lucius Clay, who lived in the Wooley Swamp (a real place in Bladen County, NC) who buried his money in Mason jars and had a habit of digging it up on nights when the moon was shining bright so he could delight in counting it on the floor of his tiny little shack.
Then we’re introduced to the Cagle boys, three troublemaker siblings, who somehow heard about Lucius’s buried treasure and his habit of digging it up and counting it on nights like the one that was present in the song and decide to steal his money and throw him in the swamp to let the alligators rip him to pieces.
The Cagles followed through with their plan, but as they were about to make their escape with the loot, out of nowhere, quicksand pulled them down and Lucius’ evil laugh echoed throughout the swamp.
In an epilogue to the story, 50 years later, there is still a wet patch of quicksand behind the shack, and “on certain nights when the moon is right” “You can hear three young men screaming, and you can hear one old man laugh.”
It’s a great story, and downright chilling.
Streams on Spotify for this song and “TDWDTG” always soar around Halloween, and for good reason!
“Carolina (I Remember You)” is an ode to dad’s growing up in North Carolina. It paints vivid pictures of a much simpler time in which “the biggest problems” in dad’s “barefoot life were sandspurs and red ant hills.
Even though dad spent more time calling Tennessee home than he did North Carolina, it’s obvious how much the state of his birth always held a special place in his heart.
The spoken word portion at the beginning was an afterthought. Dad had written a poem/essay about growing up in North Carolina which had been published in a newspaper, and he read part of it before the original beginning of the song and then they added strings. It worked beautifully.
Next up is Tommy Crain’s aforementioned “Lonesome Boy From Dixie” which begins with a boy from northern Georgia standing by a peach tree waiting to join the rebel forces in Nashville.
Later, the song describes a bloody battle in which the boy’s leg is hit by cannon fire, and a medic says “We’ll all be lucky if the boy from Georgia makes it home at all.”
The final verse tells that the boy did make it home, but only to be buried in a meadow near the peach tree he stood near in the first verse.
It’s a simple story, it’s not “woke,” but it’s not promoting slavery either. The majority of those who fought for the south did not own slaves, nor did they know much more than they were defending their states' rights. One can make a strong argument that the CSA government did have slavery as a priority to their actions, but not the average person living in the south.
While I was researching this soapbox, I came across something I did not remember. Tommy co-wrote the song with Henry Paul from The Outlaws and Blackhawk. If I knew that, it somehow slipped my mind over the years, but a couple of years ago, Henry and The Outlaws recorded it, something I stumbled on while researching this soapbox.
Taz DiGregorio is next featured with his blues masterpiece, “No Potion For the Pain,” about a man who kills his wife who took him for his money and her “backdoor man” after drugs and alcohol don’t kill his pain.
At the end, he says he’s “doin’ ten to twenty for murder in the first degree, but oh, baby, it was worth it all to me.”
It’s a badass blues tragedy, with heavy horns and backup singers. It’s Taz at his best.
“El Toreador” is another example of the wide variation of musical styles on ‘Full Moon.’ The closest thing that dad had done before would probably be “Caballo Diablo,” in that they both have a Spanish flavor to them, and are both a man against beast story.
The nameless toreador prepares for his bullfight by spending the night with a young lady named Maria and later kneels to pray that “if he must die today, that he died like a toreador.”
A dynamic bullfight ensues, and eventually, the toreador’s sword kills the bull, but he collapses as he’s attempting to leave the ring. He’s been gored by the bull, but we don’t know if he survived or not, although a priest is giving him last rites.
The toreador is quoted as saying “a brave bull died today, but he died like a toreador,” Honorably… But we don’t know with 100% certainty that the toreador died. I think dad intentionally left it ambiguous, but I’m pretty sure he did die from his wounds.
“South Seas Song” is probably the biggest departure stylistically on the album or any CDB album. It’s a light but cozy little number that was inspired by a trip we took to Hawaii, and it kind of sounds like what the CDB would have sounded like if it was a lounge act on one of the islands.
“Dance, Gypsy, Dance” - the ‘Full Moon’ album’s lone fiddle song - was also a departure from previous fiddle tunes. As the title suggests, it has a European/Romanian flavor to it, and while it never gives a time period, it feels like it’s a late 19th, early 20th Century setting.
The music is fast-paced and dark. The opening verse paints a detailed picture of frost and a harvest moon. Then an accusation of the unnamed gypsy who stole from a crippled man, bashed him in the head with a cane and left him for dead in the rain.
The accuser then continues…
The crippled man’s son is armed and riding with a hangin’ mob looking for the gypsy, but the accuser says that they won’t be here until tomorrow night, but the gypsy will be gone by morning.
Winchester rifle fire rings out, apparently wounding the gypsy because he soon meets his final fate at the end of a rope hanging from an old hollow oak tree.
But the question is… who was the accuser?
I have a feeling that it was the gypsy’s conscience, and not a real person, but that’s just speculation, and the only person who would know for sure isn’t here for me to ask.
“Money” is a rockin’ song about the almighty dollar, and what people will do for it. They will murder, cheat, prostitute themselves, steal, scrimp and save and people will even end up in an early grave for it. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but it’s on point and a great song.
The final track on the album is the one that was recorded first, and in a different studio, Los Angeles’ Record Plant.
I’ve told the story before, but I was on spring break and went with dad to LA for the recording of “In America,” as well as to see him do some TV and perform at the Academy of Country Music Awards, and we would be celebrating my 15th birthday while I was there, so a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood was planned as well.
The trip to Universal never happened because unfortunately, Tommy Caldwell, bass player and founding member of The Marshall Tucker Band died in a car wreck, on my birthday, so the plans were set aside for us to fly across the country to Spartanburg, SC for the funeral.
Recording began before we left for Spartanburg, and I believe it continued when we got back, but it probably wasn’t much more than a few overdubs at the most.
Then they recorded the song for a Cheryl Ladd variety special called “Souvenirs,” and it definitely was a variety… to be honest, the CDB’s performance of “In America” stuck out like a sore thumb in a special that was supposed to be about mementos and was preceded by a musical number on a battleship set that seemed right out of Broadway circa 1940s.
The special would air later in the year, but the song got introduced to the nation in a big way, and – as it would prove – a bit premature to be able to live up to the demand.
“In America” had just been recorded and hadn’t even been mixed or mastered or anywhere even close to being ready to pressing and distribution.
Well, that ended up being unfortunate, because “In America” tapped into something that had been going on, frustration, inflation, high gas prices, the Carter misery index… things that seem oddly familiar these days – and the Knott’s Berry Farm theater where the ACM Awards were being televised from erupted into a very VERY long standing ovation. It seemed the message that this is still America and we will come together as a nation resonated with pretty much everyone.
Both the common folk fans and the industry types were brought to their feet.
The song was a bona fide hit, radio wanted to play it, and everybody wanted to hear it. But there was just one problem...
It still wasn’t mixed or mastered.
If the situation happened today, a rush mix/master would be in order and the song could by sent digitally to any station in the world, but in 1980, that wasn’t possible, so almost 3 weeks later, the single finally shipped to radio, although some stations recorded the ACM broadcast and played it before the official release, but that didn't count for chart position and airplay.
The song topped out at #13 on the Billboard country charts and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Still impressive, but it could have been so much more.
But it struck a chord with audiences, and had a resurgence after the 9/11 attacks and is still just as relevant 42 years later with everything going on today.
And remember Tommy Caldwell? It made perfect sense to dedicate ‘Full Moon’ to his memory.
“Dedicated to our friend Tommy Caldwell from the whole CDB Family
TO A BROTHER
I guess us who take the highway
Are a different breed of men
With a special kind of feeling
For the ones who we call friend
It's an arm around your shoulder
When the morning comes too soon
And a late night conversation
In a thousand motel rooms
It's a flood in California
And a snowstorm in Saint Paul
And it takes a tough old soldier
To keep going through it all
But we're so much less than human
When we lose one of our own
Now there's one more empty saddle
This old cowboy has gone home
‘Full Moon’ was an extension of the momentum that began with ‘Million Mile Reflections’ and soon after, it kept going with a song that would cement the CDB’s relationship with veterans for decades to come.
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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