Biography honors two ramblin’ men

| December 12, 2008

Paul Hemphill’s new Hank Williams biography, Lovesick Blues (Viking, $23.95), is partially a tribute to Hemphill’s late father, owner-operator Paul “Hemp” Hemphill. He listened to Hank in the late 1940s over a Motorola radio dangling from his Dodge truck dashboard.

On the road, Hemp slept in a sleeperless cab, ate homemade sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, and called himself collect on pay phones so that his family could hear his voice for free – the way he heard Hank on the radio.

Many years later, grumpily admiring his son’s new Chevy Blazer, Hemp asked whether the radio picked up country music. Sure it does, his son replied. “Must be a hell of a radio, then,” Hemp said. “Ain’t been no country music since Hank died.”


That camel got a fifth wheel?
We bought the October Esquire not for the cover shot of actress Keira Knightley (honest) but for Robert Thompson’s gloomy article on “America’s coming energy calamity” and the world’s dwindling supply of oil.

Thompson quotes a Saudi proverb: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son rides in a jet. His son will ride a camel.”

What page is Keira on, again?


Waist of breath: it’s tummy talk
Here’s a Christmas gift for the trucker who already has LED lights everywhere else: a programmable scrolling LED belt buckle, like a Times Square billboard below the navel. Each buckle, $30 to $60 at NYCScrolls.com, holds six programmable messages of up to 512 characters.

Also available with LEDs: dog tags and hats. “People don’t always like the attention that the LED belts draw down to the waist area,” says the catalog, “so we brought the focus up.”


PUSHING HIS LUCK
“I ought to go play the lottery right now.”
– Trucker Carl Meadows in the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, after bailing out of his burning rig on I-64 moments before it exploded, then dodging traffic to safety

FIRE DOWN BELOW
“America’s truck drivers say they’re under pressure. And if you don’t believe them, just ask their bladders.”
– Baraboo (Wis.) News Republic columnist Ben Bromley on urine-filled “trucker bombs”

DOG’S BEST FRIEND
“I knew it was her from 300 feet away.”
– Minnesota trucker Tom Nelson in the Times Daily of Florence, Ala., after reuniting with his lost Brittany spaniel, Checkers; he drove 900 miles back to Alabama to find her


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