Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

The Soundtrack Of My Life Story

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went to visit our friends in New Braunfels, a town near San Antonio, Texas. The next town over, Gruene, (pronounced, for some unexplainable reason, as Green) is a well-known tourist spot and home to Gruene Hall, built in 1878 and the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas. Many famous musicians have made their start at Gruene Hall and often come back frequently to relax and entertain.

The night we were there, Jerry Jeff Walker was in the house. Walker, commonly referred to as Jerry Jeff, is an american country singer and songwriter. He’s probably most famous for writing the song “Mr. Bojangles” but he is well known for his story songs, and has been producing music and albums regularly since 1967.

We came late to the sold-out party so we weren’t able to purchase tickets. Gruene Hall has one side that has large open windows, so you can hang out on the grass and listen pretty well. Unfortunately, there was a police officer there running off those who didn’t have tickets, so we walked back and forth along the block, listening to a few of the songs. I was surprised that not only did I know all the songs, I remembered most of the lyrics and found myself singing along to them. I guess I hadn’t realized how formative Jerry Jeff’s music was to my own musical history until that moment. I listened to him a lot in college and then afterwards for several years until other musicians took his place and squeezed his CDs to the back of the cupboard. But some of his iconic songs have stuck in my head over the years. I can’t get on the 405 in Los Angeles without having the lyrics to LA Freeway run through my head and it will often circle around through an entire Los Angeles visit. The song, “Getting’ By” will often come up when I’m facing a challenge and I remind myself that I am “Just letting it roll, letting the high times carry the low, I’m just living my life easy come, easy go.” And while the song was not written by Jerry Jeff but by his friend Guy Clark ( another one of my favorite story song writers) “Desperados Waiting For A Train” has to be one of the most beautiful tribute songs written about someone that influenced a young boy’s life and is getting ready to die. I come back to that song often. Here is a link to what is considered the best version of this song that was played on David Letterman’s show in 1998.

In the work that I do producing video biographies and tribute videos, the selection of music is crucial. It sets the mood and helps tell the life story on a completely different level. I’ll often ask a client to compose a list of their favorite songs, or ask them what their “theme song” is. In the story of each of our lives, there is a sound track. You may not know Jerry Jeff Walker, or care for his music once you do know him. But for me, sitting outside Gruene Hall that night, I realized that he is one of a small handful of songwriters that have written the soundtrack of my own life story. He’s written songs that form the bedrock of my identity and that I come back to, time after time, to seek inspiration, take comfort in, and simply but sweetly describe the joys and sorrows of my life, seen and sung through someone else’s eyes.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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9 Responses to The Soundtrack Of My Life Story

  1. Tom Gilbert says:

    I, too, am deeply affected by music and it has played a big role as a soundtrack in my life. There are the high school and college experiences (concerts, playing records with room mates) and working in the radio broadcasting industry for many years – I totally get it. Jerry Jeff is highly underrated.

  2. cjmadigan says:

    Mr. Bojangles! Haven’t thought of that in a long-time. I’m always surprised at how powerful the memories are when triggered by a song that might not have even been one of my favorites but was definitely in the midst of some important events of my life – particularly high school and college.
    thanks for reminding us of this, Stef!

  3. Johnf says:

    You’ve done an excellent job of explaining the music that runs through my mind and my live. And Jerry Jeff is there…

  4. Linda Garland says:

    Jerry Jeff Walker is IT, for me. I have thirty of his CD’s and travel to find him in concert on a regular basis. He has definitely shaped my world………and I am better for it. I sure like Steve Earle too.

  5. Terry Morgan says:

    Met JJW in April 1969. He and David Bromberg were playing at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. GREAT DAYS! Met him again in 1972 when he played Colgate University. He introduced me to Wild Turkey. Quite a night.

    • Stefani Twyford says:

      Wow Terry, that sounds like quite an experience. Do you have your own online blog post about that? Would love to read about it!

  6. michael laderoute says:

    Guy wrote L.A. Freeway too!

  7. Annie Payne says:

    While I didn’t recognise any of the 7 performers in the video, I enjoyed this blog immensely. The sound track of my life is quite eclectic and covers such artists as The Beachboys, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Alan Price, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Crocce, Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan to name a few.
    Their songs are those I know all of the words and which often play in my mind while doing other things. However, I feel that the style of music is one I should get to know. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction?

    • Stefani Twyford says:

      Annie, you can probably do a search on YouTube for any of the artists that I mentioned in the blog post. There are some recordings that are live and others that are just someone else playing their songs. Make sure to listen to the real deal.
      Most of these artists mentioned have been on Austin City Limits at one point or another. If you see that, then it’s probably going to be a good version. Good luck!

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