Posted on November 16, 2018
by Steve Janowick

Dear Johnny,

It’s been 15 years since you went away.  15 years! Hard to believe. That beautiful gift of truth that you gave us through your music is long gone – and we miss it badly.  We miss the pain and hurt, the love and joy that poured from every song you wrote and sang. We miss the brilliance of your simple poetry.  We miss the dignity and class in which you always carried yourself. We miss your love for country, family and flag, and your middle finger sticking it to the man!  We miss your charitable heart and love for the forgotten underdog. And we miss you being the torch carrier for the genre of music you invented – a genre that is now but a ghost of its once great self.  

I can’t imagine what you are saying to yourself up there when you look down to see what passes off as country music today.  I’m sure it makes you sick as hell to see the once venerable Nashville scene completely cave to the all-mighty corporate dollar.  Guys like you, Waylon and Merle replaced by a bunch of plastic, pretty boys and ignorant red-necks. Honkey tonk, bluegrass and the Bakersfield sound devolved into bro-country, hick-hop and saccharine-sweet pop music disguised as country.  

Battle scars of a troubled life bled out from your soul and helped you to create real, honest, heartfelt songs.  Songs that were meaningful, pure and touched us deeply. Today, songs are mindlessly churned out and mass-produced by big city, soulless money-men who spend most of their time with their collective fingers in the air to see which way the wind is currently blowing.  Artistry is but a mere blip on these guys’ radars. Guys that couldn’t bait a hook much less recognize a real country artist like yourself. Don’t get me wrong, Johnny, there are still some great cats (young ones too) on the scene trying their damnedest to preserve your legacy, sweating it out every night, but they are few and far between, and being pushed to the fringes daily by the newest pop-country clone that keeps feeding the machine.  

But we’ll always have our memories of you, Johnny.  No one can take those away from us. There’s still at least one bar in every town with a jukebox in the corner.  A place where a man can go to talk about life for a little while with you. Whether he still misses someone, or she’s got him burning in a ring of fire, you’re always just a quarter in the slot away.  He can order a beer and drink to his cocaine blues. He can toast to his freedom while weeping for the Folsom prisoner. You gave, and still give, the everyday man the okay to open up and pour out his heart and soul through your music.  

The imposters and fakers will keep playing their over-produced crap about sweet-tea and tractors.  I’m sure the masses will keep lopping it up. But, Johnny, as long as I have a dollar in my pocket and a jukebox to put it in, I’ll have a beer or two with you any day…

and listen to your three chords and the truth.

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