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the name of the band is Daddy

A Conversation with Tommy Womack (continued)

PM: Hey, tell us a little bit about your family, would you?

TW: Well, I've got an eight-year-old boy, who, bless his heart, we thought he was over that bug, and now he's got 103 fever. He's laying on the couch right now.

PM: Oh.

TW: He just had some sherbet. He was fine--you know this cold that's going around--

PM: Oh, murder.

TW: --that doesn't leave.

PM: People have it for a month sometimes, yeah.

TW: Yeah, yeah. And it's come back for round two or three now on him. He's a sweet boy. He's been happy to have his dad home the last--well, I've been home the last two nights. Past that I was gone for like two straight weeks. Beth has gone to the store right now to pick him up some Motrin. She and I have been together for 22 years.

PM: Holy jeez!

TW: Married for--it'll be the 15th wedding anniversary this December. She predates Government Cheese by like three months. Beth and I got together in September of '84, and Government Cheese played their first gig in January of '85.

PM: Wow.

TW: So she survived all that.


PM: She's pre-Cheese.

TW: She is pre-Cheese, yeah. I did everything I could to destroy the relationship for several years. And thank God I didn't. I mean, I changed. I am proof that scumbag musicians and other lothario husbands--I am proof you can change.

PM: Wow, because you did. And you changed early?

TW: Well, I remember my last indiscretion on the floor of Grimey's apartment.


TW: It was well over--it was way before we got married. I was still living in Bowling Green.

PM: [laughs]

TW: And I felt so bad the next day. I got back to Bowling Green and went up to the Newman Center near campus and started knocking on doors until I found a priest. And I'm not even Catholic.

PM: Oh, my God!

TW: And he was super Catholic on me, too, you know, no sympathy. It's like, "Well, you've done something bad, and you're going to feel bad for a while. What do you want me to do, wave a magic wand?"

PM: [laughs]

TW: And that was the last time. I so love being 44. I go on the road, and I have this old song I've been singing for years and years. It was on my first solo record. Government Cheese recorded it before that. And it's still very popular. It's called "A Little Bit of Sex." And I guess it's eternally popular because everybody likes sex. And I do a little monologue after the guitar lead section, it comes down to this sort of "Wild Thing" repetitive chord change underneath it. And I just talk about--the story changes nightly, but I basically reflect on how glad I am to be 44, and when pretty women come into the club I just sort of admire them like a fine vase, or something, and that's it. Then I go back to my hotel room, and sleep alone, and wake up feeling fine, perhaps a little undersexed, but an honest man's pillow is his peace of mind.

PM: Right.

TW: And I go home to my wife without anything on my conscience, which is great. And I think that's just part of being 44, as opposed to 24, when every girl that showed up at the gigs was a potential groupie.

PM: Right, was a mark.

TW: Yeah, yeah.

PM: How is your family different from the family you came from?

TW: I am doing the best I can to be an attentive father. My dad was a preacher.

PM: Hmm.

TW: And there are two types of preachers: ones who are happy, and as much a spiritual repository as they are a conduit. And then there are preachers who are great on Sunday morning, and then they come home and they're just spiritually empty the rest of the week. And that's what my dad was; he was a borderline sociopath.

PM: Wow.

TW: Hardly ever talked to us. At dinnertime he would come into the dining room table and turn up Walter Cronkite all the way so he could still hear the news while he was eating dinner. There was no dinnertime conversation. My mom put up with him from 1939 until he died in 2000. And he was a good man--once he realized how bad he'd screwed me up--because I was very suicidal depressed guy around the age of 19, 20--he got a clue. And he did his best the last few years of his life to patch things up with me and--

PM: How did he do that?

TW: He just started talking to me. The first time he told me he loved me when I was like 19 or 20.

PM: Oh, my God, he actually got there.

TW: Yeah, he got there. And the Telecaster I play to this day, he bought.

PM: Wow!

TW: Took me fishing for the first time when I was 20. He really worked hard once he realized--because he screwed up all us three boy kids plus the girl.

PM: And did he say, "I'm sorry," or just that he loved you?

TW: Yeah. He never fully said, "I'm sorry," but not long before he died he said, "You four kids have grown up to be good kids, and most of it comes from your mama." And that took a bit for him to admit. To this day, don't get my mom started on Dad, because she had to live with him since '39.

PM: But she's still around.

TW: Yeah, yeah. Mom is still in Madisonville, Kentucky. And I finally have another coffee shop gig in Evansville, Indiana, which is like 40 minutes up the road, which makes me happy, because I get to go home and see Mom whenever I do that gig.

PM: What's the name of that place in Evansville you play?

TW: The Penny Lane Coffeehouse.

PM: Wow. And she's all right, her health and stuff is not bad?

TW: Oh, she's falling apart. She's got no lower back to speak of. Her spine is degenerated. She's bent over all the time. She'll be 84 next month, April 23rd she'll be 84. And spiritually she's great. She was a much better preacher's wife than he was a preacher. Well, he was a good preacher at the pulpit, on stage; but off stage, no. But she's the most Christian person I've ever met. I got my sense of humor and my intelligence from her. I got my performer from Dad, because both of them grew up in Arkansas. Dad was born in 1918, Mom in '23. And if you wanted to be a performer in Arkansas in those days, you became a preacher.


TW: There was no repertory theater. I mean, if you were black there was the King Biscuit Radio Hour, I guess, if you could sing. But Dad couldn't sing or anything. He became a preacher. And he was a good one. I remember him preaching a whale of a sermon on Sunday morning. And he'd come home and get in that recliner, and not say a word for six and a half days. And you didn't get between him and that television if you knew what was good for you.     continue

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