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Inspire - Posted February 25, 2011 noon
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The Wood Wouldn’t Burn

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Typically, I get inspired by stories that I can relate to, stories that I can picture myself in. In the case of the song, “The Wood Wouldn’t Burn,” it was quite the opposite.

In 2006, I was playing at Cicada Fest, a little folk festival up in Ontario, Canada put on by my friend and fellow songwriter, Roger Marin. One evening, we were all over at Roger’s house and I spotted this old guitar leaning up against his couch. Roger has some beautiful guitars, but this one was in really bad shape. It had obviously been in a fire. The finish on it was blistered and peeling, the neck was warped and there were a couple tuning pegs that were missing.

When I asked Roger about it, he said that he used to have a fan who would come to every show, go up to Roger and say, “Roger, man, I love your music. I have this great, old Gibson guitar that you would sound awesome on!” Roger told me he thought the guy was just being gracious. Musicians often get the “my uncle has a pristine Les Paul under his bed” banter from fans and it’s just a part of the conversation that connects musicians to their audiences.

Some time went by and Roger didn’t see the man at his shows. Then one evening, a woman went up to Roger, handed him a burned-up Gibson guitar and told him, “You know, my husband was a huge fan of your music and he always wanted to hear you play this guitar. He died last year and now I’m getting his belongings where they belong.”

As I said in the beginning, I can’t imagine being this woman who was honoring her husband’s wish by letting go of the souvenirs of his life after he was gone. I know how tightly I would cling to the artifacts of a long marriage. This song is my attempt at telling a story that I almost can’t imagine. All of it is true; except I found out later that I might have gotten the year wrong on the guitar (it was 1963-66 instead of ’52). When I went back and played Cicada Fest in 2009, I got to perform this song on that very guitar.

“The Wood Wouldn’t Burn”
My old man had a dying wish
Bought it with his bones and flesh
That you should have this old guitar
We pulled it out of the fire

He always liked the way you played
He knew the sacrifice you made
To leave your family for the lonely road
And send the money that you made back home

It was a 1952 Gibson FlatTop
Blisters on the neck and ashes on the headstock
Held together with some rusty wire
The wood wouldn’t burn in the fire
No, that wood wouldn’t burn in the fire

My old man didn’t play that much
He let the strings get rusty when he lost his touch
So down in the basement it went
With the baby books and Christmas ornaments

The fire started on the ground floor
Took my husband and my son before
It crept down the basement stairs
Then I guess it just ran out of air

Chorus

He was a regular at all of your shows
He knew your daddy and he watched you grow
Into the man that you are today
How I wish that he could hear you play

So sing about him in your sad, sad songs
Play your hot licks and let him sing along
And when the crowd wants a little more,
Bring him out for an encore

by Susan Gibson

Susan, an established singer/songwriter musician, wrote the hit song "Wide Open Spaces." Check out Susan's new CD, TightRope, at susangibson.com
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