An Old Sidekick

Bill Cravens

His name was Bill Craven and he had a cattle ranch in NE where he “rode herd on ’em every day”. I met him at a music festival many years ago and as we got to know each other better he would give me advice on what to do and not do on stage. He  had a voice that  sounded a lot like Hank Snow  (A country singer who had many hits in the ’50s).  I always admired his voice but he’d say ” you don’t have to take a back seat to anybody” and that would give me a little more confidence to get up there and try again. I guess I could have called him Wild Bill because when he was off stage he liked to “sip a little tea,” and then he would  get a little testy you might say and it got him in trouble more than once. But he was a religious man too and he would thank God for all his blessings and all the help he received from the bible in this life and start talking about all the friends he had met  and lost and some who had done him wrong as well. We would pass the guitar back and forth and try out songs on one another. One night I sang a song called ” Baby That’s Cold” recorded by Vern Gosdin and for some reason he liked it so much every time I saw him he’d make me sing that song …… He had an old 50 passenger school bus he had fixed up to travel between Nebraska and South Texas and it had everything he needed to live year round if he had to, I’d knock on his door and we’d drink a little bourbon laugh and cuss about this and that many nights till we ran low on fuel.  He was proud of his station in life and very independent. He rigged up a patio on the side of his old bus that could be lowered down with chains and he would sit and relax suspended about three feet in the air after the shows were over and watch the firefly’s in the night air .  He was a poet and had some pretty good poetry to go with his singing. He liked our little Stranger Creek Band and we backed him on stage many times and he was always grateful. He loved to sing gospel songs and would really let the spirit flow through him and pull out a handkerchief,  wipe his eyes and “thank you Jesus” quietly. He didn’t like jammin’ off stage with a bunch of other musicians or performing for free, it was how he made his living and his only support except for a very small social security check and wood working on ranches like out buildings and signs carved out in wood. It was a business with him and he would say ” The workman is worthy of his hire”   so don’t give it away. He was very proud of his wood work and kept a scrap book of photos to show anyone interested. I’ll miss him, he was one of a dieing breed that won’t be back any time soon.  So sometime this summer I’ll be sittin’ and watchin’ the firefly’s (God willing) and I’ll pour me a glass of  “ol’ loud mouth” and raise a toast to my old side kick  Wild Bill Craven…..