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Hubbard recalls youth, Red River days

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “The Grifter’s Hymnal,” Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album, is pretty much autobiographical. And perhaps the most gritty, funny and self-revealing story of the 11 Hubbard-written songs on the CD is “Mother Blues.”

Here’s how the song opens: “When I was a young man about 21 years old, all I wanted was a stripper girlfriend and a gold-top Les Paul. Be careful of the things you wish for. You might get ’em…”

It’s the song the Texas country-rock-blues artist sang on Jan. 9 on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Ray Wylie Hubbard
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27
WHERE: South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway SE
HOW MUCH: $25 in advance at, at Hold My Ticket, 112 Second SW or by calling 886-1251

Hubbard said Letterman asked that he do that song.


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His appearance on the show brought him a surge of new fans. People have commented on Facebook and Twitter. They’ve bought the album’s songs on iTunes and Amazon.

“It’s remarkable. There were a bunch of people who thought I was dead or drunk,” Hubbard said in a phone interview.

Hubbard joked about the invitation to appear on Letterman’s show for the first time: “I’m 66. I didn’t want to peak too soon.”

Hubbard will be in concert Sunday, Jan. 27 at the South Broadway Cultural Center. And he said he will be at the Red River Songwriters Festival today and Saturday, Jan. 26. The festival’s website is

Hubbard’s memories of Red River go back more than 40 years. Right out of high school he was a folk singer in the coffeehouse Three Faces West that he co-owned in the northern New Mexico town.

While living there, probably in 1972, Hubbard wrote what would become Jerry Jeff Walker’s signature song, “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” The song has its roots in a visit the young Hubbard made to a cowboy bar in Red River to buy beer.

“I walked in and the song on the jukebox just stopped,” Hubbard recalled. “I said, ‘Can I have some beer?’ They were rough-looking guys. As I walked out, there was a pickup truck with a gun rack and Oklahoma tags and a bumper sticker that said ‘Goat Ropers Need Love, Too.'”

“It’s the song that’s refused to die,” he added. “Now it fits good in the arsenal.”

The arsenal now includes the music on “The Grifter’s Hymnal,” minus one cut, “Coochy Coochy.” That’s a Ringo Starr tune and that’s Starr himself who is heard playing maracas and shakers and singing on the cut.

Hubbard had met Starr through a friend, and they agreed that they liked each other’s songwriting.

“Man, I love that song,” he said. “It’s just one chord. We were in the studio… . We just pushed the chord and cut straight through.”