He had been working on some new material, playing some gigs, but he was beginning to wonder if he was doing it for the wrong reasons, like an impulse to “make it” was moving him away from the heart of his music. He decided to take a hiatus—to walk away from his music, walk away from himself if he could, for a couple of weeks. He left his guitar behind and took a bus north, spent a couple nights here, a couple nights there, ended up in a town in North Dakota. He noticed someone playing guitar against the side of a building. Nobody seemed to pay him much mind, they’d just walk right by him, and he seemed to sing all his songs into the ground a couple feet in front of him.
The first day Buddy didn’t pay much attention to him. He was tired and wanted to check into a hotel and get some sleep. But the second day he piqued Buddy’s interest. He seemed to be part of a landscape that was easy to take for granted. Buddy stood in the shadows where he wouldn’t be noticed but where he could hear. The musician played tunes from the 30s and 40s, nothing fancy, nothing strained in his voice.
And as he was listening, Buddy remembered hearing these songs as a child, his father playing Walking the Floor Over You—Wildwood Flowers in the background on a Saturday morning.
It took him back to Alabama. He thought he could smell the fields, the river. He remembered his mother singing lullabies to him, almost saw her, as if the musician had become his mother and was singing to him again. And it triggered a progression of people he had known and many he hadn’t, moving through the body of the musician, one person morphing into another . . .
His sister Ina Jean, the quieter of the twins, who cried when he left home; a classmate who wrote him a note he never responded to; a stranger who flipped him off when he was playing on the corner; another who told him he sounded just as good as the radio; and on and on, a sequence of people Buddy had known or met or seen moving through the body of the musician, coming back as glimpses of parts of his life he had forgotten or never been aware of.
In every case—whether he knew the person well or hardly at all—he learned something about that person he hadn’t known before, something he could connect to.
And then the musician morphed into an image of Buddy himself—as though he were standing outside his body and watching himself, seeing himself in a way he had never seen himself, objectively, without judgment—and at that moment, the musician began to play one of Buddy’s songs:
Any other day I could love you
Any other day I could stay
Buddy had no idea how he knew the song. He’d written it recently and only played it publicly a couple of times.
The sun would shine as it does today
Any other day, I would stay
At the end of the song, the musician looked up from the ground for the first time, looked right at Buddy, and winked.
Four nights later Buddy gave the legendary show at the Palace Theater, Nacogdoches.