I knew it the first time I heard this song, it would be one of those dubbed a classic in years to come.
18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses - Kathy Mattea
Back in my 20’s, I worked in the radio business. I was what was commonly called a ‘disc jockey’ or ‘air talent’. In reality I was a guy having a good time and getting paid to do so. With rare exception, most of what I did while working in radio wasn’t what I could considered ‘work’. The downside to that was the pay wasn’t all that great either. At least in small market radio that was true.
I worked at one station that did a fair amount of promotion for country artists and as a result I got to see quite a few shows. All of them free tickets, of course. It was a nice perk. Of course, I often had to ‘bring the band on’ by giving an introduction. You know, that annoying clown from the local station who you can’t wait to shut up so the singer can sing? Yeah, that was me.
Anyhow, one of the artists I got to do this for was Kathy Mattea. It was in Spring, 1987 when I saw her at the old Stephens Auditorium (which was torn down a couple of months ago). In addition to having the chance to conduct a wonderful interview, I got to hear this song before it was released as a single from her new (at the time) album, Untasted Honey. If memory serves, Kathy Mattea said it was only the second or third time they had played it live at all.
I was struck by the song from the beginning. The first verse
Charlie’s got a gold watch, don’t seem like a whole lot
After thirty years of drivin’ up and down the interstate
But Charlie’s had a good life, and Charlie’s got a good wife
And after tonight, she’ll no longer be countin’ the days
took my breath away. What’s more, I’d been in Country radio long enough to realize that this song wasn’t only a hit waiting to happen, but one that would linger long after her other songs faded from memory. In that, it seems I was right.
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