January 20, 2022
HS03: 7M3 - Lucky
What inspired that song?
I can’t believe more than quarter of a century has passed since I wrote the lyrics and melody to “Lucky,” and I still get asked this question.
So, today, I’ll to hip you to the “Lucky” origin story.
I spent the early 90s in college in Virginia. We started the band in ’92. By ’94, half the band had graduated, and they were all waiting around for me to finish up. I had started college with aspirations of med school, which by the time I was a junior had turned to a graduate degree in film, as I imagined I might become a screenwriter or director (or whatever).
I took as many creative writing classes as I could before graduating in ’95. One thing I remember (or learned?): it’s easier to write a 4-minute song than a screenplay or a novel. But you can spend your whole life trying to get really good at writing any of them.
In one of those writing classes, I met a slightly older student—a brilliant, interesting, if somewhat cagey and sometimes sideways, guy—by the name of Mebane.
Mebane was a transfer, either finishing his degree or was working on his masters, and clearly had more experience than anyone in the room. He was already published, wrote music, and had defensible opinions, on, well, everything. He adored the Beatles and Dylan. He could go deep on art, poetry, literature, film. He had no trouble intellectually sparring with a professor.
I liked him immediately. We’d listen to music together after class, usually sharing a pint at the Greenleaf or a joint on my front porch on Griffin Street.
As you know, zero internet or cell phones back then. So we wrote letters! And I received one in the summer of ’95 (or was it the fall?) from Mebane while touring on American Standard.
It was addressed to Mean Mr. Mustard.
Beyond our conversations about music and art, Mebane and I talked about some dark territory.
He often seemed to be sharing a POV of a person having traversed the abyss, or something like that, at least to me. We spoke about wrestling with the void.
He sent me a book he’d written, self published, and I still have it. The letter (attached below), from some 26 years ago, has been framed in my home almost as long.
Though I memorized it a long time ago, I often stop and read it again. Each time something different settles in. Something Steinbeck-ian? Something that makes me turn around and wade back out of the water. ‘Lest another light go out it, right, Mebane?
Mebane was living in NOLA when he sent the letter. We decided shortly thereafter to make Rock Crown at Kingsway in New Orleans on the advice of Chris Robinson. I never saw Mebane in NOLA, and his letter was our last correspondence.
I can’t remember whether Jason and I started writing “Lucky” at Sam’s place, or above my parent’s garage. I do know we played it stripped down a few times (like @ the 99X session) and recorded it for the very first time at Morrisound in ’95, while tracking some songs from American Standard for a radio promo. The version of “Lucky” that I have for you here is that studio version: (fully) electric, never released.
Upon thinking about what to write this week, and returning to Mebane’s letter, I discovered that he passed away in the spring of last year.
I’m raising a glass to Polythene Pam, thinking of how something so small and simple, like a letter, can mean so much, for so long.
Tonight, I’ll dream of a dry cinzano in the sun.
Stay Lucky, Mebane.
Mean Mr. Mustard