Friendly Advice on Just About Anything from the Hill Country’s Happiest Songwriter

By Al Barlow

(LSM May/June 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 3)

Dear Al,
I knew you several years at work before I found out about your singing/songwriting profession. How much of your work experience at old Ma Bell influenced your songwriting?
— Terry Collins, San Antonio, TX

Dear Terry,
Hey! Wasn’t it fun working together at the phone company all those years? It’s good to hear from you. Many of my songs were inspired by events that took place in the office, and some were even written at my desk. (On my 15-minute breaks, of course!) My song “Office Angel” was written with many of my fellow coworkers in mind. “Jack’s Job” was inspired by my dear friend D.J. Oh, and another song inspired at the phone company — “I’ve Gotta Get Out Of Here.”

Dear Al,
What is the square footage of Ethiopia?
— Paul McLaughlin, New Braunfels, TX

Dear Paul,
Why do you think God created Google? I’d prefer for readers submitting questions to ask more personal or music-related stuff. But to answer your question, the square footage of Ethiopia is 11,886,586,401,971.58. Next question, please.

Dear Al,
What was the first record album Al Barlow bought with his own money?
— Inky Arlene, Whereabouts Unknown

Dear Inky,
The first record album I actually purchased with my own money was a Dolly Parton album. At one time I had every record she ever recorded. That was way back before she was a legendary superstar. She is the greatest female songwriter in the world.

Dear Al,
Al, I have never seen you not smiling. How hard is it to keep that smile of yours going all the time?
— Michael Tanner Adamson

Dear Mr. Adamson,
Although you have never seen me not smile, there are times when I simply cannot smile. Like, when I’m at a funeral, I seldom smile. It’s easy for me to smile most of the time, though, because I have so much to smile about!

Dear Al,
I’ve always wondered why there’s Braille on numbers of the drive-thru ATM machines.
— Jami Moore

Dear Jami,
That is, indeed, a good question. I’ve pondered this question over and over in my mind, and still can’t seem to come up with a good answer! Maybe we should just be glad we can see the little Braille dots on the keys. Some people can’t see them at all, you know.

Dear Al,
Mr. Barlow, when are you and Michael Waid going to pick and sing together again?
— Michael Waid

Dear Michael Waid,
Come see me at the historic Phoenix Saloon, located in downtown New Braunfels, every Sunday afternoon (from around 2 o’clock until 6 o’clock or so) and let’s do it! It would be so nice to sing and pick with you again. You’re one of my all-time favorites, you know.

Dear Al,
It seems like there’s a lot of local talent that never gets on the radio. Why can’t they dedicate one hour a week locally to homeboys, either live or taped? Everybody has a tape or CD of some sort.
— Mike Burrow

Dear Mike, 

Our local radio station [KNBT 92.1-FM in New Braunfels] has really been good about playing local talent, but like all media, they have to play the stuff that the majority of their listeners want to hear. Local radio stations everywhere would do themselves — and us — a favor by dedicating (at least) an hour or two a week to talented local music.

Dearl Al,
How many matches gave their lives during the writing of your matchbook song?
— Madge Rachell

Dear Madge,
I wrote that song, “Matches” a long, long time ago, but, if my memory serves me correctly, there was only one match used during the time it took me to write the song. Back then, I smoked a cigarette about every 15 minutes, and that’s about how long it took to write the song.

Dear Al,
What can Texans do to break the stranglehold Nashville has over national radio play?
— Doug Zimmerman

Dear Doug,
First of all, we need to “get the word out” better. You know and I know that Texas produces the very best music on earth. One way we can do this is by buying our CDs through, and at concerts put on by Texas artists. Too often we let our friends burn copies of Texas music CDs, and I’m sure Nashville just grins like a possum every time we do so. Splurge and go (only) to a Texas artist’s concert! Fellow Texas music lovers — unite! We can take on the big boys by refusing to listen to Nashville-affiliated radio stations! Subscribe to LoneStarMusic magazine right away, and it will help you keep up with the Texas music scene! Thanks for writing!