BLACK LAND DUST
DONALD R. KILLION
Stray Dog's cousin Don Killion harbored a love of music from an early age. Later in life with his band, Black Land Dust, he recorded several songs. 'Black Land Dust,' featured over the credits of STRAY DOG, evokes indelible images from the time, place, and conditions of the Missouri Bootheel where Don and Stray Dog grew up. Copied below are excerpts from an interview with Don in which he charts his evolution as a musician:
DON: My mom and dad bought me my first guitar when I was around eleven. And I remember going down to Hillbilly Park and I'd be sitting in the back of the car and singing along with Ernest Tubb. Sometimes I'd get them mad at me because they wanted to hear the Ernest Tubb and my big mouth was going. But I enjoyed that music real well and I grew up with it. When I was fourteen or something like that I think that's when Elvis came out and everybody fell in love with him for awhile. But I just - something kept drawing me back to country music. I don't know what it was, I just liked it. And then my wife and I, we moved into a living room flat over in St. Louis. My next door neighbor was an old man, he was 72 years old at that time. And he came knocking on my door one morning about 7:30, asking me if I played the guitar. And I told him "no," because I hadn't learned how to play it. The one my mom and dad gave me, I just never did try to learn to play the guitar. And he said "you want to learn?" and I said "well sure." And from that moment on, I'd walk across the porch there and we'd play ten or twelve hours a day just picking and stuff like that you know. He's the one that really taught me the basics of the guitar....Now this is right after I got out of the service. And then my wife and I moved up to Illinois. That's where here family was and her brother, he played guitar and he helped me some. I think the first time I ever played out and sang was with him, matter of fact. And from there I just kept going, liking it more and more and I got a little band together, Black Land Dust, and played with them quite a few years. I quit playing out in 1980 I think or something like that but we had a little band and we'd go down into the basement and practice songs and play. We done that for three or four years. And that's how I got started.
DEBRA: At what point did you actually write the lyrics for Black Land Dust?
DON: That was 1972. [The inspiration was] my mom and dad, listening to them and how they had to work when they were young and sharecrop and work for the man on this farm. And listening to my dad talk about - well like one time I think he carried a fifty pound sack of flour on his back, walked five miles with that. Picking cotton, picking up chunks out of cornfields - whatever they wanted done, they did.
DEBRA: What was the recording like?
DON: We recorded that in Tonka, Illinois... It was a garage made into a studio. No, it was nothing like Nashville. But at that time, to me I thought it was the biggest deal in the world.
DEBRA: Then karaoke became an important thing for you.
DON: Absolutely. I'd lost all interest in everything. I didn't have no interest in nothing at all and my nephew told me about this karaoke thing. I'd never heard of it before. And he said, "Uncle Don, you ought to go down and listen to it one night." These people were playing in Foley, Missouri at a place called Bonna's Lounge, I believe it was. And their names were Kathy and Steve Gibson. And after two or three weeks I went down and they went with me because I didn't want to go by myself, I didn't know anything about that. I waited about an hour and then I finally turned a song in. The first song I ever sang at karaoke was Forever and Ever Amen, a Randy Travis song. And the people liked it real well and I got a big hand for it and the people that ran the karaoke they came up and said "What do we have here, a professional?" and my wife said "yes." I didn't consider myself a professional but she said "yes" and they just made me feel so welcome that I started going out to their karaoke. I went for about thirteen years... They revived me. I was just drifting, nothing interested me at all. In a way, they saved my life...Not from actually dying, but from just sinking and sinking.
LISTEN TO BLACK LAND DUST:
DON SINGS BLACK LAND DUST: