Chuck McCabe

Chuck McCabe


Chuck McCabe has survived 3 major label deals, was a staff writer for ABC, won the Woody Guthrie songwriting competition and dated the Smothers Brothers' sister.


TrueWind Music calls him:
"A master storyteller in the tradition of the great folk troubadours, with an easy style and powerful picking."

A vein of humor and a theme of respect run through McCabe’s distinctly American songwriting. From those clever missives that make us laugh and shake our heads (Don’t be rude to the people who bring your food) to poignant social commentary (Minimum Wager, Deliver us from Evil), McCabe makes us think about how we treat our fellow-man. His delivery demonstrates an understated elegance that is a rare find among performers – especially those who cross the lines between wit and wisdom.

The songs and stories of Chuck McCabe are testimony to a life that began on the road. Born into a Navy family, McCabe’s wanderings began early and continued through years of playing summers on Cape Cod, winters in Vail and every gin mill and Holiday Inn lounge in between. As a 5-string banjo player he was part of Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Review. As a guitarist he’s played rock, blues, jazz and bluegrass from the trendy bars on the Sunset Strip to USO shows in the wilds of Southeast Asia.

All the while, McCabe gathered fodder for what has become a significant and important body of work. Since his song of the plight of the working class, Minimum Wager, won the Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition in 2002 McCabe has joined the ranks of the master story tellers in the tradition of the great folk troubadours. His songwriting also has been honored by the Boston Folk Festival, Sisters (Oregon) Folk Festival, Napa Music and Wine Festival, Founders’ Bluegrass Festival, Sierra Songwriters festival, Wildflower! (Dallas) and the Tucson Folk Festival.

McCabe has recorded for Capital Records, ABC and GRT in both Nashville and Los Angeles, where he was a staff writer for ABC. Through his career, McCabe has made choices that have allowed him to express himself in a unique and non-commercial form that has – despite some narrow misses – steered him clear of both fame and fortune. McCabe now lives, writes, performs and teaches in the San Jose, California area. He is a songwriting clinician and frequent guest songwriting judge for the West Coast Songwriters and the Sisters Folk Festival. In addition to touring and teaching, last year he performed more than 100 shows for the non-profit Young at Heart Project that provides a musical respite for seniors in care facilities.

He is a member of the North American Folk Alliance, the West Coast Songwriters and a voting member of the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).

He is endorsed by Breedlove Guitars, Deering Banjos and Elixir Strings.

McCabe is fond of relating a quote by John Adams... "I am a soldier, that my son might be a poet."

McCabe's father lived to see that reality. Even though he didn't like it much.


Gone to Utah

Written By: Chuck McCabe

Gone to Utah

He saved a little money from his Navy pension
Bought an old red Jeep, and shined it up like a fire engine
He bought some maps and a compass, he was a man with a mission
His wife said “he’s gone crazy” but the note in the kitchen said:

Gone to Utah
Where the red rock canyons rise to the diamond desert skies... don’t you cry
Gone to Utah
I’m not the man I used to be, but the man I’m settin’ free has gone to God’s country.

The doctor said: “It’s risky goin’ out there all alone”
His friends said: “In that hat, he thinks he’s Indiana Jones”
His children said: “He’ll probably like to die out there one day”
But the neighbors say he was whistlin’ as he drove away

Gone to Utah
Where the Golden Eagles fly, let the blue coyote’s cry be my lullabye
Gone to Utah
I’m not the man they say I was, but a man does what he does, for the things he loves.

“And I’ve sailed the seven oceans, seen the great works of Man,
But the great Creator’s hand is in the beauty of that land
And I’d rather lie out there between the heavens and the sand
Than to wait for my fate here, with the walls a-closin’ in.”

There were many times he wandered, and got back on his own
One day I got a call, I had to go and bring him home
And the wind rose up to meet us, as we carried out his plan,
Sifted out his ashes from an old coffee can.

He’s gone to Utah
Where a million rivers flow, when the wildflowers grow up through the melting snow
Gone to Utah,
He’s just a man we thought we knew, but he was only passin’ through.

© Chuck McCabe
15466 Los Gatos Blvd
suite 109-161
Los Gatos, CA 95032
(408) 358-2427

The Flavor came from Fat

Written By: Chuck McCabe

The Flavor Came From Fat

Grandma cooked on a woodstove in a little tar-paper shack
With the kitchen off to the side, and the bathroom way out back.
And with a shawl around her shoulders against the evening damp
She rocked and read the Good Book by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Water came from a bucket, milk came from a cow
Grandpa came from Georgia when ol’ Sherman burned it down
Grandma came from the kitchen, wipin’ pie dough off her hands
Said: “you kids come set the table, and I’ll bring out the pans.”

Fatback and black-eyed peas, chicken fried in bacon grease,
Grandma had the recipes for all of these down pat.
Grandma knew what every country cook knows for a fact:
It’s a labor of love, and the flavor comes from fat.

Now, you don’t throw nothin’ out when you live down on the farm
And if you think I’m kiddin’ go take a look behind the barn
Rusty springs and wheels and things all dear to Grandpa’s heart
“The South’s gonna rise again!” he’d say, and Grandpa had the parts!

And the same thing out in the kitchen, where Grandma’s word was law
There was tried-and-true tradition behind everything you saw
Fryin’ up some bacon or bakin’ up a ham,
Grandma’d keep whatever grease was left there in the pan

And on the back of that old stove sat a humble china bowl
Where Grandma poured the drippins’ off like they were drops of gold
And in this simple way she stayed connected with the past:
The next dish always started with a little bit of the last.

Cornbread and collard greens, catfish and hushpuppies
Wouldya pass the butter, please? Grandpa, take off your hat!
Grandma knew what every country cook knows for a fact
It’s a labor of love, and the flavor comes from fat.

The Junk in Murphy's Yard

Written By: Chuck McCabe

Tim Murphy lived behind us, and to his dyin’ day
The man could never bring himself to throw a thing away
It made for an awful clutter, but as Murphy used to say
“You never can tell when you might need a thing again”

And so the place piled up with empty bottles, jugs and jars
Fenders, wheels and bumpers, every corner of the yard
Gravy boats and fishbowls and rusty shopping carts
But the magic of it all... when the rain began to fall...

Down it came in buckets, and it beat a mad tattoo
On pots and pans, umbrella stands, and a bicycle or two
A symphony of splatters, of pitter-pats and plunks was
The rain upon the junk in Murphy’s yard.

The gurgle of the gutter and the drizzle of the drain
Played out a perfect counterpoint to the rhythm of the rain
It would lull you off to slumber and start you up again
With hailstones when they fell, like all the hammers of hell

With a child’s imagination I can hear it all again
The octopuss’s orchestra, the armies made of tin
The drunken cast of Riverdance and drummers on a binge
And underwater scenes of yellow submarines

(repeat chorus)

“Tim Murphy’s with the angels” I heard my mother say
The landlord came to paint the place and haul the junk away
None of all the neighbors could recall a stranger day
The rain came driftin’ down and it never made a sound

And so we got together to pay our last respects
My mother, Da, and brothers, all in our Sunday best
They took Tim up the hill and they laid him down to rest
Appropriate to all, the rain began to fall

And down it came among us, and it beat a sad tattoo
On dozens of umbrellas and the brim of a hat or two
Oh, I’ll never see a rainbow without thinkin’ how I miss
The rain upon the junk in Murphy’s yard

But as we filed before him to say a last good-bye
There among the flowers, a wonder to my eye
A teacup and a hubcap, and a tobacco tin did lie
So I contributed our gallon bucket lid
Some can play the whistle and some can bend a string
Some just have to dance, they say, and others born to sing
Like a leaf in autumn or an angel on the wing
The music Murphy loved was straight from up above
(repeat chorus)

Deliver Us From Evil

Written By: Chuck McCabe

Deliver us From Evil

Just a simple soul I am, not born to understand
the word of God or ways of Man

Into this world I come, they say I am my father’s son
and I must pay what what he done

Not thinking wrong or right, saw the apple, took a bite
God gave me the appetite

Deliver us from evil
Yes, and from temptation, too
Protect us from the innocent
For they know not what they do

And when the war began, they put a weapon in my hand
Said: “Today you are a man”

Led me into the fray, taught me the words to pray
so God would look the other way

One day I’ll meet my end, it may be at my brother’s hand
but I have stood where he will stand

(repeat chorus)
All my sins I do repent, this was never my intent
Now I know what Jesus meant, protect me from the innocent
They know not what they do

Just a simple soul I am, not born to understand
The evil done by righteous men

I think they do believe (that) God in his mystery
speaks to them and not to me

(repeat chorus)

Minimum Wager

Written By: Chuck McCabe

Minimum Wager
(a song for the Working Poor)

She was changin’ out of her fried-chicken red, gettin’ into her hamburger blue
And the girl lookin’ back from the mirror wasn’t anyone she thought she knew
She looked older and tired, and a little bit wired, drinkin’ coffee just to get herself through
That long second shift that she’d sure like to skip, but the baby needs new shoes.

She’s a minimum wager... just hangin’ on
Minimum wager... standing on the bottom rung
The days are long but the years just fly... hush little baby, don’t you cry
Lord, it’s hard when you’re just gettin’ by, everybody’s got money but you

There’s an old man ringin’ the register and he’s thinkin’ ‘bout 1943
The war was on, he was young and strong, and he fought for democracy
Now they send foreign aid and the cars are all made in the land of his old enemies
And wrong or right, he’s too old to fight, and he feels like a refugee

He’s a minimum wager... just hangin’ on
A minimum wager... got a grip on the bottom rung
So you eat your soup and you say “amen”
Try not to think how it’s all gonna end
You’re better off than your homeless friends, but you’re only a paycheck away

Now the stock market’s up and it’s all over town; the buck has got to stop somewhere
If it leaves the top, if it all trickles down, it don’t hang around down here
Where every penny earned is a dollar spent, after the groceries and the rent
There’s just enough for the government and a ticket in the lottery

There’s a bus rollin’ over the boulevard and it’s picking up the fortunate few
Some shall ride and some must walk no matter what they do
When you make half as much you work twice as hard.... when you’ve been there, you’ll know that it’s true
Listen to the politicians talk, say they’re savin’ a seat for you

Minimum wager... what if they’re wrong
Minimum wager... who’s gonna catch you if you fall?
If the food is fast and the restroom’s clean, the cars gets washed and the lawns stay green
The young and the old and the in-between are makin’ it all come true

© Chuck McCabe

Old Enemy

Written By: Chuck McCabe

Old Enemy

If I'd never met you, wonder where I'd be today
I used to think the Devil sent you, I've had to fight you all the way
But you kept me goin', just knowin' you'd be there to see me fall
Old Enemy you have been a friend to me after all.

Some folks make it easy, some let you know they just don't care
But you nearly drove me crazy... I've heard your voice when you
weren't there
And it's true that fightin' you has only made me strong...
Old Enemy, you have been a friend to me all along.

When the best that I could do was not to be like you,
I did all that I could.
and I guess I'd have to say, if you were standin'
in my way
At least I knew where you stood.

They say the good die young, they say old habits they die hard
But you stuck around too long to keep on catchin' me off-guard
And it's strange, but a part of me is sad to see you go
Old Enemy, you have been a friend, and you'll never even know


Written By: Chuck McCabe


Here come the holidays
Eggnog and mayonnaise
Time for chips and dip, shrimp on a stick ‘till your pants don’t fit

Hooray for the holidays
Old Santa Claus won’t go away
Little kids in their reindeer suits, so doggone cute you could almost puke

Day after day you slave away to make some dough
Now you’re down at the mall
Spending it all
The nice man on the radio wants you to know
Seven more shopping days
Twenty-four months to pay

Puttin’ the cards in the mail today
Strugglin’ hard to find somethin’ to say
Maybe rich Uncle Bill will put you back in his will
Tell him he was right about Roosevelt.

Then it’s the cops want to talk to you
OK, so you’ve had a few
Get out of the car, fall down where you are
Give the lawyer a call

And after all the fuss, you’re fat, broke and busted
Prayin’ for a miracle
And you know, my friend you’ll do it all again next year

Partisan Polka

Written By: Chuck McCabe

When I was just a kid, my daddy sat me on his knee (said)
"It's time you knew a thing or two about this family:
You can trust what I tell you, son, trust in the Lord
But never trust a man who drives a Ford

We're Chevy people, son, we've always driven Chevys
We smoke Camels, not Luckies, drink Coke, not Pepsi
It's Bud Light on a weeknight and Michelob on Sunday
And though I know there’s some who’d disagree

If you ain't one of us, you must be one of them
It’s a matter, boy, of simple loyalty
You wanna be a man... step up and name your brand
And if you ain’t one of us, you must be one of them

I was thinkin’ ‘bout all that, when my uncle started in:
Said: “Life is like a game, boy, and ya gotta play to win
If you’re bettin’, use your head, take the points and beat the spread
But before you go, you better know your teams

Take the Giants not the Jets, the Yankees not the Mets
And if you’re really in a pinch, take the British, not the French
Gotta hit ‘em where it hurts, hit ’em hard and hit ‘em first
And while you’re at it, hit ‘em once for me

And if you ain't one of us, you must be one of them
Gotta love your friends and hate your enemy
And me and all the fans, we’ll support you... from the stands
And if you ain't one of us, you must be one of them”

Now I can’t keep it straight who it is I’m supposed to hate
Though I try to play the game
I hate everyone the same

Buddha and Mohammed, Jesus and the Jews
Catholics Protestant they say I’ve got to choose
Liberal and Conservative, aren’t those religions, too?
One thing in common, I can see:

If you ain’t one of us, you must be one of them
Friend, where you wanna spend eternity?
You want to get to heaven? I can get you in
Your Grandma’s got a dollar? ...send that sucker in!
When I say Hallelujah, I wanna hear a little amen
Cause if you ain’t one of us you must be one of them

I'd Rather Be in Redding

Written By: Chuck McCabe

I’d Rather Be in Redding

Beyond the almonds and the olives and the truck stops on I-5
There’s a little piece of heaven, makes it almost worth the drive
I’ve been to cities by the ocean and the City by the Bay
But I’d rather be in Redding, and it’s oh so far away

Where the Sacramento River runs through one side of town
And a freight train through the other, how I miss that mournful sound
Where the Siskiyous rise up and the logging trucks roll down
I’d rather be in Redding, than the place I’m stuck in now

All the bright lights up in Reno may be a big deal to some
But an Indian casino’s more my idea of fun
When blackjack, dice and Cuervo are all part of the game
I’d rather be in Redding, where the cops all know my name

And from Weaverville to Shingletown
We sang a song and drank a round
Shasta Lake to Anderson, the BBQ at old Oak Run
The Post Office Grill, Old City Hall... the disappearing Downtown Mall
Happy hour to last call, they’ve been like home to me

(some pickin’)

Where the blossoms and the buzzards drift together on the breeze
Where mosquitos sing as sweetly as the birds up in the trees
If I ever get to heaven I will tell St. Peter, “please...
I’d rather be in Redding when it’s 99 degrees.” © Chuck McCabe
15466 Los Gatos Blvd
suite 109-161
Los Gatos, CA 95032
(408) 358-2427

My Prayer For You

Written By: Chuck McCabe

My Prayer For You

May your numbers all be lucky, may your traffic lights be green
May you know high and low and be mostly in between
May you go a little crazy if it helps you to explain all the troubles of a world that's gone insane

My prayer for you
That you may do what makes you laugh or makes you new
And while others smell the roses may you stop and pick a few
Live it up before they drop the other shoe
My prayer for you

May you find an old friend, may you lose a little weight
If they catch you red-handed may you have your story straight
May you always see 'em comin' so to keep from gettin' burned by the nosey and the pushy, actin' helpful and concerned

My Prayer for you
That you may do what gets you off or gets you through
And what others do in 12 steps may you nail in nine or ten
Never have to wake your sponsor up again
My prayer for you

May you find the consolation of some living, loving thing
A cat or dog will do if you give up on human beings.
If your dreams are all in vain may you be the last to know, and if they ever blow the world up may you be the first to go

My Prayer for you
When it’s all through, you’ve had your day and got your due
And may many be sad to see the last of you
And just a few be glad to see it, too
My Prayer for you


Written By: Chuck McCabe

When I wake up, I jump in my truck and head for the donut shop
Tip that girl a dollar and she fills my thermos up
I’m a contractor, drivin’ with a coffee cup
In my pickup truck with the buckets in the back and the ladder in the rack on top

I’m a carpenter, a plumber, electrician and a mason
I put the roof over your head in every town in this great nation
New construction or remodel from the roof down to the basement
I can pour it, frame it, wire it, plumb it, rock it, trim it, paint it
I’m a contractor, the right man for the job
With a cellphone, cement sack, pickup truck with the buckets in the back
and the ladder in the rack on top

I take a little break at 10:00 and I’m dyin’ for a smoke
If I didn’t bum ‘em, I swear that I’d go broke
I burn ‘em down just half-way, so I can light twice as many
Started when I was 12 and I’ve been quittin’ since I was 20

I’m a contractor gimme just one more puff with a Tic-Tac, a nicotine patch, cellphone and a cement sack and a pickup truck with the buckets in the back and the ladder in the rack on top.

(some pickin’ here)

It’s dark when I get up and dark when I get home
The Lord gave me these two hands so I can work ‘em to the bone
Got a boat up in the driveway, ain’t never seen the water
Been thinkin’ ‘bout retirement ever since the day I bought her
So I work 14-hour days, and weekends when I’m able
I take credit cards, bank checks, and cash under the table

I’m a contractor, tryin’ to make a buck
With a six-pack, a bad back, I’m one step ahead of a heart attack
Tic-Tac, nicotine patch, cellphone and a cement sack
In my pickup truck with the buckets in the back and a ladder in the rack on top

I Miss My Moustache

Written By: Chuck McCabe

I miss the Good Ol’ Days
I’m missin’ pieces of my past
The Winds of Change blew hard and strange and it all went by so fast.
I miss the girl I should have married, and the ones I could not catch
And when the cold wind blows around my nose, I miss my moustache.

I missed the Last Train to Clarkesville
I miss Crosby Stills & Nash
With sideburns flyin’ my friends and I ran down the Rosy Path
I miss the sunshine on my shoulder, and my hair down to my ___
And when the Beatles play “Yesterday” I miss my moustache.

I do not miss the way my kiss made the girls all laugh
They looked at me like Pancho Villa in some old photograph
So good-bye, old banditos, better hold on to your masks
When the world gets wise to my disguise, I miss my moustache.

Some day I’ll miss Miss Manners, and all her good advice
I mis-spell Mississippi, but not the same way twice
When they taught how to keep a straight face I musta missed that day in class
‘Cause when people say; “You never shoulda shaved” I just have to laugh

For all those years I had those hairs in the middle of my face
I only wish that all I’ve missed was so easily replaced
So goodbye old soup strainer, and hello razor rash
Just one slip on that naked lip, and I miss my moustache
Yes, and when the cold wind blows around my nose, I miss my moustache.

© Chuck McCabe


McCabe has been signed to three major labels (Capitol, ABC and GRT) and has released five titles on the independent BlahBlahWoofWoof label.

His songs have been included on compilations that range from Dr. Demento to a Blues collection, and pure folk in-between.

Releases on the independent BlahBlahWoofWoof Label:
2008: Creatures of Habit
2006: Sweet Reunion
2004: Chicken Dinners
2002: Bad Gravity Day
1998: Burgers and Champagne

Set List

A combination of original songs from Chuck's vast repertoire, along with some ol' crowd pleasers. The evening can be presenteds as two 45 minute sets, or longer if the crowd's cookin'!

Favorite McCabe tunes include:
The Flavor Comes From Fat (Chicken Dinners, 2003)
Gone to Utah (Sweet Reunion, 2006)
Minimum Wager (Bad Gravity Day, 2002)
Do What I Can (Bad Gravity Day, 2002)
I Miss My Mustache (Bad Gravity Day, 2002)
The Junk in Murphy's Yard (Sweet Reunion, 2006)
I Like Your Skin (Burgers and Champagne, 1998)
You're Always at Home in a Bar (Chicken Dinners, 2003)
That's What I Like About my Baby (Sweet Reunion, 2006)