Wade Williams

Wade Williams


Diverse catalog of smart, literate, mostly acoustic songs in country and folk idioms, ranging from the quiet and personal to the quirky and humorous.


The music starts with the song, and my performance and arrangements are geared to that end. Influences are Dylan, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits and other songwriters with a lyrical emphasis and a diversity of styles, though mostly acoustic and mostly guitar. The arrangements for acoustic guitar and my playing style are modeled on guitarists such as Eric Taylor, Richard Thompson and Willie Nelson.


What I Did Instead

Written By: Wade Williams

Could've given up
Could've walked away
Could've said goodbye
Sometimes it's the easiest word to say

Could've blamed you
Or anybody but myself
Could've burned a bridge
Instead I did something else

What I did instead
Was take a real hard look at me
Step up to the plate, accept responsibility
What I did instead
Was stay right where I am
And try to be where the road behind me led
That's what I did instead

I can run
As fast as any man
And I can hide
As well as anybody can

I've proved that
You and I know it's true
This time I decided
To try something new

And what I did instead
Was thank my lucky stars
For everything I got
I didn't have to try too hard

What I did instead
Was hold a mirror up to my life
And hold within my heart all the good book said
That's what I did instead

For once in my life, maybe I did something right
I see the light shining up ahead
And what I did instead . . . .

Slow Learner

Written By: Wade Williams

I got a son, just turned fifteen
Seems like we go at it nearly every night
"Dad, you don't understand anything," he says
He may be right . . . .
When I was a kid, my dad was the same way
He didn't know anything until my 21st birthday

He was a slow learner
It took him awhile to figure stuff out
He was a slow learner
But he said that he had no doubt
That if I waited around a few years I would see
Slow learning runs in the family

I remember back then, my old man,
Man, you couldn't tell him anything!
He thought he knew it all, he was full of advice
About life and love and honor and integrity
Back then it all fell on deaf ears
It's amazing how much smarter he was in just a few years


I called up my father, I said, "Dad,
I really need a favor from you.
How did you get so wise between the time
I was thirteen and 22?"
He said, "I've been waiting on this call.
I once asked the same thing to your grandpa . . . .

"He said he was a slow learner
He said it took him a while to figure stuff out
He was a slow learner
But he said that he had no doubt
That if I waited around a few years I would see
Slow learning runs in the family"

I hope someday you remember this, son, and tell me if you do
Maybe by then I'll understand why you need a tattoo

'Cause I'm a slow learner
It takes me a while to figure stuff out
I'm a slow learner
But I have no doubt
If you wait around a few years you'll see
Slow learning runs in the family
If you wait around a few yours you'll see
You're a slow learner just like me

Zydeco Jones

Written By: Wade Williams

Way back in the bottom around Brazos Bend
Where the heat lay heavy and there ain't no wind
In a cedar pole shack amongst catfish bones
Lived a river-rambling man named Zydeco Jones

He had a corncob pipe and a coonskin cap
And a pet bearcub that he caught in a trap
I used to go and see him when I was just a kid
If it was anybody else old Zydeco hid

Zydeco Jones, what happened to you?
One day I went to find you and you hid from me, too
Cedar shack gone and a highway coming through
Zydeco Jones, what happened to you?

In an Airstream trailer on Musselwhite Road
Just me and my mama and a lonesome radio
With a singer singing about a love gone wrong
It was long about then I met Zydeco Jones

I told him all the secrets that I had
About the whiskey and the sadness and the love gone bad
We roamed every inch of that river bottom land
If I ever felt lost he took me by the hand


We never talked much about the world out there
We just roamed and we rambled, me and him and that bear
But the years went past and time moved on
One day I went to the river and Zydeco was gone

[repeat chorus]

I grew up and went as far as I could go
From that Airstream trailer and that lonesome radio
One day a letter came, it said, "We thought you oughta know
Your mama drank herself to death on Musselwhite Road."


Now I'm back in the bottom around Brazos Bend
Where a river used to run and the highway don't end
Remembering a sadness way deep down in my bones
For my imaginary friend named Zydeco Jones


The Last Buffalo

Written By: Wade Williams

They came riding out of the Plains in the fall of ‘22
On ponies lame and hungry, a cold dark afternoon
Four braves and two young boys who never spoke a word
In a cart, too weak to ride, was the old chief Iron Bird

From the porch Tom Preston watched them as they crossed the railroad track
And came down the dirt road past the house and rode around the back
His grandson came running, eyes wide with disbelief
Before the boy could open his mouth, Tom said, “Tell Jesse to kill a beef, the time has come”

In a pen not far from the house were fourteen buffalo
Descendants of a gift from Goodnight made 30 years ago
Pampered, almost tame, they grazed out there like pets
He remembered what Goodnight said: “These may be all that’s left.”

On the third day one of the braves came walking up from their camp
He stood outside the house wrapped in a blanket moldy and damp
Tom Preston said, “I’ll send more beef.” The Comanche brave said, “No.
Iron Bird sent me here to tell you he wants one buffalo,
For the time has come.”

The time has come
The time has come
I’ve been waiting my whole life and the time has come

Tom Preston said, “Tell Iron Bird I know his shadow well.
I fought him on the Caprock and in the Brush Country as well.
For twenty years we battled. Over what I no longer know.
I only know it ended thirty years ago.

“He’s welcome to my cattle, and my woman will bring him bread.
He can shelter in my barn when he tires of the stars overhead.
But he has one side of the story. I got mine, and so,
Tell Iron Bird he can have those things but not one buffalo.”

Winter set in early, snow quick upon the frost
Then the cattle started starving, over sixty head were lost
Then one of the bison started dying, and the grandson got the flu
Every day the brave came calling, every day old Tom refused

The Indians watched from the pasture as the white men walked in a line
From the house to a family graveyard, with a small box of pine
When the burying was over, Tom walked past the last buffalo bull
“Take the son of a bitch,” he said. “Eat til your bellies are full.”

And he handed the brave his rifle while the two young boys looked on
Then Iron Bird came out of the tent, took the rifle, gave it back to Tom
He said something in Comanche, and the braves mounted up with their spears
“One last time the old way, Tom. Then everything disappears.”

The time has come
The time has come
We’ve been waiting our whole lives and the time has come

Tom opened the gate and the Indians rode into the pen
And a tribe of shabby beggars assumed the shape of gods again
They struck at the bull with their spears, arrows flew like birds
Two young boys became braves that day and never spoke a word

And when the killing was over and the bull drew his last breath
They sang a song of thanks, they sang a song of death
Then they rode across the pasture, they crossed the railroad track
Disappeared just like old Iron Bird told him . . .
“It ain’t ever coming back.”

Abandoned Fireworks Stand

Written By: Wade Williams

on a dirt road
off a highway
its walls all flung open
like a railcar
from a dead star
crashed into earth
you come from nowhere
but you could go there
on the fourth day of July
and empty your pockets
of all that you’re worth

I’ll have some Black Cats
some stink bombs
ten Roman candles
one for every year
since I’ve been born
gonna shoot em
at the fence posts
set em off in the ant beds
they’re prettier at night
but I can’t wait that long

in the nighttime
I hear the coyotes
like women crying
and the junebugs
sound like washtubs
thumping on the windowscreen
can’t wait for Christmas
does he miss us
when he goes out drinking?
gonna buy myself a hot rod
when I hit fifteen

I’ll have some Black Cats
some stink bombs
fifteen Roman candles
one for every minute
I’ve been standing here
in dead sunflowers
I’d stand for hours
just wondering how you stood it
all that noise
all that silence
just pounding in your ears

now the fields
are flat and broken
the sky don’t know nothing
a land bereft
nothing left
of the place I grew up
just an abandoned
fireworks stand
at the edge of a dirt road
and the smell of gunpowder
and stuff that blew up

I’ll have the Black Cats
some stink bombs
twenty Roman candles
one for every year
since I’ve been gone
we ask ourselves
if empty shelves
will ever be replenished
with anything so beautiful
and anything so wrong