(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Standing out in Wrigley Field’s right field Thursday (Oct. 18), talking to Jason Aldean about his show slated there for next summer, I was kind of lost in the moment. I mean, that is legendary ground. And it was an honor to be standing close enough to the ivy-covered outfield wall to touch it. There is just so much about Chicago’s Wrigley Field that makes it epic. Those walls, for example, covered still in the ivy planted in 1937. The hand-turned scoreboard that overlooks center field. And the lights that went up, reluctantly, in 1988.
But this is the Wrigley Field story I love the most: Singer-songwriter Steve Goodman ’s ashes were scattered there in 1988. He died in 1984 of leukemia at age 36. Goodman wrote and recorded “City of New Orleans” (recorded by Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson and John Denver, among others). But Goodman’s other major country hit was the 1975 David Allan Coe smash “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
The song is covered so often at country shows that I know plenty of fans who think it’s called “You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’, Darlin’.” Or even “The Perfect Country and Western Song,” because of the part in it when Coe talks about how he had to go back to Goodman for more lyrics to make it right, which is when he added the famous verse about being drunk the day his mom got out of prison.
I’ve never heard Aldean cover this Goodman song. But if there was ever a day for him to do so, July 20 would be it. Because he could sing it from the field where the songwriter is at peace, with 40,000 enthusiastic background singers, making it quite literally, the perfect country and western song.