The first time I ever heard Jerry Jeff Walker, I was stuck in traffic on the 405.
If you’re a Southern Californian, you know that “the 405” refers to the 405 freeway, which has been notorious for its brutal traffic jams for as long as I’ve been around. And that’s a long time.
The song came on the radio, and it had a definite “country” sound to it—which surprised me, since I was listening to KROQ, an alternative rock station.
It all made sense years later when I pieced together the following facts:
- The disc jockey on the air at the time, and playing pretty much whatever he wanted to play, was a guy named Jimmy Rabbitt.
- In addition to being a deejay, Rabbitt (not his real name) was an accomplished musician with his own country band. When he wasn’t on the air playing other people’s music, you could find him on as stage somewhere in the Southland, playing his own music.
- Rabbitt would have been considered part of the “outlaw country” scene, and even played alongside one of the baddest country music outlaws of them all, Waylon Jennings.
- The song I heard Rabbitt play on KROQ that day on the 405 freeway in L.A. was, appropriately enough, “L.A. Freeway.”
- The song was written by another outlaw, Guy Clark, but the version I heard—the one that had become a radio hit—was by yet another outlaw: Jerry Jeff Walker (also not his real name).
So, that’s why a “country song” was being played on an alternative rock station. And, man, could I relate to the lyrics…
If I can just get off of this L.A. freeway
Without getting killed or caught
As is my long-time practice, once I’d heard that song and liked it, I began researching the singer. Even though, as a young adult, I was trying to seem cool by listening to lots of rock and roll, I found myself actually enjoying the music of guys like Jerry Jeff and the aforementioned Guy Clark and Waylon Jennings.
I was a closet outlaw country fan.
A few years later, when I got into wine, one of Jerry Jeff’s old songs found my ears in a new way. It proved to be one of the most requested songs at concert halls all around the Texas Hill Country, which had become Walker’s adopted home.
That song: “Sangria Wine.”
When friends come for Saturday night
It’s nice to make up some Sangria wine
It’s organic and it comes from the vine
It’s also legal and it gets you so high
I remember going to a Mexican restaurant one time for Sunday brunch. The adult beverage of choice was not Champagne or a Mimosa, but Sangria. It was sweet and tasty, and I recall wondering how it was made—what, exactly, the ingredients were.
Turns out all I had to do was listen a little more carefully to one of my new favorite songs…
Start with some wine
Get some apples and brandy and sugar just fine
Old friends always show up on time
That’s why you add Sparkling Burgundy wine
YouTube has a rousing rendition of “Sangria Wine,” as performed by Jerry Jeff Walker at the annual Watermelon Jubilee in Stockdale, Texas.
So there you have it: the No. 4 song on the Vinesse list of the Top 10 Wine Songs of All-Time…and a handy recipe for Sangria.
(Obviously, it would be helpful to have a bit more specific information for that recipe. Care to share your recipe for Sangria? The comments box below awaits.)
P.S.: If you really must know, Jerry Jeff Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby, and Jimmy Rabbitt’s real name is Eddy Payne.