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The Secret History of Texas Music

“The Way” (1998)

Written by: Tony Scalzo Recorded by: Fastball

In the summer of 1997 Tony Scalzo was living in Austin and writing songs for his band Fastball’s second album. One morning he came across a story in the Austin American-Statesman: “Elderly Salado Couple Missing on a Trip to Nowhere.” Lela and Raymond Howard, both in their eighties, had left home a few days earlier, headed for the Pioneer Day festival in nearby Temple—and disappeared. The story noted that both husband and wife were ailing: she had Alzheimer’s and he was recovering from brain surgery. They had almost certainly met with a terrible fate, but as Scalzo read, he was moved to imagine a romantic alternative. “I was thinking,” he says, “maybe they just wanted to get away from their responsibilities and get back to that time when they were young lovers.”

As this story unfolded in his mind, he began crafting some lyrics, pairing the words with a minor-key melody. At the chorus, he switched to a major chord, to capture the fanciful triumph he imagined for the couple: they had found a way to cheat death and live on.

Less than two weeks later, the Howards were found in their car at the bottom of a 25-foot cliff near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Lost and far from home, they had died the day after leaving Salado. But Scalzo didn’t change his lyrics—he preferred his version of what had happened to them. In 1998 you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing his song, titled “The Way.” Years later he met the couple’s children. “They were very nice,” he says. “They never made a disparaging comment about this alt-rock guy writing about their family. They were grateful that the Howards got something larger-than-life attached to their legacies.”

Anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
And it’s always summer, they’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry, they’ll never get old and gray. 

The Way: Lyrics printed with permission.

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