Were Waylon Jennings still alive, he might be penning a song in response to Mitt Romney’s remark last night about stopping the subsidy to PBS. See, PBS is home to Big Bird, and Jennings and Big Bird are good buddies.
Their friendship, an unlikely pairing of outlaw country musician from Littlefield and squeaky-voiced canary from Sesame Street, goes back to the 1985 movie Follow That Bird. In it, Big Bird hitches a ride on Jennings’ turkey truck. He is trying to get back to Sesame Street but fears he’ll never make it. Jennings, sensing his co-pilot’s frustration, uses the occasion to teach him a life lesson about keeping his spirits up and always looking ahead. It results in a jubilant duet on the song “Ain’t No Road Too Long:”
The scene spawned a friendship between Jennings and Caroll Spinney, who played Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch). They hit it off on a “soul basis” and often had dinner together. Spinney, who had been burned by record companies, revealed to Rock Cellar Magazine the pointers Jennings gave him to keep music executives in check. In the same interview, Spinney said that after Jennings saw himself in Follow That Bird, he went on a diet. And all of this despite Jennings accidentally burning Big Bird with a cigarette.
While these connections might not convince Romney of the merits of PBS, the story of Thomas Gray might. Gray is a three-year-old who thinks he is the fifth member of the Highwaymen, the country ensemble of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and, yes, Waylon Jennings. In an NPR blog post from Wednesday, Melissa Gray, Thomas’s mother, said her son likes to strap on his guitar and sing “Luckenbach, Texas” at the top of his lungs. He also likes to have imaginary conversations with the band.
“I told Willie a joke the other day and he busted out laughing,” Thomas told his mom. “Johnny didn’t laugh, though, because his belly hurt and Kris was just a baby. Waylon laughed and then he drank all the apple coffee.”
By the time the reader gets to the part where the author admits to singing “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” to Thomas as a baby, the entire blog post seems like a total farce. And then the author points to the “Ain’t No Road Too Long” video. “Waylon helped Big Bird,” Gray wrote. And then she added: “They share a meaningful song about having the confidence to get to where you need to go. And that’s it.”
Instilling confidence and being kind to fellow man (or bird)—pretty simple stuff. It’s stuff any presidential hopeful should get.