Jim, I Wore a Tie Today

Today’s post was written by Paul.

Pig with scroll

Our first song in the story song series was in 3rd person; the next two were in first person, and this last installment is in 2nd person, sung directly from one friend to another upon his passing.

I didn’t set out to sing four consecutive songs where a character dies. It just happened. Perhaps death is simply a part of most good stories.

When I was a kid, I had a cassette of The Highwaymen (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, & Johnny Cash), and that’s where I heard the song “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today.” My brother and I loved to listen to that tape. We found some of the lyrics, like “beer guts and dominoes” in “Desperados Waiting for a Train” and “You’d have said that I looked like a dummy,” in “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today” funny every time we listened, even though we’d heard the tape many times.

Later on, when I was in high school, as I was traveling home from a baseball game with the rest of the varsity team, I overheard a senior (I was only a sophomore or freshman) talking about the song I’m sharing today in the back of the bus, and I was surprised to hear this burly football player get choked up talking about this song. He said it was the saddest song ever written. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but it did get me thinking about the song in a more serious light.

When I began to consider including it in the song series, I searched YouTube and discovered that the song was recorded much earlier by Jimmy Dean (who did the entire song as a recitation) and Eddy Arnold (who sang the first verse and spoke the second, as did the Highwaymen).

Cindy Walker wrote the song (according to the internet). She really came up with some great lines and a nice melody.

The versions by Dean and Arnold featured a slightly more complex chord pattern, with quick changes from the high chord to low chord in the latter half of the chorus (where the line is “the preacher said a lot of things”).

The Highwaymen simplified this portion of the song. I followed their arrangement there, partly because it made it simpler for Corie and Tipper to play along without having ever really played the song before, and the melody is still plenty original with this approach.

For the picking, I had the song go back to the base chord (F) an extra time, rather than staying in the high chord. This change frustrated or threw Corie the first couple of times we played the song, because it makes the picking different from the singing.

I have another specific memory about one of the lines in this song. Once, I was singing the song in the living room of my parents’ house, and Pap overheard me sing, “when you reach those streets paved with gold.” Pap smiled and said that I should sing: “made of gold,” not paved with gold. I knew that Pap was talking about the Bible, not the song. I checked, and sure enough, the one time in the Bible (Revelations 21:21) where it talks about the streets of Heaven, it never uses the word “paved,” which would imply a surface covering, but instead says that the streets are pure gold, like clear glass. At least, the word “paved” isn’t used in the King James Version that I grew up with and that Pap studied incessantly. To Pap, every single word in the Bible mattered and had specific meaning. I thought this was a really nice thought: that the streets aren’t gravel or some other substance merely coated with gold but are pure, solid gold. Anyway, I digress.

I’ve often heard the phrase about panning for gold “on the cuff,” but I don’t know what that means exactly. The Eddy Arnold version features some clippity clop sounds in the background as the song fades to an ending. I couldn’t resist asking Katie to try her hand at some equine accompaniment! 🙂 We grabbed the best available “instruments” in the kitchen and gave it a shot–possibly the first and last time that Katie ever played percussion on a song. 🙂

She was in another room when Corie, Tipper, and I ran over the song a couple of times before the take that you see in the video. To me, there’s a cool little moment in this video, in the second verse, where Katie’s expression gets much more serious. I think it was at that moment when she understood what the song is about. I don’t think she was paying close attention to the lyrics in the first verse, and she said that at first, she thought “Jim” was the narrator’s horse. Perhaps it was the part about being placed in the back of the wagon that made her realize that Jim couldn’t be the narrator’s horse and instead was the narrator’s human friend.

Go here to see the lyrics.

We hope that you enjoyed the story song series and heard some songs that you hadn’t heard before. Lord willing, we’ll do it again next March. As always, thanks for watching. Next month, I hope to share an upload of Pap singing a very special song (no video, just audio). Sometime after that, I also hope to share a video or two relating to a CD of some gospel songs that he wrote, which I have been recording for the past few years.


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  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    Love that song… with all you shared about it, especially about Pap…. So enjoyed the story song series , ….Pap is right ,every word in the Bible does matter, and has specific meaning….. streets of pure gold . ” Mansions over the Hill top”

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    March 28, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Bravo! The banter is as much fun as the very excellent song. 2nd person songs, like 2nd person prose, are “as scarce as hen’s teeth.”

  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I have never heard this song, but I enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    March 28, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    I loved the analysis and commentary. Great job on the song!

  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    I have never heard this song. The one thing I got out of the song is his friends cared enough to dress up but not because they had to for Jim’s funeral. I use to read Dear Abby when I subscribed to the newspaper and can remember people writing to her and complaining about how their friends had the table set or they didn’t use China plates or something else similar like this when they invited them for a dinner or just to be together. The most important thing to me is you cared enough for me to invite me to share a meal or spend time with you. Paper plates and cups just means less dishes to wash. The same way when I die, just being there is enough, if you have to wear your every day clothes that is fine, heck I might not recognize you in a suit anyway. Being my friend is all I care about, the other things don’t matter. I tease my wife and tell her she will have to pay someone to come and act sad when I die. I hope this is not true, I hope I didn’t do all of the taking and not give something back in return.

  • Reply
    Carl Collins
    March 28, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    I have almost all of Johnny Cash’s albums on CD and that “Highwayman” one was one of the favorites. When I used to travel the console was full of Cash, George Beverly Shea and others to help with trips. Hopefully I get some new hearing aids soon so I can enjoy them at home

  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Beautiful singing and playing!! I’ve never heard that song before and I’m looking forward to hearing some of Pap’s songs that he wrote too.

  • Reply
    Doug Bishop
    March 28, 2021 at 10:40 am

    A sad song, yes. But if you are really into sad songs listen to James King sing She Took His Breath Away and Bed by the Window.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 28, 2021 at 9:56 am

    I don’t own a tie and when they put me in the ground I don’t want anybody around wearing one.

  • Reply
    Walter Holokai
    March 28, 2021 at 9:07 am

    That song really hit home. My neighbor & friend named Jim just passed two days ago. Our daughters played high school basketball together and remain fast friends. He was 53 and lost a battle with throat cancer. Never a user of tobacco, he was physically fit, active and friendly. He will be deeply missed by all that knew him. As a business owner Jim would wear a suit when necessary preferring kahkis and a polo shirt. I’m sure his dog Buster, who died last year, was excitedly waiting there to greet him.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    March 28, 2021 at 8:49 am

    I have never heard this song before. Paul and Katie did a beautiful job with it. It reminds me of what people will do for their friends. Looking forward to hearing Pap sing. Looking at your blog is a good way for me to start my day I always see something I enjoy.

    Dennis Morgan
    Flat Creek Rattler

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 28, 2021 at 8:28 am

    I appreciate that little insight into Pap. Makes me smile because I recognize it. To me the test of a church song is always, ‘Is it scriptural?’ and Pap spotted the deviation right off and knew what he was talking about. That comes both from first a fidelity to the author and the text then secondly a sense of responsibility as a Sunday School teacher to never mislead the hearers. Some might think the difference is so minor as to not matter but what that thought really shows is a belief one has the authority or the liberty to change the text oneself. And that is not at all a minor thing.

    It is a blessing you all have such strong family ties and share so much. There are so very many who have never had that at all and do not even know what they are missing.

    Btw, about the horse, there was for a long time an on-going controversy about whether or not a running horse ever had all four feet off the ground at once. Each side was adamant about their position. It wasn’t until motion pictures got good enough that it was resolved by slowing down the action to frame by frame. Horses do indeed for the briefest instant have all four feet off the ground at once.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Liked the music and the history. I remember hearing Willie Nelson sing it at a concert several years past.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 28, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Paul, I have enjoyed this month of songs. I didn’t grow up with music and it’s really been interesting and enjoyable to be in a family with so much music all the time! I always look forward to the Sunday morning music!

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