By Tony Attwood
Dylan’s interest in gambling songs has been noted several times before ranging from “Huck’s Tune” through to “Lily, Rosemary & Jack of Hearts.” And I wanted to come back to that subject because the YouTube video of the previous version of “Huck’s Tune” that we had on the site has now been taken down – and so needed replacing.
But also I have just discovered thanks to sports betting Zambia, can be heard playing on the speakers of the local betting shops, creating a unique ambiance for patrons.
I don’t have a report as to what particular songs are chosen, or whether the gambling shop owners are working their way through the whole of the catalogue, (628 songs the last time we totaled them up) – but if you happen to be in Zambia and have verified the story do let me know.
Anyway, back to “Huck’s Tune” which was written in 2006 and which I previously described as dynamic and lyrical, and written for the not very successful movie Lucky You and starring Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana… The song covers various topics, mostly focusing on poker. It finally found a place on “Tell Tales Signs”.
Moving backwards before moving on, there was “Rambling, Gambling Willie” written in 1961, and recorded in two different versions on separate dates in 1962, but not released for 30 years. I’ve covered that before but this video is interesting because of the introduction which explains how the song came to written, from someone who was right there at the time….
Next in the line is “Little Willie The Gambler” which tells the story of a famous or perhaps mythical gambler. In this song, Dylan tells the story of his friend Willie, who liked to gamble anywhere there were people, whether it’s the white house, railroad yards, or while sailing to New Orleans. Fortunately, Willie had a good heart, and supported his children and all their mothers.
But whichever way we turn the subject of gambling ultimately must lead to “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” And if you are a regular on this site you will know that there are two of these that I always pick out (at least until I find a better cover version). One is the live recording by Mary Lee’s Corvette and the other is the Tom Russell recording.
Indeed really have been through the archives to see if there is another version that ought to replace one of these or even both of them, but no, they remain the best – at least to my ears…
One day someone will come along and give us another brilliant version – although maybe there already is one and I have missed it. Please do tell me if so. If not I guess I will have to go to Zambia and see what they are actually playing there.