At the Goodgame’s, today is Ben Day. Two years ago today, I arrived home from Ethiopia with my father and my brand new son. Last night we celebrated early by going to “The Muppets” (what a wonderful, spectacular movie, by the way). And tonight we will go to “chicken nuggets” which means Chik-fil-a in Brentwood.
Riding in the wagon was one of the first fun things I did outside with Ben. He came home when he was two and he still wasn’t very sturdy on his feet. It was December in Nashville, so I would bundle us up in bright lumpy clothes and pull him up and down the driveway while he giggled and gazed around. And sometimes we would sing.
Parents are always telling me about little songs they make up with their children as they work or play around the house, and that’s exactly how The Wagon was born. At least 5 different versions existed before we settled on the melody, but Ben and I started singing about riding in the wagon on some cold Winter day in 2009.
In hindsight I realized the melody had landed somewhere between Tiger and Tractor, Tractor, but it wasn’t so close as to worry me. After that, I didn’t come up with the swing set verse until I started thinking about a new recording. And since there are only two verses, I thought it would be fun to get creative with a vocal counterpoint arrangement.
When I was a young kid, vocal groups like The Oak Ridge Boys and Gatlin Brothers spun on the record player on the weekends, and then in high school I was smitten by the Doobie Brothers monster hit, Black Water. The vocal jam at the end of that song burrowed into my soul and now I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to spice up a song with some weaving vocals (see the end of Bears).
Jeff Taylor played keys on this song, and did a masterful job building the song slowly and steadily. But The Wagon really started rolling when the horn players came in. Musically, this may be my favorite song on the record. I haven’t been around New Orleans counterpoint horn playing very much, but I’ve always loved it. I don’t know why, but to me, this kind of music feels like hard won joy; like joy that’s seen trouble and pain and lived to tell about it and rejoice.
And finally, the lyrics to The Wagon are so simple and sweet, I knew it needed a nudge, nudge and a wink, wink. I came up with the Dragon / Spaceship verse ideas for AP, and in the studio he reminded me of the “rule of three” that always makes things funnier and he came up with the Hippo idea – which was perfect. Hippos are hilarious any way you look at them, unless you’re looking at them from inside their mouth.