Dead Men Tell No Tales…Or Do They?


Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room Birds by the extremely talented Amanda Visssel. The Real Mr. Heartache believes in supporting artists and thinks you should buy some of her artwork. It’s good for you, it’s good for her, and it’s good for the economy.

For information on Amanda Vissel, visit or

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
All the birds sing words and the flowers croon
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room

The last shall be first. We had been at Disneyland since the gates opened and were perilously close to shutting the happiest place on earth down. Time for one last escape. The Enchanted Tiki Room would be it. Wikipedia tells me it is the first audio-animatronics attraction in existence and opened its doors on June 23rd, 1963. Here’s a fun fact for you, the magic fountain was originally to be a coffee station and there’s still a storage compartment in the base for the godly brew. For my money, that’s the Tiki Rooms only possible improvement. Shut your mouths all you gin soaked rummies. No place for you here.

Time machines do exist and this is one of them. The second coming of the Polynesian empire was in full swing by ’63 and if you weren’t listening to Dean Martin albums while grilling red meat and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, then, bub, you just weren’t with it. Khaki shorts, black socks hiked up and sandals. The Tiki Room is all that and more. The exit is cheeky and quick set to Kaua I Ka Huahua ‘i or the Hawaiian War Chant to all you haoles. For those of you expecting something about country music here might I recommend Bob Wills’ version or Bill Haley’s use of the melody for Me Rock-a-Hula. Me rock-a-hula indeed.

For Better Or For… Worse

constance-hatchawayHaunted Houses. The best one I ever went through was an old 19th century farm house somewhere in Frederick County, Maryland in the early 1990s that had been completely converted to scare the shit out of you. Well done. It’s hard for me to say how scary Disney’s Haunted Mansion is being too grizzled to be scared by such things. Dr. Phil is on T.V. afterall. That said, it’s a hoot with its stretching rooms, endless hallways and my favorite Constance Hatchaway bridal portraits.

Big Joe and Phantom 309

There’s a lot of superstition in country music of course considering there’s a lot of superstition in country people. Loretta Lynn lives supposedly in an honest to goodness haunted house and songs like The Ride and Phantom 309 both carry on country musics fascination with the occult and the happy idea of the grateful dead.

David Allen Coe wrote The Ride and it’s one part ghost story and one part “how to” be a country singer. Coe is king of the name drops and sings almost everything in first person, so it’s hard for me to think of anyone but him as the lonesome hitchhiker who’s picked up by the stranger driving the antique Cadillac. After Hank died, tons of songs were written about him, but this one written by another sod comes the closest, if we except Jr’s songs.

The frame is generic enough, ghostly figure picks up bedraggled singer, but Coe’s ability like

He was dressed like 1950 – half drunk and hollowed eyed


can you make folks cry when you play and sing

Have you paid your dues?

Can you moan the blues?

Can you bend them guitar strings?

can you make folks feel what you feel inside?

That hits it dead on.

Phantom 309 at the heart of it isn’t much different than The Ride. Tommy Faile wrote it and Red Sovine made it. Again a simple ghost story, one passed down over a generation of campfires. But here’s the rub, and I steal from Roger Ebert when I say, it’s not what something is about, so much as how its about. Sovine recites Phantom 309 pitch perfect between cheese and sincerity. Unlike The Ride though Big Joe has no advice for the hapless hitchhiker, just a warm cab and a dime for coffee. The real story comes after he’s dropped off at a truckstop. It happened 10 years ago on a night just like this one. At the crossroads there was a busload of kids coming from town and it would have been terrible, but Big Joe, well, Big Joe turned his wheel.

Dead men do tell tales, so says the voice rising out of Pirates of the Caribbean and so says Ol’ Hank and Big Joe.



About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Country, Honky Tonk, Music, Pop. Bookmark the permalink.

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