James Hand was one of those great Texas songwriters who never really found mainstream success. However, the Waco-born country singer never failed to draw a West Texas crowd. Willie Nelson referred to Hand as “The Real Deal” which speaks volumes. Additionally, Hand helped to shape the sound and songwriting of Charley Crockett.
However, James Hand wasn’t just a major influence on Charley Crockett. The two Texas troubadours were friends. Before Hand’s death in 2020, Crockett took him out on tour and introduced him to a new audience. In 2021, Crockett released 10 for Slim, a James Hand tribute album. In the album’s spoken-word opening track, he says of Hand, “He changed my life forever, he was my friend.”
With his new single “The Man from Waco” Charley Crockett pays tribute to his friend and inspiration. In a recent interview with People, he talked a little about the song and his connection to James Hand.
Charley Crockett on “The Man from Waco”
Crockett told the publication, “I didn’t know George Jones or Hank Williams or ever touch hands with any of those greats, but I did know James Hand. And, ultimately, he has become a big part of who I am and my own identity.”
About writing the song, Charley Crockett said, “We started working on this song… and at first, we were having fun with it. We weren’t making fun of James or anything but we weren’t taking the song seriously.” However, something changed as they worked on the song. The pain of losing a friend and mentor started to seep in. “Sometimes, it’s those songs that you’re not taking seriously that stick and begin to take on a whole other meaning,” Crockett said.
While the song isn’t specifically about James Hand, the title is a fairly obvious reference to him. At the same time, the sad story song about a man who mistakenly kills his cheating lover calls to mind Hand’s style. It’s hard not to think about tracks like “Midnight Run” “Slim’s Lament” or “Mighty Lonesome Man” when you hear Charley Crockett’s new single.
“That’s the thing about songwriting,” Crockett told People. “You write the song and you don’t know exactly why or what you are writing it for. And then, as time passes, it starts showing itself.”
James Hand’s Influence Runs Deep
You can watch Charley Crockett perform, listen to his Gulf & Western style and his songwriting and you’ll see James Hand’s fingerprints if you know how to look. However, his influence on Crockett goes deeper than that. Hand’s approach to his career gave Crockett the resolve to do things his way.
“I feel like you’re more likely to end up somewhere worthwhile in the music business by doing something the way that James Hand did it or Willie Nelson is doing it. You go your own way and that can be the hardest thing to do.”
The Man from Waco hits streaming services and record store shelves on September 9th.