Jerry Jeff Walker & Texas Hatters
By the time the snare drum kicks up its dust on “Get It Out,” the fifth track on my trusted Spotify running mix, I know I’m halfway home.
Jerry Jeff Walker’s punchy sing-a-long telling his lady that he loves her hits perfectly with the cadence of my run, each step its own downbeat. Recorded live at the Luckenbach Dancehall in 1973, the song first appeared on ¡Viva Terlingua! a time capsule to the foundational days of Outlaw Country (In 1971, Willie Nelson — a runner himself — moved back to Austin and started performing at dancehalls like the one in Luckenbach). With each of Walker’s gravelly growls, I can taste the beer on my mustache and smell the red dirt beneath my feet. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I added the track to my running playlist after first hearing it at a bar in — of all places — Terlingua, Texas.
It was on that trip in 2013 that I made a hat with Joel Gammage, fourth generation hat maker at Texas Hatters in Lockhart, Texas. While there, Gammage pointed to a row of hats on the repair line and said, “Oh, those are Jerry Jeff’s hats. He probably wouldn’t want you to write about those.” I assured Joel that I wouldn’t but when given the opportunity to take some photos, I captured a few of Jerry Jeff’s “Old Friend.” Today, when revisiting those photos, I found Gammage’s YouTube clip of Walker talking about what makes his hats so perfect.
In the interview, Walker explained that he walked into Manny Gammage, Sr.’s Texas Hatters shop on 13th and Guadalupe in 1964 on the hunt for a “Tom Mix-type hat or something.” Tom Mix was arguably the most famous Hollywood stuntman in the heyday of the Western genre.
“It’s fun. Beer in the refrigerator, iced tea and soda… [coming to Texas Hatters] is like it used to be going to Luckenbach. You’re bound to meet a biker or a judge or a cab driver or a cowboy.”
“I always go in the back… and I would get the older shells because they were the softest. They’d kind of mold to your head. They’re kind of fluffy. I want it to feel like an old friend. We came up with a model we started calling an ‘Old Friend.'”
When Gammage told me the story of the Old Friend, we decided to make one in 4X beaver the color of my grandmother’s pecan pie and name it for the Old Pal, one of my favorite cocktails, basically a Negroni made with rye instead of gin.
Max Wastler’s Old Pal
One Part Old Overholt
One Part Cinzano Extra Dry Vermouth
One Part Campari
Make it Texas: add a twist of Ruby Red grapefruit and a spritz of a wedge of the grapefruit.
When I run, I typically run between three and five miles. I’m the kind of runner who doesn’t like anything about running except for the beer at the end. The last leg of my run is always the best, and often I find myself standing on my back porch, dripping wet, thinking, “if I find a good enough song, I could probably run another mile,” and then common sense and years of foolishly trying to eek out another leg of my run only to injure something gets the best of me, and I settle in with ¡Viva Terlingua!‘s version of “Little Bird” and a can of Coors Banquet.
You can read more of my profile for Basil Hayden’s Bourbon of Joel Gammage in the Wayback Machine.
To see more photos from my visit to Texas Hatter, head over to Flickr.
911 S Commerce St
Lockhart, TX 78644
Jerry Jeff Walker’s obituary in Rolling Stone
Jerry Jeff Walker’s obituary in the AP
Roy Blount, Jr.’s 1979 profile of Jerry Jeff Walker in Texas Monthly is a must-read for the novice and die-hard fan alike.
Texas Monthly has written dirges about Jerry Jeff Walker. They’re all worth reading.