L.A. Freeway

Album: Jerry Jeff Walker (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker's fellow Texan songwriter, Guy Clark, who released his own version in 1975. It was a fitting song for Walker, who had recently left New York for Austin, where he would make his home. Clark wrote the song after a falling out with his landlord in Los Angeles, which prompted his move to Nashville. The song did well on FM radio and helped establish Clark as a songwriter. He went on to write songs that were recorded many artists, including Johnny Cash, Vince Gill and Jimmy Buffett.
  • When we spoke with Clark in 2011, it was clear that his stance on Los Angeles hadn't changed. "I'm glad I'm not there, for sure," said Clark. "I mean, who would choose that? It's just too maddening for my taste." (Here's our full interview with Guy Clark)
  • Steve Earle covered this song on GUY, his 2019 tribute album to his longtime friend Guy Clark. He told The Boot that though he heard the Jerry Jeff Walker's version of "LA Freeway" first, the arrangement for his cover is "note for note" the way Guy Clark played his version. "And I know how he played it, because I sat across the room from him watching him play it," Earle added.
  • The song finds Clark reflecting on his unsatisfactory time on the West Coast, when he rubbed shoulders with the likes of 6-feet-11-inch bass player Skinny Dennis.

    Here's to you old skinny Dennis
    Only one I think I will miss
    I can hear your Bassman singin'
    Sweet and low like a gift your bringin
    '

    Skinny Dennis died young from heart failure not long after "L.A. Freeway" was written. Steve Earle told The Sun a story that Guy Clark told him about the hard-living bassist.

    A drunk Dennis once decided to throw himself out of the singer-songwriter's car and Guy's wife Susanna was between him and the door. He almost pushed her out in the process. "So Guy pulled him back in, drove him home, then never spoke to him again. Everybody was crying when Dennis died but Guy just sat there for a long time, real quiet, and finally he said, 'I don't care, I'm still mad at him!'"

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