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So, who is Charley Crockett?
Which one are you talking about?
The Lil’ G.L.’s Blue Bonanza Charley, or the Lil’ G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee Charley? Or the Homeric “Jamestown Ferry” Charley? Is that new artist who graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry the same cat who played the Newport Folk Festival?
Best just to call Charley his own man.
However one may strain to describe such an enigmatic figure and his equally enigmatic music, it’s pretty obvious Charley transcends stereotype. Whatever you might think he is or isn’t, he’ll change your mind with his next song. That’s part of the fun riding shotgun with Charley Crockett. You know he’s a skilled driver familiar with all the roads. You just don’t know exactly which one he’s taking, or where he’s taking you, only that the journey will be a pleasurable one.
Now comes Charley’s tenth album in his six-year career. In the Crockett tradition, it is as ambitious and ground-breaking as each piece of recorded music he’s put out so far. And it’s not just an album. It’s a double LP of Charley Crockett originals, each song going the distance to further define this singer-songwriter-performer-artist who came out of the proverbial nowhere.
Nowhere in Charley Crockett’s case would be San Benito, the largely Hispanic farming community in the Rio Grande Valley of extreme south Texas, his birthplace. He grew up poor in a trailer surrounded by cane fields and citrus groves, raised by a single mom. Fortunately for him, music was in the thick, humid Gulf air, because the Valley has a serious musical streak running through it. There’s a museum in San Benito honoring the father of conjunto accordion, Narciso Martinez. The likeness of Tex-Mex superstar and hometown hero Freddy Fender (nee Baldemar Huerta) graces the municipal water tower. Nearby Los Fresnos was hometown of Simon Vega, who served in the Army with Elvis Presley and built the Little Graceland shrine in tribute to his GI buddy.
That Valley was a perfect petri dish for a little kid with wide eyes and good ears. He could be anyone he wanted to be in this remote part of the world. When his family moved to Dallas, city life was not so kind to the kid who looked and talked different. This was where he learned the hard way how impoverished his family really was. His escape was going to live with his uncle in New Orleans, where as a teenager he developed skills free-styling and rapping, and first began performing in the streets. That led to busking on the streets of New York once he was out on his own.
He hustled hard to survive, living a transient life, taking whatever he needed, whenever he needed it, and hoping he wouldn’t get caught. He sold weed to get by, at one point working the harvest in clandestine marijuana fields in the northwest. Twice, he was convicted of a felony crime. Music provided the way out.