Talk about an artist being decades too late, David Ball had a strong run of hits through the mid-90’s. There’s no doubt that his voice and sound could’ve easily fit in with those honky tonk stars of the 50’s like Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell and of course, George Jones.
On the other hand, we are lucky enough to have had David recording and performing traditional style country music for the past quarter-century. And we can still seem him out there on the road today!
“Riding with Private Malone” is one of Ball’s classic hits. It is a song written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd and recorded by American country music artist David Ball.
It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that’s shattered
There’s another that comes true
This car was once a dream of his back when it was new
He told me to take her and make her my own
And I was proud to be riding with Private Malone
Returning from the Vietnam War and a 1966 Corvette
This song is about a guy who buys a “Chevy” which turns out to be a Corvette. In the car, he finds a note written by a soldier named Private Andrew Malone. It says that if you are reading this it means he never made it home. And that you will always be riding with Private Malone. The guy always feels Private Malone with him while he is driving. Then one night he gets into a bad wreck. Later on, someone says they saw a soldier pull him from the crash – he knows that it was Private Malone.
When the writers, they did not know they would be writing such a special song. Yet, sometimes all it takes is an idea and a little inspiration. And of the most important ingredient? It’s the writing compatibility for two writers to write a masterpiece to stand the test of time.
“We got together,” says Newton, “and there this idea out. I’m from that era of Vietnam war, I was in college during those years. It was one of the most emotional and traumatic things that happened to our whole generation. Thom had the name Malone because it rhymed with home. He had seen a story about a guy who had restored a 1966 Corvette and put up a website about it. And he had seen another story about this guy who restored a car and he would tune the radio to one channel but it would always change back to a different station, so he thought the car was haunted. This song had it all, including the excitement of finding a classic car and getting a bargain on it and restoring it; that is an American story.”
Why choose the 1966 Corvette?
The pair specifically chose the 1966 Corvette because of what it stands for: an amazing icon of ingenuity, according to Newton. They got together about four times, working a couple of hours each time to perfect the song that grew from the three-chord melody they started with.
But, no matter how hard they tried, they could not seem to get the song to tell the same story in under four minutes. That is completely okay, though, because one cannot help but get so caught up in the story of the song that the length of time it takes to tell it goes unnoticed.
Private Malone goes on to encourage the reader not to give up hope, saying that even though one dream is shattered another one will come true. He says that the Corvette was once his dream, but now it belongs to the soldier. He tells the soldier that even though he takes the Corvette or the dream as his own, “You’ll always be riding with Private Malone.”