Singer-songwriter Gary P. Nunn has been making music for nearly half a century.
Nunn has played with a Who’s Who of Texas country musicians. Best known for writing “London Homesick Blues,” the theme song for Austin City Limits, Nunn has worked with, among others, Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Martin Murphy, and Willie Nelson. Nunn is also considered the father of the progressive country scene that started in Austin in the early ’70s.
The Odyssey of the song
When Gary P. Nunn, an Austin bass player, and pianist, went to London in 1973 to back fellow Texan Michael Martin Murphey. He stuck out like a cactus on a moor. Murphey met with the press and went sightseeing with his English wife during those times. While Nunn would stay behind in her brother’s Hyde Park flat, sleeping on the couch and watching TV. It wasn’t particularly cozy because the heat came on only at night but the foreigner had little money and nowhere to go. When he did venture outside, he felt even more alone. And, watching the buskers at the Marble Arch tube station made him homesick for his hippie musician friends.
One day, playing guitar in the flat, he started singing,
“Well, it’s cold over here, and I swear, I wish they would turn the heat on.”
Nunn hadn’t written much before, but he decided to try his hand at an actual country song. His experiences rolled out, from the local girl who’d stood him up to the limeys eyeing his boots to his longing to be “home with the armadillos” (“the term I applied to the folks in the counterculture scene in Austin”).
That summer, Nunn was back in Texas, recording the ¡Viva Terlingua! album with Jerry Jeff Walker in front of an audience in Luckenbach. While the tape was rolling, Walker, who had heard Nunn playing his new song earlier in the day, asked him to sing it. The band had never rehearsed “London Homesick Blues,” but they followed along, finishing to a rapturous applause. Then, because the sound crew hadn’t caught it all, they played it again, capturing an ineffable moment as well as the lonesome feeling of being far from home. Later in 1977, the song became the theme to Austin City Limits, setting it up to be one of the most well-known songs about Texas. Nunn says:
“It was just an exercise in writing a song. I never imagined anything would come of it.”
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Jeff Walker’s prolific music career and widespread musical influence have made him an iconic fixture of the country music scene. Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in upstate New York in March 1942. Moreover, Walker penned “Bojangles” after a now-mythical night in the New Orleans drunk tank where he met a man who “danced a lick across the cell.”
Here’s Walker and Nun’s performance of “London Homesick Blues.” Enjoy watching!
Austin City Limits, Gary P. Nunn, Jerry Jeff Walker, London Homesick Blues
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