Track 5 Red River Night


Recording and Mixing Dates: Recorded February 2, 2016. Mixed February 3, 2016.

Genesis: In February 2008, I joined an Internet songwriting community entitled February Album Writing Month (FAWM). The website is FAWM started in 2004, with the goal of having participants write 14 songs in 28 days. Several thousand songwriters now participate—they write songs, post them at the website, and share their triumphs and travails in a forum. I heard about FAWM in 2007 and collected song ideas—musical, lyrical, quotations (more on that later), etc.—for several months. Because 2008 was a leap year, the goal was 15 new songs.

Though I was juggling my court administrator job along with teaching a law school class one night a week and meeting a freelance legal writing deadline, I relished the challenge. This type of creative pressure does focus the mind. By the end of February I was closing in on meeting the goal. I originally thought of a song entitled Red Ribbon Night. The previous fall, Glen Heffner and his then-wife Kathy, joined Theresa and me for a getaway on the North Shore of Lake Superior. They were from North Carolina and were stunned by the beauty of the shoreline. Glen is a music industry marketing executive. At the time his company was releasing some great microphones. As a thank you gift, he brought an Avantone ribbon microphone that had a red housing. I call it my red ribbon. I thought “Red Ribbon Night” was a great title.

Until I started working on the song… It quickly turned into “Red River Night” for several reasons. There are two Red Rivers in the United States. The one in Texas is known for cowboys and cattle through Howard Hawks’ film Red River. The other Red River flows north through Minnesota and the Dakotas into Canada. It passes through Fargo, North Dakota (you betcha!) and the city on the Minnesota side, Moorhead. I was familiar with those cities and placed the person singing the lyric there, though someone in the Southwest could easily do the same for the Texas river.

I thought of a person who is rescued from deep personal torment by a kind stranger who appears out of nowhere and then quickly returns into the ether. The song is a “thank you” letter to an angel, someone who came upon a lost soul and put that person back on the right track.

The “parlor songs” written by Jimmy Rodgers in the 1930s inspired the music. Rodgers was the first great country recording artist. I didn’t know about him until I bought a Merle Haggard double-album of Rodgers songs in May 1969 called Same Train, Different Time. OMG. Merle’s voice, Merle’s band (supplemented with James Burton on Dobro), and Rodgers’ songs knocked me over. Most of the songs are bluesy country tunes but Rodgers co-wrote or covered some ballads, “parlor tunes,” that include “Miss the Mississippi and You” and “My Carolina Sunshine Girl.” They are sentimental and heart tugging. I can hear in this country waltz echoes of those tunes.

I finished the first draft of the song on February 26, 2008. I revised the lyrics on February 8, 2010. Yesterday, Theresa suggested one word change that was perfect, so I re-recorded that word into the track.

And I DID write 15 songs that February.  Some of you have have heard “Down Old Bailey Road” and “Everything’s a Drum” on my subsequent albums.

 Production: Bass guitar, drums, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, organ, and fiddle.



Lost and downhearted

I was making the rounds

Near the banks of the river

Where the Red comes aground

Turning a corner I saw you pass by

‘Neath a strawberry moon in an October sky

You smiled right out of the blue

On that Red River night with you


We talked over coffee

A strange thing occurred

You listened so purely

You took in each word

I swear that you knew me before I was born

You patched up a heart so cold and shopworn

You gave me a new point of view

On that Red River night with you



In the starlight

In the moonlight

Every thought that you shared has come true

Since that Red River night with you


We only had hours

We did not have days

We used every moment

Till the parting of ways

I wanted to hold you and not let you go

Would you have stayed? Well, I’ll never know

With a smile you whispered “adieu”

On that Red River night with you


Copyright 2016 Fred Grittner All Rights Reserved


Track 5 Red River Night

9 thoughts on “Track 5 Red River Night

  1. Jan Hauenstein says:

    Sweet melody, really like it. Good lyrics. Well sung! Suggestion: bring down the volume of the violin just a tad, and maybe the mando a smidge louder. (Do you say ‘adoo’ in your part of the English-speaking world? I have heard ‘adyou’, too. French would be that impossible sound, like the German o-umlaut.)


  2. TR says:

    OK where’s the banjo? See, you just can’t please me! Seriously, this song could use a bit of banjo in the back…and I was kinda of waiting for a brief mandolin solo after the bridge. Very Jimmie Rodgers like though so you made that happen. Good job.


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