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November 8, 2015

I took the motorcycle down the 105 through Perry Park to Palmer Lake Pyle-Dean yesterday as I like to do because it’s a gorgeous ride on a twisty two-lane with little traffic. This time I had Chuck’s “Drifter’s Wind” playing over and over in my head, providing the one-song soundtrack to a beautiful November morning.

In Palmer Lake, I sat on the deck at O’Malley’s and thought about 45 years of Chuck. It looked the same, but something had changed… It’s no wonder he loved living in Palmer Lake. It’s close to the interstate for hitting the road to wherever he was going, yet it’s tucked away in a hidden corner, almost invisible to the hustle and bustle of the Monument Exit and the crush of north Colorado Springs. There are inspiring, jaw-dropping geologic formations in every direction that you would care to look, the embodiment of the American West’s mystique that he captured so cinematically in many of his songs.


Colours, circa 1973, Front Row L to R, Gordon Parrish, Chuck Pyle; Back, L to R, Charlie Comley, John Cable, Jim Ratts.

Chuck Pyle, promotional photo, circa 1974

Chuck Pyle, promotional photo, circa 1974

We all came of age when the lyrics written were paramount. He was a brilliant lyricist who edited furiously until it was perfect, sometimes changing the words even AFTER it was called perfect. If you learned “Jaded Lover” or “Diablo Deadeye” right after he wrote it, you could be sure there would be changes the next time around. I have his hand-written lyrics in one of my books, with entire verses scratched out and new ones penciled in the margins from the next time we got together, and in parentheses, “You owe me 5 dollars. C.P.”

Loneliness was a familiar theme with many of his created characters, but with Chuck, loneliness was not necessarily a negative. It was equal to freedom. Drifting had a positive connotation to him, and he did plenty of drifting from place to place, all to the good and to everyone’s delight. I loved his irony. Take “Drifter’s Wind” for example: “Married life fit like a glove… kinda’ tight and kinda’ thin.” Ouch! When you love lyrics, you live for those precise images. Positive/Negative, Black/White, Yin and Yang in the same phrase. Surprises like that abound throughout his body of work.

Chuck built an empire over those 45 years of playing and singing. Not an empire of land or money, but of friends from every distant corner of where his long years of travel took him. All the sweet memories and photos on Facebook from people who knew him are gratifying to see and read. What better life lived can one aspire to?

Taking the 105 back to Roxborough Park yesterday, there was another masterful, beautifully written lyric playing over and over in my head, Rickie Lee Jones’ and Alfred Johnson’s “Company.”

I’ll… remember you too clearly.

But I’ll survive another day

Conversations to share

When there’s no one there

I’ll imagine what you’d say…

I’ll see you in another

Life now, baby

I’ll free you in my dreams

But when I reach across the galaxy

I will miss your company.