I need to construct no tale.
In my short 35 years, I have lived a tale that few before me could have claimed. I’m a son of the deep south. On both sides, my family traces its roots back generations to the cotton fields of Alabama. I was born and raised in the port city, Mobile. She is lined with Spanish moss-covered oaks that date back further than the Confederacy, antebellum homes, and remnants on every corner of her troubled past. Held by the French and Spanish, it holds much the same character as its sister city, New Orleans. Earning her the title “the Southern Baptist New Orleans”…. because just as thick as the culture in this town, is the religion that has tempered it. Like most other southern towns, it is saddled with churches of every sort and bridled by their politics.
My mother was a piano teacher/church pianist. She took me to church every week where I was saturated with the hymns of the old red-back hymnal. My father had an extensive collection of rock n roll records. He had dubbed a cassette of the White Album that I would play on a toy cassette player next to my bed as a kid. I guess my earliest musical memories are Precious Lord and Helter Skelter. Then came the year punk broke. I fell hard for rock n roll when I picked up Nevermind, and I really haven’t been the same since.
Baptists and punks don’t really jive that well. And after a few years of trying to force them into compatibility, I had a religious experience and put aside rock n roll for a leather-back bible. After graduating high school, I headed off to bible college. It seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t do so hot in bible school. I transferred out of the first two I attended after only one semester. I spent two years in another, and one final year in yet another. That’s right… 4 bible colleges in 4 years. Partly because I knew better, partly because I couldn’t stand to be told what to do, and partly because I am a drifter at heart – I just never could get comfortable in that type of environment.
There was a pawn shop just down the street from one of the bible schools I attended.. I went down on one rainy afternoon and bought a banjo. I thought it was cool. I was playing Cripple Creek in a few weeks. My love for making music began.
Right here, I should say something about my religious background. I found that kind of old fashioned, bible thumping religion that hardly exists outside the South. A religion that forbade televisions in home, pants on women, absolute literal interpretation of the bible, complete rejection of pop culture … you get the idea. Also prevalent in this sect of christianity, is the fervent and passionate worship experience. A preacher of this cloth was expected to preach with his whole being. Often memorizing blocks of scripture, then reciting it on Sunday morning in dramatic fashion. Driving his congregation to shouts of joy, and the silence of conviction. Begging and pleading for individuals to make decisions for Jesus. Breaking sweats, waving handkerchiefs, and screaming to the point of losing their voices week after week. That was me. A red knuckle preacher with leather lungs.
I married the day after I finished bible school. We settled in northwest Georgia – in a single-wide trailer – in a backwoods holler – with nothing but hope and love. A degree in ministry doesn’t get you far in any corporate HR department. I took every job I could find while balancing church work. I had around 15 different W-2’s in 3 years. We scraped by on minimum wage and started having babies.
A little church in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky called me to be their pastor when I was 25 years old. I proudly took it. I was a young man in an old man’s game. I went there with fire in my bones and a dream.
I don’t like to talk about what happened after that. Suffice it to say I became acquainted with a depression I’d never known. I failed – in that calling, you only succeed if you die in the field. A failure that was hard to swallow. I’d spent 9 years of my life pursuing ministry. I became acquainted with Dylan, Townes, and Son House. Then I began writing my own songs.
Broke emotionally, spiritually, and financially, I packed up a rental truck with every possession I had along with my wife and two children. I headed back to the only place I was welcome. Home.
I moved in with my Mama as a 27 year old, abject failure.
Devoid of any opportunity to provide for my family, I joined the military. Yeah, spent some time in the desert. Don’t really like to talk about this either.
Now I am here… Abe Partridge, the songwriter. I got a bunch of stories to tell. At 35, I finally found my calling. You are listening to it. I ain’t faking it. I live it.