Everyone liked Risky and his music. He made enough on tips to live, he never had to stand drinks and the girls always came around. He wrote his own songs and always seemed to be able to come up with the right piece of music for the occasion at hand. He was the kind of guy men liked and women adored, flinty eyed barkeeps and cynical waitresses would come around after a few minutes of visiting with Risky and be old pals after an evening. Everyone in that part of the country knew him, liked him and had a Risky story to tell.
It was a pretty free and easy life for a young man. He didn’t call anyplace home and didn’t want to. After a month or two in one town he’d catch a bus or a slow freight and head someplace else and if the yard bull caught him he’d just spin him a tune. He’d settle in some flophouse or cheap motel and live out of his beat up old knapsack. A lot of women that fancied him would fix him meals or set him up with some clothes and sometimes share their bed but they knew it was only going to be a little time before Risky heard the siren’s call of the road.
Risky wasn’t his real name, it was Herb Kenwith, but he had called himself Risky ever since he’d left home. The name was kind of a personal joke to Risky but he thought the name was appropriate even though he’d never had anything but good luck on his travels.
He’d had his chances to settle down. Any number of doe eyed girls with rich Daddies had offered Risky a life of ease and contentment but the soul of a wanderer still roiled in him and he always moved on. He left a trail of broken hearts behind him and a song to help them mend and he knew by spring or the next time Van Halen played their county’s fair they’d have forgotten Risky Ventures.
One gal he dallied with, name of Shemar, hadn’t forgotten Risky. Her Daddy was a wealthy record executive in Hollywood but she was working as a waitress in a roadhouse in Mississippi because they had issues. The issues didn’t keep her from telling her Pop about promising young musical talents provided there was a finder’s honorarium and a royalty attached.
Her Daddy’s executive assistant caught up with Risky outside of Tupelo and got old Risky drunk enough to record a demo tape at their facilities in Memphis. When Risky sobered up they were propping him up to an old ribbon microphone and studio musicians were rehearsing their tracks.
Risky sang his heart out and while he did men in suits stood behind the glass and listened. They nodded and made suggestions to the mixer that he ignored and Risky sang on. He sang about years of traveling, about the loneliness he knew and about the brand new hope he felt everyday he saw the sunrise or came to a bend in the road. More and more men in suits gathered behind the mixers console and stared at him through the glass. When Risky finished the men applauded and a pretty little assistant brought him an ice cold beer.
Risky wasn’t on top of the world but he was pretty darn close. He hung around Memphis and was making a pretty fair rep for himself as a song smith while the men in suits finished the demo album. He spent their money and his freely and every day asked to hear the recording. The men in suits always pushed him off, tomorrow they said always tomorrow.
Risky finally had enough of that and demanded to hear what they had done with his songs. With much ceremony they ushered him into a studio and played it for him then they started discussing the video.
Risky was horrified. His songs about the road and regret, loneliness and longing were now sanitized, perfectly harmonized and totally dehumanized. It would be a hit they said, Risky believed them, they wouldn't have those jobs if they didn't know what they were doing. Risky drank a glass of Champagne with the suited men and wished them luck with their venture. He left the studio and walked into the night, their venture would not be Risky's venture.
He would go back on the road; that was where he was happiest. He left the things he’d acquired in his hotel room and stuck his thumb out. He would go north this time, try a new venue, see a different part of the world. His luck held out, he got a ride in no time.
The man who picked him up was headed back to his home in Chicago. He had the same first and middle name as the famous cowboy actor, John Wayne and a last name that Risky didn’t quite get, but sounded something like Gracy. He used the stage name Pogo when he played a clown at kids’ parties and liked to paint portraits of other clowns as a hobby. The authorities later found young men he picked up hitch hiking buried in the crawl space under his house. Risky’s luck had just changed.
His album debuted at number 9 on the Billboard Country chart, but Risky wasn't around to see it...