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Travis Edmonson and "I'm a Drifter"

Nick Campbell offers an appreciation of Travis Edmonson as a lyricist, with particular emphasis on “I'm a Drifter.”

I love Travis Edmonson's song, "The Time of Man," which one of my favorite folk singers, Tim Morgon, recorded in the 60s.

Tim's rendition of Travis' song is just outstanding, not to mention stand-out, thanks, in part, to the RCA Custom Sound Service for the great live recording of it at the Prison of Socrates Coffee House in Balboa, California in 1964.

I have never heard Travis Edmundson do that song, but I have heard him perform "I'm A Drifter," which I first heard Tim Morgon do in the late 60s or early 70s. I was surprised (but not too surprised) when I found out that Travis also wrote that song.  I first heard of "I'm A Drifter" when other folk singers I knew from the 60s and early 70s were discussing it. Sean Durand did the song also, and then the talk turned to its lyrics, which are as poetic as John Latouche's for Jerome
Moross's "Golden Apple," and perhaps one of the most haunting songs written for stage: "Lazy Afternoon." Compare Travis Edmonson's lyrics to "I'm A Drifter" to the words of "Lazy Afternoon."

These variations on a theme, so to speak, are actually quite a tribute to Travis Edmonson, and in keeping with the tradition of folk music.

Lazy Afternoon Music by Jerome Moross; lyrics by John Latouche

It's a lazy afternoon,
and the beetle bugs are zoomin'
and the tulip trees are bloomin'
and there's not another human in view,
but us two.

It's a lazy afternoon,
and the farmer leaves his reapin'
as the meadow cows are sleepin'
and the speckled trout stops leapin' up stream
as we dream.

A fat pink cloud
hangs over the hill unfolding like a rose.
If you hold my hand and sit real still
you can hear the grass as it grows.

It's a hazy afternoon,
and I know a place that's quiet,
'cept for daisies running riot
and there's no one passin' by it to see.
Come spend this lazy afternoon with me.

I'm A Drifter
Music and Lyrics by Travis Edmundson

I've sat in the shade of an old apple orchard
And watched the big trucks rolling by.

I've shared a grape soda
With a man from Dakota
And seen a June bug in July.

I'm a drifter, a loner
And I've seen every village and town.
I've passed by here, and I'll die here
And some stranger will lower me down.

I've envied the ships that sail out of your harbors,
Shared silent thoughts with your children and barbers,
Sung to the stars when a juke box was playing,
Fought back the tears that come when I'm saying

I'm a drifter, a loner
And I've seen every village and town.
I've passed by here, and I'll die here
And some stranger will lower me down.

I've played basketball through the hoop of a barrel,
struggled to learn how to swim.
Though I once was a baby
Sometimes I think maybe,
I only pretend I was him.

I'm a drifter, a loner
And I've seen every village and town.
I've passed by here, and I'll die here
And some stranger will  lower me down.

I've made love in your city to
the poor and the pretty
and thought myself lucky and smart,
And ended up lonely with
nothing but only
A song and a half of a heart.

I'm a drifter, a loner
And I've seen every village and town.
I've passed by here, and I'll die here
And some stranger will  lower me down.

I have never heard Travis Edmonson's studio recording of "I'm A Drifter," only the one recording which appears on The Tucson Tapes (The First Set) with his great introduction.  After I heard folk singer Joe Roberts sing the song, I asked him if Sean Durand had written it, and Joe replied (in 1971), "everyone would like to have written, I'm A Drifter, and everyone claims to have written it." (In 1971 I hadn't yet asked Tim Morgon who wrote the song.)

I was not surprised to learn it was Travis Edmonson who wrote the music and lyric, especially after Tim Morgon's interest in "The Time of Man," which is as haunting as "I'm A Drifter."

One last note:  I used to go to the Pasadena Ice House, when it was about music (sadly it isn't anymore) and listen to Bud Dashiell sing and play his guitar. He, like Travis Edmonson, was an excellent musician and singer, and though I have never been fortunate enough to meet Travis, I was very fortunate to have spoken with Bud Dashiell on several occasions at the Pasadena Ice House, the last time having taken place in 1984 (I think it was) at a closed party one Monday evening at the club when Bob Stane, the former owner of both the Pasadena and Glendale Ice Houses, threw an invitation only party at the Pasadena venue.  Sadly, Bud Dashiell showed me his hands that night, which, by then, were crippled with severe rheumatoid arthritis.

I am always very grateful that I am a boomer and was born early enough to have had such experiences as listening to the music of Bud & Travis when the records were coming out, and to have appreciated Travis Edmonson's songs recorded and sung by other folk singers.

Thanks for making Travis Edmonson's early recordings available. They are, in themselves, gifts to the world and to folk enthusiasts - to everyone and of any age.



Travis On His Own
"Travis on His Own" containing both "I'm a Drifter and "The Time of Man"

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