Especially For Arkansas

Especially For Arkansas

Steve Earle adds another verse to history


History note to Steve Earle: Confederate Brig. Gen. Ben McCulloch went to Texas from Tennessee in 1835. “He missed joining his friend Davy Crockett at the Alamo due to the measles.”

Might be time to add another verse to your song.

Americana/alt-country/country rocker Steve Earle plays May 23 at Cherokee Casino in Siloam Springs, and he always plays a special show when he comes to Arkansas — or just over that Oklahoma line.

In his early songwriting days, Earle wrote two ballads set, in part, in Arkansas. “They’re fun to sing,” he says. “We don’t get to play them too often.

Earle notes his father worked as an air traffic controller and went to Texas — where Earle spent much of his youth — from Minnesota. “He took a circuitous route to see things he wanted to see, like Nashville,” Earle reminisces. “And we stopped at the Pea Ridge battlefield.”

Years later, the song “Ben McCollouch” marched through a young Earle’s pen.

The website of Pea Ridge National Military Park relates the death of McCulloch:

“On the first day of the battle, prior to launching his attack on (Federal Col. Peter) Osterhaus’s division, McCulloch rode forward to inspect the Federal line (at Leetown). As he emerged from the tree line, he was spotted by the Federal skirmishers, who quickly fired a volley at him. McCulloch was killed instantly.

“McCulloch’s death, so early in the battle, doomed the effort to turn the Federal left, and quite possibly ensured the Southern defeat,” the park website concludes. “His body was returned to Texas, where he was buried.”

Earle’s wailing during his show will echo the voice of a cold, tired, angry foot soldier who lost his brother in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek:

G**damn you, Ben McCulloch.

I hate you more than any other man alive.

And when you die you’ll be a foot soldier just like me

In the Devil’s infantry.

Earle also gave life to another Arkansas tale.

“Everyone in Nacogdoches knew Tom Ames would come to some bad end,” Earle opens the song “Tom Ames’ Prayer.”

Ames lived an outlaw life. He was judged to end it at the end of Judge Isaac Parker’s noose in Fort Smith. But Ames escapes in the song.

“He escapes Judge Parker’s jail,” Earle says. “And I don’t think anyone escaped. He hung everybody.”

Earle also promises audiences “a lot of Guy Clark’s song, a lot of my songs … and some surprises.” His latest release, “Guy,” is a tribute to one of his musical heroes, the late Clark.

A review on the artist’s website reads: “Earle and his current, perhaps best-ever Dukes lineup, take on these songs with a spirit of reverent glee and invention.”



Steve Earle & The Dukes

WHEN — 8 p.m. May 23

WHERE — Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs, Okla.

COST — $25

INFO — 800-256-2338,,

Categories: Music