The Tennessee Waltz, Tombstone, Arizona

No idea why, but this has been a favourite of mine since I was a teenager and I think I have just about every version ever recorded. I couldn’t choose a favourite singer, but Patti Page was the first to make it popular.

What was it about the Tennessee Waltz I loved so much? I really don’t know.  The lyrics don’t have any meaning for me, nor did it remind me of any place, time or person. Maybe it was just the gentle rhythm.

Some years ago we were staying in Arizona, and spent a couple of days in Tombstone.  If you haven’t been there, it doesn’t look as if much has changed since the days of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the OK Corral, except the roads are tarmac and there’s electric street lighting.

One Saturday, after watching a stirring re-enactment of the famous fight (fantastically acrobatic actors), we moseyed down to Big Nose Kate’s saloon for some liquid refreshment. There was a live band playing country and western music, and a load of check-shirted, blue-jeaned big-hatted and heeled-boot wearers sitting around jawing.

I asked the band if they’d play the Tennessee Waltz. The lead gave a non-comital nod, and for 15 minutes or so they kept playing and the men kept jawing, and I’d about given up hope. And then suddenly, those first few chords began, and I got the shivers. Because all the check-shirts stood up – all tall, slender, weather-beaten, and they took their wives – shorter and plumper, in print frocks, and began to waltz. Those big men danced so gracefully and romantically, in that historic saloon, on that sweltering Saturday afternoon, in Tombstone, Arizona.

Now, every time I hear that track, it takes me back to a place, a time, and a few people dancing.  It’s a magical memory.

You might enjoy these two websites – have a look. Tombstone is a really fun and interesting place to visit.

Big Nose Kate’s


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