STREETS OF MANCHESTER MEET STREETS OF BALTIMORE
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
I dearly love this story. On Monday, June 11, 2018 upon opening my computer, I got a press release from Zach Farnum stating that Bobby Bare played Bonnaroo. He sang a Harlan Howard song on the stage of Bonnaroo with Del McCoury Band and Old Crow Medicine Show!
There is a lot of history in this story, and I’d love to share it. In the mid 50’s, Harlan left Michigan to seek fame and fortune in California. Harlan knew that California had an emerging country scene and plenty of work whereas Nashville had a music scene but not much in the way of blue collar jobs. With only an 8th grade education, Harlan knew his limitations. While in California, Harlan met and became friends with Bobby Bare, Buck Owens, and Wynn Stewart to name a few west coasters. They were all young and hungry and on fire. Their love of music was the fuel for the fire.
In June of 1960, Harlan left California with his then wife, Jan Howard, and their three boys, and headed for Nashville to try his luck at songwriting. He arrived in Nashville on June 6th and never looked back.
Harlan wrote most of his songs in the early morning hours while his mind was uncluttered, sitting alone at his desk with a cigarette burning in the ashtray, and the coffee flowing. He wrote mostly by himself, but occasionally, he would co-write. On April 8, 1966, Harlan had an appointment to write with a guy named Tompall Glaser. They only wrote two songs, “I’ve Cried A Mile” and “Streets of Baltimore.” Both songs were recorded, but “Streets of Baltimore” was the hit. The agreed to each publish one song each. I’m not sure of the arrangement; however, I do know that Tompall published, “Streets of Baltimore” and Harlan published “I’ve Cried A Mile.” Tompall got the better deal.
“Streets of Baltimore” took on a life of its own. Bobby Bare had the country hit in 1966 on RCA Victor. Other artists who have cut “Streets of Baltimore” include Gram Parsons, Del McCoury and Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Nanci Griffith with John Prine, Jim Lauderdale and The Little Willies.
To know that Harlan’s life-long friend, Bobby Bare played CMA Fest and Bonnaroo on the same weekend 60 years later is impressive. That he played a Harlan Howard song “Streets of Baltimore” in my home county, Coffee County, puts a smile on my face! Thanks Booby Bare! Booby is the nickname that Harlan always called Bobby; therefore, I fondly refer to sweet Bobby as Booby too. Thanks for the hit and thanks for the friendship, Booby!
Check Out a Couple Versions of "Streets of Baltimore":
Nanci Griffith & John Prine
The Del McCoury Band