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“Steamin’ Greasy Plate of Enchiladas”

Robert Earl Keen-and-a-friend-on-Keen's-porch-in-1977

Robert Earl Keen and a friend on Keen’s porch in 1977. Taken by Lyle Lovett.

Two of the most iconic Texas singer/songwriters are being celebrated in Texas Monthly magazine this month: Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. In addition to their cover story, there’s a sidebar about one of the greatest tunes written together from back in their college days, “The Front Porch Song.”

According to the article, as Keen sat on the porch, strumming some chords, he started thinking about the porch and what it meant to him.  He wrote three verses, first likening the porch to a bull, then to a plate of enchiladas from Bryan’s LaSalle Hotel, and finally to an old local movie theater.  Keen knew as he sang that this song was different from the ones that had come before. “I realized, here’s where I have to go to be a songwriter,” he recalls. “I have to be real, colorful, dramatic.”

Keen played the song for Lovett, who liked it so much that he learned to play it too.  As he did, Lovett found himself thinking about Keen and his relationship with his landlord, the man who owned the porch.  He was a little overbearing, says Lovett.  “He’d walk right in, make himself at home. But Robert treated him like he belonged there, and he’d go help him move his cattle or build a fence. I admired that.”  Lovett thought the only thing the song was missing was Keen himself, so he added some lines about his friend and the old man.  Then, for the final verse, he brought the song around to the two guys singing it—slacker songwriters in a town full of serious students—ending on a note of defiance.

Looking back, Lovett says, “I’m as proud of that verse as anything else I’ve ever written.  I was able to say exactly how I felt.”  Keen loved the new parts too.  “Before, I had a riff on what this porch was all about.  The song didn’t breathe until Lyle got to work on it.”

The two eventually put the song on their own first albums and the song came to be one of REK’s most known tunes.  Here’s Robert’s version from his album No Kinda Dancer:

You can read the full article about the song here.  Meanwhile, who else is in the mood for some enchiladas? 🙂

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