STORY BEHIND THE SONG ...

"Riding With Private Malone"

An eerie childhood memory that wouldn't go away ... an old car that may have been haunted ... 30 years of Vietnam War memories. These dramatic scenarios inspired songwriters Thom Shepherd and Wood Newton to write "Riding With Private Malone," a touching story that seemingly came from nowhere to crack the Top 10 and capture America's heart.

Not bad for a first effort. Thom and Wood had never written together before, but as they sat down and began developing ideas, Thom remembered a story he'd read in elementary school.

"It was about this guy who finds a car at a sale," he recalls. "He thinks the car is haunted because the seat would always be pushed back when he got in it, or the radio was always on the station he didn't listen to. For some reason, this thought has always registered in my mind."

What stuck in Wood's mind, however, was the anguished memory of the night his cousin, Jeff Newton, came home from Vietnam in 1969. "He was one of 14 out of his platoon that survived," explains Wood, his voice thickening with emotion. "He won two silver stars for bravery. And the day he came back from Vietnam, he was driving down the straightest road in Arkansas, hit a culvert, flipped his car and was killed."

Wood and Thom decided to blend those stories together. The line you'll never be riding alone popped immediately into Thom's head, and became the song's foundation. "I thought of 'Malone,' which rhymed with 'alone,' and thought, what a cool title: 'Riding With Private Malone,'" notes Thom. "It sounded like a movie title, like Saving Private Ryan.

"It's funny," Thom continues, "but when I was writing this, I was thinking this probably isn't a commercial type of song. I just wanted to tell a good story, and I think in doing that we ended up touching a common chord in folks. We got a letter from one veteran who said this song has done more for Vietnam vets in 30 years than any other song."

And after 30 years, it's time, declares Wood. "A lot of people put memories about the Vietnam era in the back of their minds ... they never got closure," he explains. "Maybe this song is helping them do that."

- Marianne Horner

"Riding With Private Malone"
Written by Thom Shepherd & Wood Newton
Performed by David Ball

I was just out of the service thumbin' through the classifieds
When an ad that said old Chevy somehow caught my eye
The lady didn't know the year or even if it ran
But I had that thousand dollars in my hand

It was way back in the corner of this old ramshackle barn
With 30 years of dust and dirt on that green army tarp
And when I pulled the cover off, it took away my breath
What she called a Chevy was a '66 Corvette

I felt a little guilty as I counted out the bills
What a thrill I got when I sat behind the wheel
I opened up the glove box and that's when I found the note
The date was 1966 and this is what he wrote
He said, my name is Private Andrew Malone

And if you're reading this, then I didn't make it home
But for every dream that's shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of mine, now it belongs to you
Though you may take her and make her your own
You'll always be riding with Private Malone

Well, it didn't take me long at all, I had her runnin' good
I loved to hear those horses thunder underneath her hood
I had her shinin' like a diamond and I'd put the rag top down
All the pretty girls would stop and stare as I drove her through town
The buttons on the radio didn't seem to work quite right
But it picked up that oldies show especially late at night
I'd get the feelin' sometime if I turned real quick I'd see
A soldier riding shotgun in the seat right next to me

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that's shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his back when it was new
And he told me to take her and make her my own
And I was proud to be riding with Private Malone

One night it was raining hard, I took a curve too fast
I still don't remember much about that fiery crash
Someone said they thought they saw a soldier pull me out
They didn't get his name but I know without a doubt

It was a young man name Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that's shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his back when it was new
And I know I wouldn't be here if he hadn't tagged along
Yeah, that night I was riding with Private Malone
Oh, thank God I was riding with Private Malone
Private Malone

 

© 2001 Twang Thang Music (ASCAP) /
Wood & I Music/LG Wells Music (BMI)

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