Tijuana Bible

Dustin Welch, Super Rooster Music (SESAC); Rolf Heitmann, IPI 433818455, KODA 2493989; Jeff Botta, Dan Gold Music (ASCAP)

The curtains were drawn in my mother’s bedroom
Always kept her cabinets full of cheap perfume
With old photographs of Merchant Marines
I never really understood what it all means

She used to pray on a Tijuana Bible

So I cover my tracks and commit to the crime
I beg forgiveness but forget my lines
I send the whole damn thing up in flames
Just gotta make sure that nothing remains

I got to pray on a Tijuana Bible
I got to pray on a Tijuana Bible

Now the doctors’ outlook is bleak and grim
Squeeze every last drop up to the brim
I tell myself to let my bygones be
Cause I can’t contain what’s inside of me

Repeat Chorus

Dustin Welch: lead vocals, banjo; Jeremy Nail: electric guitar, background vocals; Scotty Bucklin: piano; Trisha Keefer: violin; Steve Bernal: bass, background vocals; Eldridge Goins: drums, background vocals

I’d had this riff sitting around since the Chicken Shack days as well. I’d painted all the keys on my piano a different color and used to bang out stuff all the time. I wasn’t very good, so I had to play this riff using my right hand for the left hand part and cross my arms over to play the right hand part with my left. I thought it sounded like an ACME factory in Looney Tunes.
There’s a cool program in Austin called the House of Songs where the Danish government sends over musicians and songwriters to work with local Texas writers. The very first one of these folks I wrote with was an artist from Aarhus named Rolf Heitmann. I’ve spent a small amount of time in Denmark and they are some of my favorite people on earth. Rolf knew more about American music history than most of my friends here in America and had a great mastery of the English language and colloquial phrases. We hammered out the verses to this tune in an afternoon between beers at the Continental Club walking around South Congress.

The first time I heard the term ‘Tijuana Bible’ my dad mentioned it to me. He didn’t even know what it meant exactly, but knew I would want to research it further. Turns out they were hand drawn porno’s which used to be distributed throughout the work camps during the Great Depression. Now, me and Rolfy didn’t set out to write this song with that title in mind, it just happened to work perfectly. Once I realized this was about a kid who grew up in a border town brothel, we had him burn the place to the ground taking the whole town with it, leaving his mother, a “working girl”, lying on her death bed in the hospital. It didn’t occur to me for another couple weeks to use this title, although I still didn’t know how to make it work at the time.
I was asked to come over and write with a supergroup of Austin’s finest, who had formed a band called the Coveters. At the time, it consisted of Dan Dyer, Warren Hood, Ed Jurdi of the Band Of Heathens, Suzanna Choffel, Brad Hauser, and Jeff Botta. Before anyone else really even got there, I showed this thing to Botta, the drummer, and told him the title, and he said, “Why don’t you just go to the 4, then the 4 minor, and sing ‘I’ve got to pray on a Tijuana Bible’.” I knew right then I had the title of my second album.