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Forget Deep Throat—the best-kept secret in D.C. journalism is Bob Schieffer’s golden throat. The venerable CBS newsman wrote the lyrics to four songs, one of which he sings, on Honky Tonk Confidential’s latest album, Road Kill Stew and Other News (With Special Guest Bob Schieffer).
“People say, ‘Are you serious about this?’ ” the Face the Nation host says. “Hell yes, I’m serious about this. I want to go to the Grand Ole Opry.”
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Songs like “Hard Choices”—about a close female friend undergoing difficult times—may help get him there. Lyrics such as “The trouble is I found my dream/ And you found someone a lot like me” certainly play to the Opry’s love of a classic country weeper. More autobiographical are “Long Shot Love,” which Schieffer says is “kinda based on my wife and I,” and “Little Lulu and Sister Hot Stuff,” inspired by Schieffer’s twin granddaughters. But the song sure to get the most attention is “TV Anchorman,” in which Schieffer sings a tale about the superficiality of modern TV news: “You don’t have to know all that much/Like names and dates and facts and such/’Cause you got a face that reeks sincerity.”
The unlikely collaboration originated at CBS’ D.C. bureau, where Honky Tonk Confidential singer and driving force Diana Quinn serves as a producer. “[Schieffer] knows I’m in this country band,” Quinn says. Occasionally, while walking past her desk, “he would recite these lines from [‘TV Anchorman’]. And it was a hilarious song.” Quinn finally asked to set the song to music. In late September, Schieffer gave Quinn a copy of the lyrics; that night, Quinn and her partner and bandmate Mike Woods wrote and recorded a rough demo of the music. “We put it to a sorta talking blues, sorta like ‘Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),’ ” Quinn says.
For a novice singer such as Schieffer, talking blues are a good choice. “As my wife reminds me on an almost daily basis,” Schieffer modestly notes, “[I] can’t sing.”
Schieffer and Honky Tonk Confidential have played several shows over the past year, mostly at swanky events honoring the 70-year-old’s day job. Quinn and Woods flew with Schieffer to Vermillion, S.D., last October to back him after Schieffer received the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. Despite the setting, the anchorman acted like “a total rock star,” says Quinn. “I gave him a cowbell, and I said, ‘More cowbell!’ And he’s, like, banging away on it.”
Schieffer has bigger plans on the horizon. He says he and White House press secretary Tony Snow have been discussing a battle of the bands between Honky Tonk Confidential and Snow’s group, Beats Workin’. Snow plays jazz flute, and his band plays “this really smooth, cool jazz,” Schieffer says. “[O]urs is just down-and-dirty beer-hall music.” Pending Snow’s recovery from cancer, the National Press Club is eager to host the smackdown.
“It’s kinda funny,” says Quinn. “We’ve been plugging away for 10 years now…[i]f it takes a collaboration with Bob to get us some good attention, I’m all for it.”
Schieffer is likewise enthused. “I tell you one thing, man, if I’d known what a band would do for you, I would have practiced my guitar lessons at a much earlier age.”
Honky Tonk Confidential and Bob Schieffer perform with Lisa Ann Wright at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at IOTA Club & Cafe, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $10. (703) 522-8340.