Choctaw Bingo

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Choctaw Bingo is a southern rock song written and performed by musician James McMurtry and appears on his album Saint Mary of the Woods and Live In Aught Three. The song is very up beat with a very distinct bassline and a moving yet basic beat. Choctaw Bingo is one of Mcmurty's most popular songs. The tune is very similar to the verses in Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me".

Lyrics[edit]

The lyrics are told by a narrator to someone else, presumably his wife or, at least, the mother of his children. The narrator starts the song by asking the other person to pack up their children and sedate them with vodka and, later, Benadryl. Apparently, this is to keep them quiet on their trip to a family reunion taking place at a ranch belonging to the narrator's Uncle Slayton. Each verse tells a different story about a different family member, though the tune still sounds the same. The family members are...

Uncle Slayton: The whole song revolves around Slayton and his lifestyle. Slayton is described as being too old to travel yet "still pretty spry." He owns property near Eufaula Lake as well as a Holstein cow and an Airstream trailer. The more we learn about Slayton, the more we are led to conclude that he is a gruff and shady character, adept at a variety of money-making activities that range from merely unethical to totally illegal. It is explicitly stated that Slayton cooks crystal meth and makes moonshine. He sells parcels of his property to people with bad credit with the intention of reclaiming the land when they miss a payment. It is hinted that a criminal past forced Slayton to leave Texas. Speculation about this story is implied to a favorite bit of family lore. It is also hinted that Slayton's current wife is a mail order bride. Slayton plays Choctaw Bingo every Friday night, which gives the song its title.

Roscoe: Slayton's oldest son from his second marriage. He was raised in East St. Louis, IL by his "momma's people." Roscoe has nothing better to do than to just "Come on Down" so he sets off in a semi-trailer truck from the McDonald's on Will Rogers Turnpike headed for Dallas, TX. He ends up in an accident with another driver who runs a stop light in Muskogee. It is not clear whether Roscoe was injured in the accident nor whether he will attend the reunion.

Bob and Mae: Husband and wife couple whose status in the family is unknown. Bob coaches a football team at a small town near Lake Texoma that won the 2A state championship the last two years, but will not repeat this year. They purchase a cache of guns and ammunition in Tushka, Oklahoma on the way to Slayton's including an SKS rifle, a Desert Eagle and some military surplus tracer bullets for Slayton's Browning Automatic Rifle.

Ruth-Anne and Lynn: Sisters and second cousins to the narrator. They live in Baxter Springs, Kansas which is described as "one hell-raisin'town". The Loners MC run a biker bar, (the former Bikers Dream, which was actually not a bar but a motorcycle part store run by Tim (Pony) Cline) next to a lingerie store with big neon lips burning in the window (Romantic Delights run by Tim's wife. This shop is still open but no longer in Baxter Springs; now it is in Joplin, MO.) The narrator describes, in some detail, the inappropriate sexual feelings his cousins, who wear hardly any clothes, arouse in him. (James McMurtry says this is the "Good Part" at live performances)

Legacy[edit]

Choctaw Bingo is one of James McMurtry's most famous songs. At live performances there is a section at the front of the stage where people dance. When he plays this song the section is nearly packed and everyone is hopping around, hooting and hollering.

The song also appears on the soundtrack for the movie Beer for My Horses (film).[1]

In 2009, American writer Ron Rosenbaum, writing for Slate, nominated Choctaw Bingo as a new national anthem for the United States.[2] Rosenbaum argues that the themes of the song are a perfect and prophetic metaphor for life in a post-financial crash America.

  • A live version of this song appears on his latest album "Live in Europe" on a special bonus DVD

References[edit]