Cover Photo: starbright31

The Witness

“He sang to the reckless selves inside them.”

Even after the houselights come up, the audience keeps chanting his name. They can beg all they want, but he’s not coming back.

esteem; meanwhile, defending Junior Pearl’s dirty southern twang only invites ridicule. The significance of March 7, 1996, the date Frederick Tate replaced Gracie Dean on drums, has been debated exhaustively. While I have been fonder of certain players than others (good riddance, Gary Woodman), on balance I find the band to be a tolerable distraction. I’d much prefer Jimmy appear on stage alone.

Rock Fanthe dirty pigeons whisper / on the shoulders of the general / that his past is but a wasteland / and his name is lost to history.[3]

Midnight at the Bazaar[4]iconic albums. 

Then he disappeared, again.


Rolling StoneMidnight at the BazaarDouble DitzSt. Elsewhere

The AtlanticBad Idea.”

The Big Man has a visitor!

Tell me.

A priest?!

LOL doctor

He’s seeing a doctor?


the combines have trimmed the fields and the winds have stripped the leaves from the trees. Out there it’s hard to forget that when Jimmy sings “the grain elevators stand / prouder than our churches,” he’s talking about his home.

a scholar. I have more in common with a person who’s seen three shows than with some doctoral student who spent a year chasing Cross through a library. Cross has been deconstructed by Marxists, by feminists, by folklorists and psychoanalysts, but that’s not where my interest lies. Most of those books offer nothing more than recycled mythology, misconstrued reasoning, and bad reporting. I don’t want a writer to spend fifty pages explaining how Jimmy fashioned his stage act on Charlie Chaplin, when they can’t prove he’s ever seen a Chaplin film. Most writers are afraid of facts, because facts can’t be argued.

Luxembourg and refused to come out. An ex-wife is Lost Baggage. A blowjob is a Mic Check. Phone sex is a 900. Jerking off is Jerking Off. The guy driving the Toolshed they call the Arbiter. Aisha Moon steers the Trojan Horse. When he’s not on tour, Bluto Gilhooley lives in Huntington Beach, California. The venue is the Joint. Journalists are Inventors. Large headphones are Leias. Xanax is Don’t Nod. An Ambien is a Dreamcatcher. Dawn is Vampire Medicine. Traffic delays are LA Weather, as in “We were late getting to the joint because of LA Weather.” A jet plane is a Cigar. A propeller plane is a Buddy Holly. If you want Cyril Coleman to dislocate your elbow, call him “Champ.” Jimmy stands five feet eight in his stocking feet, but he wears boots with stacked heels. The guys call him Hizzoner or Paycheck or the Big Man.

[1] “In a sky as dark as a new parking lot / I’m a tin can zinging / past places andpeople. / This pinging heart is my Sputnik signal. / I’m a run-down robot. / I’m pirate radio. / Press me to your warm ear. / Whisper ‘Hello.’”

[2] Despite changes to musical direction and personnel, and despite the fact that he usually takes four or five months off each winter, Cross insists that all of these dates be viewed not as a series of annual tours, but as one continuous tour, his Guernica, his Lord of the Rings.

[3]  From “Bronze.”

[4] Fans tend to refer to three stages of Cross’s career as the Early Work (Byway Rumors—’62; Runaway—’63; and Knock Out—’67); the Renaissance (Midnight at the Bazaar—’77; Hit and Run—’77; and Double Ditz—’79); and the last thirty years are referred to as his Christ and Cowboy era or, less respectfully, his Moses period. Many argue the last thirty years of Cross’s career have been misguided and misdirected, but I believe time will vindicate him (and me).

This extract is taken from the novel , available now from

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Justin Tussing is the author of the Ken Kesey Award-winning novel The Best People in the World, and his short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Triquarterly, and A Public Space, among other periodicals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently directs the University of Southern Maine's Low-Residency MFA Program in Portland, Maine. photo credit Michelle M. Smith.