Drive about 40 miles south of Tucson towards Ajo, turn left on Hayhook road, follow the signs to "Keeylocko" and before you know it, you'll be sipping bottom shelf whiskey in a dirt floored bar while a guy named Oatie sings Johnny Cash karaoke songs. Step outside and you'll find a handful of ranch animals roaming around, a few battered wood buildings that read "church," "Keeylocko Bank," and things of the sort, and you'll gaze at a night sky that goes on as far as your drunken eyes can see. Cowtown Keeylocko was started in the 70's by Ed Keeylocko - A 79 year old African American cowboy who lives on his land, lives by his rules, and lives everyday like it's his last. It's a real western town with none of the bullshit gimmicks you'd expect to find in "cow towns" nowadays. Folks from Tucson make trips up there every once in a while. Sometimes for "Keeylocko Days" in October, sometimes just to get away, and sometimes to see some of the Tucson musicians kick out the jams on the dirt floors.
I've been out there a good number of times. I've played some songs, danced, passed out drunk, been woken up by a bull... the whole bit. No matter what happens, you always leave with an aching body, some stories, and some life lessons. I returned from our most recent trip with my mind wrapped around the idea that the Keeylocko locals have managed to strip life down, and stripped happiness down to its very core, and when it comes down to it, these "poor" folks are the happiest people I have ever met. I've liked to think I understand that a person does not need much to be happy, but I think only now am I even beginning to see what it really means. You go out there and play your songs with your delay pedals and vintage amps and fancy guitars, and everyone loves it. But it is not because your analog delay sounded so great, or because you had the oldest supro guitar, it's simply that you're playing some tunes, and why the hell shouldn't people have a good time! It's a really beautiful thing, for even just one night, to really understand the way life is meant to be lived - loud, passionate, and with people you love. Being back in Tucson I've been running Ed's speeches in my mind on repeat and remembering the way it feels to be care free and really living to the fullest. What it feels like to not care about putting out records and booking tours in a certain amount of time. Fuck time. Worrying about how much time you've got will kill you. Live now.
I don't ever put too much time into these online blog things, but I felt this was something worth writing about. If you're ever in Tucson, you make sure to take those dirty, bumpy roads to Keeylocko.
A ling to a video of one of Ed Keeylocko's speeches:
Tucson, AZ 1/4/10