Mandolin Song

The Story behind the song: This is the story of a mandolin that was in my wife’s family for many years. It is a Maybell mandolin which was made by the Slingerland Musical Instrument Company of Chicago. They stopped making mandolins in the 1940s.

The mandolin was given to my wife’s grandparents, and I associated it to a young fellow who went away to the second world war and left it in his mothers hands with a promise he would be back to play it again. Unfortunately he was killed overseas and the mandolin sat in storage for many years, after his mother didn’t have the heart to give it away. It eventually wound up being handed down to me and I am in the process of trying to see if anything could be done to repair it because time had taken a severe toll on it.

I tried to give a glimpse of what life would have been like for musicians in the time before mainstream electronic entertainment took over.

Most communities relied on the folks from the surrounding area who could play an instrument to entertain at any dances or functions that were held. These people often performed for little or no money. When I see the mandolin I wonder what the young man who owned it did with it and how much was he missed by those who were waiting at home, longing to hear him play again. I myself have experienced the joy of performing on stage and it is first-hand knowledge that during and after a good performance there is a natural high that no drug can duplicate. I guess the guy lying awake in bed was me on a few occasions. Once again Greg Tobin has a strong influence on the writing of the great melodies.

“The Mandolin” Lyrics
Her son ran off and joined the war, left her his mandolin and said he’d play once more
Just someone who loved to play and sing, but to her he was everything

How he loved to play and see the dancers on the floor, every song he played was better than the one before
And later when he couldn’t sleep he’d lie awake in bed smile at the songs and laughter ringing in his head

The letter said her son was brave but that he was laid in a foreign grave
She couldn’t give the mandolin away for years and years no one heard it play

She heard a young man sing and knew he was the one, gave him the mandolin and told him of her son
And for the first time since he went away, she saw the face of her boy and she heard him play

The Old Mans Store

The Story behind the song:
This song spans a lot of years of my life and is a combination of a multitude of stories from all over Newfoundland.
Part 1: The name “The Old Mans Store” got its beginnings when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I was growing up in the small city (St. John’s) and went to visit my grandmother and my other aunts and uncles in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay. My Aunt and Uncle ran a small gas bar in the community. One day while visiting, my uncle asked me to run up to the “store” and bring back a couple of junks of wood for the stove. So off I go across the garden and go in to the gas bar asking my cousin for wood. I gave my uncle a good laugh when I told him the gas bar had no wood and he explained that the wood was in the shed behind the house called the “Store”. I guess it really does make sense that they called them that since it was the place where everything got “stored”. So that was how the “Shed” got changed to “Store”
Part 2: Years later after hearing me play guitar, my friend Joe Hutchings told me the story of how, even when he was young, he had always wanted to play guitar. So much so that, as a young boy, he worked all spring and summer, selling newspapers to save up to buy one. Finally he had enough money and ordered one in from the “Simpson Sears Catalog”. Every day he would check the mail to see when it would come until finally one day it did. I could only imagine his disappointment when he found it to be only 12” to 14” long.
So I put all that together with my own experiences and the many stories I had heard of my friends having many a great time and sing song in the various sheds (“stores”) around the island. It is still a tradition in many places that people congregate in the garages and shed of Newfoundland to have a drink and sing a few tunes.

“Old man’s store” Lyrics

There’s a shed behind my father’s house that we always called the store
With wood all chopped and stacked to the top and planks upon the floor
A bench that stood along one wall with the tools an outport demands
And on every one was etched the prints from the hands of a working man
But for me that shed had a special place on the nights of rain and fog
Joe would bring the guitar he got from the Simpson’s Catalog
Neighbors came from all around as music carried on the wind
We’d take our turns as songs we knew until everyone joined in.

Saturday night in the old man’s store with our stories and our songs.
Many nights we’d still be there at the breaking of the dawn
We danced the splinters off the floor and laughed until we cried.
Might have made the concert hall but we never cared to try.

That was long ago and I’m older now and I’ve had to move away
But I still go back to my father’s house where my brother lives today
We’d sit out there and reminisce about the past and all of our friends
Laugh about the fun we had and wonder how we let it end
But I’ve found a way to get back those days in a cabin by the shore
There ain’t no wires running in, No carpet on the floor
By lantern light we play all night and tell the stories that take me back
My kids all say there’s no computer game that’s half the fun as that


And sometimes on those warmer days me and my baby would slip away
I’m older now and my hair’s turned gray but I can still make the music play


The Carpenter

By Gary Smith and Greg Tobin

The story behind the song. This song was one of those that come about as the result of a completely random encounter. It again proved to me that once you make up your mind to do something, then things will fall in place to make it happen. We can credit God, Fate, the Universe or whatever you want, but someone or something is definitely “driving this ship” called life.

My wife and I were spending a leisurely Saturday morning driving around when we noticed a “Moving Sale” sign stuck out on a lawn, so we stopped in. I had a place in the country (our Cabin) and had to bring the tools from home to do work out there. I thought I would buy a second set of tools and I asked the girl who was running the sale if she had any. She called her 84 year old father and asked him. At which point we walked down into a small workshop. He told me that his advanced age was taking a toll on him and he had to move to Winnipeg with his daughter.

As he was rummaging through his old wooden tool box I started asking him about the pictures of the boats on the wall and he told me that he made his living as a Carpenter and that he had built them. Then he proceeded to put things into the box, taking the time to wipe each one off with a rag as he did so. Maybe he was saying goodbye. We spent an hour or so going through some of the stuff and talking about his pictures and he smiled all the while. You could see in his eyes that he was proud of himself and we laughed and joked the whole time. After a while he just put the closed box into my hands, gave it a final touch and said that $10 would be enough. I gave him everything I had on me at the time. I told him how much I had enjoyed spending a little time with him and wished him luck on the prairies.

Later when I sat looking at the old tools the experience got my imagination going as to what his life might have been like and I started to write a poem based on what I thought. The original poem, such as it is, provided the basis for the song lyrics and has more info that I couldn’t fit into the confines of a song structure. I hope you will like it. Incidentally I never used one of the tools they still sit in the box that the carpenter gave me. I am fixing up an old house in Newfoundland and hope to display them there when I get it done.

Greg Tobin came up with a great sounding melody for the song and it is one of my favorites on the CD.

The Carpenter

A Yard Sale sign and a box of tools that took me back to years before
An old man cleaned them with a rag  he pulled out from the work bench drawer
He Said "You know I built everything but the boats I liked the best
Built it all by hand back then, cut and planed without a rest"

They don't build them like that anymore a story ends when another begins.
He probably thinks that he built those boats but I think those boats made him.

He said "My daughter's moving to the prairies and all I need are my memories
but I left a part of me in my island home perhaps some day you'll see"
A model schooner for the boat museum he said "I built it glass case and all"
A proud schooner for the foreign trade hangs in a picture on the wall.


So many stories from the tools he held, I could see them in his weathered eyes
We laughed and talked and time flew by till soon I had to say goodbye.
This box of tools meant the world to him and he gave it a final touch
He placed it in my hands and said "you understand.... so would $10 be too much..."


You're Not Thinking About Me

The story behind the song: I wrote this song for my children several years ago. I travel a lot and wanted to make sure they knew what I wished for them in case some day I never made it back home. When I thought about the words of the song I realized that although it is my kids' song,  it applied to other people in my life as well.  
I am hopeful that many people can relate to this song, perhaps it is what they imagine someone would have said to them, had they gotten the chance. On the other hand perhaps it is something they would have like to say to someone else.
In any event we all have someone who we can depend on and sometimes you won't even know it until they show up "out of the blue". Hope you like the song!

You’re Not Thinking About Me  - Lyrics

You feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders,  And there’s nowhere for you to turn
Your friends have left you far behind, And all your bridges have been burned
Time has a way of erasing things. From your memory
If you think there’s no one left on your side.
You’re not thinking about me

People will take away all that's YOU. Don’t you let them even try.
And when you need me there, I won’t be the one To run away and hide
Even on your darkest days   Keep on moving like you can see
If you need to feel like you’re loved ….OK…… Just start thinking about me.

You’ll always be here on my mind. And I hope that you feel strong.
I’m there with you and you’re here with me. No matter where we’ve gone
Have a heart that’s free and kind but tough when you need to be
And if you ever think that no one cares for you You’re not thinking about me


(You’re not thinking, Just start thinking) You’re not thinking about me
(Ohhhhh, You’re not thinking, you’re not thinking) Just start thinking about me

The Runner

The Story behind the song: This is a about the feeling of a guy who is being left by a lover who never seems to be able to settle down. Now I am not suggesting that everyone should settle down, whatever makes them happy is what they should do. I used a race runner to describe the process of leaving and tried to use a lot of symbolism in describing the separation. Some examples are:

“Your friends are there to cheer you on” – maybe her friends were not approving of their relationship..
“I’m holding the starters gun” – to signify the fact that if you really want to run off I won’t hold you back, let me help you get started.
“At the pistol sound the birds leave town, creatures howl out their protest” to show the guy was thinking that it wasn’t right or natural that she should leave.

The point of the chorus is that while he could handle her being gone, at that time, she was the only one he wanted to be with. “The only one in the race”.

The second verse starts off with showing that even though her friends helped her come to the decision to leave they were gone before she even got around “the track”. This guy had gotten used to her leaving and that he would probably even be fool enough to take her back again. He would be “behind the open door” because he would want her to experience if only for a minute, what it feels like to run into a room expecting to see someone waiting there with open arms, only to find out they weren’t there any more.

“The Runner” Lyrics
The sun shines down on the starting line as you tie your shoes to run
Your friends are there to cheer you on and I’m holding the starters gun
At the pistol sound the birds leave town creatures howl out their protest
Running from loving me at a greyhound speed your heart is pounding in your chest

Go your own way and go without delay, my heart can take another blow.
I won’t try to hold on cause that’s not me with love I’ll have to let you go.
With ribbon ‘cross your chest you know you are the best but no ones left there to embrace
Across the finish line, you turn to see you were the only one in the race

You can’t believe the empty seats that no one stayed to see you run
All those voices who were telling you to stop what we had begun
Well I’m not surprised there’s no tears in my eyes but I’d hoped that there would be more
If you get tired out there on that path I’ll be behind the open door.


Keep on running, run, run, running don’t you worry ‘bout the pain
Keep on running, run, run, running guess I’m on my own again
Keep on running, run, run, running guess I’m on my own again

Seafarers Song