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Riding With Private Malone

November 11, 2020

Every morning is a time for reflection. Here is my contribution today: Veterans Day.

Riding with Private Malone is a song written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, and recorded by American country music artist David Ball. It was released in August 2001 as the first single from his album Amigo. The song reached a peak of #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks charts and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Ball’s first Top 40 country hit since “Look What Followed Me Home” in 1995. USA Today referred to it as “the country song that tapped most subtly and profoundly into the emotions of its audience” after the September 11 attacks, even though it was released to radio a few weeks before the attacks. This song is long (4:24), breaking the 3-20 rule but it was still a solid hit due to its resonating lyrics.

For me, this song has always had a very personal connection. In 1967, I answered a classified ad for a 1964 Pontiac Lemans. Like in this song, “I felt a little guilty as I counted out those bills” to the father of a Vietnam soldier who didn’t make it home. It was tough for him to sell his son’s prized car and I felt his pain intensely. Also like in the song, I fixed the car up and made it my own. It was the envy of many a young man after I painted it bright orange and had 12 inch glass packs installed. Indeed, “for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true.”

Fate and music are often fickle friends. I charged around in my orange car, often oblivious to safety and prudence. I even raced it on Dead Man’s Curve on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The car became my strength and my identity as I felt I was king of the road. Fortunately I grew up quickly and changed my ways, becoming much more conservative almost overnight. But suddenly I had to sell my beloved car when I got married (way too young). My best friend bought the car as it had been a dream of his to own it but within a week he called me to tell me that he had totaled the car in a bizarre accident. He walked away unharmed and bewilderingly questioned why. He is still alive and well today and so am I. It’s indeed a miracle of sorts.

When Riding With Private Malone came out in 2001, I immediately identified with the song. I took me back many years to a time when I too felt I was riding with an unknown guardian in his Lemans. A half-century later, I would like to thank that unknown soldier for watching over me and especially my friend in his time of need so many years ago.

Here is the David Ball recording. I hope you enjoy it and feel the same gratitude as me toward our armed services members, wherever and whenever they have served.

PS – I never found a note in that car but I did find a fossilized rock containing a fern underneath the passenger seat. I never understood that but imagined that the car’s original owner may have been a budding geologist. Unfortunately, We’ll never know as he died on a distant battlefield in Vietnam.

Here are the complete lyrics for word buffs like myself:

[Verse 1]
I was just out of the service thumbing through the classifieds
When an ad that said, “old Chevy” somehow caught my eye
The lady didn’t know the year or even if it ran
But I had that thousand dollars in my hand

[Verse 2]
It was way back in the corner of this old ramshackle barn
With thirty years of dust and dirt on that green Army tarp
And when I pulled the cover off, it took away my breath
What she called a Chevy was a sixty-six Corvette

[Verse 3]
I felt a little guilty as I counted out the bills
What a thrill I got when I sat behind the wheel
I opened up the glove box and that’s when I found the note
The date was nineteen sixty-six and this is what he wrote

He said, “My name is Private Andrew Malone
And if you’re reading this, then I didn’t make it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of mine, now it belongs to you
And though you may take her and make her your own
You’ll always be riding with Private Malone”

[Verse 4]
Well, it didn’t take me long at all, I had her running good
I loved to hear those horses thunder underneath her hood
I had her shining like a diamond and I’d put the ragtop down
All the pretty girls would stop and stare as I drove her through town

[Verse 5]
The buttons on the radio didn’t seem to work quite right
But it picked up that oldie show, especially late at night
I’d get the feeling sometimes, if I turned real quick I’d see
A soldier ridin’ shotgun in the seat right next to me

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his, back when it was new
He told me to take her and make her my own
And I was proud to be riding with Private Malone

Well, one night it was raining hard, I took the curve too fast
I still don’t remember much about that fiery crash
Someone said they thought they saw a soldier pull me out
They didn’t get his name, but I know without a doubt

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his, back when it was new
And I know I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t tagged along
Yeah, that night, I was riding with Private Malone
Oh, thank God, I was riding with Private Malone
Private Malone

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  1. That is incredible!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Beautiful song and story. Thanks, Allen. Yes, always remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband and I love this song! It does bring a tear to my eye…and what a personal story you have that added to it! You could have written that song Allen!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    This is perfectly wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a wonderful story and song. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. americanmilitaryfamilymuseum permalink

    Reblogged this on America Remembers Vietnam.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad you understand the unknown guardian that was riding with you. My dad rides along with me and has saved me from serious situations more than once. Many people like to say it is chance but I believe in angels.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. GP Cox brought me here. Thank you for that touching song. At about the same time in 1966/67, I, a Danish girl, had a pen pal from NC. He was a Vietnam soldier, and I never found out about the rest of the story, if he returned home safely

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful post, wonderful

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent! This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this song and your personal connection.
    My oldest brother was drafted and served in Vietnam when he was 18 years old.
    PS…I came by to read and visit via GP Cox’s reblog. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading. Please include me a a follower of your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome!
        If you would like to be a follower of my blog, please click on my username and I will get an e-mail letting me know. πŸ™‚
        I usually only have time to post something once a week. But I do enjoy blogging…especially reading blogs. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I was very moved your story and by the song, which I hadn’t heard before. (I don’t remember the last time I heard a reference to glass packs. They were a very big deal when I was in junior high.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not really a Country Music fan, but this cuts across everything. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I checked out your blog – Have you ever written anything about Howard Hughes’ “The Outlaw?” My father played the “Stranger.”


      • Really?! Goodness! I’ll have to check that out. The “Stranger” in the “The Outlaw”.
        Have a great New Year friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Buon Anno / Happy New Year!


      • This movie is well known of course, but I confess I haven’t seen it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The photography is not great as their are several night scenes. However, it was Jane Russell’s big break. Hughes cut much of my father’s part so he sort of shows up out of nowhere.


      • I know it was a Russel showcase from Hughes. Pretty racy stuff in it’s day too. Sadly the cuts to your father’s parts is typical in film making.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Some of my father’s better films are To Be or Not To Be and Crash Dive.


      • Excellent. I’ll have a look at those too. I see that the Outlaw is on YouTube. Pretty watchable in 720 resolution. Hughes, of course, was an interesting guy (to say the least. Russel wasn’t hard on the eyes either. Pretty incredible stuff from a now bygone era.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Gwen M. Plano permalink

    Beautiful, Allen. My father served in WWII, my brother and husband in Vietnam. God bless those who served and those who currently serve. Thank you, Allen, for your reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a powerful post….thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Allen – I was attending high school and college during the Vietnam War. My twin brother went to Saigon and my high school boyfriend manned the gun pointing out the side door of a chopper. He had my picture taped on the wall behind him. I always felt like I was there with him. I knew many men returning from the war and attending college on the GI Bill. This song floods me with the emotion of that time in my life and the sacrifices made by my generation. Thank you for sharing your story and this song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it Judy. Likewise, I was in college and teaching at the time. I had many friends who never came back.


  17. Mission Brave Ranch permalink

    One of my favorite songs!

    Liked by 1 person

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