Aiming for Fame and Riches

In anticipation of his first royalty check for "My Tears Spoiled My Aim," John Shelton Reed splurged for new duds. Photograph courtesy DixiePix.

ACCESS PURCHASE
Students and scholars can access articles for free via Project Muse.

Aiming for Fame and Riches

by John Shelton Reed
Southern Cultures, Vol. 12, No. 4: Music 2006

"I proudly sent the lyrics off to a friend with connections in the country-music business, asking him if he didn't agree that it was a natural-born hit."

Like many country songs, I suspect, “My Tears Spoiled My Aim” grew out of a title—in this case, one that came to me in a blinding flash of unsought revelation. Once that was in place, the rest of the lyrics flowed like—well, like whatever flows easily. I’m pretty sure that at the time I had not heard Johnny Cash’s version of “Kate,” where the singer tells his murdered, cheating wife, from prison, “As sure as your name’s Kate / You put me here,” but the scene and the self-pitying sentiment are obviously much the same—although Cash’s narrator shot straighter than mine.