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.

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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.