Singer-songwriter Charley Crockett is on tour with his sixth album. (Courtesy Lyza Renee)

Singer-songwriter Charley Crockett is on tour with his sixth album. (Courtesy Lyza Renee)

Charley Crockett back on the road after heart surgery

Alt-country crooner tells autobiographical stories on ‘The Valley’

Texas alt-country crooner Charley Crockett, appearing this week in San Francisco with his new album “The Valley” on a bill with Old 97’s bandleader Rhett Miller, was feeling pretty indestructible up until the end of 2018.

The descendant of legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett spent much of his vagabond existence trailblazing, from the moment he left his single mom’s trailer park at 17 with a Hohner pawn shop guitar she bought him. He went on to busk — and occasionally live on — the streets of Paris, Spain, Morocco, New York, Deep Ellum and New Orleans’ French Quarter, hitchhiking his way from city to city or riding the rails, hobo style. But in January, his rip-roaring lifestyle ground to a halt with a dire doctor’s prognosis.

Crockett, who even lived in Mendocino for a few years, working random farms by day and singing his loping, lazy-drawled originals in town by night, had been experiencing severe hernia pain, so, without insurance, he played enough extra concerts to finance a medical consultation, possibly an operation. That’s when an EKG revealed that a condition he’d been born with, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, was no longer dormant.

“They told me my heart was shutting down, that I had maybe a year to live, and that the heart failure would probably occur onstage, due to the high energy of my shows,” he says. He quickly needed two extensive, expensive surgeries.

“I was stuck in limbo,” says Crockett. “You always hear about someone going to the doctor, who says, ‘You’re going to die if you don’t get this operation. Let’s check you in!’ But that doesn’t happen if you don’t have insurance.”

He thanks a last-minute enrollment in Obamacare for saving his life, and an exorbitant bill that ran to over $750,000.

Going into the hospital, the artist knew two things: He’d better get his next album recorded and he’d better make every song count. He did.

“I recorded the whole album one week before surgery,” says Crockett, who went deeply autobiographical on fiddle-and-pedal-steel-bolstered laments including “10,000 Acres,” “Borrowed Time,” “The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa)” and the apt closer, “Motel Time Again.”

“The Valley” is his sixth effort, overall. But he has enough hair-raising real-life yarns from his ride-thumbing days alone to fill a dozen more. He did unwittingly get into the sedan with a few paranoid schizophrenics during his travels.

There’s a toot-doot in the distance, and Crockett — phoning roadside from Washington state —is momentarily distracted.

“Hey. there goes a train,” he says, like he’s spotted a rare bird. “It’s the BNSF line out of Spokane, Canadian-Pacific!”

But on this posh tour, it’s motel time again and he doesn’t mind.

IF YOU GO

Charley Crockett, Rhett Miller

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7

Tickets: $20 to $22

Contact: (415) 885-0750, https://www.slimspresents.com/

Pop Music

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

San Francisco Police stand guard outside the Mission Police Station during a protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fired: California bill aims to decertify police for serious misconduct

By Robert Lewis CalMatters On a Wednesday afternoon in April 2018, Gardena… Continue reading

The Giants and Dodgers face each other again following a May series the Dodgers swept; Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux caught stealing by Giants second baseman Donovan Solano at Oracle Park on May 23 is pictured. 
Chris Victorio/
Special to The Examiner
Giants vs. Dodgers: What you need to know before this week’s huge series

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner That grinding noise you’ll hear… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that state employees and health care workers must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear masks. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
California orders vaccine or testing for health care workers, state employees

By Ana B. Ibarra CalMatters Amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases and… Continue reading

Jeremy Kahn and Monica Ho are excellent in San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Lauren Yee’s “The Song of Summer,” being presented live and online. (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)
Touching relationship at heart of ‘Song of Summer’

Lighthearted SF Playhouse show ‘feels right for this moment’

Most Read