All posts by Doug Adkins

Grew up in Montana, born in Havre My father was an educator so I grew up in little towns like Culbertson, Wolf Point, Froid and finally graduated from Sidney High School, which is in the North East corner of the state... I played basketball, baseball and golf in high school.   I got a guitar for my 18th birthday and wrote a song on it the next day. I've been writing songs ever since... Before I even picked up the guitar, I had songs in my head. Things make sense to me that way... Usually I never find the right words when I need them, but later after the dust settles, the right words come... and usually they come with a melody... And while the songs usually say exactly what I needed to say, it's usually too late ! ...   I've written over 200 songs... I learned music from my mom. At age 6, I was singing with my sister Betty Jo who was 7 at the time, and my older sister Jacklyn who was 9.... Jackie played the piano and the three of us sang. My mom grew up in Sheridan County in Montana and she had a trio called the Sheridaners, so I guess it was natural to pass the bug along. I've been touring in Europe primarily since 2000, although I do get back to Rocky Mountain region once in awhile for a small tour. I wrote 37 songs in 2008 and I've penned a few this year, so I think I'll have plenty to choose from when it comes time to hit the studio.....    The CDs I recorded so far are: 1990 Just Livin' 1993 Habits and Hearts 1995 Cowboy Comes Alive 1998 Time Keeps Movin On 2002 A Losin' Soul 2005 Whiskey Salesman 2007 One More Mile To Go 2010 Waltz Across Montana 2011 Country Ballads 2016 Lonesome

Bismarck – The Story Behind The Song

Hi, this song is titled “Bismarck,” and is from the CD “Waltz Across Montana,” which was produced by Brent Mason and mixed by Lonnie Wilson.

The Story Behind The Song

I was on my way back to Bismarck North Dakota to spend a couple weeks with my parents before flying down to Nashville to record a new CD.  Brent Mason was going to produce the CD and we had decided to do the project very traditional, using only lead guitar, steel, drums and bass. I had 17 songs written, from which we would eventually choose 12.  The songs were pretty good, but I felt I was missing a Waltz, which in my opinion should be mandatory on a country CD!  I had a good melody in my head and thought I felt the mood of the song coming along nicely.  I also knew I wanted to write about a songwriter living a life on the road, performing night after night, writing songs.  I wanted to write about the loneliness, life in hotels, writers block, all of it!

A few years earlier while driving through Colorado I was listening to an interview with Willie Nelson, where he said he had written a few songs with the same melody lines.  When the interviewer asked if that bothered him to repeat melodies, he simply said, “The words make the song, it’s the words that tell the story.”  With that in mind, I thought to write a straight country waltz in the style of Willie Nelson.

So there I was on an air plane flying in to Bismark, North Dakota to visit my parents in the middle of one of the worst winters of the last 20 years.  I had this idea for a waltz running around in my brain but I was struggling with the words, I had writer’s block.  And if that wasn’t enough,  I was on an air plane from Minneapolis to Bismarck! If you’ve never had the pleasure of flying on a plane with 14 total seats, two rows of seven, I wholeheartedly recommend it!  In a plane that size you feel every bump, every slight change in the direction of the wind.  If someone leans to far to one side you feel the plane move a little!

As the lyrics weren’t coming to me during the entire 55 minutes of the flight, I eventually put my pen away and decided maybe the waltz wouldn’t be written before the time came to record the new CD.  As a writer, that’s a frustrating situation to be in.  You hear the melody in your head, you have a concept for the song, but the words just refuse to come.  It’s like you are blocked somehow from finding the right words, but you feel they are right there on the tip of your tongue, or in this case your pen (hence why it’s called writer’s block)! Then as we were preparing to land, from the back of the plane and in just the nick of time, I overheard one man say to his friend, ”I heard it’s colder than hell in Bismarck.”  I thought to myself, “wow, not bad.”  About a second later, his friend replied, “Sure hope the wife doesn’t forget to pick me, I’d hate to have to walk!” These two lines after a little work become the first two lines of the song!

As they were sitting directly in the seats behind me, I felt obligated to turn around and thank them for the words.  They looked at me a little strange, but laughed it off jokingly and said “no problem.”

The only other footnote to this song is that there is a wonderful little Diner in Bismarck North Dakota called The Little Cottage Cafe.  This place serves the best “Hot Beef” in the whole area.  Hot beef is a dish where there’s piled high sliced roast beef on bread, served with mashed potatoes and gravy over the whole thing! As my father and I drove home from the air port that night, we passed by The Little Cottage Cafe.  This place, I decided, would be the restaurant where the woman worked.  Which woman you ask?  The waitress, who just happened to be on her way home from work from The Little Cottage Cafe that night our songwriter arrived on the plane.  She’s the one who pulled up along side the songwriter in her pick up truck as he was walking to his hotel, and said, “get in here, or you’ll freeze to death!”   Why was he walking? The person who was supposed to pick him up from the plane didn’t show up!  Anyway, that’s where the song takes off.  This woman who works as a waitress at The Little Cottage Cafe helps the songwriter find the words again!

I think the story would make a nice movie!  Any takers?? 😉


Purchase the song here:   Just 99 cents 🙂


How To Write A Song, Part 1 – The Hook Line

How To Write A Song, Part 1 – The Hook Line

Think of a song you enjoy listening to. It could be a song from your youth that you always loved, or it could be a song that you’ve heard playing on the radio a couple minutes ago. Sing the part you know in your head. You probably just sang the hook line. Did you sing the words Sweet Home Alabama, or Sweet Caroline, or was it On The Road Again? Those are hook lines! Ear catching hook lines have been the starting point for many great songs! I’m always looking for them! When I find a good one, I write it down or record right away!

People ask me, “What comes first, music or words?” I tell them, “I write the hook!” Sometimes I hear the music along with the hook, but always the hook.

A good hook will give you a starting point for how to write a song lyrically. When I wrote the hook line Why Not, One More Drink, I had a few pretty clear ideas on how to build the lyrics.

A great place to find hook lines is by listening to people speak. People say the strangest things, if you listen! On my last CD I wrote a song called Playin’ to Win. The idea for this song came while my father and I were sitting at a blackjack table in South Dakota. We were joking about splitting a pair of tens, which in blackjack is taboo because a pair of tens is already probably a winning hand. I believe my father said “do it, split the tens, losing doesn’t mean anything, only thing that matters is that you’re playing to win!” That really stuck out as one of those odd twists and after some re-write it became, Losin’ Don’t Mean A Thing, If You’re Playin’ To Win. There’s a scene in the video for the song where I split the tens at a blackjack table, and off course in the video I win!

When you think of a potential hook, or hear a nice twist on words, grab a napkin, any piece of paper, or your smart phone. People may look at you strange, but just look back at them and say, “I’m a songwriter; I have to write down my ideas when they come!”

Last thing, if you’re fortunate enough to have an idea for a melody with the hook, sing a few bars of Mumbo Jumbo into your recorder as well. Mumbo Jumbo is any words you can think of to accompany the music pattern and hook line you are putting down on tape. You’ll be surprised how often you come back to that Mumbo Jumbo and use something from it!

So go out and get those hook lines! Start making a collection of your own hooks, and check back and visit me for the next article on Song Writing, Part 2.

Below is the video link to the song Playin’ To Win which I referenced in the Ezine Article How To Write A Song, Part 1 – The Hook Line

Below you can read the lyrics and listen to an mp3 of Playin’ To Win and Why Not One More Drink

First Song – Playin’ To Win