Let me first declare my credentials on the subject of Waffle House jukebox songs. I have, on my arm, a prominent Waffle House tattoo. I did, after obtaining said tattoo, write to Waffle House headquarters in Atlanta, GA, asking how to purchase the Waffle House 45s from Waffle House jukeboxes in Waffle Houses across the land. I included a photo of my tattoo. I heard no response.
Undaunted, I sought online the songs I knew from my travels through the deep south. "Special Lady at the Waffle House," "Waffle House Family," and the great mathematical triumph, "877,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger at Waffle House." After 15 years of searching, I finally found a seller on eBay who'd bought a Waffle House jukebox at auction and was willing to sell the 45s to me. He even threw in my favorite, "877,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger at Waffle House," for free, with a note: "Merry Christmas early." (Thanks, jukebox5964!)
So it was with great excitement that my Waffle House-tattooed self watched Stephen Colbert and Sturgill Simpson premiere a new Waffle House-themed song tonight. "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Knuckleheads" hits on all Waffle House jukebox cylinders: a portrait in song of the welcoming culture at Waffle House, a description or two lifted directly from the menu ("scattered, smothered, covered"), and a gratuitous reference to that "big yellow sign." Witness the glory below:
Now, I know what you're thinking: where can I find the other Waffle House jukebox songs? Well, if you're lucky, you might find them on the secondhand market. Waffle House Jukebox Favorites Vol. 1 and Waffle House Favorites Vol. 2 sometimes turn up for sale on CD. As for the original vinyl 45s? Well, jukebox5964 is out of 'em, and I ain't sellin'. But here are some of my favorites:
'877,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger'
An animated talking blues with a contagiously catchy female three-part harmony and Merle Haggard-esque pickin' guitar riff, this song tells the story of a man who "learned a lot of combinations" while asking his waitress about every single way one can eat a hamburger at Waffle House. (In the end, he chooses to eat it plain, because country music is always about the simple stuff.)
'Special Lady at the Waffle House'
Note at the beginning of this ballad the reference to the "big yellow sign," indeed, the very one tattooed on my arm. Witness also the customer's amazement at the waitress "callin' all those orders out." Basically this combines Nighthawks at the Diner-era Tom Waits with Waylon Jennings' baritone, with very detailed lyrics about the process of ordering food at a diner. Bonus: if you play this song at a Waffle House, every waitress will hate you.
'Waffle House Family'
Who needs Flavor Flav as a yes-man when you've got a) the guy who enthusiastically repeats each line in the verse here and b) the happy choir that repeats each line in the chorus? Here, Mary Welch Rogers gives it her all in welcoming weary visitors to join the the Waffle House, where you're "always welcome at home." Especially if it's 3am.
Thanks, Waffle House, for the musical glory of your jukebox songs. Kid Rock would surely agree.