published Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Roberts: Putting a zinger in each song

by Dalton Roberts

"Every song needs at least one zinger," Vance Bulla told me in my earliest days in Nashville.

"A zinger is a line good enough to stand out, and catch the listeners attention."

I was lucky that Bulla was the first publisher I worked with because I've always been attentive to creating zingers in my songs. Let me share a few with you.

From, "Big Legged Woman Blues" comes:

"I've got a big legged woman, shakes the house when she walks, she's got a big mouth, too, shakes my knees when she talks."

Donnie Jenkins and I wrote, "A Month of Somedays," and the very title itself is a pretty good zinger.

Another blues song of mine gets into an alliteration pattern, reminding me that Roger Miller said, "Don't just put rhymes at the end of the lines; Put as many rhymes as you can within the lines."

I did this in "Absolutely Necessary Blues":

"The rain beating on my window pane woke me up to emptiness, and some of my friends came to cheer me up again saying, 'You just can't go on like this.' "

I like two zingers in the Christmas song I wrote for the Orange Grove Chorus:

"If Christmas were snow, it might melt you know;

Christmas might melt and run away;

If it was mistletoe, it might kiss and go away"

I love these lines in my "Bessie Smith Blues":

"She was only nine years old; but she was 19 on the street. She'd sing the money right out of your pocket; she'd dance the shoes right off your feet."

Martha Ann Brooks and I wrote this line:

"It comes as a surprise to me, how quickly I've come to be, deliciously lonely."

One of my songs recorded by Jim Ed Brown had a potent line:

"I'm smaller than the bottle, but weaker than the wine."

Another recorded by Charlie Louvin was:

"I'd be glad to help you out, just show me which way you came in."

Kids love this zinger:

"By and by, a butterfly came flitting overhead, the caterpillar pointed up and said, 'You'll never get me up in one of those things.'"

Here's one that's a little irreverent:

"She gave her heart to God and her body to the preacher."

This verse came after watching a fine local entertainer drink himself to death:

"His mind is a hobo on a fast freight train, while the years run together in a cold winter rain; I don't know where he's headed, he's just hanging on the side in the rain. His temporary solution, his attempt at restitution, has got the hand of retribution laying heavily on him."

I like this one from "The Undertaker Blues":

"Undertaker, don't embalm me, I've done taken care of that."

How about:

"True love is hard to find, but an ex-wife goes on forever."

And I also like:

"You ought to be in Nashville; the walk will do you good."

And my favorite of all:

"No matter how low your self-esteem, there may be others who think even less of you than you do."

Contact Dalton Roberts at

about Dalton Roberts...


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