Post 153

Songbird: Reflections on Larry

Larry was born on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) in 1941. He’s 75 years old right now. He was born in Newark, New Jersey but grew up in Queens, New York. Larry is the nickname; his parents named him Laurence.

Growing up, Larry worked in the family textile business. On the side, he liked going to the movies. He had heroes – “Roy Rogers, Lash Laroux and Gene Autry and Tom McBrown and all those guys” [Please forgive any mispellings; I am mostly guessing, based on what I heard on a YouTube interview].

He also liked making up songs – the tune and the lyrics.

(In contrast, the singers of the time didn’t typically write. They used lyrics written by others.)

Watching the interview was quite interesting. It looks like it was done of him mainly because he knew someone else, some fabric designer guy. Larry did very well. He dressed up for the occasion and answered the questions clearly. He also answered the questions about his own life whenever he was asked. However, what I found interesting was the way he had a tendency to want to talk about (almost brag about) the accomplishments and talents of others. To listen to him, you’d think that he didn’t really bring much to the table himself.

And as a matter of fact, from what I can tell, Larry has always been kind of hidden from the spotlight. I say ‘kind of’ because he isn’t entirely unknown, and he has his own write-up on Wikipedia. That write-up is okay, but I see that the Wikipedia version doesn’t get everything quite right (surprise, surprise).

But to continue with this biography of sorts, Larry grew up and continued to write songs. He was a freelancer, which probably meant back then what it means nowadays (= Pay Day comes, um, Once in a While).

(Yeah, actually, I do know what that’s like – eat what you kill is how it’s sometimes styled. Not always entirely fun. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a wretched feeling to not be able to send an envelope through the mail because you can’t afford the stamps and it’s quite an embarrassing feeling to pay your telephone bill using currency of Various Sizes. “Um, and I’ve got some fives here, and just hold on, here are some coins.”

And speaking of stamps, what’s up with this Deepak Chopra guy? Who put him in charge? Or, to ask a more productive question: How do we get rid of him? Is he trying to run Canada Post into the ground in order to later suggest privatization? Is that his gig, his unstated plan? And HOW much money does he make per year? A five year term followed by a five year term? Does he have anyone’s interests at heart, other than his own? And what on earth is this talk of getting Canada Post into banking? Banking??!! I don’t know what’s going on, but maybe it’s better that way. Seems like he’s holding Canada, Canadians and their packages and postal workers hostage. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong, but I certainly don’t like the sound of postal workers being locked out, not allowed to do their work. Can’t we keep the workers in and lock him out instead? Just wondering.)

In any case, Larry the freelancer submitted some of his songs to various singers. His name became better and better known to the singers of the day, as someone who could write good material. If you sang Larry’s songs, you might become famous, or famouser.

Larry moved to Broadway, New York. He was already from New York so it wasn’t as if he moved across the country, but it was still a momentous move. He remembers walking along the sidewalks alone, with big dreams about what his future would be like. He briefly referred to that time in his interview.

I wish he had elaborated about those seven or eight years in his life and what he remembered, but he just made a quick reference to it. (The interviewer didn’t pursue that gold mine, and Larry said nothing further about it.)

When he was 30, Larry moved with his family to Los Angeles. That was in 1971.

When he was about 34, Larry wrote and sang a song and put it on an album. It was the very first album he had ever done. He was probably very excited to have his own album, after writing so much for so many others. His voice was (and is) good.

One of the songs on his album was released as a single, and it was quite successful, making it up to Number 24 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart. He was probably happy with that. It was about his memories of his walk-along-the-Broadway-sidewalk days.

His song was played on the radio. Another man, also a singer, heard the song and liked it. He decided that he wanted to sing it. That singer – “Big Glen” – had many albums under his belt. It was probably quite easy for him to get the rights to sing the song that Larry had written, and although Big Glen couldn’t sing it quite as soulfully or as well as Larry did, Big Glen’s version of the song really caught on.

As a matter of fact, Big Glen’s version made it to number one in the United States and number one in other countries. In the United Kingdom, Big Glen’s version was number four. Glen also won the 1976 prize for the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year.

You see, Big Glen was already big at the time he decided that he was going to sing Larry’s song.

And Big Glen got even bigger by singing Larry’s song. As a matter of fact, no other song served him quite as well as Larry’s song. It became entirely Big Glen’s song, his largest selling single, initially selling over 2 million copies. It was used in multiple ways over the years, and as recently as 2002, Big Glen made a techno-pop version and it went to the top 10 in the United Kingdom. There was also a dance version and a related music video.


I haven’t seen the dance video and I know I don’t want to.

I have, however, listened side by side, to Larry’s version and to Big Glen’s.

Both were good, but Larry’s was better. In a way, I was surprised, but in a way, I wasn’t. When the lines are actually your lines, they mean more. You know what you mean and you know what you meant. You know what you feel and you know what you felt. It’s entirely real. It’s not just some other guy’s story. It’s your own, and you sing it out loud the way it is in your head. I get it.

But anyway, in his interview, Larry displayed no bitterness about how everything went. On the contrary, Larry considered himself extremely lucky that Big Glen had chosen his song. Larry felt that Big Glen’s southern persona added credibility to the song.

(Credibility? I am not being critical of Larry, but how ironic is this? The song is accepted better when sung by the artist who doesn’t know exactly what he’s singing about.)


I find it a little sad to read the tale about how one man’s song about making it big became the song of someone already big, and made him even bigger. Do you know what I mean? Larry made a song and sang it, but isn’t quite so remembered. Big Glen sang Larry’s song and BigGlen is remembered mainly because of it. It went something like that.

And now, you can’t see all that much online about Larry.

In the interview, Larry says that he was quite stunned to find that another one of his songs is played whenever a certain team scores a soccer goal. He watched a YouTube video that showed what was happening with it, and he was just amazed.

In his interview, Larry says that this designer he knows (the subject of the interview) is going to be designing all the fabrics for a hotel. Larry doesn’t emphasize that the very name of the hotel is taken from Larry’s song. No, he just explains how he happened to know the designer who is going to be choosing all the fabrics for the hotel.

I personally have zero interest in the designer, but apparently the designer is the one I’m supposed to Notice.

But anyway, when you type in the name of the song, the primary name associated with it is Big Glen’s.

I know it happens all the time, but consider the words of the song. It’s a song about dreaming how the spotlight “will be on me.” It’s a song by the Little Guy, the Nice Guy who notices that Nice Guys finish last. It’s a song about dreaming and being the dreamer.

Then the singer sings it, and guess what happens? The spotlight is very much not on the one who wrote the words and sang it first. The spotlight goes onto

someone else

just like the song says:

Where hustle is the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away
Like the snow and the rain

No wonder Larry didn’t elaborate about the dirty sidewalks of Broadway.

How could he?

He had already seen, back in 1975

Too much.

The song, which was already so full of meaning when first written, becomes even more meaningful when you consider what happened in relation to the song itself afterwards, and over the years.

I remember Larry’s song. It is special to me as the first radio song that I liked. I used to sing it to myself when I was five.

I remember singing it with gusto while I played outside.

I remember the gigantic sandbox that had clay at the bottom.

I remember Song-Oh, a Korean playmate.

I remember asking my dad what a rhinestone was.

Larry’s mental image of making it big was the image of riding one’s horse into the rodeo ring, where the crowds would gather and watch. The cowboy would ride into the ring, and his shirt would be flashing with rhinestones. At least, that’s what Larry pictured.

Here are the lyrics:

Rhinestone Cowboy, by Larry Weiss

I’ve been walking these streets so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack on these dirty sidewalks of Broadway
Where hustle is the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away

like the snow and the rain

There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo

Rhinestone cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know
Offers comin’ over the phone

Well, I really don’t mind the rain
And a smile can hide all the pain
But you’re down when you’re ridin’ the train

That’s takin’ the long way

But I dream of the things I’ll do
With a subway token and a dollar tucked inside my shoe

There’ll be a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the light is shinin’ on me

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Rhinestone cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know
Offers coming over the phone

Rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo

Rhinestone cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know

Rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo

Rhinestone cowboy
Getting cards and letters . . .

Larry Weiss, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here’s to you, Larry Weiss.

God bless.

Interview of Larry Weiss.