November 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This post is part of a series that will run throughout this year focusing on songs that address the JFK assassination.
The Crick Gypsies from Cincinnati, Ohio, are a roots band that incorporate a variety of influences. The term “Americana” applies to them, but they use the phrase “Original American Music” to describe themselves. CincyMusic.com describes them as “Bob Dylan and Mike Nesmith busking on the steps of the gilded palace of sin.” In any case, one of their songs, “Jack Ruby’s Hat” offers a clever take on the JFK assassination. When Jack Ruby gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, he was wearing a gray fedora. This image was captured on camera and for a time Jack Ruby was identified as “the man in that hat.”
In the Crick Gypsies’ song the narrator buys Jack Ruby’s hat on eBay. His life becomes filled with chaos and he attributes his bad fortune to the hat. I corresponded recently with Patrick Ewing, who wrote this catchy, lighthearted song.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I ran across a couple of references to Jack Ruby’s hat in past news stories. In 1992 a collector spent $220,000 on the gun Jack Ruby used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, and then spent another $12,100 on the hat he wore that day. In 2009 the hat sold for $53,775. So what inspired you to write the song?
Patrick Ewing: I think I saw that, or a similar post on-line. In the song I say “I got it on eBay.” Got me thinking about Jack Ruby and that Sunday morning. Thinking about how, watching it live on TV as a kid in ’63, I noticed the hat before I saw the gun. Thinking about bad luck in that hat and to all those who wear it. Then it just took off on its own.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: When did you record the song? There’s no date on Bandcamp.
Patrick Ewing: We’ve recorded the song several times but I think the version on bandcamp was done in 2008. The EP on there was done in 2010.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I’ve listened to this song several times now and I think it’s great. I would like to ask you what it all means but I don’t want to over-analyze it. To be honest, though, that’s the way my mind works. So what does Jack Ruby’s hat symbolize?
Patrick Ewing: As far as what the song “means”, I’d say it has to do with the random events in life that change individuals; or in some cases, alter history. Jack Ruby may or may not have been part of a large conspiracy but as soon as he pulled the trigger on Oswald, that image, including his hat, was eternally etched into the global iconography. It all seemed like an improbable coincidence at the time whether it was or not. The narrator in the song passes through a series of unlikely events and his only explanation for any of it is tied to the belief that the hat causes misfortune. Even so, because of its history and mojo, the hat is desired by hipsters worldwide.
Jack Ruby’s Hat
(C) Patrick Ewing, gofertunes music, ASCAP.
Find lots of trouble every place I go
Some of it’s real but you know, a whole lot of it’s just show
I noticed things really started getting crazy like that
On the day I started wearing Jack Ruby’s hat
Playing for tips down at the Barbecue Shack
Woman walks in with a poodle, it’s got a monkey on its back
She said, “Boy you know there’s not much future in that”
She dropped a $100 bill into Jack Ruby’s hat
Thought she was joking from some things that she said
Then the monkey shot the poodle and they left him for dead
Cops showed up about 10 minutes flat
And they took me to jail, they said I stole Jack Ruby’s hat
My court-appointed lawyer working on my appeal
So she had the nerve to ask me if any of this stuff was real
Said I’m not stupid and I’m not getting fat
On the meals I’ve been missing wearing Jack Ruby’s hat
The moral of this story, the twist to this tale
As simple as Simon, the boy that paid my bail
He said, “you know, mister, there’s a whole lot of hip cats
They all wish they were wearing Jack Ruby’s hat”
I’m wearing Jack Ruby’s hat
I got the original
Jack Ruby’s hat
Bought it on eBay
Jack Ruby’s hat
Don’t I look stylish wearing Jack Ruby’s hat?