In Search Of A Salty Dog

Just browsing through old pictures again, and I happened across one that includes a really cute little fella. No, not me. I’m referring to the puppy I’m holding, although I have to blushingly admit that I did possess a little touch of cuteness myself (long since lost).

A lot of dogs and a slew of years have passed, blurring any memories I might have had of that particular puppy, but I do recognize the place. medogIt was the corner in front of the big house we inhabited during my pre-school years. And even though I don’t remember the pooch, I’m pretty sure that neither of us would have qualified as a “salty dog”.

Salty dogs have made plenty of appearances in the musical world, and even though we might all have a general idea of the meaning of the phrase, it might be worth pausing for a definition. Most sources broadly define it in one of two ways: a salty dog is either a very experienced sailor (or marine), or a rascally character who might be cantankerous or just raunchy and randy.

So I guess it might be up to each of us to decide if we are in fact a salty dog (or know one), but one thing I’m sure of is that it’s also the subject of a classic song, one that’s been recorded by a long list of artists through the years. Good examples would include an instrumental on “Salty Dog Rag”by the legendary Chet Atkins, and a version that might surprise you because it’s by a guy who was better known for a different kind of music.

In the mid to late 1960s, teen idol Ricky Nelson was moving closer to country music (and calling himself Rick), and he generated a pair of albums that were under-appreciated at the time. But Bright Lights & Country Music, and its followup Country Fever, were both solid collections. One of the tracks on the latter was his version of “Salty Dog,” and there’s not much doubt that Rick was one himself.

Chet Atkins – “Salty Dog Rag” cacd

Rick Nelson – “Salty Dog”rncd

2 thoughts on “In Search Of A Salty Dog

  1. Well I’ll be danged!! Would have lost a lot of money if someone had ever bet me Ricky Nelson had a version of ‘Salty Dog’! And he actually did a pretty fair job on it.

    Anyway, ‘Salty Dog’ has always been a favorite of mine. Given the fact that a lot of bluegrass folks have done the song I was amazed to find out some time back that it’s considered a “folk song” rather than “bluegrass”. On the other hand, I would have to think there is probably a pretty thin line between the folk and bluegrass genre. My personal favorite rendition of this song was put out by Buck Owens in the early seventies.


  2. In recent years I’ve become more of a fan of Rick — or maybe I should say I appreciate his versatility and talent a little more, because I guess I was a fan in the early days too. I think a lot of music lovers — and critics — give him more credit now than they used to. Too bad he didn’t get it before his death.


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