Charlie Dunn 1898-1993

Charlie DunnI practically grew up with a song named “Charlie Dunn”, written and sung by country western icon Jerry Jeff Walker. Chances are, you may not have heard the of song or even the performer, but apparently a lot of folks still remember and sing this song about the Austin bootmaker. They sang it at Charlie’s funeral.

You can hear the song on YouTube, complete with some old stills on the video, one of which I ripped off.

There really was a Charlie Dunn. Chances are, if you did hear of him, you know him through this enchanting 1960’s Jerry Jeff Walker song. I know the song from Jerry Jeff’s first album, which sadly I don’t have. I believe it was named simply “Jerry Jeff Walker.”

You can find a bio on Dunn at FamousTexans.com [site no longer available 2013]; complete with lyrics to the song.

It took me three years to rediscover these notes of mine and post them, but you never really forget Charlie once you hear the song. Charlie made mighty fine boots. I always appreciated fine leather, but I never owned a pair. He sold to the stars.

I had researched this on Google after finding out there was a real Dunn in The New Yorker, of all places. It is buried in an article about singer and songwriter Lyle Lovett, by Alec Wilkinson (Profiles, “HOMEBOY, The world of Lyle Lovett, The New Yorker, March 1, 2004).

Wilkinson writes the Lovett’s boots are made in Austin, Texas, by a man named Lee Miller:

He went to a bootmaking college in Oklahoma. Each year, an old bootmaker in Austin named Charlie Dunn hired the student who graduated first in the class. Miller went to work for Dunn, who was in the habit of driving off his employees. Miller grew accustomed to being fired, then arriving home and having Dunn call and hire him back. “He was from the old days,”, Miller says, “when you said it like it as, then regretted it later.” Dunn died in 1993 — he was ninety-five — and Miller took over the business.

The lyrics to the song are also posted all over. You can find them on the Famous Texans link. If found them first on “100% Legal MP3 Downloads” (I have a tape of the record so didn’t do the download). I’ve re-posted them below.

Well if you’re ever in Austin Texas
A little run down on your sole
I’m gonna tell you the name of an old man to see
I’m gonna tell you right where to go
He’s working in Capitol Saddlery
He’s sewing in the back of the place
His name is Charlie Dunn the little frail one
With the smile and the leathery face

[Chorus]
Charlie Dunn, he’s the one to see
Charlie done the boots that are on my feet
It makes Charlie real pleased to see me walkin in these
Charlie Dunn, he’s the one to see

Charlie’s been makin boots over there
He says about fifty some odd years
And once you wear a pair of his hand-mades
Boy, you’ll never wear no store-bought pair
Charlie can tell what’s wrong with your feet
Just by feelin’ ’em with his hands
And he can take a look at the boots you wear
And know a whole lot about you, man

Chorus

[Bridge]
And ol’ Buck’s up front he’s countin’ up his gold
Charlie’s in the back patchin’ up the soles
All the people comin’ in smilin’ at him
They all wonder how’s ol’ Charlie been
Buck’s makin’ change but he never ever sees no one
And he never understood a good thing ol’ Charlie done

Charlie’s never had his name on a sign
He don’t put a mark in the boot
He just hopes you can remember him
‘Bout the same way that he does you
He keeps your measurements in a little book
So you can order more boots later on
Well I’m writin’ down ol’ Charlie’s size
I’m a makin’ him up a song

Chorus

Buck’s up front but he never ever sees no one
And he never understood a good thing ol’ Charlie done

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2 thoughts on “Charlie Dunn 1898-1993

  1. A note to us from Megan Pierce, who is researching the old building where Charlie Dunn made his boots. DO check out Megan’s links:

    Thank you so much! I know it has been very difficult to find any older information on the building. Here is the small amount that I have found so far, http://www.palazzolavaca.com/#!history
    And here is a short video of what we have worked so hard to create from this historic building filled with stories of our grandfathers, we love to get to share the building and the history we have found so far, it is truly special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4on-54BesU
    Thank you very very much for you help.
    Megan

  2. Thank you Alexander for sharing our links! We love to allow others to see the rich history and amazing transformation that has been created on this property!

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