Warren Hellman’s last song

At Warren Hellman’s memorial service, Heidi Clare, the fiddler for his band the Wronglers, told the crowd about the first time they played “The Big Twang Theory” just a few days earlier in Warren’s hospital room.

“The doctors gave him some hard news,” Clare said. “He was sitting in a chair, banjo in hand. He listened patiently, and waited for them to stop talking. Then he said, ‘And now I have something for you.’ And we played this song.”

The Big “Twang” Theory by Warren Hellman and Colleen Browne

We were drifting in eternal darkness

Free from joy or pain

When someone plucked a banjo

And the universe began

That single note it amplified

Then sparked and formed our sun

From which burst forth the planets

One by one by one


Pickers, pluckers, plonkers born

To strum, perchance to croon

Drifting through the cosmos

Playing out of tune

The next to come, from space and dust, were

Old-time music bands

With fiddles, guitars, mandolins

Made from these cosmic sands

Then all the country music

The writers could compose

Was created in that instant

And sung through someone’s nose


Great constellations formed

From the Carter Family’s works

Over there big black holes

Where old-time music lurks

Some found the sound appalling

An agony to hear

A true appreciation

Needs at least a case of beer


That single plonk of the banjo

Sparked the music universe

We thought it would get better

But it’s only getting worse

A humongous group of banjos

Strumming old-time tunes

Playing on the planets

Playing on the moon


One thing that’s for certain

It’s been a cosmic trip

Riding through the ether

On this old-time music ship

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