STEVE GOODMAN


You Better Get It While You Can (The Ballad Of Carl Martin) Lyrics

I remember when I met Carl Martin
It must have been a dozen years ago
This wise old gent was grey and bent
But his eyes had a fiery glow
He was born April Fool's Day of 1906
Near Big Stone Gap, VA
He could play a little fiddle
And some blues guitar that he'd picked up along the way
But, Jethro, once he put his hands on the mandolin
He lit up just like a Christmas tree
Along with Ted Bogan and Howard Armstrong
They were the best string band I ever did see

Now for fifty odd years they played rent parties
Road houses, concerts and festivals too
At the drop of a hat these three black cats
Would play you every song they knew
It was "Lady Be Good" and "The Barnyard Dance"
And "The Ice Cream Freezer Blues"
Now, they'd trot the oldest chestnuts out
And make every one sound brand new
And the little white boys with their shiny guitars
Would follow right along at their heels
They learned all the words and they learned all the chords
But they never did learn how it feels
Now one night I asked Carl where he got the fire
And he said, 'Steve, you've got to understand
If you want to be someone, you better have some fun
And you better get it while you can.'

He said:
You better get it while you can
You better get it while you can
If you wait too long, it'll all be gone
And you'll be sorry then
It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor
And it's the same for a woman or a man
From the cradle to the crypt
Is a mighty short trip
So you better get it while you can

Carl always had a way to make the good times roll
When the rest of us weren't so sure
He'd just pick out the prettiest woman in the room
And then he'd sing every song to her
Now, one night back East when the gig was done
There was an all night blow-out jam
We played and we sang and we drank for hours
Until the sun came up again
It was blues and ballads, Ragtime, Dixieland, Swing,
Some old time show tunes
And then Carl Martin sang some songs nobody else knew
And some I haven't heard since then
But right before dawn he did two more songs
Just to separate the strong from the faint
It was a red-hot rendition of "The Old Pine Tree"
And a double-time version of 'The Saints'
(With the mandolin behind his head)
And when he was done those of us who could still breathe
Took off our hats to that man
Carl had played everybody under the table that night
And he said, 'You better get it while you can'

It was:
You better get it while you can
You better get it while you can
If you wait too long, it'll all be gone
And you'll be sorry then
It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor
And it's the same for a woman or a man
From the cradle to the crypt
Is a mighty short trip
So you better get it while you can

You know Carl and his buddies never got too far
When he died Martin didn't have a dime
He was a little behind in his payments
And a little bit ahead of his time
Last week some so-called musicians
Stayed up real late and burned one down
The liquor kept coming, so we kept strumming
Til a minute or two before dawn
There were those who stayed and those who faded
But soon I was left all alone
Now I don't believe in ghosts - but I could swear
I heard Carl Martin singing one more song

You better get it while you can
You better get it while you can
If you wait too long, it'll all be gone
And you'll be sorry then
It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor
And it's the same for a woman or a man
From the cradle to the crypt
Is a mighty short trip
So you better get it while you can
You better get it while you can

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Songwriter(s): Steve Goodman
Record Label(s): 1988 Red Pajamas Records
Official lyrics by

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