PORT TOWNSEND –– Port Townsend now has its own song, thanks to a Port Townsend resident and his award-winning sister.
Jerry Osborne and his sister Devon Dawson, the singing voice of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl in the movie “Toy Story 2,” wrote the western swing song together earlier this year and are preparing for two concerts in Port Townsend the first week of August.
“I just woke up one morning and heard the song ‘Seattle’ by Perry Como, and thought, you know, most of the bigger cities in the country have a song somewhere along the way about that city,” said Osborne, who hosts a show on KPTZ Radio 91.9 FM in Port Townsend.
“I thought, well, small towns don’t get songs written about them.”
City of Dreams
The city had long been nicknamed City of Dreams, so Osborne already knew the title of the song.
The trick was coming up with the lyrics.
So he called his sister and got her on board with the idea.
Dawson holds a Grammy participation certificate for her part in the Walt Disney CD, Woody’s Roundup, which won Best Musical Album for Children at the Grammy Awards in 2001.
A couple of days later, on April 19, Dawson recorded the first demo and sent it to her brother for his approval.
Though Osborne has extensive experience in the music industry, he himself is not a musician. Osborne has worked in radio since 1962, has written more than 200 music-related books and is a syndicated columnist through USA Today.
“City of Dreams” is the first song he has actually participated in writing.
He helped with the lyrics and packaging for the album and let his sister give it a tune.
Shortly after, Dawson and musician Jessie Robertson recorded the ode to Port Townsend at a studio in a Fort Worth/Dallas area recording studio.
The song is now part of a 19-track CD, also titled “City of Dreams.”
All the songs on the album are about people, places and things, Osborne said.
“I was pretty tickled with it when it got done,” Dawson said.
Every line of the song is filled with mentions of Port Townsend businesses, history and local attractions, he said.
“Its just loaded with all kinds of references to this area,” he said.
“The more you know about the area and the history, the more you can relate to what we put down.”
The song refers to Port Townsend, the City of Dreams, as “where your neighbors don’t mind if you wear corsets or jeans. From quaint and quirky festivals to bein’ serene.”
Dawson, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, has been in Port Townsend several times and is familiar with the town.
Even so, she felt it was important to research more about the “quaint and quirky” town before writing the song.
Dawson said she researched the history of Port Townsend so she could include references to the railroad never coming, the Gold Rush and Native Americans.
“It was hard to come up with a simple sentence fulling all the flavor of Water Street,” she said. But they did.
They decided on “In view of sea and timber, there’s a square mile of dreams, where ‘Officer and Gentlemen,’ sailors and their ladies went bustlin’ in that 1880s Water Street scene.”
Because of her style of music, western swing, Dawson said she had to write about the railroad that never came.
“You have to have a song about railroads,” she said. “It goes hand in hand.”
Dawson typically writes about cowboys and horse culture, she said. But “City of Dreams” is a reminder that the West Coast settlers were part of the West too.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected]