During the summer of 1947, the dusty New Mexico town of Roswell was very much in the news. It was home to the Roswell Army Air Field, where sections of the Eighth Air Force helped continue tests of the new atomic bomb; it was also a growing oil town, where oil riggers were replacing cowboys in the local honky-tonks and clubs. In early July it became something else; local ranchers found parts of a “flying saucer” that had crashed nearby, along with the bodies of several small “aliens.” A nationwide UFO scare was triggered, and suddenly hundreds of reporters were flocking to the town, asking the Air Force what was going on and accusing the intelligence officers at Roswell of a massive coverup. For weeks the local newspapers were full of the scare, and few people noticed a tiny article on the back pages of the Roswell Daily Record; a local radio singer from KGFL, “Lefty” Frizzell, had been arrested and sentenced to a six-month jail term.
He was a big, strapping boy with thick, curly black hair and an awshucks grin. As he began his jail term—for what he would describe later as “fighting and carrying on”—he was nineteen. He had come to Roswell from Texas to try to make it as a radio singer, together with his young wife, Alice, and their two-year-old daughter, Lois. Times were tough, but the couple scraped by, living in a little trailer on the seedy side of town. They had no car, and when Alice got off work from her part-time job at a restaurant, Lefty would try to meet her to walk her home. Now these precarious arrangements had come crashing down, and the young singer spent his days in the old-fashioned jailhouse, whiling away his hours writing love letters to his wife and wondering whether he could ever pick up his career again.
He also thought a lot about songs. Since he was twelve, he had been trying to write songs—not tough blues or novelties or lonesome ballads, but country love songs, lyrical laments that he could use to show off his