It’s a weekday just after work and Lon Rivers is sitting at a table at Cold Beer Company as the sun sets behind The Case Building, blocking out the last bit of heat as we enter the final stretch of election season.
A white Dodge Journey passes by with a "Beto for Senate" sticker on its back window as Rivers orders a beer and a Maker’s Mark, neat.
Rivers isn’t your typical Dallas musician. He’s definitely local, but don’t expect to see him performing at a venue any time soon.
More of a musical hobbyist, Rivers is really just a man with a song in his heart and a huge ax to grind against the junior senator from Texas, Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz.
“I didn’t write this song for any reason,” Rivers says, “there’s no purpose. I didn’t sit down and say I’m going to do this. I just did what I do — I sit down on Saturday morning, and this is what came out.
“I played it for my wife, and she liked it,” he continues. “So, I thought I’d just put it out there.”
Rivers’ motivation for releasing the song is to contribute to what he perceives to be a dearth of protest songs in American — and especially Texas — culture.
“Well, I hate the guy,” Rivers laughs. “Hate is a gift that I was given. So many people hate him.”
Speaking more seriously, Rivers elaborates.
“One of the things that is most loathsome about Ted Cruz to me is that he’s got this shtick where he thinks he knows what a Texan is," Rivers says. "He’s always saying things like, ‘Socialized medicine, that’s not what Texans like.’ He’s got some ideal, platonic type of what a Texan is and that seems incredibly reductive, right? We’re not ranchers anymore; we’re not wildcatters anymore; we’re not oilmen anymore; we’re just dudes that work jobs.”
The song, both in its lyrical content and its structure, is response to this shtick. Rivers sings in the opening lines, “I’m a Texas taxpayer / And a husband and a son / I’m a worker, a commuter / I like a Shiner when the day is done.”
“I’m a Texas taxpayer / And a husband and a son / I’m a worker, a commuter / I like a Shiner when the day is done.”
But Rivers wants the current senator to understand that the kind of Texan he is attempting to appeal to is not representative of every last Texan in the state: “From now until November / I’m a hellcat on the loose / …I want you to call me / The man who hates Ted Cruz.”
Musically, the song is also a response to this shtick, beginning as a traditional-sounding country song like that of James McMurtry, subsequently exploding into chaotic, cowpunk castigations and back again. The song also features theatrics that may be more suited for 1980s Bay Area punk.
“Punk is country. Country is punk,” Rivers explains. “You go through the lens of class, and you see that there’s always been a defiance with country and a defiance with punk. You’ve got a lot of punks that go off to do a country thing. Supersuckers did their country album … Dave Alvin of The Blasters made Public Domain.”
In the song’s centerpiece, Rivers reminds audiences about the kind of person Texas’ junior senator actually is, and to do so, he paints a lyrical portrait of Cruz during his speech at the Republican National Convention in which he refused to endorse the current president.
“It was like being asked to the prom and not dancing with your date,” Rivers explains. “He stood up there and he reveled in the spotlight, he smiled, he did all of his Ted Cruz things, and then he didn’t do what he was asked to go there for.
“That’s the kind of betrayal that he does. That thing that he did to Trump is the same thing he does to the Texas voter when he goes to Washington — he goes and forgets to vote and cozies up with big money.”
But that barely scratches the surface of the political depth in “The Man Who Hates Ted Cruz.” Also on display in the song is how the senator asked for Trump to campaign for him in the current race, his bailout of his wife’s company, Goldman Sachs, and his failure to match his competitor’s political heft.
Although the song ends with a call for people to vote for O’Rourke in the Senate election, Rivers is careful to say that this is really more of an anti-Cruz song than a pro-Beto song.
“It’s like what Willie [Nelson] says in his new song,” Rivers explains. “’If you don’t like ‘em, vote ‘em out.’”