Josh Abbott Band's Dallas Love.
There are a ton of songs about or inspired by Dallas, and they say a lot about who we are. So each week in this space, we'll take a closer week at one of these songs — and we'll try to determine what, exactly, they say about this great city of ours. Check out this feature's archives here.
On September 4, 1913, First Lieutenant Moss Lee Love of the U.S. Army 11th Cavalry became just the 10th fatality in U.S. army aviation history when he crashed his Wright Model C biplane while practicing for his Military Aviator Test.
In October 19, 1917, the newly opened Army flying field constructed just southeast of Bachman Lake was named in his honor. A decade later, the city of Dallas purchased the land and opened it as an airport for civilian service.
This wouldn't be the last time the site was used by the military, though. During WWII, the U.S. Air Force and the Dallas Texas Aviation School used Dallas Love Field to provide level-1 flight training at the airport up.
Since then, the airport's seemingly amorous moniker, Dallas Love Field, has lent itself to rampant use as double-entendre in popular songs — and especially ones in the country genre. (See Willie Nelson's “Dallas” which we've featured in this column a while back.)
Perhaps the most recent example of this comes from the Lubbock-based red dirt country outfit the Josh Abbott Band, whose song, “Dallas Love” appears on their 2012 album Small Town Family Dream. As one might guess, lines in the song such as “Sorry your flight was so rough / We're ten minutes away from Dallas love” reference not only his plane's destination, but the lady friend he's anticipating encountering upon arrival at the gate.
On the otherhand, lines like, “I'm almost there to hold you, Dallas love” have a markedly more singular meaning.
But in between the time Dallas Love was opened as an army flying field to the time Abbott began viewing it as a conduit making his long-distance romance possible, the city's first airport developed a rich history of its own.
Some quick stats: In 1939 The Official Aviation Guide shows 21 weekday departures from the airport. Nine were from American, eight by Braniff and four via Delta. According to stats from 2007, the airport averaged 677 flights per day. By 2010, 7,960,809 passengers were passing through the airport on an annual basis.
With all that traffic, it should stand to reason that some pretty notable events have taken place there, too. And that true, of course. It's no wonder, really, that Dallas Love Field became an official Texas State Historical Site in 2003.
For instance, when John F. Kennedy arrived in Dallas on the day of his assassination on November 22, 1963, Dallas Love Field was the landing spot for Air Force One. Aboard that parked Air Force One was where Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as president prior to its departure hours later. Johnsons remains the only president sworn into office on Texas soil. That makes sense for Johnson, too. The lifelong Texan was born and died on his family's ranch in Stonewall, Texas.
In total, there have been 19 accidents at Dallas Love Field involving planes landing at or taking off from the airport. Seventeen of those occurred either before or during 1976, though. The deadliest of those crashes involved an American Airlines flight sliding off a runway in 1949. The plane crashed into a business across the street from the airport and killed 28 people. At the time, it was the deadliest air disaster in Texas history.
Not all of Love Field's notable moments involve deaths, though. For instance, in 1972, Braniff Flight 38 was hijacked en route to Dallas. When Houston resident Billy Gene Hurst arrived at Dallas Love Field, he allowed all 94 passengers aboard the Boeing 727 to deplane while continuing to hold the flight's seven crewmembers hostage. He insisted on being allowed to fly to South America and demanded food, cigarettes, parachutes, jungle survival gear, $2 million and a gun from the authorities. Later, while examining the package delivered to him by local police officers, a distracted Hurst inadvertently allowed his hostages to sneak off the plane. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
But Abbott's lyrics are even more specific than just mentioning the airport by name. In the line “I'm headed southwest for Dallas love,” he also throws in a double entendre namedropping the airport's largest carrier. Established in 1967 and headquartered at Dallas Love Field, Southwest Airlines is the world's largest low-cost carrier, and the largest operator of Boeing 737s in the world, boasting a fleet of 535. Each of those planes averages six flights per day.
Nowadays, the airline has 46,000 employees and operates more than 3,400 flights per day, servicing 78 destinations in 38 states. Locally, the carrier makes 124 daily departures to 15 cities, all nonstop.
Southwest too has a few interesting anecdotes in its long history.
For instance, Southwest avoided Federal regulations for the first three years of its existence by flying only to destinations within the state. As one might imagine, this pissed rival carriers off. Braniff, Trans-Texas and Continental Airlines attempted for years to sue the airline. Later, author Winifred Barnum turned the ordeal to a children's book in 1983. Titled Gumwrappers and Goggles, the story tells the tale of a small jet named TJ Love (who was painted in Southwest's colors) taken to court by two big mean jets (colored to look like Braniff and Continental) looking to keep him from flying or from coming near their hangar.
Another milestone came in 1980 when Southwest hired its first black pilot, Louis Freeman. Later, Freeman became the first chief pilot of any major U.S. airline. The first black pilot in the country to fly for a major commercial airline, though, was hired by the Fort Worth-based American Airlines in 1964. For the record, though, David Harris' hire came 14 years before the previously Manhattan-based airline made its move to the Metroplex.
In 1992, Southwest was involved in another, somewhat playful lawsuit with rival Stevens Aviation as both were currently using the slogan “Plane Smart” in advertising campaigns. To settle the matter, CEOs for both companies agreed to stage a three-round arm wrestling match at the now-demolished Dallas Sportatorium. Terms of the agreement included the loser having to pay $5,000 to the charity of their choice. The winner got to keep the slogan. In a humorous promotional video for the event created by Southwest Airlines, CEO Herb Kelleher was seen “training” for the bout using a cigarette and a glass of Wild Turkey whiskey as motivation while doing sit ups.
It's possible, too, that Abbott's lyrics are simply referring to a love connection he made with one of Southwest's historically attractive flight attendants. When the airline first launched, their motto was “Long Legs and Short Nights,” and the stewardess were hand-selected by a committee that included at least one individual who had previously assisted Hugh Hefner in selecting hostesses for his first Playboy jet. Reportedly, the attendants, whose uniforms consisted of hot pants and go-go boots, were selected because of their “unique personalities.”
To steal a line from the great Conan O'Brien, in the years after, “personalities” were eventually renamed “breasts.”