I remember when I met Carl Martin,
It must have been a dozen years ago.
A spectacular gent, he was old and bent,
But his eyes had a fiery glow.

He was born April Fools Day, 1906,
Near Big Stone Gap, VA.
He could play a little fiddle
And some blues guitar he'd picked up along the way.

But once he got his hands on a mandolin,
He lit up like a Christmas tree.
Along with Ted Bogan and Howard Armstrong
They were the best string band I ever did see.



For fifty odd years they played rent parties
Road houses, concerts, 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".
They'd bring the oldest chestnuts out
And make 'am all sound brand new.

And the little white boys with their shiny guitars,
Would follow right along at their heels.
They learned the words and they learned the chords
But they never did learn how it feels.

Now I asked Carl once how he got the fire.
He said, 'Boy, you've got to understand,
If you want to be someone, you've gotta have some fun,
So you better get it while you can.'

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,
It's the same for a woman or a man.
From the cradle to the crypt
It's a mighty short trip,
So you better get it while you can.

Now 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 sing every song to her.

One night back East when the gig was done
There was an all night blow-out jam.
We Played and we sang and drank for hours,
Till the sun came up again.

It was blues and ballads, Ragtime, Dixieland and Swing,
Some old time show tunes.
And then Carl Martin sang some songs nobody else knew
And some I haven't heard since then.

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 they were done those of us who could still breathe
Took off our hats to that man.
Carl played us under the table that night
And he said, 'You better get it while you can'.

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,
It's the same for a woman or a man.
From the cradle to the crypt
It's 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 on his payments,
And a little bit ahead of his time.

Last week a group of us so-called musicians
Sat up real late and burned one down.
The liquor kept coming and we kept strumming
Till a minute or two before dawn.

There were some who stayed and some who faded,
Till soon I was left all alone.
I don't believe in ghosts - but I could swear
I heard Carl Martin sing one more song.

It went "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,
It's the same for a woman or a man.
From the cradle to the crypt
It's a mighty short trip,
So you better get it while you can."


Lyrics submitted by Roryj

You Better Get It While You Can (The Ballad Of Car song meanings
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