But an important list of artists covered Dobson songs. "The Ballad of Robin Wintersmith" became a staple of Nanci Griffith's repertoire. David Allan Coe's version of "Piece of Wood and Steel" was a centerpiece of the 1974 chart-busting Outlaw Country classic Once Upon a Rhyme (that included Coe's signature anthem "You Never Even Called Me by My Name"). Guy Clark used Dobson's "Old Friends" as the title track to his 1988 album. So eventually some mailbox money began to arrive, but Dobson continued his Sal Paradise life as a traveling beat poet with a guitar. Dobson could never have been a Nashville pretty boy, and his work at all times embodies the traits we now automatically ascribe to "real" Texas music: unaffected delivery, lyrical realism, more grit than gloss.
In 1998, Dobson published The Gulf Coast Boys, a chronicle of the life and hard times of the Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys (Townes Van Zandt, Rex Bell and Mickey White, along with their psycho drinking buddy Johnny Guess, who is portrayed in the book as "JJ Wanker"). An existential dharma bum's look at the birth (and afterbirth) of what we now refer to as Texas music, the book received serious critical acclaim. (Hemmer Ridge and flatpicker extraordinaire White will accompany Dobson on his current tour.)
While Richard Dobson never attained the cachet and visibility that Van Zandt has achieved, when they carve the Texas singer-songwriter equivalent of Mount Rushmore, Richard Dobson will be right there with Van Zandt, Clark and Earle.