By Morgan Montalvo
Country musician Matt Hawk of Lytle was looking for the right words and melody to pay tribute to a Devine High School homecoming queen who died when floodwaters swept away her vehicle as she drove home from prom in 2015, and also remind his daughter to always drive responsibly, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
What he describes as a "dark" product took form over a year and a half - until he hit upon the idea of merging his lyrics and music with the National Weather Service's "Turn Around, Don't Drown" public safety warning to motorists to avoid low-water crossings.
"I went ahead and graphed and picked and plucked a few things, and then said "Okay, 'Turn Around - Don't Drown.' and worked around that," Hawk tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
"It was hard; it was super-hard, but I felt blessed when it all came together," he says.
Next, Hawk approached an attorney who works for the National Weather Service, unsure of what her response would be. After hearing his jingle and Hawk's submitting the song for copyright, the NWS accepted his offer to allow the agency to use the product free of charge.
Meantime, Hawk sought out Grammy Award-winning Tejano accordionist Flaco Jimenez about a Spanish-language version of the jingle in order to reach more of the state's Hispanic population. Jimenez readily accepted Hawk's invitation to donate his time and talent to the project.
"This man is world-renowned," Hawk says of Jimenez, who has performed and recorded worldwide with The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana among others. "And now, local yokel me, he's on this PSA with me, which is quite an honor."
The NWS soon stepped up its game, arranging for videos of Hawk singing in front of a low-water crossing barrier with the message "Turn Around, Don't Drown" on a yellow safety placard. The videos, released this week, already are airing on television stations across Texas and as far away as Washington, Idaho, Maryland, and North Carolina.
Hawk also appears in an on-location,10-second public service announcement. Hawk says the death of Devine High School senior Alyssa Ramirez three years ago had a devastating impact on the small town south of San Antonio, and was especially tragic because she was less than a quarter-mile from her home when her vehicle stalled and was swept away by fast-moving water.
Ramirez' death, watching his daughter learn to drive, and thinking how best to help promote the message about the dangers of driving through low-water crossings, Hawk says, was his motivation to finish the song-turned-jingle, often in quiet moments before leaving for work.
"If I can save a life of a mother, a father, a sweet child or a grandfather," says Hawk, "anybody, at any angle you can look at - just because of this small ditty that sticks in your head, then I'm happy. "And that's priceless," Hawk says.
PICTURE COURTESY: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE. USED BY PERMISSION