My Favorite Part
I spent most of this past week in Nashville with my sons, Debo and Langdon, and ran into some old friends.
It has long been a standard that I represent the Statler Brothers in most all interviews. When we were touring, I would often do eight to ten radio interviews per day from my office the week before a tour began. I also did the magazine and newspapers by phone with my feet propped firmly on my desk or in person before or after the concerts in the respective cities we played. We all four had our duties that we looked after and this just happened to be mine. (The reasons for this were either I didn’t mind doing them or Harold, Phil and Jimmy didn’t want to do them and often both.)
I got the call a few weeks ago from the office of Ken Burns, producer of many television specials for PBS. You have probably seen his documentaries on Baseball or Jazz or The Civil War and many, many more. They all have been successful and well done. But this call was about one of his new projects, The History of Country Music. And what better way to get that oral history than from the folks most involved in it through the years. They were booking singers, songwriters, record producers, music publishers, musicians, managers and anyone who knew the difference between Hank Williams, Sr. and Hank Williams, Jr. So I agreed to go to Nashville and lend what I learned about the industry in the forty years the Statlers spent as part of it.
Last Tuesday I spent two and a half hours in front of their cameras giving them answers to all the questions they asked. When I finished, Johnny Rodriquez was due to follow me but he missed his flight from Texas, so the crew took an extra-long lunch. Reba was next and then on and on and I’ve lost track of the order after that, but I did pick up on something you might find interesting. The first interview for this production was done in 2012. The first interviewee was Little Jimmy Dickens. He was 92 years old at the time and they wanted to be sure to get him on tape before it was too late. (Of course, he lived two more years even after that. What a total character he was.) But the real kicker is this documentary is not due to air until 2019. That means it will be seven years in the making by the time we all get to see it. So don’t pop any popcorn just yet or make any specific plans to be home when it airs. There’s plenty of time to set the DVR.
While in town, I ran into Jan Howard in a bookstore and we caught up and reminisced about the old Cash days. We toured a lot together back then. (You might know that the Statlers were on Johnny Cash’s “Daddy Sang Bass” single and that that was Lew and I singing, “me and little brother would join right in there”, but did you know that it was Jan singing, “Mama sang tenor”? Most people assume it was June, but not so.)
Songwriter, Bobby Braddock, was in the same Barnes and Noble the other night promoting his new book. Bobby not only wrote one of the best country songs ever, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, he also states in his new book that the Statlers recorded the first two top ten records he ever had in his career. The two songs were “Ruthless” and “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith, Too.” (I was 22 years old when we recorded those numbers. Wow!)
And while I was in town, we had lunch one day with old friend, Bill Anderson. He picked us up at the hotel and we ate and laughed for an entire afternoon until we could no longer do either. (An ironic thought just crossed my mind. Bill and Jan Howard recorded a song of mine, “We”, as a duet many years ago on their “For Loving You” album.)
I like going back to Nashville from time to time. It was a second home to us our entire career. We recorded there; did TV there; and made a lot of memories and friends there. The town was good to us and I always like where it takes my heart and mind for a few days.
And speaking of the old times, Monday, October 26 is the 13th anniversary of our retirement. The DVD of that final concert just went gold for the second time. I certainly thank you for that. Folks ask all the time if I ever watch that video. Well, sometimes I come across it when I’m channel surfing because it plays a lot on TV, and when I do, I usually have to watch my favorite part.
Singing “Amazing Grace” with Harold, Phil and Jimmy was, is, and always will be my favorite part.
Saturday afternoon, October 24, 2015 DSR
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