I spent so many years ‘in concert’, I guess it is no surprise that I still enjoy the concert setting whether it’s from the stage, the wings or the audience. This year I’ve gone to a few and look forward to a few more.
SOUTHERN GOSPEL – Earlier this year I went to see Legacy 5. Scott Fowler is an old friend and always a pleasure to see and talk with.
-Debbie and I went to see the Hoppers and visited with them between sets. They are even better on stage than on record and the sweetest bunch of folks you will ever meet this side of heaven.
-Bill Gaither called a few days ago and is going to be in Virginia in October and I plan to be right there cheering him on. (His only prerequisite was that I come early in the afternoon because he said if we got together and got to telling stories and laughing he’d have to have some time before the show to get his voice back in shape. And that is the gospel truth because I have lost my voice more than once laughing before a show. Ask any singer.)
COUNTRY MUSIC – I had plans to see George Jones this past spring when he came to Roanoke with Wilson/Fairchild opening for him. But, of course, those well-laid plans were changed by the good Lord, himself.
-This Saturday night I plan to sit back and enjoy Wilson/Fairchild at the Rockingham County Fair. They always amaze and entertain me and make me proud. (They put a smile on my face that won’t fade for days.)
BLUEGRASS -In about three weeks I’m going to see Daily and Vincent. The best Bluegrass you’ll hear anywhere. (I come in the house just anytime and find a message on my voice mail saying, “Hey, Don and Miss Debbie. This is Jamie Daily. What’s for supper?”)
But this past Saturday night I drove about an hour from the house to the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival to see an old friend, Kris Kristofferson. We go back to the 60s with Kris when he was working as a janitor at the Columbia Studio in Nashville and we were recording for said label. He was sweeping up at nights and pitching songs on the side. He used to come over to our hotel and sing us all of those early classics before anyone else ever heard them. (Just check out on the internet the impressive list of hits he’s written.) I told the story of him and us and “Me and Bobby McGee” in our book, Random Memories, so I won’t repeat it here, but we spent precious hours together in those early years.
Kris went on to change the face of country music for the songwriter and bring an intimacy to the art that no one has ever surpassed. He also went on to the movies and established himself as a star in many fields. And now he’s just standing on the stage, alone, with only his guitar and singing for two hours. Let me say I was hypnotized for the entire time. No one handles a lyric the way he does.
My son, Debo, and I visited with him and his wife, Lisa, on the bus before the show and at intermission and I was consumed by the memories all this conjured up. I hadn’t seen Kris since Johnny Cash’s funeral ten years ago and I didn’t want to miss a possible last opportunity to tell him he was the best lyricist since Berlin.
His songs take me places I haven’t been in years; they bring back a youthful nature and a philosophical whim; and they let me recall a busier and more complicated time of my life that still puts a lump in my throat and a warmth in my heart.
God be with you and travel safe, Kris. I still have that framed copy of “….Bobby McGee.”
Who first said, “A picture is worth a thousand words?”
He was a wise man.
Someone, a treasured fan, emailed this picture to our office this week. I had never seen it. The note with it said it was taken in 1965 at a concert somewhere in New Jersey. If so, and I have no reason to doubt it, it would have been our first year, first months actually, with the Johnny Cash Show. At this time it was just John, June, The Tennessee Three and The Statlers.
I can attest to and confirm that this is for sure The Statler Brothers and June Carter. The extremely handsome young fellow on the far left is, of course, me. The extremely older brother next to me is Harold. Phil is easily recognizable as he has not changed in 48 years. And I say that with all honesty. He has the same amount of hair and still wears the same size jeans he wore as a sophomore in high school. But Lew was the one who struck me with the most interesting fact about the whole picture. That fact being that this was before any of us were wearing facial hair of any kind.
In just a few years after this, Harold, Lew and I would always wear some form of beard, mustache or goatee. But that was not the style yet. It was 1964, I was 19 years old and none of us yet had any wrinkles to cover up so we were clean-shaven and even baby-faced.
And then there is June. We were sort of June’s boys. She took us to fancy restaurants in the big towns. We took her to the movies with us on long winter afternoons in towns across the country and the world and it was like having your big sister with you. She paid for us to join the union, The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, in April of ’64 so we could appear on the” Tonight Show” in New York because none of the four of us had the money to do it on our own. We listened to stories about the early Opry days and Hank Williams backstage with her and then sat around dressing rooms and sang old Carter family songs we all knew. This picture is a result of all that. She had just written a song called “Tall Lover Man.” We worked it up in the wings and came out on her portion of the show and sang it with her.
I look at this picture and just can’t stop looking at it. The memories and the tears keep flooding back. I miss all those folks so much.
July 4, 2013