Maybe you saw the news story this past week about the man who traveled from England to Spain on his girlfriend’s passport. Kind of scary. But it reminded me of a long-ago incident in my travels that I hadn’t thought of in years.
It was January 1980 and I was serving a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Country Music Association (CMA). We had quarterly meetings each year but only one of them took place in Nashville. The other three were in other American cities and often out of the country. This particular meeting was to be held in Jamaica and back then that trip required no passport – just a birth certificate. I have always kept a passport handy and updated on file for any travel that was necessary but this one seemed like a snap, so while packing I grabbed my birth certificate and put it in my brief case and was ready to go.
I flew to Miami, went through the proper customs; flew out of Miami; landed in Jamaica and went through the proper customs there, also. I spent three full days at the meeting and then returned using the same route and duties. Each time I was asked for my birth certificate and another form of I.D. (driver’s license), I showed it, a person in uniform studied it, handed it back and on I went.
It was on the last leg of the flight home when, for some reason now lost to time, I looked closely at the birth certificate I had been using and realized it was my son’s birth certificate. His name is Donald Sidney Reid II so it is understandable that the name passed without notice but he was born in 1968, which if it was to be noticed and believed by the authorities in charge of the borders, I was twelve (12) years old according to this official paper I was carrying. This official paper that is required by law in order to go from one country to the other.
So even now as then, it doesn’t seem the folks in charge always pay attention to what they’re supposed to be doing. Still kind of scary, ain’t it?
DSR April 7, 2014
It wasn’t until I got up this morning that I realized it was March 8. And then like a thunderstorm on a summer evening it came over me just exactly how much this day meant to me.
It was one half century ago that our, the Statler Brothers’, professional career started. If you have our book, Random Memories, pages 20 and 21 will tell you most of the story. If you don’t have it, here goes.
We had made contact with Johnny Cash as he toured through the Shenandoah Valley and he liked what he heard. He promised us a job and after months of waiting and re-contacting, a date was finally set for us to meet up with him for a concert. It was to be in Canton, Ohio on Sunday afternoon on March 8, 1964. We had no idea where that was as none of us had ever been that far from home. But we quit our day jobs and headed out in an old beat up Cadillac pulling a homemade sheet metal trailer with our clothes and instruments packed tightly inside. We had that one date promised us with the Cash show and then we were heading either to New York or Nashville and find our way in this thing called the music industry.
Just three days before we pulled out, John’s agent called and said that leg of the tour would last for eight days and would we be available for the whole trip. Would we ever! No money was discussed. We were ready to do it for free just to get on the stage with Johnny Cash.
We pulled out of Staunton, the four of us, with a funny little man named Carleton Haney who was a local promoter, a Bluegrass enthusiast and the person who had originally introduced us to John. He was sitting up in the backseat between two of us and he sang fiddle tunes all the way from Virginia to Ohio. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard anyone sing a fiddle tune but after the first two notes, they all sound alike. I remember dozing off for an hour or so and waking up and he was still singing those fiddle tunes. No lyrics. Just a high and constant dood-lee dood-lee dood-lee. After five decades, I can still hear it in my dreams.
We arrived in Canton early on a Sunday morning, checked into the George Washington Hotel, then showered, shaved and dressed and went to church – a habit we practiced often throughout our career as our travel schedule would allow. Four Presbyterian-raised boys saying a final prayer at the First Baptist Church of Canton before going to the Memorial Auditorium and getting ready for the most important 2:30 matinee of their lives. Except when we got there, nobody knew we were coming.
It was an all-star show and we met folks on that first day who would become lifelong friends. On the show was: The Duke of Paducah, George Hamilton IV, Sonny James, Bill Anderson, June Carter and, of course, John, who never showed up until it was time for him to walk on the stage and none of the others knew we were supposed to perform at all. But everyone was so friendly and accommodating and we got a 12-minute spot to do a couple of songs and all was well.
Between the afternoon show and the evening show, John hired us officially and gave us some cash to travel on. To this day I cannot remember how much it was but it paid for the gas and hotels for the next week. We sang songs for all the troupe in the dressing room. We were taking requests. Everything from old country songs to folk songs to hymns. If we knew it we sang it. If not, we faked it. We hit the stage that Sunday night with John and June and the Tennessee Three and sang backup on songs that we never rehearsed and had only heard on the radio. It was a magical day and storybook night.
Luther Perkins, John’s guitarist, who invented the boom chicky boom Cash sound, asked us to sing How Great Thou Art for him just before we went on stage that night. We did and he cried. And years later, we sang it at his funeral and we cried.
There are so many people I miss from fifty years ago. So many who passed through my life and left their indelible imprint but most importantly left their memory. I cherish and honor each one of those folks who had a hand in making me who I am.
Never a March 8 goes by I don’t thank God for every one of them.
DSR- March 8, 2014