August 13, 2013- It’s funny how three feet away from you someone can be fulfilling a childhood fantasy while you stand idly by, wondering, “Who is that man, and why is he affectionately fondling Robert’s bicep?” Let me back up…………. Tuesday. One week ago. The Grand Ole Opry. We had just finished a great photo shoot for the University of Tennessee and Knox County Public Library’s reading campaign and were lounging around backstage. The show was still hours from starting and Tom, Robert, Cruz and I decided to head to the Opryland Mall to grab some sandwiches. While Tom, Robert and I were waiting for Cruz in the hallway backstage, a man of both a distinguished age and appearance approached us, hand out- stretched. “Hey, great to meet you!” he said, pumping each of our hands enthusiastically. When he got to Bobby, he took it one step further; grabbing Robert’s bicep and endearingly massaging it with his hands. It’s difficult to explain, but the unusual gesture was not creepy in the slightest; more like an out of town uncle reconnecting with a nephew he had not seen in several years. Robert in turn did what anyone in such a position would naturally do, and flexed his muscle proudly. They stood together smiling ear to ear for a brief second and then the man waved and disappeared into the backstage catacombs of the Opry.
I was the first to break the magic. “Who was that guy?” I innocently asked. Immediately an avalanche of disbelief broke forth within the band. Apparently, “that guy” was Randy Owen, singer of the legendary country band Alabama, who have sold over three million records for every year I have spent on this earth (73 million to date). At the time I only knew Alabama as the band that wrote “Dixieland Delight”, which is a lot like only knowing Abraham Lincoln as the dude from that Daniel Day-Lewis movie (which I never saw). That perception was about to change, however, as I stood side stage for their set later that night and ended up knowing every single one of the four songs they played. Apparently, whether you know it or not, just by virtue of being born in America with a functional pair of ears you probably know at least a handful of Alabama songs. They are that good.
To fill in the rest of the evening… played 3 songs (The Fall, Whiskey Angel, Smokestack) directly before Alabama with special guests Kimber Ludiker (of the incredible Boston based string band “Della Mae”) on fiddle and Matt Menefee (of Big and Rich, and a bunch of other sweet bands) on banjo. It’s amazing when two musicians can come in and rehearse each song once in the dressing room and then absolutely nail it on the Opry stage in front of thousands of people. Trisha Gene’s Mom and (I believe) 86 year old grandma came and cheered us on. And did I mention we got to watch Alabama play?
To fill in on the rest of the week… Great time spent in Kentucky/Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska which involved the following activities (in no particular order) 1. Jammin’ with “The Deadly Gentleman” (Look them up!) 2. Getting a wine named after the band 3. Getting hit by a car while carrying a Subway sandwich 4. Meeting Robert’s niece 5. Driving through lots of corn; along with the usual meeting/seeing friends and amazing people all across this beautiful country.
My computer access is limited, but if there are people out there reading this besides just my mom (even though I love my mom); I (and potentially other Lillies) will try to keep ya’ll periodically updated on our cross country adventures on this blog. Until next time!