I grew up in a little town in N.E. Texas listening as the Big Band Era music of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Spike Jones, slowly evolved, then exploded into Rock and Roll.
I was mesmerized while listening as “Classic” country music came through the mono radio speaker emitted the sounds of The Grand Ole Opry and The Louisiana Hay ride. Hank William's songs ruled that brief era in my life, as Hank introduced me to country, rock, and blues!
Then almost overnight, Tommy Dorsey’s fantastic trombone solos, changed like an unexpected tornado arriving at my front door, and Bill Haley And The Comets burst through the radio’s speaker, playing “Rock Around The Clock”. Soon that was followed by Carl Perkin’s “Blue Suede Shoes”, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire”, Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue", and Elvis Presley’s “You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog”.
I fell in love with music and I was surrounded daily by the sounds of Texas singers and songwriters, led by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys and the Light Crust Doughboys, kicked my new found passion into high gear.
I first picked up a guitar when I was 6 years old but was unable to do it justice at the time, however my love of music directed me to another instrument, the slide trombone, and I managed to become a member of the High School Marching Band for a few years, but my romance with the trombone faded when I first heard Buddy Holley and Elvis singing their music as they strummed and picked their guitars. I quickly noted that their female audiences loved singers with guitars, so I decided to follow their lead.
In my teenage years until my early 20’s, more Texas country, gospel, and blues singers and song writers came to my attention; Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightning Hopkins, Lead Belly, Big Mama Thornton, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzel, George Jones, Tex Ritter, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Don Williams, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), Lead Belly, Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbison.
After confirming my theory about guitars and women’s responses to them, I traded in my trombone on a 6 string acoustic guitar and traded a case of beer to a cowboy to give me my first and only legitimate guitar lesson. He taught me the chord progressions of the key of C and I played the 4 chords over and over again, as I sang Johnny Cash songs.
It didn’t take long for me to begin emulating other artists that were becoming prominent in the early and mid 60’s; Eric Burton and the Animals and The Rolling Stones.
Texas songwriters and entertainers continued to gather momentum and eventually, I harvested the sounds of Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wiley Hubbard, Buck Owens, Ray Price, Mickey Newbury, Townes Van Zandt, Janis Joplin, ZZ Top, Asleep at the Wheel, Jerry Jeff Walker, Billie Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Mac Davis, Don Henley, Freddie Fender, and Delbert McClinton.
In 1966 I left Texas and headed to Quantico, VA to study war and after receiving my commission as a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps, I was off to Vietnam.
One of the first things I did when I landed in Vietnam and got settled, was to buy a cheap guitar. I then proceeded to understand that I could get paid to entertain.
April 1967 Shenandoah Valley
Battle of Hue, Vietnam 1968
I became a professional musician in Vietnam and got my first paying gig in a combat zone, if it is fair to say that singing and playing for drinks in tips, counts as a “paying gig”. My Venue was a plywood constructed Officer’s Club in PhuBai, where I played (when not being deterred by rocket and mortar attacks from an unseen audience who was set on insuring that our side didn’t have very much fun) the songs of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Roger Miller.
Every morning a familiar “Wake Up” call would come through my cheap transistor radio, “Good Morning Vietnam” which would introduce me to the events of the world and new music and new singers whom I had never heard of before.
One night in 1967 or 1968 (my tour of duty), sitting on the ground with a make shift movie screen, I saw a movie called Nashville Rebel starring a guy named Waylon Jennings (who had been Buddy Holly’s bass player the night of the air plane crash which took the lives of Buddy, Richey Valens, and The Big Bopper). That was seven years before Waylon and Willie would shake up America with their Outlaw Country Music. By then, I was already doing Waylon’s old music, so I jumped on the bandwagon quickly and started doing only Outlaw Country.
After returning from Vietnam, and upon discharge from the Marine Corps, I took my guitar, car, and brand new suit, and headed to Los Angeles and the Corporate World. I was about to discover the entertainment world and Hollywood, my next stop along life's highway of adventures.
Marina Del Rey & Hollywood, 1971
Univ. of Massachusetts, learning the procedure of Angioplasty, circa 1980
My life in the very early 1970’s became very exciting as I began hanging out in Hollywood’s “Ye Little Bar” with entertainers, sports stars, and actors. I started singing Neil Diamond songs at Kelly’s Steak House in Marina Del Rey, where I lived. No contract was signed, but in exchange (a little barter) for my songs, I would get paid good scotch and prime rib for my effort.
Playing and Singing for drinks in tips and living in Marina Del Rey and Hollywood wild life was a fantastic learning experience and lifestyle for me in those days
But armed with a Bachelor's Degree and eventually an M.B.A., Corporate America continued to pull me into it’s financial growth structure, and on New Years Day 1973, I left Marina Del Rey and arrived in Denver, then a cow town, and found myself once again playing my music to audiences that were into Outlaw Country music.
I had promised myself to become as successful in the new field of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Cardiovascular Product Manufacturing Sales, and so put my music aspirations on hold for a year after arriving in Denver, and embedded myself in the science of learning as much as I could about the field of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Surgery, and Radiology. I was fascinated by the opportunity of developing an expertise in the development and use of products that could make a significant impact on the well being of patients throughout the world.
And after dedicating my time to the medical learning process, after a year I once again took my guitar out of the case, tuned it up and continued my love affair with music.
During my life I've always been surprised at how, I always meet like minded people that add to my life's experience. And in 1973, I met two people who would add to my life experience in music. Tommy McDonald and his cousin Lamar Fike, who was the creator of The Memphis Mafia and best friend to a man who had acquired the moniker, The King Of Rock n' Roll.
Tommy and Lamar brought me through the backdoor of the Elvis Presley Organization, and until Elvis' death in 1977 I was able to become involved in the excitement of a lifetime and started writing for Lamar's Publishing Company in Nashville.
And after Elvis' death, Tommy and Lamar became well known in the Publishing and Management Business, and introduced me to the Super Stars of the Country, Rock, and Blues Music Industry.
Wow! And that opportunity continues even until today and it seems will follow me to the grave. I was blessed by my two adopted brothers. Sadly Lamar passed in 2011 leaving Tommy and I, a little emptier than it was.
In 2016 our close friend Harold Eggers, Townes Van Zandt's Road Manager for over 20 years, and L. E. McCullough, published Elvis: Truth, Myth, and Beyond, a tribute to Lamar. I had the pleasure of writing a few pages of the book explaining what it was like to have been allowed access to what I called "Riding In The Backseat Of A Tsunami".
I stayed in the Corporate world until 2004, enjoying a lucrative and significant career in the medical industry, focused on sales, marketing, and training, and I had the privilege of being trained by the world renowned:
I developed a moderate degree of expertise in:
Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiology and Radiology
My business career accomplishments included:
Training of Domestic Cardiology Sales Forces in Diagnostic & Interventional Cardiology
Trained International Sales Forces from India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaysia
Strategic Sales & Marketing Planning during pre-launch and implementation. Introduction Of Interventional Cardiology into USA
Training & Proctoring of Clinical Sites for Regulatory Pathway Compliance.
I thoroughly enjoyed my career during those 30 plus years, but corporate careers do end and like many who enter into retirement, I wasn't satisfied with saying, "I used to be a -"!
Fortunately for me, after stumbling for a couple of years, desperately trying to re-invent my once exciting and fulfilling life, I found what I was looking for.
Tommy McDonald, Little David Wilkins, Lamar Fike, and Bill Sparkman, Nashville 1978
Fireside Session, Nashville 1978
My answer came to me in a split second. Aerosmith's song "It's Amazing" expresses that moment in time, when clarity of vision occurs. "In the blink of an eye, you finally see the light".
My answer to the question, "What am I going to do for the rest of my life?", had been right in front of my face all the time.
I would return to my passion, Music, and be able to look the world in the eye and say, "I'm a singer and songwriter"!
It was the winter of 2011 and very bored with the retirement life, I was wintering in Carmel, California, sitting on my front porch across from The Golden Baugh Performing Arts Theatre, where a tribute performance of old time rock and roll was playing for 2 weeks.
I listened as wonderful entertainers did a performance featuring the tribute songs of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, James Brown, Richey Valens, The Big Bopper, and others who were truly the innovators of the Rock and Roll era.
As I listened to the music of the exciting young professional singers and actors, it occurred to me that I had at one time, in my younger life, played all the songs the repertoire group played that night.
I’ve always been a dreamer, but after hearing their marvelous performance, I decided to get back into the entertainment and songwriting world, which had once meant so much to me.
I owe the Golden Baugh Management and the amazingly talented performers a very big - Thank You!
My connections in the music industry, like me, are now older and probably, just a little wiser. The industry and the music have changed, but the Classic Rock, Country, and Blues music that so many people grew up with, remain.
The younger people are now discovering the history behind the music of yesterday, and I believe there is a “Revival” of the music my friends and I sing. When I'm performing, I see the full gamut of all the past genres. But what I think is exciting, are the responses from all generations, from infants to seniors. Some are now calling the music Americana, but no matter what the label reads, our music brings forth the primordial responses of the majority of those who enjoy music.
One thing that continues to thrive amongst those of us who continue to play the music from the past, is the actual love of the music we lived. As Bob Seger has written, "We got one thing in common, we got The Fire Down Below!"
We'll be playing until we die, because we made our "Bones" in this music and will play it, because we are our music!
Self-fulfillment and self-promotion is a good thing at my age, especially in the music business, as proven by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. There are no limits to creativity!
For now, I'm delighted to once again enjoy being able to perform and write my music.
If by chance you’re in need of some music, for a song or two, or even 500 songs, I would love to play for you, your friends, or your venue.