As I reflect on nearly thirty years of acting like this Radio gig has been "a real job," I think back about many of the Country entertainers that I have been lucky enough to meet over the years.

Now please don't misunderstand. I am not bragging about the folks that I have had the pleasure to meet backstage and on the buses. Honestly, most of them act pretty much like the rest of us and just have a very "public job."

I have compiled a list of ten different entertainers that I had a good time with, and/or something about them that made them unforgettable to me.

 

10. Vince Gill - I met Vince back in 2005, after show in St. Louis. I had a friend that worked for Vince's label that invited me to the show and to hangout afterwards. Vince was still hugely popular, and the Country world was his oyster. A very soft-spoken guy that had an incredible wit. We actually ended up talking about people that both of us had played music with "back in the day," when he frequented the St. Louis music scene. One thing I remembered about him was, even though his "handlers" kept reminding him of keeping on schedule, he took his dear sweet time visiting with everyone. It was one big party, and he was in no hurry to leave until he was ready to.

9. Martina McBride - I've always liked Martina. What an incredible voice. What you hear on her recordings is pretty much what you get live. Since Martina and I are the same age, she gives me hope that some things only get better with age. I first met Martina back in 1995, when she was a bright, new talent in Country. Martina was very cordial, and also brought her young children and her husband John, on the road with her as much as she could back then. It can't ever be easy to balance family with career, just like most of us.  She was a sweetheart with her fans and crew. Her professionalism really impressed me, and her voice is like no other. What you see is what you get with Martina.

8. Clint Black - I met Clint back in 1998, when he was beginning a big "comeback" tour that stopped here in Quincy at Quincy Raceways. It was one of the first shows of the tour, and they were still working out the "bugs" with production and the set-list. Clint's road manager told me before the show, that when I met Clint, to not talk to him. I found that rather odd. So, after being introduced, what really is there to talk about, when the other person doesn't talk? I found out that Clint did talk, but only at a whisper, in order to save his voice for the show. He also drank herbal tea and had a vocal warm-up routine that he did before each performance. When I heard him doing it, I honestly thought he was having some sort of attack, or ate some really bad food by the sounds he was making back stage before the show. Turned out that I was wrong, and he put on a nice show.

7. Mark Chesnutt - Mark was a hot Country act back in 1995. He had racked up some number one and top ten hits and was at the zenith of 90's Country music. I was scheduled to introduce Mark as the headlining act of day long Country concert. A few hours before his show, Mark's road manager said that Mark wanted to talk with me on his bus. As I boarded Mark's home on wheels, I realized that he was there all alone. We recorded a brief interview and talked about his music and his career. Being a Texas boy, he asked me if I had ever had Lone Star Beer. I told him that I had, but it had been a few years. That's when Mark opened up a fridge full of Lone Star and handed me one. Well, one Lone Star led to another Lone Star, and before long, we were playing some of Mark's favorite Country songs by other artists on his sound system and we were chatting like old friends. Mark is truly a Country Music historian, and alot of fun. It doesn't matter if he has a major record label or not, he's a "lifer," and as long as there's a club and microphone, he'll be playing music.

6. Neal McCoy - Neal was performing a show here in Quincy, that KICK was hosting. I was asked to accompany Neal around Quincy during the daytime hours before his show, later that evening.  Let me tell you, you've never shopped until you've been shopping with Neal at Quincy Mall. Not only can this guy shop - he was looking for shirts to wear for his on-stage performances, he was very generous. He purchased clothing for children, signed autographs and posed for photos for over two hours. To top it all off, he was traveling in a provided limo, which was parked at the front doors of the Mall. He later traveled down Broadway sticking his head up through the opened sunroof singing and waving at people. Neal was his best promoter, and a really friendly guy.

5. Alan Jackson - What a great experience - to be on Alan's bus talking about what else, but cars. Alan is a certified car nut, and is always on the lookout for his next unique car purchase. We were supposed to be talking about his new music, but ended up discussing old cars and trucks. What you see on stage with Alan is pretty much what you get. He's a fairly quiet guy, with a good sense of humor. It was a fun afternoon.

4. Toby Keith - I met Toby twice in the same summer, as he was in our area performing. This was back in '94 and Toby was recovering from a broken leg that he suffered in a charity football game back home in Oklahoma. During the first visit, he was still in a cast, and it was his first night back out on the road in a month. To say he was eager to be back out on the road was an understatement. I had brought a broadcast unit on his bus to do a "live" interview, and I couldn't get it to work, so I ended up recording the interview. Toby and the crew gave me a hard time about the faulty equipment. Later, the same summer, Toby was finally out of the cast and back in prime condition. I went on his bus to do another interview and he immediately remembered me as the "guy with faulty equipment." We did a live broadcast and this time everything worked, but he jabbed me several times during the interview about my faulty equipment. Toby is very blunt and pretty much speaks without a filter, so it was a challenging live broadcast, but we made it through. I saw him the following year in Nashville, and again, in front of a crowd called me out about the equipment failure. Toby must have a good memory; too good if you ask me.

3. Waylon Jennings - What more do I have to say? It's Waylon. Growing up, he was one of my musical heroes. I had the chance to meet him just a few years before he passed, on his last tour. Backstage it was obvious that Waylon wasn't in the best of health, but once he got out on stage, you could tell that he left all that backstage, and was there to perform. He was a nice guy and one of the few times that I've been "starstruck." He was also kind enough to autograph a guitar for me; that is a prized possession.

2. Merle Haggard - Again, another Country legend. I had the opportunity to meet the Hag before a show in Iowa. I got there early, and when Merle's bus was backing into the parking space at the auditorium, who else was helping the driver guide the bus in, but Merle. That's the kind of guy Merle seemed to be. His bus was a classic, that Merle had owned for many years and had memorabilia from his career hanging from nearly every wall. His crew had their own bus, and this was Merle's personal coach. He was very inviting, and we talked about old music and new projects that he was working on at the time. How many times do you get to sit and chat with someone that is a part of Country music like Merle? It was truly a once in a lifetime experience for a music lover.

1. Garth Brooks - No matter what people say about Garth, the one thing that is agreed upon is that he was an innovator. He took Country Music - especially the live show, to a whole new level, and presented it to a larger audience than ever before. I had the chance in 1989 to meet Garth after a live radio performance at the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree. He had just been signed to Capitol Records and hadn't even released his first single yet. I didn't need convincing that Garth was going to be huge - you could sense it in his live performance. It was an acoustic performance with his guitarist Ty England, and they performed "Much Too Young," and If Tomorrow Never Comes." I caught Garth backstage after their set, and told him I was with a radio station. We talked about his upcoming album, and how he felt this was his one last chance at a music career. If it didn't work out, he was planning on returning to his home state of Oklahoma. I asked him to record some "liners," - Garth reading the station call letters and introducing himself. He thought that was a great idea. Since it was very noisy backstage, the only place that we could find that was quiet enough to record them was a bathroom about the size of an old telephone booth. So there's Garth and me, stuffed in a bathroom with a tape recorder and him reading lines into the microphone. Garth told me that it was the first time that he had ever done anything like that, and I remember telling him that recording them in a bathroom was a first for me as well. We both got a good laugh out of that, and continued to correspond over the years. As his career obviously exploded over the next year, it was very cool to have an "insider view" of this guy and his connection with his fans.

It's been a wild ride, and I've certainly enjoyed some of the experiences that I've had over the years with Country Music.  I've always been glad to have you along on the radio, to share it with me.