November 14, 2013
Many of you have emailed expressing how much you like my road stories, so this week I’d like to talk about a job that I had that was really a road story, however we flew commercial airlines most of the time and chartered private aircraft the rest of the time.
I was doing a session one day with some of Nashville’s finest musicians when the keyboard player asked me if I’d be interested in working with Lynn Anderson. I expressed that I would be very interested if the money was right.
He said that he was sure that it would be, that he was the band leader and he would consider me on the job. I would be replacing Paul Franklin and Russ Hicks. This sounded like a heck of a deal to me.
The deal was we’d have to fly everywhere and we would all meet at the airport at the appointed time, get in line with all our equipment, clothes bags, etc. and be ready to load when the airline said to.
Things were different back then. Airplanes were not as solid and they were a lot more forgiving about overages on baggage. However, I know Lynn had to pay extra at the time.
It was a pretty good way to travel since many of our trips were a long distance from Nashville. I remember one morning about six months later when Nashville was flooded real badly. Opryland was under about 3 feet of water and I had to be at the airport at 10 AM for departure.
I had to go past Opryland on the interstate which was closed due to the flooding, but being afraid I’d miss the plane, I drove my new 260Z through the water which was quite a long haul. After I had gotten well into the water I realized that one of the problems with driving through floods is knowing where the road is under you.
I was worried about the car stalling out which it didn’t, but I remember hearing the fan blades scooping up water in the engine compartment. When I got out of the flooded portion of the interstate, I drove as rapidly as I could and made it to the airport in time to find out the flight had been delayed an hour. This was typical of our airline travel.
At times we would charter private aircraft from a company at Nashville International Airport. This was superior in some ways and inconvenient in others.
After I learned her arrangements on hit records she had, the main one being “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”, I realized I didn’t need to carry a heavy double neck guitar. I went down to Sho-Bud one afternoon and asked them what they had in a light single neck guitar. Harry Jackson looked at me sarcastically and said, “How about a Maverick with no knee levers?” and then laughed.
I said, “That sounds like a great idea.” I knew I could do my parts on her show with a single neck guitar with just 3 pedals on it and I liked the tone of the guitar a lot better than the double neck I had been playing.
So this cut my total baggage down to 45 pounds instead of 105 pounds. We started making the booker furnish amplifiers so this cut me down another 65 pounds which made it a lot handier running from terminal to terminal during flight transfers around the U.S. and Canada.We flew so much that I got to know most of the stewardesses by their first name after a year or so, which was handy for more than one reason. I worked for about 7 years with Lynn and must say I enjoyed it very much.
The reason I left was because I was getting a lot of recording sessions that were getting in the way of this wonderful job with her so I had hard choices to make.
Lynn treated us about as good as we could possibly be treated. I remember playing Vegas for a week plus a few days and instead of putting us in a hotel or motel, she rented a house for a month, furnished us with a rental car and bought several of our meals.
These are things you don’t really expect a star to do.
Several of us had never been to California before so during one of her engagements in this beautiful state, rather than flying to the actual cities we were playing in, we flew to Los Angeles and rented two station wagons, took the scenic highway up the coast and then over to Sacramento and Fresno.
Although I was kind of grouchy at first having to travel in a couple rental cars, I soon realized the reason she wanted us to travel by car. California is a beautiful state like I’d never really seen.
Another advantage of playing with Lynn was the fact that she primarily only booked IBM conventions and big rodeos. I didn’t like the dust or the heat or cold playing on the back of a flatbed truck, but the pay was still good and we usually worked with several other great internationally known bands.
I largest crowd I ever worked for was the New York State Fair where there were over 80,000 people in the audience. Bob Hope was on the show and we rehearsed a routine with him. I enjoyed seeing and talking to him until he asked me if I played golf. I admitted that I did not and that was the end of the conversation.
I enjoyed working with the New York Symphony Orchestra that was backing us up with full written arrangements which we always carried with us and I paid little attention to it.
It seems like every job we did was more interesting in some way than the one before it.
The great steel playing friend of mine that had become a good friend of mine while working in Nashville with Tommy Cash, I’m sure he is known to most of you. His name is Darryl Davidson. I was very distressed to hear of his death in New Mexico. He was a wonderful C6th player. I learned much of his knowledge studying from the greats, Tom Morrell, Billy Braddy and Maurice Anderson.
Darryl was a wonderful player and I’ll miss not being able to hear him again.
Remember, if you need volume control pots, hats, t-shirts, the world’s finest strings or any other accessories to order online from the website or give us a call at 615 822-5555. As always we appreciate your business and your friendship.
The North Tennessee Steel Guitar Club Christmas Party is the day after our workshop so you can attend both events on the same weekend while your shops. I’ll be there and looking forward to seeing you.
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