November 21, 2005

Hi Gang:

Last November I wrote in this space that one of my boyhood heroes was a sportswriter in Atlanta named Furman Bisher. When I was a teenager and attempting to be a bit of a sportswriter myself, I wanted to grow up to be him.

Every Thanksgiving he would (and still does, to the best of my knowledge) write a column in the newspaper listing the things he was most thankful for that particular year. With apologies to him for once again borrowing his idea, I’ve made a third annual list of my own:

I’M THANKFUL….

For the sun that came up this morning over the Tennessee hills, and that I was able to get out of bed, make coffee, and be gifted with another day as a small part of God’s incredible creation.

I’m thankful for second chances…and third and fourth and fifth chances…allowing us the opportunity to make up for the mistakes we made the first few times around.

I’m thankful for the gift of “Whiskey Lullaby,” and the fact that it succeeded in spite of all the obstacles that stood in its way. It sat unrecorded for over three years because people said it was too country, too long, too depressing, and too out-of-step with today’s country music.

I’m thankful for Brad Paisley, who believed in the song from the moment he first heard it, for his producer, Frank Rogers, who first envisioned the song as a duet, and for Alison Krauss, who was, for those few incredible moments, Brad’s perfect duet partner. Most of all I’m thankful for Jon Randall who, unfortunately, had to live much of the song before he and I combined to put it down on paper. I’m thankful for the sun that now shines on his life, proving once again that God’s timing is much better than our own.

I’m thankful that I lived long enough to attend my 50-year high school reunion this past September…and for the wonderful friendships and spirits that were refreshed and re-kindled throughout that very special weekend.

I’m thankful for contemporary artists like Martina McBride and LeeAnn Womack who hold to their unwavering faith in traditional country music. And even though Martina says she didn’t know I wrote it, I’m thankful she included “Once A Day” among the chestnuts on her marvelous new CD called “Traditions.”

I’m thankful for the Country’s Family Reunion DVD’s, and for Larry Black who had the wisdom and the foresight to preserve for the ages some of our industry’s most incredible personalities, music, and moments. When the shows were first recorded, they were designed as entertainment. Today they are a piece of history because, sadly, so many of the participants are no longer with us.

I’m thankful for both Nashville and New York, and the marvelous way the two cities came together to celebrate country music this past week. I thought how much my mom and dad would have loved to have been there to see me walk on stage at Carnegie Hall. Later I realized they WERE there, and they had the best seats in the house.

I’m thankful for my sister, Mary, who continues to stand up to the cancer that has ravaged her body but which has not even begun to make a dent in her spirit or her soul. For the thousands of prayers that have been prayed on her behalf, our entire family is incredibly grateful.

I’m thankful for three remarkable children and six delightful grandchildren, each of whom leaves an indelible footprint on my heart every day.

And I’m thankful for the memories of Thanksgivings past…the smell of mama’s turkey and dressing hot from the oven and the heartfelt blessing my daddy would always say prior to the meal. No one could offer thanks to the Lord for our “many, many blessings” quite like my daddy.

I’m thankful once again for our servicemen and women who, by no choice of their own, must spend Thanksgiving apart from their loved ones this year because they are somewhere helping to insure and protect the freedoms the rest of us too often take for granted.

I’m even thankful for the fellow traveler who walked up to me in the Minneapolis airport two nights after the CMA Awards and said, “My wife HATES ‘Whiskey Lullaby’!” I laughed and told him I was glad his wife didn’t have a vote.

And I’m thankful for each of you, my fans and my friends, who stopped by my web site today. May we each be renewed by the season and reminded of our many, many blessings…not just at Thanksgiving but on every single day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!