1) Most performers only have a handful of songs they perform, but you have written over 400. How do you remember the words to all these songs? Do you practice singing the ones you are going to perform on stage at home during the week?
If you listen to the Opry regularly, you know that I don’t always remember the words to my songs…even the ones that I’ve written. Sometimes my mind goes as blank as the sheet of paper was the day I sat down to write the song on it! Nowadays, we have to turn in our Opry song selections several days in advance, so I do have time during the week to run over them in my mind and sing them in the shower if I want to. In the past, I would sometimes not decide what to sing until I got to the dressing room. This way is better…even though I have fewer excuses when I forget.
2) I’ve been wondering what Eddie Stubbs is doing since he retired. Can’t believe he’s doing nothing. I thought maybe you would know.
When Eddie took early retirement from his announcing duties at WSM and the Opry, he seemingly put the music business and all its people in his rear view mirror and left us there. I can’t find anybody who knows where he is or what he is doing. I have been told that there are some health issues in both his and his wife’s families in their home state of Maryland, and that he and Debbie have been spending time up there, but that’s only hearsay. I hope he’s doing well and most of all that he’s happy.
3) Is it true that you once parked your bus overnight in an unscrupulous promoter’s driveway pending payment due you and the Po’ Folks Band? Or is this just an old wives’ tale?
It is absolutely true. The promoter had left the concert hall and driven home without paying us what we were due for the show. I found his address, and instructed my bus driver to go to his house, pull in the driveway, and block any access coming or going. We stayed there all night. When the sun came up the next morning, the promoter suddenly “found” the money he had “forgotten” to pay us, and we went merrily on our way. Ain’t show business wonderful!!
Our Question Of The Month comes from Gary in Oklahoma: You have worked in almost all areas of the entertainment industry in your distinguished career. If you had been granted one wish to change something in any part of the industry that would have enhanced or made your career more fulfilling what would it have been?
First, it’s hard to imagine a career that could have possibly been any more fulfilling than mine has been, but what an interesting question. I guess if I could have changed anything within the industry, though, it would have been to speed up the timetable on a few things. For example, when I first got into the business there were only 80-something radio stations playing country music. Today there are several thousand. It might have been nice to have had that kind of exposure back in my early songwriting and singing days. The CMA Awards did not come into existence until the late sixties. It would have been cool to have had them a few years earlier when my records and songs like “Still” could have contended for the top honors. Same for the Grammy’s which did not even have a country music category until 1964-65. I’m certainly not complaining about anything, but in my next life I might try to be born a little later.
Quickies: Do you have any favorite gospel songs or performers past or present? I couldn’t begin to list all my favorite gospel songs, but some of the early country/gospel performers like Molly O’Day, the Bailes Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, and the Blue Sky Boys were the ones I enjoyed the most growing up. I was wondering if you have any band members that have been with you from the beginning. If not, who has been with you the longest and are they still with you? All of my original Po’ Boys have passed away now…Jimmy Gateley, Weldon Myrick, Jimmy Lance, and Snuffy Miller. Les Singer has been with me since 1981, longer than anyone, and even though his health prevents him from performing these days, I still consider him one of us. Do you get a percentage or any money for your display at the Hall of Fame Museum? No. I get paid by the smiles I see on people’s faces when they exit the display…and when they tell me how much they learned and how much they enjoyed it. That’s all the payment I need. Were you at the Opry in 1984 when Onie Wheeler died on stage? And how is his daughter, Karen Wheeler, doing these days? I know she had cancer a few years ago. No, I was not there, but Onie was always a favorite of mine as is Karen. Unfortunately, Karen has suffered a couple of strokes recently and is not doing all that well. All of us need to keep her in our thoughts and prayers.
Thanks for another great batch of questions this month, and I hope you’ll keep ’em coming. Send them to me in care of email@example.com and remember if yours is chosen our Question Of The Month you’ll receive any item of your choosing from our online store. See you back here next month.