1) At almost 65-years old I find myself yearning to write songs. Is one ever too old to get a publisher’s attention?
There’s a saying in the songwriting profession that the two best things about our job is that we never get too old to do it…and we get to wear the coolest uniforms! We can write in our pajamas, bathing suits, or tuxedos, and at any age. I’m still doing it at 85. You’re a spring chicken. Go for it.
2) Does the Grand Ole Opry management schedule your appearances or is there a mutual discussion as to when you will appear?
At the beginning of each month, the Opry will e-mail a notice to all the members letting us know what nights the following month that Opry shows are scheduled. We are then asked to let the Opry know which of those nights we might be available to perform. The schedulers take it from there.
3) I live in Ft. Worth, Texas, and I met most of my favorite country artists at a place called Panther Hall back in the 60s and early 70s, but I never remember you playing there. It’s been torn down now, but have you ever played at Panther Hall?
Yes, I played there many times. It was a fun place to work, with one of the highest stages I ever remember. We’d come in in the late afternoon and do a live TV show with our buddy, Bill Mack, then play a show and dance from eight to midnight. It was on my bus in the parking lot at Panther Hall that I got choked one night on some toothpaste, and Jan Howard had to come to my rescue. And the restaurant next door had the best chicken fried steak I’ve ever eaten. Lots of good memories from Panther Hall.
Our Question Of The Month comes from John, who is also in Texas, and who asked a very timely question: Do you ever exchange Christmas presents with other artists and/or band members?
Yes. Over the years I’ve always given my employees Christmas bonuses, and each of them will usually give me something in return. I don’t want them spending their bonuses on me, though, so it’s usually just a book they think I might like to read, an inexpensive bottle of wine, or perhaps something homemade from their kitchen. Most of the gifts I’ve given and received from other artists over the years have been nothing serious…just silly little tokens of our camaraderie and friendship. But we do celebrate the traditions of giving at Christmas time….just like normal folks!
Quickies: Did you ever have a home recording studio? I know artists like Jim Reeves and Hank Snow did. I once had a small area in my basement where I could record station breaks for disc jockies and commercials for some of my upcoming concert dates, but I never had anything close to a studio where I could make records. Nearly all the younger artists have some type of home studio today. When you write a song do you pick the person to sing it? No, I just try to write the best song I can and let it land wherever it happens to land. What songs in your illustrious career are the most emotional for you to sing and why? “Mama Sang A Song” is the most emotional of all for me because it brings back so many memories of my mother, my childhood, and my home. “Five Little Fingers,” because of my daughter, and “I Wonder If God Likes Country Music,” because of Roy Acuff, have both been known to stop me in my tracks as well. I used to see you at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati back in the good old days. Were you ever on the Ruth Lyons TV show here? I think I may have been on with Ruth one time before she retired, but I visited her successor, Bob Braun, on several occasions. He and I became good friends. What a fun show…and popular show…that was! Did you ever tour or sing with Buck Owens? No I didn’t…other than on Brad Paisley’s recording of “Too Country” where Brad overdubbed vocals from me, Buck, and George Jones. Buck was based in California, and with me working out of Nashville, our paths didn’t cross all that often. I wish they had. I was, and continue to be, a big Buck fan.
I also wish I had space to answer more of your questions, but I’ll save the leftovers for the new year. Meantime, if you have anything you’d like to ask, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try my best to provide an answer. If yours is chosen as our Question Of The Month, you’ll receive any item of your choice free from our online store. See you back here in 2023.