I’ve been all over the world singing about having a “Wild Weekend” for years, but in real life, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a weekend quite like the one I just had.
Actually, it was more like a “wild week” because it started last Tuesday afternoon when my publicist, Scott Adkins, and I flew to New York in advance of my Songwriters Hall of Fame induction set for Thursday. We landed around five o’clock and spent over 90-minutes trying to get into Manhattan at the heart of rush hour. I told Scott, “New York traffic is getting as bad as Nashville!”
We hit the ground running on Wednesday morning with a music rehearsal at 9:30 (the Hall of Fame orchestra had worked up a marvelous arrangement on “Still” which I was scheduled to sing following my induction Thursday night), a string of interviews at places like Fox News and Sirius/XM radio in the early afternoon, followed by dinner with my publisher, Troy Tomlinson, and my buddy, Steve Wariner, that evening. Steve had flown up to sing “Tips Of My Fingers” in my honor and then to present me with my Hall of Fame trophy. I can never thank him enough for making the effort and taking the time to be there. He has been such an important part of my journey, and my big night wouldn’t have been the same without him.
I slept in Thursday morning, had breakfast in my room, then hit the fitness center on the 23rd floor of our hotel. I have never walked on a treadmill with a view quite like that of looking out across New York City.
Thursday afternoon Gus Arrendale’s plane arrived with my manager, Lee Willard, my children, Terri, Jenni, and Jamey and Jamey’s wife, Beth, and my friend, Vickie, aboard, along with Gus himself and his friend, Karen. I will never be able to repay Gus for his kind generosity in bringing my family to be part of one of the biggest nights of my life. Neither Terri nor Vickie would have been strong enough health-wise to have made the trip, and only through Gus’s good graces were they able to be there. Thanks again, Gus, and y’all buy Springer Mountain Farms chicken!!
The hours after everyone arrived were hectic. Vickie and I walked the red carpet at 5:30, went to a VIP cocktail party with the other inductees at 6:00, had a group photo taken at 6:30 (where I told my fellow inductee, Alan Jackson, that he and I were the “token hillbillies” and he replied, “I’m used to that!”), and then joined some 3,000 of our closest friends for dinner.
Following the delicious meal, the awards presentation itself was amazing. Seven writers were inducted, and I was next to last on the bill. It was about two hours into the show when Steve sang, said some very nice things about me, then called me to the podium. He handed me my trophy and pointed to the microphone where I was supposed to speak.
I thanked him and everyone at the Songwriters Hall of Fame for the tremendous honor they were bestowing on me, shared a funny story from my early songwriting days, then borrowed from Little Jimmy Dickens, sharing his old line about seeing a turtle on top of a fence post and knowing the turtle didn’t get up there by himself. He had to have had some help along the way.
I related myself to that turtle, then thanked the many key people who helped me climb to the top of the fence post where I found myself at the moment. I admitted, “the view from up here is pretty darned incredible!” then walked to center stage, cued the orchestra, and sang “Still.” The crowd gave me a second standing ovation.
We were invited to an after-party in a 43rd-floor penthouse of the hotel, but we didn’t stay long. Everybody was tired and we knew we had a busy day ahead on Friday.
I really wanted to spend some time with my family…after all, it was Father’s Day weekend…and the weather was beautiful. We gathered at ten a.m. and went for a carriage ride in Central Park. We had lunch at a small Italian restaurant nearby and talked and visited until it was time for me to meet my band (who had flown up Friday morning) for sound check at the new Opry City Stage venue. We had a 90-minute show scheduled there on Friday night.
Everyone in our group came to the show, plus my booking agents, Bob Kinkead, his wife, Julie, along with Greg Scott and his wife, Sheree. I saw several longtime friends I hadn’t seen in years, and again it was a very special evening. We had to “sleep fast” that night, though, because our call time for the flight back to Nashville was ten a.m. on Saturday. With the change from Eastern to Central time, we were back in Music City at noon.
As I am writing this, I’ve had 48-hours to unwind from the whirlwind, but I haven’t been able to completely do so. I keep thinking of all the amazing things that took place in such a relatively short amount of time…and I’ll admit to sneaking a glance or two at my Hall of Fame trophy. It sure is pretty.
And I keep thinking back over the years and wondering how all these things happened to a kid from Commerce, Georgia, who was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Thank you, God, and thank you my fans and friends and family. What incredible new memories I was able to make this past week. I continue to be most richly blessed.