Sometimes I think we all need to have our faith in the human spirit restored, rekindled, and/or revived.
In essence that’s what I said from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry this past Saturday night.
Mine has been restored, rekindled, and revived to the max.
In case you missed it, I told the story of a guitar that the late Opry star, Billy Grammer, had given to me back in the sixties and how, after my having played it on the Opry and on every concert date I did for at least five years, it suddenly disappeared. I don’t remember if I loaned it to a museum somewhere or if somebody stole it or what, but for over 45-years that very special guitar was not in my possession.
A few weeks ago, my secretary passed an e-mail along to me from the owner of a pawn shop out in Phoenix, Arizona, in which this gentleman told her that he might just have an old guitar of mine in his store. I immediately got in touch with him, and after a few letters back and forth and his sending me some pictures of the instrument, I positively identified it. It was the old Grammar guitar that Billy had made and given me when he first started his guitar company. I immediately began to wonder what I’d have to do in order to get it back.
I fully expected the pawn shop owner to think he had an easy mark and to come at me with a ridiculous asking price of something like twenty-thousand dollars for to reclaim my instrument. I confessed to him that I’d like to own the guitar again, but that I was not prepared to pay an exorbitant price for it. Nervously, I asked him what he wanted.
I didn’t hear back for about three days and that made me even more nervous. Finally, when he responded, he said that he and his wife had always wanted to come to Nashville and to the Opry, but that they had never been able to make it. He told me that the first weekend in August would be their wedding anniversary, and if I could somehow make it happen for the two of them to come to the Opry…and for him to give his wife the “backstage experience”…he would bring the guitar home and give it to me when he came.
You have never seen one human buy two plane tickets as fast as I bought theirs. I didn’t want to give him a chance to change his mind!
I arranged hotel accommodations for them, got a VIP tour set up for them at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and made plans take them to dinner prior to the show on Saturdaynight. What I didn’t tell him was that I wanted him to walk on stage and hand me the guitar, and that I planned to play it on the closing song of my segment. I knew exactly what I wanted that song to be, but I kept that to myself as well. And I certainly didn’t tell him of the massive press coverage I felt we were probably going to receive. I didn’t want him have a melt-down when he learned that his generous spirit and his special gift to me were about to make nationwide news.
I met with Opry manager, Pete Fisher, and laid out the story for him. He had to do some juggling in the schedule to make time for the presentation to happen, but he and talent manager, Gina Keltner, worked it out. And then I made the phone call that would provide what I figured would be the icing on the cake. I called my songwriting/singing buddy, Jamey Johnson.
I told him the story, and he immediately knew what I was trying to say. “Man, we wrote that story years ago!” he exclaimed, and I knew he was referring to “The Guitar Song,” the story of two old guitars hanging in a pawn shop wishing someone would come play them “back home.” We had written it in 2007 with Vickie McGehee and had recorded it together. It was the title song of Jamey’s album on MCA.
“Are you free on August 8th?” I asked. “And if so, would you come out to the Opry and sing it with me when I get my old guitar back?” He checked his schedule and promised he’d be there. He sounded excited, and I was thrilled.
And it all came off without a hitch. Mike and Wendie Grauer brought the guitar on stage, handed it to me, and received a standing ovation from the crowd. Jamey smiled and quipped that he had known back when we wrote the song that it would come true someday. And we sang it live together onstage for the first time ever.
Everywhere we go these days we see and hear so much bad news….only a few days before there had been an attack inside a movie theater in Nashville….that to hear of someone’s kindness, compassion, and generosity is like a breath of fresh air. Mike could have sold that guitar and probably made a handsome profit on it, but he chose to bring it to Nashville and give it to me. Jamey could have played on virtually any stage in America Saturday night, but he chose to come make a special moment in my life even more special by lending his talents to the occasion.
Both my daughters, Terri and Jenni, and my granddaughter, Greta, were standing in the wings watching and listening as the evening unfolded. Jenni told me afterward, “Greta will remember this for the rest of her life.” I hope she does.
Trust me, she won’t be the only one.