What a great way to start the Fall! I love the Fall. It’s my favorite time of year! Today, after getting home from my Northeast run, I celebrated Fall by my first cup of hot tea… English style of course. It’s funny but after the holidays I don’t do tea again until the Fall. I love it! Makes me think of my English friends. My daughter Haley does the same thing. Must be our English friends calling on us.
I had a most unique presentation and gift given to me a few days ago. I was inducted into the “National Thumbpicker’s Hall of Fame” at the Merle Travis Music (performing arts) Center in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky… right where it all started. As soon as I crossed over the county line and saw the sign “Muhlenberg County,” it was like something hit me in the chest! As my friend and fellow “thumb-picker” Darrell Owens said… “you were among kindred spirits!” Indeed I was! Dr. John Knowles, Sonny Thomas and Pat Kirtley were also there and some fine pickers that I’d never heard play before, including a 14-year-old fingerstyle virtuoso… of course also from Kentucky. What an honor to be named among Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Ike Everly, Mose Rager, Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, Steve Wariner, Eddie Pennington, Thom Bresh and (I’m getting in trouble now… too many to mention) a host of other really fine guitar players in the Hall of Fame. I really felt welcomed by the fine folks there at the festival. I highly recommend you going next year. Look up their site at www.ntphf.com
Recently I got a call from my friend Darren Wallace at Ovation Guitars. Ovation was my very first endorsement, even before Taylor Guitars. I played an Ovation Country Artist for years and after it was damaged on a plane flight, my friend Shot Jackson not only repaired the neck but also put a cutaway on it and I asked him to paint it a blue-burst. My name was inlaid on the headstock with a beautiful cross inlay. It was actually stolen out of a church in Jacksonville, FL (PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF ANYONE KNOWS THE WHEREABOUTS OF THIS GUITAR!!!). Anyway, it was recognized by the Ovation representative as the very first cutaway Ovation and the first blue one as well. Even after I left Grandpa Jones he asked me to come up and play on the Grand Ole Opry. I played that very guitar. A friend encouraged me to be an endorser for Ovation and so I contacted them never believing they would even consider it… but they did. I replaced that guitar with a black Country Artist (electric nylon string) and a beautiful blue Adamas steel-string guitar. Darren asked if I would like to play a couple of their U.S. made guitars, so a few days ago I went back up to the factory in New Hartford, CT, and when I looked at the 12-string Adamas, I couldn’t believe it… it was just like the one I had out of the 80s, but with a cutaway! I also took a wood-top Adamas with me, which is also a strikingly beautiful guitar. I played these guitars right out of the box on my shows in VA and NY and have decided to use these on the road. The first song on my show was “New Hartford,” which I had written and dedicated to the employees there. Of course, I’ll continue to use my Olson and my Sand guitars, but I will now have the “blue 12,” and when possible, the Adamas ‘WT’ around too. By the way, I’m playing these guitars just because I want to and because they deserve to live! I’m hoping to see more electricity in that old pre-Civil War building once again cranking out one of the most innovative and treasured guitar brands of all time… Ovation!
Speaking of shows in VA and NY, I played at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA and the Iridium Jazz Club (where Les Paul played every week) in Manhattan last week. My crowds were not very large but the response and encouragement from the people was huge! My friends Neal and Gwen Ferry were in New York and I believe that we all witnessed another turning point in my life and career. The Iridium said next time they’ll put me on their guitar night since they weren’t familiar with me. That, of course, is on Mondays like when Les played there. I played my heart out. I’ve found that when you do that… you’re not simply looking at a few people but huge potential, and I think somehow even a promotion. Dave and Brad at Dynamic Artists Management are to be thanked for taking a risk on a finger pickin’ church musician/preacher… who has now been invited back! Film at Eleven! HA!
I’ve played with Greg Laurie with 55,000 people in a stadium and huge crowds of people on the Grand Ole Opry, churches and festivals, but to play at the Iridium with even a small crowd… where Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Jeff Beck, etc. had played… I was a bit nervous. Small crowds always make me more nervous anyway. After I played “New Hartford” on the blue Adamas, I switched over to the Olson. Nothing but silence. I checked switches… jiggled cables… looked at power indicator lights… nothing. For about a minute it was silent on stage. That feels like an eternity! I was rattled for a few numbers then I finally setttled down. I found what had appeared to be a faulty cable on my pre-amp board for my Olson. I didn’t replace it then but prayed it wouldn’t happen again during my show. I forgot all about it. On Saturday I went to do my soundcheck for my church concert date in Groton, CT at Groton Bible Church and remembered the cable problem. I jiggled and bumped and shook my little pedalboard up and down and ‘I couldn’t Get it to stop working!’ What am I saying? Anytime you start crossing over into new territory… especially something you’ve been wanting, hoping and even praying for… don’t be surprised when opposition comes. What to do? Look beyond the circumstance and the small crowd and see that God is there with you. I pray for everything I do and for direction to everywhere I go… way before I get there! I had to remind myself that this was where I was supposed to be and I had already done the ground work to get there. I didn’t have to prove otherwise… and it all worked out!
Perhaps reading this right now is where you’re supposed to be! I had so many things this year that seemed to have set me back and I could have “plummeted,” but instead I have decided to let it “propel” me to the next level! I may not be seeing it completely yet, but I have laid claim on reaching more people and sharing my music and a message of hope and encouragement to people in places that I’ve never dreamed would have happened. The Iridium was one of those I had never dreamed I’d do… but now that I have, next time I’ll bring an extra cable? No, next time we’ll put in extra “tables!”