Hendersonville, Tennessee—I'm on stage playing music within spitting distance from Nashville.
Before today, I’ve only been here once in my entire life. I was a redheaded seven-year-old at the time. My father worked a few years in Spring Hill, welding column splices that would one day become a General Motors plant.
I visited the GM plant today. A non-descript iron continent. My father called it his greatest achievement.
My father once took me to the Grand Ole Opry. There, I saw Mel Tillis perform “Coca-Cola Cowboy” and I can still remember it.
The stage lights, the barn-themed set, men with white hair and cowboy hats, playing two-step rhythms.
Afterward, we bought ice cream. We sat on a bench looking at neon lights.
My father said, “All my life, I've only heard the Opry on a radio. I think I like it better on a radio.”
I hardly remember the rest of that night. But I do remember fiddles, pedal steels, corny jokes. And I remember feeling happy.
So, I'm here. I'm thinking about life, and how short it is. For Joe Six-Pack
like me, this is as close to heaven as I’ll ever get.
My father died when I was twelve. I hung drywall and laid tile at seventeen. I cut lawns, threw sod, and planted shrubs at eighteen.
At twenty, I played guitar in a small Baptist church. At twenty-one: I played in beer joints and all-you-can-eat catfish buffets.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m happy. I mean really happy.
Today, I’m on a stage with my friends, playing guitar not far from my father’s greatest monument.
In the audience, I see a little redheaded girl with pigtails.
She looks so happy.
I'm singing with my friends. The same friends I’ve played music with for many years. They’ve seen me grow up. They’ve helped me become me.
Fred, on the drums. He knew me when…