About Last Night

I’m driving. The Tennessee mountains tower in the distance. The hills are so green they appear blue. The sky is so sunny it hurts your eyes.

I am listening to WSM 650 AM, traveling 55 mph on backroads. They’re playing old country. “Whispering” Bill Anderson is singing “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking.” My father loved this tune.

Last night, I sang on the Grand Ole Opry. Before my performance, 85-year-old Bill Anderson performed. He was exiting the stage as I was entering. Before they announced me, I shook his hand and I was quivering. I told him I grew up listening to his music alongside my father. I almost started to cry.

He said, “Thank you, son. Is your daddy here tonight?”

I looked into the rafters of the theater. “Yessir. I’d like to believe he is.”

He just smiled.

And right now, I’m thinking about all this while driving on this winding highway. I’m winding through thickets of black gums, live oaks, sycamores, and conflagrations of other Tennessean trees.

Tennessee trees don’t grow the same as in other states. These trees don’t just grow straight up and down. They grow sideways, downways, upways, rightways, wrongways, and everywhichways. They swallow everything, growing so close together they resemble a head of giant broccoli.

I see a barbecue-shack-slash-beer-joint in the distance. I pull over. The door dings upon my entrance. A radio is playing.

It’s not yet noon, but there is an old man at the bar, getting an early start on his day. An army of empty Budweiser bottles sits at his elbow. He is playing scratch-offs, trying his level best to make Cooter Brown look like an amateur.

His words are rounded on the corners when he speaks.

“Where you from?” he asks.


“First time in Tennessee?”

“No, sir.”

He nods and goes back to his scratch-offs. “What brings you here?”


“What kinda work you do?”

“I play music. I tell stories.”

“Are you a guitar player?”

“Not really. I’m a guitar owner.”

I order a barbecue sandwich. The waitress asks if I want a beer, but it’s too early for me. I go with a sweet tea. The tea is immobilizingly cold on a summer day. And sweet enough to break your jaw.

“Where’d you play last night?” the old man asks.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.”

“The Grand Ole Opry.”

The old man thinks about this for a second. Then he laughs. He leans over and I can smell his breath. You wouldn’t want to light a match within 12 feet of this man.

“Nice try,” he says. “But you can’t bull-[expletive] a bull-[expletiver].”

I guess not.

But it’s not bull. It’s real. Last night actually happened. Last night, I stood upon the same floorboards where Hank and Loretta and Johnny and George and Porter and Ernest and Dolly once stood.

And when I finished singing, Whispering Bill Anderson was waiting for me in the wings. When I saw him, you could have knocked me over with a guitar pick.

I couldn’t believe Mister Anderson was waiting for ME. He had watched my entire performance. Whispering Bill Anderson. Whispering “Freaking” Bill Anderson watched me perform.

Mister Anderson could have retreated backstage to his dressing room after his performance. He could have removed his shiny red blazer and white patent leather shoes. He could have changed into his civvies and gone home. He could have acted like the big-time star he is. But he didn’t.

The wizened Opry performer stayed to exchange words with a young, redheaded guitar owner.

When I walked off stage, Bill Anderson was waiting for me, a wide smile on his face. In his frail hand, he took mine. He squeezed slightly. The old man said four words. “You did it, son.”

And I wept, of course. Because it’s been a long time since anyone called me that.


  1. David in California - June 12, 2023 12:15 pm

    What an awesome story!

  2. Kathy Paxton - June 12, 2023 3:15 pm

    My father made a few appearances on Hee Haw back in the day from the Reimann Auditorium. I got the opportunity to go there last August and man… the feels I had and the emotions to be so close to where he had picked up his guitar and sang for the audience and cameras. Your story today.. brought back those “feels” <3

  3. Bubba Stubbs - June 12, 2023 3:39 pm

    Sweet words to your ears Sean, I’m sure, especially coming from someone like “Whispering” Bill!

  4. Cathy Moss - June 12, 2023 3:59 pm

    You have a whole army of followers . Those of us who are seniors are as proud of you as Whispering Bill Anderson is and being there to see you live at the Opry was the best birthday gift from my husband that I can remember. The after party was wonderful . I have never had the pleasure of attending such a CB party nor have we stayed up till 11:00. That ship has sailed but Sat. Nite was the bomb for me. Would be proud to call you son and I mean it❤️❤️❤️

  5. Sissy Lingle - June 12, 2023 4:54 pm

    Sean, my husband, Peyton, was class behind Bill Anderson in high school and college. They have kept in touch and is going to send your column to him. So glad you had another good time at the Opry.

  6. Lisa - June 12, 2023 9:05 pm

    CongratulTions on your appearance on the Opry. You inspire me, along with Santa True, to begin to practice storytelling. I will never reach your level, but I am excited to learn my craft, as a Christmas performer, Mrs. Claus. As for the Opry, I am delighted to have been there in the audience watching Marty Robbins as a teen.

  7. pattymack43 - June 12, 2023 11:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing!! Blessings to you and Mr. Anderson…..

  8. P - June 12, 2023 11:19 pm

    Your humility should be contagious.

  9. Ron - June 13, 2023 12:55 pm

    My wife and I planned a trip to Nashville when we heard you were to perform June 10. You did not disappoint. We were proud to be there to watch you live from the Opry stage.

  10. Harriet White - June 27, 2023 12:50 am

    What a story Sean! I gotta see you one day


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