Livin’ In America. Hand to Hand Across the Nation…
It’s been many moons since the “Godfather” shouted out these words for the first time, but we’re still living in that same ol’ America and as we pass our 240th observance of our nation’s independence, I think back to all the ways we celebrate the day. In true JMLC style, I actually have a memory from an Independence Day gone by that you might enjoy.
Around five years ago, I had the privilege of hosting a 4th of July weekend show featuring Mr. “God Bless The U.S.A.” himself, Lee Greenwood. At that time, he was touring with a member of one of the First Families of country music, Louise Mandrell. This was my first time working both artists, but not my first encounter with Mr. Greenwood. He was one of the first celebrities that I’d ever met (at a record signing in the mid-80s when I was all of five or six) but this was my first encounter with the raven-haired Mandrell and it would promise to be a memorable encounter, indeed.
Louise Mandrell was the middle child of the three Mandrell Sisters and though she did not see the solo success that elder sister Barbara did, she still put a number of hits on the chart and is considered one of the more successful women of country music of that era. She backed her sister, toured with Patsy Cline and recorded with Merle Haggard, but songs such as “Some Girls Have All The Luck,” “Save Me” and “I Wanna Say Yes” showed that she was more than capable of cranking out some Top 10 hits of her own.
Fast forward to the early 20-teens and I find myself running around with these two and their sundry musicians and crew as we were getting ready for a SWLA 4th of July weekend show. Among them was Greenwood tour manager Mike Thamann who winds up being a critical part of this story later on.
Mike and I spent most of the day together and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. This day was a bit of both as the production crew was green as grass and production issues cluttered up the otherwise pleasant afternoon. I walked into the room sometime between sound check and show time to find the monitor console (rented, not brought by the band, mind you) ripped wide open and Mike up to his elbows in the thing.
I asked him what was wrong and he chuckled “Yeah, well, this old beast is in pretty rough shape, but, hell, I’ve fixed ‘em before.” I laughed and replied “You know, this would usually be the point that I would have a tour manager reading me the riot act and instead, you’re fixing the rented console yourself.” He laughed again and said “Well, you didn’t break it! Besides, we got a show to do.” I thanked him profusely for his understanding and told him that he was officially the tour manager for any other act that came through my room, if I had any say. He was absolutely my kinda guy.
The funny bit came later as we were backstage before show time. I’d gone to the green room to confer with Mike on how we were going to start the show, since I had some announcements to make before turning the stage over. He deferred me to Louise. So we walked over and I politely asked whether or not she wanted me to introduce her or how she wanted me to transition from my announcements to her arrival onstage. Her answer came quickly and naturally and with nothing but kindness, but the words that came out were not exactly as she intended…
“Well, clearly this isn’t your first time….”
The unintended innuendo was instantly apparent to everyone in earshot except Ms. Mandrell. I’m sure the corner of my lip turned up somewhat, but my sense of professionalism held strong–until Mike doubled over and started cackling like a hyena. It was then that she realized her intended comment, which was supposed to be along the lines of “Clearly you’ve done this many times and I’m sure that however you do it will be fine” came out sounding a wee “suggestive.” As she started babbling and turned several shades of red, I smirked and dropped the pitch of my voice, replying “Well, Ms. Mandrell, I had no idea….” at which everyone in the room (the songstress herself included) had one hell of a pre-show laugh.
The show was great and the artists were talented, professional and absolutely cool. We all had dinner afterwards and it felt like we were old friends. After a great meal and some epic wine, we parted ways. I made a special effort to thank Mike for his stratospheric level of understanding and commitment to a great show and to Ms. Mandrell for (inadvertently as it may have been) charming the socks of this long-haired Southwest Louisiana boy. The charm and sense of humor didn’t flag for a second as we hugged and she kissed me on the cheek, thanking me and my crew for a wonderful show day experience. And then they were all loaded on the buses and, just like all the others before and since, were quickly gone in a cloud of exhaust and a blur of motor coach tail lights.
I was Born in the USA
Now, while that’s a nice story, it does seem to fall a bit short when talking about our country’s most patriotic holiday. We barbecue, visit family, have parties and, hell, sometimes we have a concert. How you celebrate the day holds little importance as long as you remember its meaning and celebrate that freedom however you choose. That’s the whole FREEDOM bit, right? Use it and enjoy it and allow it to help you live what years you have in this world to the fullest and make them all they can be.
I think that is a truer message about the greatness of our country than the messages that any of the goofballs running for President are selling: That your life is your own and you are able to make it whatever you choose it to be. With yet another Fourth come and gone, I hope you all found some way to make it memorable and that you find a way to hold onto that feeling of pride and fidelity to our humble nation until the big old marble spins round long enough to bring us back to this day again next year. Until then, keep those flags waving and enjoy the freedom of being a citizen of the good ol’ US of A.
Something Is Happening Here…
And now, let’s take a look at what’s coming up in Chuck Vegas in the next few weeks…
Thursday-Saturday, July 15- 17
29th Annual Cajun Music and Food Festival
The tradition returns to the Burton Complex for a weekend full of food, fun and Cajun music. Friday will feature Brent Denais and T-Rouge and Ellis Vanicor, while Saturday welcomes Lesa Cormier, LoLo Boudoin, Donny Broussard, and Robert Jardell before closing out with Kevin Naquin and the Ossun Playboys. Admission is $8 and children 12 and under get in free! For more information, visit http://cfmalakecharles.com/
Saturday, July 16
44th Annual Gridiron
The Ad and Press Club’s night of zaniness is upon us for the 44th year and fans can rest assured that NO local newsmaker or leader will be spared in this annual roast-like event. The affair begins on the LCCC’s mezzanine level with a reception featuring hors d’oeuvres from the area’s best restaurants, followed by “Louisiana Bail Out” on the Rosa Hart stage. Tickets start at $25 and all proceeds go towards local and press-related scholarships. For more information, visit http://www.adpressclub.com/gridiron.
They Got a Dream to Take Them There. They Comin’ to America…
Again, I hope you all had a great holiday weekend and are SOMEHOW surviving the brutal heat of an ol’ fashioned Louisiana summer! Speaking of some ol’ fashioned Louisiana, I’ve got a lil’ treat comin’ up fo dat next issue! So pick youself up a copy of dat Jambalaya in two weeks, sha! Mais I think you gonna like it, me.
Until then… I’LL SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!!!