Over the years, even before I was musician, I've had a pretty awesome experience when it comes to professional musicians. From getting to see some amazing concerts, getting to meet them and on a few occasions getting to play the same stage with them. Now a few have been the standoff types that understandably want some peace but others have gone out of their way to be awesome. Those are the ones I want to talk about. There's always a few that do the kind of things that are expected of celebrities. Smile for pictures, shake your hand, maybe even talk with you a bit, then there are these guys.
I'll start off with a legendary voice of the 90's. In 2001 I was working at a music shop (they sold cds, movies etc) and was flown to Atlanta to the annual managers conference. I was told that most years they typically had between six to a dozen artists to perform for the event but due to the budget and what had just occurred in 2001 (9-11) they were only able to arrange for one artist appearance. A couple things about that day were lucky for me. First, the artist was an all time favorite of mine, and second, the random seating they set up had me front and center for the performance. When John Berry came in with a guitar on his back they told him they were having trouble with the PA system. He looked at the room and said he didn't really need it. He didn't either. He boomed out a few of his classic songs and one off his new album (New then anyway). When he was was done he set up right next to me to sign albums for us. Being right next to him I was tasked with taking the cds out of the cellophane so they'd be ready to be autographed. He was so personable in the process I ended up way ahead of him so when my mom called me I took the time to answer. I said "hey ma, you'll never guess who I'm sitting next to". Before I could say anything else he motions for me to stop. "What's your mom's name?" He asked. I told him, her name is Susan. He took my phone and said "hey Susan, this is John Berry. I'm hanging out with your boy signing my new album." To which she replied "yeah right!" He talked to her a little more and told her he was sending me home with a copy of his album signed to her. He then signed one for her, one for me and even one for Lee. I really hope to get the chance to meet him again or maybe even open for him someday so I can tell him this story and possibly have him meet ma.
The next one was huge for me. Opening for Granger Smith in 2016 at the Davis County Fair, I got my first hand experience for how big time stars do shows. He was beyond humble, came up to each one of us and introduced himself, told us if we needed anything not to hesitate to ask. Besides just being laid back and chill... he went the extra mile. He posed holding one of our shirts. I don't know if he's ever worn the thing but I like to think someday he'll show up wearing it to a gig or on his youtube show. Beyond that, he shot a short Snap video for my daughter who was currently touring with her High School band in Europe. That's easily one of the coolest moments in my young music career. He's a stand up guy with great music. I truly hope his career explodes someday. He has potential to be the next George Strait... with Earl Dibbles Jr. as his alter ego.
Frankie Ballard and Michael Ray were both super down to earth and good to the guys in our band. The big thing for me was well after the show though. While hanging out with Michael and his band mates they decided they wanted to hit the town. This was at the Wapello County Fair so the only reasonable place to head was Chommy's. Michael and two of his band mates jumped in my little Equinox and we went to town. Now being friends with the owners of Chommy's we were able to set it up to get in the back entrance. It was pretty cool to hang with rockstars all while being treated like rockstars too. Its also something I can tell my kids about when I'm old(er) and grey(er) to show them their old man was cool once.
Not even that long ago we had the opportunity to open for Confederate Railroad. It was a small venue (for them, its pretty nice sized for us) at Wild Hogs. I was one of the last ones to get there since I had to work that day so I missed hanging out with some of the guys beforehand. What did happen was well documented... during the finale Dan Shirley (lead singer) called us up on stage to join them for the last chorus of Trashy Women. You've never seen this fat man get across a room so fast. That was an experience. I'm grateful to those guys for having us do that.
Finally I have one more experience to share before I wrap this up. Once again, not too long ago we had the opportunity to open for three legends in the business. Richie McDonald (Lonestar), Tim Rushlow (Little Texas) and Larry Stuart (Restless Heart) came to the Sondheim Center in Fairfield. While we were chilling in the green room with them we got to talking about what we were going to play. My brother brought up that we weren't going to play some of our songs mostly because of the type of audience we were going to perform for. He told them I had written a song called "Stripper Stole My Truck" and how that song wouldn't probably go over best with this audience. Richie immediately grabbed Tim's guitar and held it out. He said you can't tell me you wrote a song called Stripper Stole My Truck and not play it for us. So (as documented by a fast acting bass player) I got to play Stripper for a couple of big time artists. Richie still isn't returning my calls but I get it... he's busy.
That's it for the above and beyond but I feel like I'd be doing a few guys a discredit if I didn't give them props. So quickly I'd like to add in a few guys here.
I met Chris Cagle in 2001 shortly after his debut album came out. I really dug his sound and when I found out he was coming to Iowa City I made my way there. I got backstage passes through my job at the music store and went to the show. I was the last one in line for the meet and greet and he did the standard, sign here and take a picture there... but we got to talking for about 10 minutes or so about his contract (he'd had a crazy situation where he was moved to a different label shortly after his album released, that's why there's two albums called play it loud... one just has 2 extra songs on it) and sales of his album. I think because I was in music sales he was interested a little. Even if he was just being polite, I appreciated it. He's still one of my favorite concerts I've attended.
At the Southern Iowa Fair in Osky, Paul Brandt stole my cowboy hat off my head... he gave it back
After a concert in Cedar Rapids (probably at Hawkeye Downs, I can't remember for sure) I got to see Colin Raye lose his lunch as he stepped off the stage. Come to find out he was sick the entire show but he didn't want to disappoint the fans so he performed. We had no idea. He was awesome. (I have seen him twice, I couldn't tell a difference in his sick performance and his well performance).
We got the honor of opening for Shenandoah and Diamond Rio and The Sondheim Center in Fairfield. Both Bands we're amazingly easy to work with and complimentary. Marty (shenandoah) even gave my brother a hard time about playing left handed. We got our picture in the paper with him for that one. The guys in Diamond Rio gave me one of the coolest momentos I have. Each member signed a separate album cover for me. I have them framed in my studio.
That's it. I think. There are probably more but honestly do you really want to read more right now? I didn't think so. I guess the point of this was that a lot of these guys are super down to earth and good guys. Go see a show and if you get the opportunity to meet any of these guys take advantage... just try to act like you've been there before.