Buss call was Friday at midnight to climb aboard the "Hillbilly Hotel". On this trip would be the usual suspects, Jimmy Yeary, Jim Seales, Mike Mcguire, myself and the fairly new, Jeff Allen, subbing for Mike Folsom on bass. Folsom is still recovering from his hand and arm injury he suffered last year and we wish him a full recovery. At the helm steering us to Nahunter, Ga would be Kyle. This would be Kyle's first time to drive for Shenandoah and we looked forward to getting to know him. Around 12:30 am, once everything and everyone was aboard, we pulled out of the parking lot and made our way down the highway.
We did a lot of catching up, as it had been four months since we had shared each other's company. Mike Mcguire's publishing company had several new songs on hold and I had come close to winning the lottery. Jim Seales was now missing his gal bladder and Jeff Allen bought a new bass. Jimmy Yeary recently enjoyed a #1 song with Rascal Flatts's, "Why Wait" and he and his wife are expecting a baby boy and just bought a new home...So a lotta' good news going on. Most of us stayed up till early morning, either talkin', playing each other songs or watching TV. I think I hit the bunk around four am.
I slept late and awoke to the sound of music coming from the stage across the street. A local act was playing and Shenandoah would be doing a load-in and soundcheck right after they finished. After our soundcheck they escorted us to a nearby restaurant and gave us a choice of anything on the menu. I love it when that happens and that happens a lot out here. One of things I like the most about being on the road is the free food...but I'm not spoiled. :) Most of the guys ordered steaks but McGuire and I got the chicken and pasta special they were bragging about. When I saw the amount of food that was on the plate, I let out an audible gasp, as there must have been 14 lbs of pasta and chicken. There was no way in a week I could possibly hope to make a visible dent in this culinary beast. I ate and ate for what seemed like hours until my body screamed internally, no more pasta, no more chicken. Looking down at the plate, even after all of the carnage, it looked as if not hardly a bite had been taken. Embarrassed, I put a napkin over the food that would never be eaten and absolutely no dessert was consumed. During our dining experience, a blind pianist was playing in the other room and in the middle of another song, he suddenly went into his own rendition of "Next To You, Next To Me". He apparently had been told we were in the next room. We applauded and joined him for a short performance of it for the staff and other customers who were present. It was fun. We thanked everyone for their hospitality and headed back to the bus.
Once back at the bus, Jimmy Yeary and I decided to go to the hotel while the rest hung out at the venue. We would be joined by a couple of Andy Grigg's band mates on the ride over. Andy was on the date with us. We set a pick of time for 5 pm. We got back to the bus around 5:30 and had only about 5 minutes to scramble and head over to the meet and greet. Security led us into a building where they ushered in around 70 people to meet us. The first person they brought in was a lady in a wheelchair. I remember her last name was Godly, a very appropriate last name I thought, after hearing her story. The doctors told her she had finally lost the battle from her cancers and tumors and had only three weeks to live. That had been a week ago. She was with her lovely granddaughter who looked to be around 6 or 7. Mrs. Godly told us she wanted Shenandoah to be her last concert and her granddaughter's first. She was so thrilled to be there and meet one of her favorite bands and we were humbled by her story. She said she was ready to meet her maker in Heaven and I thought she looked radiant and glowed and God would be mighty proud to have her. What a beautiful person. It was an honor to have met her.
We were running late by the time the last person came through and had to hustle to the stage area. I listened from the side while the radio personality told about the group and thought, I sure hope my fingers work and I remember the show. Being the first show of the year always brings out a certain nervousness. When the announcer said, welcome to the stage, Shenandoah, a few seconds later, I was back in my element. We all were. It didn't take long to feel right at home.
We played a 75 minute set to an appreciative audience and got through with no major hiccups. I am always so glad to get that first show of the year under my belt. After we finished, "Church on Cumberland Road", we did picture taking and autograph singings for quite a while. My hand started to cramp from all of the signing. My hands were obviously out of shape cause' I don't sit around the house all Winter, practicing signing autographs..lol
After the last picture was taken and the last t-shirt signed, we were escorted back to the bus, where we were met with stacks of plates of barbeque and ribs and all manner of beverages. Way more than enough to sustain us for our nine hour trip back to Tennessee. The staff hopped aboard and we signed some VIP shirts for them and then we thanked everyone for their extreme hospitality. Then we locked down the bays, locked the door and waved goodbye to Nahunter, Ga.
The ride back would take us through a lot of stormy weather and we got pretty darn close to areas that were under tornado watches or warnings. In spite of the rain, high winds and hail, we forged on. Most of us hit the bunks early but I was awakened around 4:30 am when I felt the bus stop. I got up to find we were stuck in a fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. We decided to sit it out on the side of the road and wait for it to lift. No one wanted to take a chance going down Monteagle mountain in zero visibility. I went back to bed and sort of dozed off till I felt the bus moving again. The next time I opened my eyes it was 6 am and we were back in the parking lot where it all began.
The journey was complete with us all home safe and sound. Another country music adventure had been had by all. Thanks also for the hard work from the "Killer B's", Bart and Byron who work so hard behind the scenes to keep it all running smooth.
Down the road_ Stan Munsey