Michael Martin Murphey – the cowboy rides into town

So, I didn’t get to watch the Grammys last night… with good reason.
But I sort of watched vicariously through the words of Craig Havighurst’s recap on his facebook page. Thanks Craig!

Music.
It is the tapestry of our lives.
And my love of music goes way back.

I love many different genres, and am often moved to tears by good music.
And when I was in a Barnes & Noble recently and actually held in my hands, a vinyl record, it took my breath.
Who remembers those?!?

I’ve called Nashville home for 24 years, and I’ve heard a lot of music in this town.
And last night was one of the best.

My friend, Justin O’Neal invited me to go hear Michael Martin Murphey at the City Winery.
We had the balcony VIP section to ourselves, and it felt like we were at a private concert.

Michael Martin Murphery 021516Michael and his band performed some of my old favorites, including “What’s Forever For,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” “Cherokee Fiddle,” “Carolina In The Pines,” and “Wildfire.”

Here’s a snippet of “What’s Forever For.”

And who can forget “Wildfire”?

With his son Ryan on rhythm guitar and mandolin, and young phenom Shaun Richardson on lead guitar, mandolin and fiddle, the band was tight, and fluid, and straightforward.

Thanks to Dolly Chandler from the City Winery for putting together some great events. I’ve seen several shows at the City Winery – including Gary Nicholson’s birthday bash, with EG Kight at the BB King Tribute show, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, now The Original Cowboy himself, Michael Martin Murphey.

Here are a few shots of Justin chatting with Michael after the show.

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 1

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 2

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 3
Thanks Justin! I had a great time!

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He made us all laugh…..

My heart is heavy today, as I grasp the fact that an old and dear friend is no longer with us. A father-figure to me for several decades, Les Scarce left this world Monday morning. Though he passed peacefully, it doesn’t lessen the loss…

I met Les and his wife Normalou, in 1984, at an EG Kight show in Tulsa. I was dating Mike Cleeton at the time, and it was Valentine’s Day, so he and I were out on a date, looking for a place to have a nice, quiet dinner. I would have been content with a Schlotzky’s sandwich, but he preferred a hearty meal, so we ended up at Melody’s Restaurant, near 71st and Memorial Drive.

It was one of those magical nights that’s hard to describe, filled with music, laughter, and instant friendships. Many people who were in the room that night are still friends today. We shared so much in common, among them a love of good music.

EG would perform in Tulsa for a month at a time, several times a year, and all of her friends would come together and celebrate life. And all of her friends became friends with each other, and we all became part of a big musical family. And Les and Norma were a big part of that family.

When I heard the news that Les had passed away, the memories came flooding back. An astute business man, he was the one who spearheaded the business of a fan club for EG. We were a corporation, held regular business meetings, and had annual picnics at LaFortune Park in Tulsa, for all the fans to come together and play games, have raffles, and just have fellowship with each other. Kids of all ages would come, and some would go home with prizes of some sort. But the biggest prize was our friendships, and Les and Norma were like the parents of this great big extended family.

In this photo, we thought it would be fun to pretend we were the best band in town, so EG would hire us! Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The only one of us who could actually play the instrument we were holding was Les! Barry Whitelock, our vice president was on drums, and Fran Whitelock was on mandolin.
Norma, Fran, Barry, Les, Sunny instruments
Through the years, I’ve attended church with Les and Norma, gone out to hear live music with them, and shared many meals with them. Tulsa was so alive with great artists and musicians back then, and when EG wasn’t in town, we regularly went out to hear Debbie Campbell, Spencer Sutton, Mark Bruner, Jimmy Strader, Gus Hardin, Tommy Crook, Flash Terry, Ron Chandler, Earl Clark and Spectrum, Don WhiteBuddy Bruce, Sylvester, and so many others. And Norma never minded sharing Les with others, because he loved to dance so much.

When I moved to Nashville in 1992, it was difficult leaving family and friends behind, but I was determined to make a difference in the music business. And I carried Les’s business guidance with me…

In later years, though Les didn’t dance much any more, when I’d drive back to Tulsa for a visit, I so enjoyed spending time with him and Norma, eating at Goldie’s, or the Full Moon Café, or CJ Maloney’s, their favorite club. The music and fellowship was still so much a part of their lives, and looking around the table, I was reminded that some of those friends we were sharing yet another meal with were some of the people we met all those years ago at Melody’s.
Les and Norma Full Moon Cafe 020304
Those who knew Les well, and  even those who were blessed to be around him for a short time, all experienced his humor. He was the instigator of so much laughter, and his recitations often had the listener doubled over. Many know his version of the “wide-mouth frog,” and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve smiled, just thinking about his famous line – “Sallisaw Henryetta Wagoner Catoosa,” a pun using the names of small towns in Oklahoma.

One of my fondest memories of Les was the time he and Norma and I embarked on a mini-vacation, through the Ouachita Mountains that run from Oklahoma to Arkansas. It was a beautiful time of year, and with no real destination in mind, we simply took off in their big green Chevrolet (which they had bought from my grandparents) and headed down the road. Under no deadlines, we stopped when and where we wanted to, and often pulled off the road just to take in all the beauty. One of my favorite photos of them was taken on that trip.
Les and Normalou Scarce
They were so young at heart, and we were having the time of our lives.

True friendships withstand the test of time. And Les and Norma have remained my dear friends through all these years. Here we were a couple of years ago, celebrating Don Stacey’s birthday.
Norma, Les, Sunny Don's BD
Though we didn’t talk every day, I always felt them close, because they were so much a part of who I have become. Their influence is still with me today, and I’m so grateful to have had them in my life…

Les fell ill several weeks before he passed, and the doctors did all they could. I was so torn, wanting to be there with him and Norma, as I had several times in the past, to help them through this health challenge. But it wasn’t to be this time.

My heart aches for Norma, but I’ll be with her in spirit as she journeys through the grief. I know she won’t be alone, with her family and friends to support her. And I hope the memories will sustain her

Though my heart is heavy, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to Les in person, it comforts me to know that he was at peace. He had told Norma that he was ready to go, and he started to describe the colors he was seeing, as he transitioned. I know that he rests now, with no pain, and no worries. What a beautiful reward for a beautiful soul

Hold your loved ones even closer this Christmas season, and remember what it was that first drew you to them. Forgive, and laugh, and love… as much as your heart can hold….

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Service information can be found at http://www.christian-gavlikfuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1484566

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What are we thankful for?

It’s that time of year again, when we stop, step back from the weekly grind, and remember what we’re thankful for.
And it just seems fitting that I re-post something I wrote many Thanksgivings ago, because it still fits, and it’s all still very true…

——–

GRATITUDE

There is a day in this country set aside for giving thanks, yet every day I try to express my
appreciation for life and love and all that comes with it

My heart is full of gratitude for the friends who see me for who I am,
know my heart,      and stand by me as I stand in my truth

And I am grateful for the lessons learned from the disillusionment of
relationships that no longer serve me
and for each step of the unabashed movement toward my    higher purpose

I am grateful for the realizations in the aftermath that
nothing is as it seems
and that sometimes reality is merely an illusion

I am thankful for the liberation that comes with letting go, with no ill will
only appreciation for the time spent on that particular path
remembering that without honest and sincere communication –
the foundation upon which relationships are built        and maintained –
there is no real relationship

I am thankful for a year of dreams realized, of unimagined spiritual moments
shared with those to whom I don’t feel the need to explain

I am thankful for the journey to the mountaintop
for the extraordinarily breathtaking display of fall colors in Vermont
reminders of the beauty that is in and around us
humble reminders to keep open our eyes and our hearts

I give thanks for the compassion felt for those who don’t have the capacity
for those who can’t or won’t open themselves enough to truly love
and for the understanding that no one can love us until they truly love themselves

I am grateful for the true friends who love unconditionally
who love through it all and give of themselves expecting nothing in return

I am beholden to the men in my life who have caused my heart to flutter
and those who mangled it and left it for dead
for either way, they cause me to stop to remember the divine feminine in each of us

And I’m glad for the time I had with the most difficult of men
the ones whose anger and rage taught me what I will and will not tolerate

I thank humankind for the daily doses of pain and heartache that come,
sometimes relentlessly
teaching me, again,
that we all have an unlimited supply of patience, tolerance and love

I am thankful for the growth that comes from leaving behind old hurts
and frustrations and fears
old scars from childhood or wounds from recent battles
because it is in the tearing down that we are built back up

I am thankful for the voices of all humanity, and of those on the other side
who talk to me, in the daylight and in my dreams
whispering the secrets of the universe to me,
knowing I will carry them close to my heart

I am grateful for strangers, who upon approaching, aren’t afraid to make eye contact
who acknowledge the divine in me, as I do in them

I am grateful for the children, the tiny messengers of hope,
who reach inside me and touch my heart and awaken my soul in ways that
bring  me  to  my   knees

I am thankful for the memories of all my friends and enemies, here and on the other
side,
because the time they gave me and the lessons they taught me
will forever be part of me, part of who I am to be

I am thankful for the dark times and the tears that have come in the night
silently slipping out of their bottomless well, reminding me that I’m human

I can’t express enough gratitude for my family, who, though I don’t see them often
remind me of where this journey began, who recognize themselves in me,
as I do in them,
and who remind me of the innate potential in every moment, in every breath

I am grateful that I am never lonely, for there are always words to keep me company
words – the gifts given to us to aid in expressing our truest selves
and I’m grateful for the gift of freedom we have in this country to use those words

I am grateful for music, that sweet universal language that often speaks without words,
in times of intense emotion, reaching in and touching the very core of who we are

I thank the universe for the still, quiet moments
those fragments of time that allow communion with all that is and all that will be

And above all, I am thankful for
trust
and faith
and love
and knowing
for these are the things that sustain me
when all else
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .  . . f a l l s
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . a w a y

©Sunny Stephens  /  11-22-07

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Nashville loses an icon

The news hit me hard yesterday… not because I knew him personally, but because of who he was, and how he died…

Jack Vaughn

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/11/09/opryland-hotel-figure-jack-vaughn-dies/18778475/

Two words are synonymous with Nashville tourism – Jack Vaughn.

Those of us who live here tend to get complacent, and immune to the fact that people from all over the world come to Nashville – for the music, for the food, for the shopping, for the entire experience. That experience is what Jack Vaughn imagined, back in the days when the Opryland property was only a tract of dirt. A visionary, a good business man, a kind and compassionate person, he literally changed the face of Nashville.

Opryland Hotel

I worked for Gaylord Entertainment, the parent company of the Opryland hotel, and though our department served all of the Gaylord companies, I never had a personal encounter with Mr. Vaughn. But in all my years there, I never heard one person utter a harsh word about him. How could they? He treated EVERY employee, from the housekeepers to the board members, with the respect they deserved. He called employees by their name, and when he had time, would engage them in conversations.

When I worked there, there was a strong sense of family. I believe that part of that feeling came from the CEO, Bud Wendell. I actually had several interesting, personal conversations with Bud, and his warmth carried over to the entire company. He and Mr. Vaughn created an atmosphere of kindness and caring. Things have certainly changed at the company in recent years, but as anyone who worked there back in the day will tell you, when Mr. Vaughn was in charge, it was a great place to work.

I can’t begin to comprehend what Mr. Vaughn’s family is going through, and the immense loss they must feel. The days ahead will be difficult, for them and for all those who loved him.

If there’s a lesson in all this, it’s that we never know what someone is going through. Like Robin Williams, we can assume that someone’s life is going well, but unless we’re in the trenches with them, we can’t know how much they hurt…

To honor Mr. Vaughn, let’s try to be more kind and compassionate towards one another. We don’t know the burdens someone carries, and maybe a smile, or a kind word or gesture can make that burden a little lighter, if only for a moment…

Mr. Vaughn had big ideas, and he dreamed big. When you look around our fair city, think of him, and his family. We are who we are because of him.

EG's photo downtown Nashville with copyright

Thank you, Mr. Vaughn. Your legacy lives on….

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