It may sound a little presumptuous or egotistical to refer to you all as “my writer’s”. But I feel that way. You see, I am a writer also. I’ve played (and still do) in countless open mics and showcases both here in TN and in my home state of Texas. I’ve sung my heart out to large audiences, but equally to rooms with nary a handful of people. Isn’t it great to compose a song, then perform it with “every ounce of energy”, only to hear a response equal to that of a bogie putt made on day two of The Bridgestone Open? For those of you who don’t get the golf analogy, its also known as the “courtesy clap”.
I say “My Writer’s” because I appreciate what you do. I am grateful that you contribute to the art form of music. I appreciate you coming out any performing for free. I know the often thankless life of the troubadour. In a sense, I AM you… you ARE me.
I feel compelled then to offer commentary on this whole “contest”, “cash prize” thing. I’m fearful that the notion of having a contest has rubbed some the wrong way. I feel that some may have hurt feelings. This, in turn, brings me heart-ache. So, if you will indulge me, I’d like to start from the beginning.
It was a rainy week when my son, dog, and I got to town. My lovely bride had arrived a month early to begin a new job. I had stayed behind in Dallas to pack and prepare the house for sale. We had paid the movers in full, and when they finally arrived, three days late, the rain was off and on. You can imagine my despair when the mover provided a doctored weigh-in ticket, claiming that our load was thousands of pounds overweight. The only solution was to pay these hood-lams thousands of dollars more to get our life’s possessions out of the truck. If you’ve ever dealt with shady movers, then you know that they wont take the lock off the moving truck until you pay them. Our things had been in that truck for way too long. My late Mother’s, 1967 Baldwin Acrosonic piano was on that truck! In the heat. In the humidity. I had to get our stuff. Hence, the move was much more costly than anticipated.
Consequently, my plan shifted from “network the songwriter angle”, to “make money now”. The next day I went down to this place called “Anchor High Grill” and spoke with the GM, Josh Stimpson. (still a dear friend of mine) He gave me a job as a waiter and I spent the summer slinging fish sandwiches. I look back on the memory fondly. Every thing about TN was so new, and I was on this new adventure. It was a tough job, so I have to remind all to take care of the staff at The Rudder. Anyway, one night the owner, Vern (still a dear friend of mine who now owns Awe Daddy’s) asked if I would take over “Open Mic Night”. I presented him with some ideas and we began the journey.
One of the biggest hurdles we faced was also our biggest strength. LOCATION. Once people come to the marina and experience the venue, they all agree that its an awesome place to play. However, getting writer’s to travel from Nashville and find us down the back roads was going to present a challenge. We weren’t strategically located like Debbie Champion’s rounds at The Commodore, or world famous like Barbara Cloyd’s rounds at The Bluebird. My idea was to offer $50 for “song of the night”. The idea was for us to gain traction. Make us a little different than all the other “open mics” out there. It worked too. I had a guy (not gonna say his name) play for us. Played his #1 for us. His song was probably the best song of the night so he got the $50. He was almost in tears when I gave it to him. After kids, marriages, and boats, the money from the #1 was gone… I had another guy come out and play one night. He played beautifully but didn’t win. I gave him my last $20 so he could make it downtown to hit another open mic…
As you all know, The locale changed ownership and became The Rudder. They wanted to keep me as the showcase host, but up the cash award to $100. That was last year and it was successful. This year, they offered it again, but allowed me to run with the idea of a “Grand Finals”…. The new GM, Ronnie Giddis (Also a good guy), ponied up hundreds for this event…. THE GRAND FINALS Wednesday, September 25th.
And now here we are…. Just remember, I came to this town to write the worlds greatest drinkin’ tune. I still might… Any may already have… But along the way, I have become an advocate for my fellow songwriter. If you have played in one of my shows, then you are in my circle. You are part of my family… Don’t allow cash awarded … or cash not awarded disguise the big picture….. PEACE MY BRETHREN