RFD Ralph Emery, Larry Gatlin, Elvis, and even ole T remembers
From: tandpam@shawneelink.net

Sunday Am October 5
Chuck Sir,
Last evening, we enjoyed a rare "Quiet Saturday Night" at home.
No load up, unload music gear, perform, load up, and unload in the wee hours of the mornin’. Quite the opposite in fact.
Pam, Mayme and I spent the night as a family watching what I would describe as wholesome family entertainment on RFD TV. Pretty rare I suspect, especially with an 18 year old. I guess we are blessed to have a daughter who is content of her own accord to spend a Saturday night with her folks.
Towards the end of the evening, Ralph Emery had TX son Larry Gatlin on as his guest. I said to Pammee, "this could be real interesting, if Gatlin tells the truth." Well, tell the truth he did, and it was an hour that passed like it was 10 min.

Mr. Emery came out of the box with hard hittin’ questions about Gatlin’s years of cocaine addiction, the Gatlin Brothers’ rise to the ultimate top of the music business, and their spiral fall to the bottom, and how now they were clawing their way back up, clean and sober, with faith in the Lord, and a new record deal thanks to Mike Curb who believes that it’s about the music, not one’s age or past mistakes.
Now, I have met Mike Curb, I have showcased along with my band-brother Blue Dunlap, and my wife Pam at Curb Records.  In fact I got some most kind words of encouragement from him two years ago at the Songwriters festival on Music Row, and if I had followed the suggestion of one of his AR (artist relations) people and removed the Dixie Outfitters shirt I was wearing, pulled the battleflag decal off my guitar prior to walkin’ on the Hall of Fame stage, well who knows how it would have turned out. But, a man has to do what a man has to do, at least if he is a man of strong conviction, and if anyone here  don’t  know how much I  truly love that flag, then they must  been livin’ under a rock for the past 6 or 7 years.
So, back to last night’s program.  We sat and listened to Larry Gatlin spill his guts about addiction, and its effects on family, friends, and his career, and although I certainly never got close to the success he experienced, back in the 70’s when my hometown buddies were workin’ oil field and factory jobs for $2 somethin’ an hour, I was traveling all over the country on busses and even planes playin music for 45 min a night for $750. Unfortunately, I’d wake up broke more mornin’s than not because of my heroin addiction. All the money I wasted, all the friends I buried during those 13 years….lookin’ back it’s  just such a waste, and more striking so amazing to still be here, not just alive but still playin’ music.
In the waning minutes of the program, Mr. Emery brought up an occasion when Larry Gatlin was alone for some minutes with Elvis; he asked “what did they talk about?" What Larry Gatlin answered with not only amazed me, but in truth brought tears to my eyes. He said they talked about how much they loved the music of the Blackwood Brothers quartet.
I grew up listening to the Blackwoods, the Statesmen, the Stamps, the Lefevours, and a ton of other Southern Gospel groups, and I am not talkin just their vinyl records, I am talking live at what we used to call all night gospel gatherings. My Momma and my aunt Barb did that whole scene. I have seen my momma play piano for them, and sing with them. I have broken bread with some of the most famous Southern Gospel quartet members in my aunt’s home in Fairfield IL. when their tour busses would pull up in front of her antebellum home and stay parked there for a couple of days. I have sat quietly at the ages of 8 through 10 or 11 while a reel to reel recorder spun next to Aunt Barb’s Steinway grand piano in her music room with its 18 foot ceiling and a hanging crystal chandelier, while one gospel artist after another would join in just for fun sessions, with my then so young and beautiful momma sittin’ on the piano bench playin song after song for these legends of gospel music.  In fact I can actually remember back clearly when momma took a phone call in the summertime of 54 that a small plane owned by RW Blackwood had crashed and that he and Bill Lyles (also a member of the quartet) were gone, I can remember my daddy shakin’ his head in disbelief and momma cryin’. I was 4 years old at that time, let me tell ya “some things make lasting impressions even on very young minds."
Now, my momma is about to turn 80 years young, and her health has failed ever since my little brother John passed over the river, but she still goes to the nursing home where my aunt Barb resides, and momma sits at the piano in the recreation room, and plays all them old Southern Gospel songs and church hymns for the residents, Aunt Barb, in her 90s now, in her wheel chair still singin in a voice barely audible but still singin, and sometimes Mayme is there with her flute as well, sometimes fillin’ in on piano when Momma needs a break.
How blessed my life has been to grow up dirt poor, hard and fast, yet with strong roots that went deep, and despite makin’ more poor choices than any individual should ever make, I survived it all! I praise God that I have a mind that still works good enough to remember times so special.
I never had Larry Gatlin’s talent; but, we sure have lived similar lifestyles, and I truly believe we both learned from our mistakes and for any young musician who might be out there readin’ this, take note of this old guitarslinger’s  words "make the right choices, hold on to your beliefs, never dump on y’all’s friends or family, and keep that personal phone line to your creator open." Success will come to y’all in one form or another.
I preciate the opportunity this forum allows this old man to share stories from the past. No recollections from the past can only lead to no future.
Blessins’ on this Sunday to y’all.