I started playing music very young, but I started out on drums. In fact, in the fifth grade I got paddled everyday of the school year because I was using my desktop as a drum set. I made straight E’s that year and the teacher passed me to get rid of me.
When I was 8 years old I found a Conway Twitty record of his greatest hits that my mother had, I was so enthralled with it that I put it on my parent’s console stereo and wrote down every lyric on every song of that record. I was considered weird because I was singing heart break songs and not Ring Around The Rosy crap, but I couldn’t get over the songs told a story and it could be told while you sang it, and it actually rhymed haha. But I guess that’s where it started to take root in me.
I got my music from my mother’s side of the family, she grew up playing on the Grand Ole Opry and Louisiana Hay Ride with Hank Williams and Roy Acuff and that crowd until she married my father in 1958 and left the Opry to be a military wife. While we were living in the Philippines Little Jimmy Dickens would stay at our house while he did his Far East tour, back then I didn’t know who he was just tickled a grown up could see things from my prospective.
We grew up playing together, we would have family jam sessions, I would play guitar or keys, mom on stand up bass, Christy (our sister) played sax or clarinet, Dennis (youngest brother) played drums, Dave (middle brother) played guitar and sang his butt off, while daddy played the ear muffs. We had a blast.
What was a moving moment in my life was the day my little family had our own family jam. I would play keyboards or guitar while my daughter, Charity (who is now a paralegal pursuing her law degree) would play bass and sing. My son DJ (who is in the Air Force as a paramedic and Fire Fighter) played guitar and lead. I didn’t push the music on them they came to it on their own and love it as I do, I don’t think I could ever ask for more. Back to the rest of my journey.
I didn’t want to go to college, mainly because I was so tired of school so I joined the Air Force, first thing they did was send me to school, haha. I came back home and married my wife Sandra and took her with me, that was 28 years ago.
I kept playing music but only for my own amusement, I would write gospel songs and perform them at Christian coffeehouses around the Virginia Beach area. Eventually I was stationed in England. As our plane touched down in the UK my wife turned to me and said, “This is where your music will start to take off.” And she was right. But at that point I had no desire to be in the music business, I just loved playing. My actual plan was to retire from the military and see what happens after that.
After a year or so in England I auditioned for a base talent show with a song I wrote and got hired to front a country band named the Silver Eagle Band, I’m not a great singer but it worked. Long story short, being that our band had only American players in it we were hired by a British artist to go into the studio and record his record. We hit it off with the engineer and by the time we were finished he asked if we had written any songs that would wanted to record, mainly because he had a lot of tape left over from the session. We said no we hadn’t, he said “Go home and write a couple and come back next weekend and we’ll record them for free”. Well, we went back and that next week I wrote 4 songs and then we recorded them and next thing you know we had merchandise and booking pretty good and boom, we were in the music bizz. haha
After almost 5 years and having to replace players in the band because of them being shipped out back to the states, I got a set of orders for me to go to Galena, Alaska. An F-15 radar station 50 miles from Russia for one year without my family, I was going to take the orders but they said my wife and kids had to stay in England and I said no they’re not. They said they couldn’t afford to ship them back. I was close to having to reenlist and had to do a 1 year extension on my enlistment to take the orders so I told them to ship us all back.
Well that’s when I decided to come to Nashville and try to become a SONG WRITER.
We got here in April of 1988. Went bankrupt in the first year, in truth my whole song writing career has been an exercise of faith and famine, haha. But God proved to be Faithful and for some reason we’re still here. I took a lot of jobs, played out on the road, wrote songs when I could. Met people, found co-writers listened to what other writers were doing at songwriter nights.
Eventually Don Poythress introduced me to Don Pfrimmer (world class song writer with a list of hits I won’t go into) but he agreed to sit down with me and listen to my songs, he told me he’d tell me if I was a song writer or not. If you know Pfrimmer you know he has no time to hold back and try to spare your feelings haha.
My first session went like this, I walked in with 25 songs, he said, “Ok, this is what’s going to happen. We’ll make two piles, this pile is “this is a piece of shit, and this pile is you MIGHT have something there.” So I proceed to assault his ears with my songs as I watched that “piece of shit pile grow”. At the end of the session I had only two songs in the “you might be on to something pile” and I was feeling like the first pile of songs. Pfrimmer stood up and said, “I don’t know where or how or when you got it, but I think you’re going to be a hell of a song writer.” I felt a little dizzy, but we talked and he said he would work with me and show me what he knows.
For 5 years Pfrimmer took me under his wing and taught me what a great idea was, when to be cute when to be crass, when to be profound and how to be simple minded while you use the wisdom of a redneck.
I started writing with a Casey Beathard and Michael Heeney, and folks of this stature, looking back we were all growing up together but still had some pretty good songs.
Finally Casey and I wrote a song with Billy Currington called “Crazy Everytime” that Tracey Byrd put on his “Ten Rounds” CD, all of a sudden I felt bona fide and certified as a song writer.
A year or so after that I signed my first song writing deal with EMI, I left there, then I wrote at Atlantic Bridge for Jimmy Prophet who is my business partner, and after that I signed a deal with Mosaic which got sold shortly after I arrived and renamed Stage Three Music. I am currently writing at Friday Records with a great group of people who not only love songs but those who write them, I’m very fortunate to be part of such a group.
“If Something Should Happen” with Darryl Worley was a great blessing in my life and career. As of now I’ve been fortunate enough to have a song on Martina McBride’s new CD “Waking Up Laughin'” called “Everybody Does”, also I have a Tracy Lawrence song on his “For The Love” CD called “You Can’t Hide Red Neck” which as I write this the video is being shot for his next radio summer time single. Cledus T. Judd also recorded a song of mine called “Illegals” which pokes fun at the illegal alien problem which is in the news. The song will be on the upcoming tribute CD for Ray Stevens the legendary country music comedian, I’m told that the song will be a single in May of 2007 to kick off the CD.
Writing great songs is about great co-writers. My co-writers are Casey Beathard, Micheal Heeney, Melba Montgomery, Mark Allen Springer, Bobby Pinson, Darryl Worley, Daryl Burgess, Tim James, Brian Davis, Arlis Albritton, Steve Dean, Will Nance, Don Pfrimmer, Jeff Lindsey, Jenny Farrel, Rachel Proctor, Mike Mobley, Steve Leslie, Jim Brown, Curtis Lance, Kelly Shiver, Don Poythress, Phil O’Donnell, Galen Griffin, Craig Wiseman, Brad Murray, Wade Kirby, Thom Shepherd, Monty Criswall, Clint Ingersoll, Jeremy Spillman, Kevin Horne, Jace Everett, Dave Turnbull, Chris Dubois, Jamie Paulin and my son DJ who is proving to be an awesome writer taking it further than where he found it. The list goes on and I don’t want to bore you, but after 18 years of trying it’s quite long.
I hope to meet you all out on the road, and be able to play my songs for you and hear your stories. I hope you enjoy my music.