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A Tribute to The Southern Gentleman

When I was finishing writing my soon-to-be published novel The Nation’s Hope, country music legend Little Jimmie Dickens passed away. I was able to quickly insert a tribute to Little Jimmie. Now while working on my next novel, Sonny James has passed. I don’t believe there is a connection, but just to be on the safe side, the Country Music Association should petition me to stop writing.

When I was growing up and took a hankering to country music, the big three in my book were (in alphabetical order) Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Sonny James. You can see this by the amount of each artist’s vinyl in my record cabinet. Of course with technology there is much less vinyl today. Yet on any given day while I am doing my morning jog, my Ipod is stocked with Sonny James’ hits especially the up-tempo ones, like That’s Why I Love You Like I Do. (Try it—it’s great workout music.)

The best indicator of my affinity for Sonny occurred many years ago. In April 1972 while Sonny was in the midst of his incredible string of number 1 hits, he was scheduled to perform at the Shady Grove Music Fair in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. at the time. Being a student, I had no car and minimal funds, but was able to scrounge up bus fare and ticket money.

Sonny appeared along with Ray Price, who was riding the crest of the recently released For the Good Times, and Faron Young, who had issued It’s Four in the Morning. As much as I enjoyed Ray and Faron, I was there for the Sonny segment of the show. And Sonny was every bit as spectacular as I’d imagined.

The problem was when the show let out, it being a Sunday, the inter-city buses had stopped running. As noted above, I did not have cab fare and was dutiful to Mom who had inculcated in me the dangers of hitchhiking (confession, I did try to thumb a ride but apparently looked too seedy). So with no alternative I walked back to my dorm, at least until I got to the nearest D.C. Metro bus stop—all 18 miles of it! (Go ahead, Mapquest it, if you like). I am a big walker, but that was a bit much. It took me three and a half hours, some nasty blisters on my feet, and considerable scuffing of my dress shoes. But you know what? I would gladly do it again, to see the Southern Gentleman.

God Bless Sonny James.

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