Anyone who knows me knows that the topic of music would be brought up here sooner or later. After all, many years ago I wrote a weekly column here talking about country music. In those days, I spent a lot of time on the streets in Nashville knocking on doors trying to get someone, anyone to listen to songs I had written and anything I was singing at the time. Former NFL players Mike Reid and Jim Weatherly, who enjoyed success in both the NFL and music, said that if they knew how rough it could be getting into the music business, they might have opted for the punishment of the football field.
For me, radio was “Plan B,” which I could use to sustain me while I pursued my “Plan A,” music. You probably know how well “Plan A” worked out for me, as I am now in my 44th year in radio.
I know many will be able to relate to how quickly the years roll by, and therefore, a lot of the potholes in the road only seem like speed bumps, but they were rather significant at the time they occurred. I had many doors slammed in my face. I’ve experienced unnecessarily brutal critiques from folks who insisted they were just “trying to be helpful,” and the continual, “we’ll get back to you.” However, nothing else I experienced on the long, cold, lonely road to stardom compared to my encounter with Charlie.
I had hooked up with the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and found some wonderful comradery and great direction during my membership. One day after a session at the Nashville offices, my wife and I were approached by “Charlie,” a “song hooker,” a person who for a fee pitches your songs to artists, producers and publishers who might likely be interested in hearing new material for an upcoming recording session.
Charlie managed to peak my interest, and I agreed to have him listen to some of what I believed were my better tunes. Charlie, my wife Patty and I sat in my mobile office (my car) and waited for the look of sheer astonishment to come across Charlie’s face as he listened to song after song. When Charlie had listened to the final tune, he looked at me and said, “Not too terribly bad. But if you just had someone to sing them on the demo.” Scrambling to reel my tongue back into my mouth before slamming my mouth closed with my hand, I proclaimed, “Well, Charlie, that is me singing on those demos.” To which he responded, “I know, but if you just had someone who was a better singer on the demo.”
We were almost home before Patty stopped laughing about Charlie’s words and my reaction to them. I do hope he got a ride back to the office that day.
The moral to this story is, if your dreams are big enough to write the check, make certain your skin is thick enough to cash them. In all our lives there is the good stuff, but occasionally, you’ll look for your favorite can of tuna and find a Charlie. Just grin, bear it, and throw him back.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. He can be heard Tuesday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon on 88.7 WOBO-FM, and can be reached at [email protected]