What an honor. From time to time, my job gives me great opportunities to meet some extremely interesting people. Last night, it was a privilage to be in the presence of 2 of country music's most prolific songwriters, Rivers Rutherford & Don Schlitz!
Appearing at the annual Fortune-Williams Music Festival in Staunton, VA, Don & Rivers told some jokes, shared some stories and played their music for an appreciative crowd.
During the intermission, I had a chance to chat briefly with both men, discussing a few mutual Nashville friends with Rivers and complimenting him on the first part of his performance.
Don Schlitz was a bit different though. I became tongue-tied, and probably rambled a bit. I managed to tell him how enjoyable his music is while he signed a copy of his greatest hits.
I never did get to tell him that over 30 years ago, "The Gambler", his first hit (and what a hit it is) helped me discover the power of a story song. That catchy tune stuck in the heads of so many people in the late 70's came to life for me when suddenly the line , "and somewhere in the darkness, the gambler, he broke even..." jumped out at me. The realization that the title character dies in the song gave me new ears to listen to it and so many other songs. Don Schlitz can take alot of credit for my love of great country story songs.
The passion that writers like Don and Rivers put into their music was evident as Rivers closed the show with a story about his relationship with his grandfather...that story, of course is a song, and huge hit for Brad Paisley, "When I get Where I'm Going." Rivers choked up a bit talking about his grandfather...and the song was real for everyone there.
I can only hope that someday when I get where I'm going, there will be a lot of "everyday poets" like Don Schlitz and Rivers Rutherford who can tell the stories of our lives in song.