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Smoke School Stories
The Day I Met Ronnie Milsap
And then there was the time in 1979 when I was in the U.S. Air Force at RAF Alconbury in the Midlands of England. I caught a train to Wimbledon near London on a mission. I was sent by a girlfriend in Oklahoma to get an autograph.
That was the day I met Ronnie Milsap. I arrived at the concert hall late as usual. I ended up at the top of the bleachers in the balcony in the bleeding nose section. However, I noticed a bunch of guys in line and going through a door that went back stage. I noticed they all had a red plastic badge pinned on their shirt. They all had cameras, so I figgered they were form the press.
I had an old beatup Cannon 35 MM Camera with the big lense, but not the red badge. I could fix that simple enough. I took a red pack of Winstons out of my pocket, removed the cigarettes, and pinned the red pack above my shirt pocket. I waited till a group of 3 or 4 reporters were going through the door past the guards at the same time. They were all talking to the guards, so I just squeezed past them. One guard spoke up and asked what paper I was with. I mumbled in my all Southern Accent The SUN. The Sun is the British version of the American gossip column the National Enquirer.
Once inside the hallway that led to the singer's dressing rooms, someone asked me who I wanted to interview. There were about 8 singers scheduled for the concert that day during the week long show. My girlfriend back in Oklahoma had sent me on a mission to get Ronnie Millsap's autograph.
I said, "Today I am sent to interview a mister Ronnie Milsap." This was way back when he was on top of both the American Music Record Charts and the Country and Western music charts everywhere.
I was escorted into his dressing room. He is blind you know. They introduced us to each other. It was just him and me alone in a small room with a lovely young lady. She was more or less his shadow. Although later, as I was standing back stage watching Ronnie sing, I noticed that she was in love with him.
Well anyways, we sat in the dressing room on stools a few feet from each other face to face and I got stage fright. Can you believe that, Uncle George, mouth boy of the smoke school industry with stage fright. I could not say a word. He must have felt my plight and fear. But he didn't probe. He asked me where I was from and If I liked his music. The truth is I had never paid a lot of attention to his music. I was into Hank Williams Jr., George Jones, and my cousin Merle Haggard. I liked Don Williams too and he also was playing that night.
I said, "Louisiana and yes I love all of your music." I sure am glad he didn't ask me what song I liked the best. I got an autograph, but I gave it to my girlfriend in Oklahoma. She dropped me a month later. The story of my life.
Just before the show the lovely young lady took Ronnie and I back stage. Then she went out to the very front of the stage and counted the steps to the entrance. She walked over to Ronnie and said,"32 steps."
When the curtains opened, Ronnie walked out to the edge of the stage, kissed all the women, handed them roses, and started singing,
"I'm having day dreams about night things
In the middle of the afternoon
and while my hands make a living
My minds on loving you"
He stood right on the edge kissing the ladies and shaking hands. He went back to the piano and put on a marvelous show.
After the concert I went down to the PX, brought all his records, caught a plane to Oklahoma, and gave the autograph and the records to my girlfriend. Well after she dumped me, the records had new meaning. I had to buy them all over again. I still have the long playing albums, but guess what. I can't find the turn table. O well, life goes on.
It ain't over until the fat cat sings
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