A Return To Paradise

Tonight, I will be heading back to the best place on Earth…Athens, Georgia.

Not only will I be going back to Athens, I will be going back with my brother and two great friends.

Not only will I be going back to Athens with my brother and two great friends, we will be eating cheeseburgers at The Grill

Not only will I be going back to Athens with my brother and two great friends, eating cheeseburgers at the Grill, we will be hearing live music.

Not only will I be going back to Athens with my brother and two great friends, eating cheeseburgers at the Grill, hearing live music at the Georgia Theater.

Pretty cool!

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Every Once In A While

I have loved music since I can remember. My earliest memories involve me as a young child falling asleep to the music my parents played on their Zenith turntable. The would stack several LPs on the machine as the day coasted to an end and I would drift off to sleep to the sounds of Eddy Arnold, Jim Nabors, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis.

If you are familiar with the song ‘Sweet Music’ by The Pat Terry Group, then you will know pretty much how music has influenced my life.

I have been fortunate to have been able to meet, and in some cases know, the musicians that really had a major impact on me musically and personally. I have also been fortunate to have witness some amazing musical events and when looking back, it seems as if it has been years since I have experience anything musically that I would consider even remotely above the ordinary.

That all changed yesterday.

To put this all in perspective, allow me to share a few of my most memorable music events, in no particular order.

Phil Keaggy – Jesus 76, Orlando, FL At that time, Phil had just one Christian album, ‘What A Day’ and he was not very well known. He was not even ‘major act’ on the venue but rather was ‘filler’ as he and Ted Sandquist and Paul Clark would come out and play in between the more well known acts of the day. Though they were listed on the schedule, most people were asking, ‘Who are these guys?’ Until…some magical happened, Phil Keaggy played a solo. There was something special about the little guy in the middle.

At that time, I was just 16 and had been playing guitar for two years. Even then, I knew enough to know that I was witnessing something beyond normal. Phil Keaggy, at that precise moment, changed me forever. Not just musically, but also the way he loved the Lord in his sincere and humble nature.

Ron Thompson – July, 1967, Perry, GA Ronny Thompson is guilty of being the one who got me hooked on guitar. I was just seven years old when I moved from Mobile, Alabama to Perry, GA and Ronny lived across the street from me. He was seven years older and he had, and could play, an electric guitar. He possessed an ability that, like watching Houdini escape from his famous water torture trick that made me think, “I want to know how he does that…and I want to be able to do it too.” I still keep in touch with Ronny and he is still playing and I will love him forever for the influenced he and his Hagstrom guitar and Kent amp had on me…an influence that lives today.

The Del Lords – Summer 1983, Athens, GA At this time, I was playing in a band called ‘Big Suntan’ and ‘Athens Music’ as it was coming to be known at the time, was making quite a splash. R.E.M. was nationally known, as were The B-52’s and it was quite the time to be playing music in a city that will forever hold my heart. I saw the Del Lords play and knew very little about them but that one concert, in a sweaty little club was the personification of what rock and roll is all about. I could not have named two songs they played but each one sounded like something I was familiar with. (To me, the quality of a great song.) There could not have been 70 people there but that night, they were rock and roll perfection.

Wow…there so many more special moments that stand out in my mind; the Jimmy Buffett Coconut Telegraph Tour at the Atlanta Civic Center when he opened up for himself with an acoustic set with just him and an electric piano player before bringing out the band. There was the night I got to have dinner with The Phil Keaggy Band during their ‘Emerging’ Tour on their stop in Atlanta; Flying to Ohio with one of my best friends, Jon Pierce, to see a reunion show of Glass Harp, Phil Keaggy’s rock and roll band. There are quite a few more but as I mentioned, it has been many years since anything came close to ‘knocking me out’ in a music sense until yesterday when I heard The Peasall Sisters at the Chapel at Roswell United Methodist Church in Roswell, GA.

I ‘discovered’ the Peasall Sisters through my new favorite thing http://www.pandora.com, an internet ‘radio station’ where you can enter an artists name and it ‘creates’ a station for you playing their music mixed in with similar artists of the same genre.

I created an Alison Krauss station and was enjoying her tunes, The Barn Owl Band, Ricky Skaggs and then, suddenly, like someone took a spotlight and shined it directly into my eyes, it was the harmonies of the most amazing sounding trio I have ever heard. A quick click of the mouse and I saw ‘The Peasall Sisters’. It took me just three songs before I hit their website and then iTunes where I purchased their ‘Home To You’ album. For the next three weeks, I played those tunes over and over and over. Had it been a vinyl LP, I would have to go get another one by now as I surely would have worn it out.

About a week ago, I decided to hit their website again to see if they were on tour when low and behold, they would be at Roswell UMC in less than 10 days. I don’t care who was going with me, I was going to be there, front and center, which, unfortunately, I was alone as my gals had eye appointments and could not change them.

I arrived early, way early and was, as I planned, front and center. The Chapel at Roswell UMC is a beautiful building, lots of wonderful wood and the perfect setting for what I would call a religious experience.

When I walked in, the three sisters, Sarah, 21; Hannah, 18; and Leah, 15 were doing their sound check. I have no idea how long they have been there but I did hear them say, “Let us do two more songs and we should be good to go.”

The next dozen or so minutes will stand out in my mind like the first time I saw Herschel Walker break out for a long run, Jack Nicklaus, well, just standing there being Jack Nicklaus, Phil Keaggy asking me to pass the salt, the Grand Canyon, Mount McKinley, The eruption of Mount Spurr.

I am not kidding. What I heard at that moment was straight from the gates of Heaven…God doing a little ‘showing off’ through His creation.

The music was not the only amazing thing I witnessed from the Peasall Sisters. Their humility, grace, intelligence and obvious love for the Lord was equally as appealing and also a breath of fresh air. It has been almost as long from being amazed musically as it has been for me seeing what I would call genuine Christians.

I am too poor of a writer to come close to expressing how wonderful yesterday was. I bought their DVD and when we I got home, I played it for Anna and Katie and Lane was able to watch most of it. We are definitely all going to be together the next time they are even close to Atlanta. Right now, I kind of feel like the guy who claims to have seen ‘Nessie’…all words fail the description.

There are some things you just have to witness for yourself.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

I was 14 years old, just learning to play guitar to a book called ‘The Music of John Denver Made Easy For Guitar’…which I still have…when I ‘discovered’ an album with a funky cover and, for a young Christian, first heard the most amazing music of my young life.

We were at an event for our church youth group at our pastor’s house and while everyone else was playing games, laughing, eating and have a blast, I sat at the end of the sofa and listened to that album three times, both sides.  (LP vinyl…remember?)

The album was the eponymous, first custom album by The Pat Terry Group, and to say it had an impact on me would be more than an understatement. 

Like many young Christians of that era, especially in the south, The Pat Terry Group definitely had a larger than life sense about them.  World class in what they did yet very approachable.  Going to see The Pat Terry Group was an event those of us who cherished Pat’s songs marked on our calendars and counted the weeks and days with anticipation.

I lost count how many times I saw them in concert.  I remember seeing them in Macon at Mulberry Street United Methodist; the Atlanta Civic Center, backed up by the string section of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the debut concert for their ‘Songs of the South’ album; some funky outdoor festival in the middle of no where, Kentucky; the Jesus Music Festivals of 1976 and 1977 and lots of places in between.

Somehow, along the way, I got to know the guys in the group…mostly through their graciousness and patience; answering a million questions of a young guitar player wannabe fascinated by the wonder of their music.

I am grateful to have way more memories than I can count that were born from that night, sitting at the end of the sofa. 

Sonny Lallerstedt; for some reason, I was able to make him laugh and we connected first.  One of my favorite memories with Sonny and his wife Becky was the time I rode a Greyhound bus from Perry to Marietta to spend the weekend with them, as Sonny was going with me to help me pick out my high school graduation present; a new Fender Stratocaster guitar.

He got me a beauty!  Sonny, with musical gifts beyond anyone I have met since, loved the way that guitar sounded and looked and I remember that night, sitting in his music room, holding that guitar and trying to play it where he could not hear me. (kind of like, a swine before pearls thing.)  It was about 10:00 PM when the phone rang. It was my parents calling needing directions to Sonny and Becky’s house.  It seemed that my trip was cut short as I had to take the SAT’s in Macon the next morning and that ‘minor task’ slipped off the radar. 

The Pat Terry Group actually used that guitar on two songs on their ‘Heaven Ain’t All There Is’ album.  That guitar was rocking cool but was stolen during a move between apartments when I was living in Athens, GA.  (Sonny helped me get another Strat, which I still have today.)

The Pat Terry Group has a big impact on the music of that time.  Pat’s songs were recorded by just about ever major artist in that genre and after half dozen albums or so and umpteen years of touring, marriages and babies, the group disbanded.  Sonny and Randy (Bugg) formed ‘Twelve Oaks Recording Studio’ and became ‘Nine to Fivers’ while Pat began a solo career that lasted for three albums and since then has continued in music doing what I believe he does best…writing songs. 

I still stay in touch with Sonny and Becky and count them amongst two of my dearest friends ever.  Pat and Pam are the godparents of our youngest daughter, Katie and ‘honorary’ godparents of our oldest daughter Anna.

Pat has never stopped writing.  In the years since he last recorded he has continued to write some of the most thoughtful, profound and brilliant songs I have ever heard.  In the time that has passed since ‘The Silence, Pat’s last solo effort, I have been gently ‘selling’ him on the concept of a new Pat Terry album, that the world needs more of his music, played by him, sung by him.

Today, I am please to announced ‘I closed the sale’.  Actually, the deal was closed a long while back but between his regular trips to Nashville, making a living with his songs being recorded by the likes of Alan Jackson, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Chesney, Travis Tritt, The Oak Ridge Boys, John Anderson and more, the album taken a while to complete.

So, I am happy to share with you that the new Pat Terry album is finished.  Laugh For A Million Years’ is done, mixed and being produced as I type.  Look for it in early December on iTunes and via Pat’s Website www.patterryonline.com.

If you ever owned a Pat Terry Group album or one of his solo records, ever heard him in concert, ever heard anyone else record one of his songs…get his new CD.  I am confident that you will agree, good things do come to those who wait. 

Enjoy…

Bobby “D”