Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Ramblin' Rhodes: From serious to sweet, quotes stand out among rest

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In keeping with tradition, my last column of 2013 is devoted to my favorite quotes obtained through my interviews during the year:

MARK O’CONNOR, fiddler: “I’ve always thought musicians are some of the luckiest people in the world. They somehow survive all they go through, and they love to put smiles on people’s faces.”

LEE ROY of brother-sister duo The Roys: “The biggest advice we were given several times in trying to find a label was, ‘Make sure your music is never compromised for anybody.’ We turned down some record deals, but, if we can’t look in the mirror and enjoy who we are then we need to get out of the music business.”

JIM VAN CLEVE, fiddler with Mountain Heart: “We like tackling an expanded genre base and having a blast doing it. All of these guys in our band are world-class session players. We like putting new materials in front of us that are challenging and fun.”

JAMES CRAWFORD, Georgia Visitor Information Center employee and former road manager for James Brown: “I was there in the lean years before the superstar James Brown came about. He was making about $750 on a regular night and had to pay the band and travel expenses out of that. But when (his hit single) Cold Sweat came out, his price literally jumped overnight to $5,000 to $6,000. Then he decided if a promoter could make that kind of money, we should book our own shows, and we did.”

BEN PORTSMOUTH, British native and internationally known Elvis Presley tribute artist: “It’s a form of acting. You just become Elvis. I think it may be easier for me to impersonate Elvis’ voice than a Southerner like he was because I’m working with a blank canvas to create him. I think what I do is pretty weird, but I love getting away from the rest of the world during that time when I’m on a stage and making people happy with Elvis’ music.”

EMIRA EAGLE LYMON BRYANT, former wife of teen star Frankie Lymon on the musical Fool in Love: A Musical Night in the Life of Frankie Lymon: “I’m sure it probably would bring back some good memories. And you are so right that I caught Frankie at a good time in his life. I often tell people that Frankie didn’t end up living a glorified life. His, in the end, was a wasted life ruined by drugs. He was used and misused, and he used others also. His was a wasted life, and he was so talented.”

ARVEL BYRD, Native American fiddler/violinist: “When you think of classical music, you think of sheet music with everybody reading the same music and playing together. You need that structure for a large group, but to me that wasn’t music. I had seen bluegrass and Appalachian fiddlers playing and they weren’t reading music. I wanted to do that too and play freely and have it come from my heart rather than a sheet of paper.”

JANIS IAN, Grammy Award-winning singer on living in Nashville, Tenn., with her partner, Patricia Snyder, a lawyer: “People like Chet Akins embraced Pat from the first, and that took the issue away from us. And I think that theater and music people always have been considered to be a little different. That is true all over the country and all over the world (changing attitudes about interracial and same-sex couples) as you continue to get a younger population who just doesn’t care about things like that.”

RHONDA VINCENT, bluegrass music queen on her daughter, Brooke Lea, who at three days old died in her arms: “My husband is the one who really brought me through it. My daughters, then 2 and 4, would come up to me and say, ‘Mommy, why are you crying?’

“You just want to roll up in a corner in a ball. The next day after the funeral, my husband took all the family out fishing. He said, ‘You’re not going to stop. You’re going to continue to live.’ He kept pushing me, and we played at our family’s annual Sally Mountain Music Festival the very next weekend.”

BELL AUDITORIUM FAN on annoying patrons: “Yes, Spamalot is a very funny show, we saw it in New York City a few years back and I’ve always been a Monty Python fan, but the man, who obviously knew Spamalot well, would say the lines of the character out loud before the actor on stage actually said them. The first time, it was kind of funny but as the night wore on, it became dreadfully annoying..”

BRIAN DAVIS, singer and songwriter: “My dad met a lot of people in Nashville and had a lot of things going with his music early on, but he chose his family over being on the road and became a welder. When I was in the third grade, he took me to see Ronnie Milsap in concert and got us backstage. I was so excited! I went to school and told everyone I had seen Ronnie Milsap. I think the only person who was excited about it, though, was my teacher.”

SAM BUSH, mandolin player on fewer colorful characters in bluegrass music today: “The older generations carried on a lot of feuds and stuff. Most people in bluegrass music today came along like I did and realize we are all out there just trying to make a living. I see a lot of characters still out there, and I know a lot of rascals. I’m glad we still have some trailblazers who were the originators of different styles.”

RONNIE BUSKIRK, 1966 graduate of Harlem (Ga.) High School who was signed to Columbia Records: “I haven’t done nightclubs since I was in my 30s, and I’m now 65. I’ve got a place on the Ogeechee River and spend time with my family. I was gone on the road from my family on so many weekends and holidays. I told my old drummer that you may think that you miss the performing days but you’re more in love with the fantasy of that than the reality.”

RONNIE MILSAP on his wife of 48 years, Joyce, whom he met while attending Young Harris (Ga.) College: “I started dating her for several months, and it was close to a year before we finally got married (in 1965). Joyce gave me a ride to school one Sunday morning and my zoology teacher saw me the next day and said, ‘Gawd, Ronnie, who was that cool blonde who brought you to school yesterday?’ I said, ‘That’s a young lady I’m dating.’ And he said, ‘You’ve got to hold on to her.’ I said, ‘I’m going to try,’ and I did.”


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