Famous Encounters

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In a recent Facebook post, I asked my friends to ask me questions they’d want to hear answers to.  Phyllis asked: “What has been your OMG moment in radio in regards to meeting someone who you never dreamed of meeting and did they measure us to your idea of them in your mind?”

Throughout 30 years of radio, I have had the pleasure of meeting many celebrities.  I have to admit, I am almost always nervous when I stand in the meet and greet line. I don’t know why, but I still get star-struck.  Despite the fact that these stars are real people just like us.  I’ve had some really amazing and down to earth conversations with so many of them.

During my time at WKSG, I used to see a lot of comedians.  They were often playing Chaplin’s Comedy Club on Groesbeck.  They would come in to promote their show.  During that time I met Allen and Rossi (Marty Allen sadly died earlier this year), Rita Rudner, Richard Jeni, and Richard Belzer.  Richard Belzer was very cool.  At the time, he did one of the best Ronald Reagan impressions.  He had yet to become Detective Munch on Law and Order. I remember him being very funny and friendly to all of us.  I remember the first time I saw him on Law and Order – I was like, “No way, dad!  I met that guy at Kiss-FM!”

Certainly one of the coolest days was when the Four Tops came in.  Wow, talk about awestruck!  I remember Duke Fakir shaking my hand and striking up conversation with me.  I couldn’t believe he wanted to know about ME!  It was such a very cool experience.  He had such a smooth voice and a hearty laugh.  This is where I look back and wish cell phone cameras were around.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, meeting Soupy Sales was quite a thrill.  He was older than I was used to seeing him (on the second incarnation of the Soupy Sales Show), but still as quick as ever!  He and my pal, Vic, shared stories about New York and then he was telling us some great stories and jokes (the ones he couldn’t tell on the radio).  He had recently been injured and was unable to do his trademark Soupy Shuffle.  He mentioned it once again on stage that night at Pine Knob (it was still called Pine Knob back then).  He was everything I thought he’d be.

Most of the celebrities I have met were while I did country radio.  I have met so many of them.  We had Brad Paisley in town for a show when his first album hit stores.  That guy was and is one of the best guitar players.  Watching him play was breathtaking.  It was at a small venue and we got to hang out with him before and after the show.  He was one of those guys you saw play for the first time and you know “Oh, yeah, he’s gonna be big!”

One star who wowed me was Martina McBride.  We had a listener bid $700-$800 on a package to (1) go to her Soaring Eagle show (2) get a limo ride to and from the show (3) have a nice dinner before the show (4) room for the night at the casino and (5) back stage passes to meet her.  It was a silent auction item for St. Jude.  I was chosen to be at the casino to make sure she got backstage and such.  The listener bought T-shirts and pictures at the show and brought CD’s her Martina to sign.  I introduced her to Martina and told her that she had helped us raise money for St. Jude.  She called for one of her crew, whispered something in their ear, and they left.

Martina gave this listener the experience of a lifetime.  She posed for pictures.  They talked about their families.  They laughed and talked about her music.  Then, her crew guy was back.  Martina handed her the money back for the posters and T-shirts.  She gave the listener all kinds of merchandise (all autographed).  She got one of those huge window sized posters for her new album (signed), and more!  It was something I will never forget.

Wynonna Judd, was the sweetest lady.  I met her at the Whiting Auditorium.  She came up behind me and put her arm around me (as I was first in line).  We talked about Elvis and laughed a lot.  She kissed me on the cheek and mentioned that “my buddy and I were talking backstage about Elvis” and did a song – I don’t recall which one, but it was cool

I probably should do an entire blog about the country singers I have met, just because there are so many….

The one time I was really nervous was before I met George Strait.  He’s the “King of Country” for crying out loud.  The guys got more number one hits under his belt than almost anyone!  I remember thinking that he was shorter than I thought, and he was.  When it was my turn to see him, he was generous, kind, and just like a next door neighbor.  He was friendly and we talked a little bit about him getting ready for roping (he ropes cows and such – and he’s good!).  He was like an old friend (many country singers are like that, which is why I think their fans speak so highly of them).

The one time I was awestruck by beauty?  Sara Evans.  I always thought she was pretty, but when I got the chance to stand next to her and see her up close and personal, she was just flawless!  What a beautiful woman!  I think my smile in the picture of her and I is from one end of the photo to the other!  Wow.  She was so nice.  We were playing her new song and not many people had jumped on it yet, so she told me how grateful she was for us playing it.  She told me about the song, how she wrote it, and why it was so important to her.  One of my favorite all time moments.

Another amazing star was Reba.  You know that spunk that you see during her shows, on her TV show, and now even in those crazy KFC commercials?  Yeah, that’s how she is in real life.  I had never had the chance to see her live.  Every time she came to town, I was DJing a wedding or something.  Finally, she played a show at DTE (formerly, Pine Knob).  When I walked up to her I told her I had been wanting to meet her for years, and she said, “Well, darlin’, here we are and what took you so long?!”  Talk about an amazing person – Reba is that person.  When it was time to take our picture together, she pulled me real close and said “let’s make this one look REAL good!”.  If you ever get the chance to see her, do it – she puts on one hell of a show!

If I had to pick three of my favorite interviews they would be Jerry Reed (which was done on the phone), Craig Morgan, and Jewel.   Jewel, in my opinion, is such a talented songwriter and singer.  Jewel, at one time, lived in a van.  She had it rough.  I wasn’t sure how much I could ask and not ask.  She said, “ask me whatever you want”.  I did.  We talked about everything, including a little production of the Wizard of Oz she was in (which she was like, “Oh my God, how do you know about that!?”).  She sang some of her new stuff and a few classics for us live on the air and it was amazing. I felt it was one of the best interviews I had ever done.  Validation came when the record rep who came with her called after they left the studio to tell me that she said she had enjoyed our time so much.  She told him I “knew how to interview” and that I was “very good at bring out the best in her”.  WOW!

Craig Morgan was awesome.  He is like a good hunting buddy.  He came in and had a minor hit song at the time.  My boss said, “give him 10 minutes on the air, play the single, and wrap it up”.  Craig came in and we hit it off immediately.  He told such amazing stories and we laughed till our sides ached.  My boss stood outside the studio window making the “stretch it out” and “Keep it going” sign.  He knew that radio magic was happening.  What a blast.  Such a funny guy and I am glad I had that time with him.

The list goes on and on:  Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton (who still had his mullet when I met him), Lady Antebellum (who we KNEW would be HUGE STARS), Emily West, Aaron Tippin, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd, Terri Clark, Trace Adkins, Shania Twain, Vince Gill, and more and more….

I am very lucky to have met so many great stars.  I probably need to go through my scrapbook, because I have probably forgotten some good stories.

Hope this answered your question, Phyllis.

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