This story has been hiding in my Work In Progress file for nearly two years. I couldn't bring myself to share it with you for so many stupid reasons, but mostly because I thought you wouldn't understand. But that would be my fault wouldn't it? Since it's my responsibility as the writer to convey the message with clarity, if you didn't get the point, then I've let us both down. I am facing it now if for no other reason than a personal goal of writing one music blog every week for the month of March. I could continue to edit this particular narrative wrapped up in my heart for over twenty years but I decided that this musician's story is more my own than his. It's more personal than I thought. It must have taken its time for a reason.
In August 2015, my mind convinced me for a complete millisecond, that I could publish this story to my blog (read by four loving and dedicated readers) and with the benefit of hashtags, Tim McGraw's social media team would stumble down my blog's dirt road and discover my homey, heartfelt words. The timing would be kismet for his people to contact my people (I don't have people) and offer to host my family at The McGraw's for dinner a day before his Nashville concert at Bridgestone Arena. We'd have ribs or maybe something a little less messy. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself with accidental dribble. I cannot think of a way I would hamper my manners otherwise. My trip to Nashville and having supper with The McGraw's made perfect sense until I typed it. But my blog's dusty road is like any other country road....it's still there whether or not it's traveled.
Tim and I met in the early 90s when we were both trying to find our way. We've been friends through all fourteen of his albums. (Well sort of.) A million years ago, I worked two jobs and had a television internship while going through college. Tim was just beginning to share his music and vocal gift with the world. But, the only world I knew was in Greensboro, North Carolina. Tim's world was about to get a whole lot bigger. He was on a press junket, touring every radio station that would host him so listeners would learn his name. My hometown was one of his stops. Neither one of us knew it at the time, but I was face to face with a guy who would turn out to be a country legend. He was meeting a girl who would someday marry a Radio Station manager in Tennessee, drive a beige Honda Pilot and work in accounting. Livin' so large. Chasin' the big dream.
While pursuing my Media and Communications degree, I had a part-time job at a small country radio station. My official title was "Sweetheart of the Radio" which hopefully sounds like a bigger deal than it is. I was basically a radio mascot without the oversized head costume. My responsibilities included but were not limited to setting up live on-air broadcast remotes, meeting listeners and promoting radio advertisers. I loved calling the jock in the studio from (get this) a BAG cell phone. Seriously. A cell phone with it's own bag. Like *M*A*S*H* ..(sort of.) The disc jockey would put me "live on the air" so I could tell everyone how much fun I was having "on location." I'd encourage listeners to come see me and enjoy some free refreshments. "Stop by (SPONSORED location) and meet a "Sweetheart of the Radio!" You can have a slice of (SPONSORED pizza) and buy whatever stuff the radio sales people sold airtime for. Honestly, it may sound hokey, but I had a lot of fun. Then, one summer afternoon, hot enough to make bangs droop, and makeup run, I introduced a promising young country artist to the discount shoppers of a boot shoe store. We hocked footwear and highlighted his new music. It was the day I met Tim McGraw with Curb Records.
Tim was painfully shy. His dark, intense eyes struggled to meet yours, but his boyish grin rushed all the heat away from his face. Some artist manager must have told him that a brooding serious face made him sexy, because his smile would tuck away and the serious expression returned. I wished he'd relax a little. There was something about Tim that made me want to nudge him with my elbow. Shove him playfully like a younger sister. I didn't do it since I was young and awkward myself. On that summer day, I watched him face the glare of fame starting to flicker and hasn't stopped burning for decades.
He wasn't arrogant but I don't think he questioned his talent. Perhaps, he doubted the necessary "meet & greet" steps to get him there. It's likely that if Tim could sing without pressing the flesh, he would've climbed the charts anyway. At the remote, he was quiet although markedly compliant. He never complained and seemed agreeable to relocate him from one area of the store or move him in the heat outside in front of the store. His fans and curious listeners would line up to have their picture made with him. His meekness was palatable during the process. Every single time anyone would make a fuss over him, he'd force smiles out of his squinted eyes and shrug his tight shoulders as if he couldn't understand the attention. When girls swooned, he turned into an awkward teenager. It's funny seeing Tim perform now because he's so different than he was back then. 40 million album sales and 32 #1 singles will do that to a guy.
He met a girl, named Faith and even though a million hearts broke when they said their vows, I was delighted. Tim had found his bird and their golden feathers were woven with the same country threads. Country music, a navy sky full of winking stars and deep southern roads between Mississippi and Louisiana led them home to each other.
A couple of years ago I was driving to work during the most ordinary suburban Thursday you can imagine. I was a mom of two littles, heading to my job in accounting, and thinking of the weekend grocery shopping I needed to do. See what I mean about *Livin' Large in the Dream Life* I continued hitting the button on my steering wheel flipping through the radio stations. I didn't stop until I heard a charming thrum of a banjo and a voice I couldn't help but know. It was Tim singing Meanwhile Back at Mama's. I was time traveling. I was melting. I was still driving to the office. Then I heard Faith join him. Oh my God, I loved this song. I listened to their words and drove the long way to work. I wanted to get so very lost and yet go home to North Carolina at the same time. That song... on that most ordinary work day, brought the first words of this story to life. Meanwhile Back at Mama's drove me to my childhood home where I grew up across the street from endless fields filled with horses and ribbons of winding roads. I was back home when I met Tim that one time which feels like a thousand summers ago.
I have absolutely no basis for this next tidbit, but it's a scrumptious story and I WILL it to be true. Sincerely, it's a slice of sweet, southern confection. Several years ago, it was rumored that Tim and Faith paid the dinner tab for a group of prom goers. Can you just imagine the excitement of a table filled with nervous teenagers, dolled up in their finest attire when they learned there was no bill after what was most likely an expensive dinner? It gives me the warm fuzzies, just thinking of it. What gives the story just a tad bit more saccharin was that the famous couple apparently slipped out of the restaurant before the kids knew. Classy, generous and anonymous. I have no idea if this story is true or if only urban legend, but this is my blog and the four of you reading it can just enjoy. Tim and Faith are about as perfect as a yellow bell bush blooming next to a front porch swing. They compliment each other. Sunshine, sweet tea and comfort. They just work. Which reminds me, I should bring the Faith a Forsythia as a modest hostess gift the next time they invite us over for BBQ.
Tim, I've grown up with you and your music was a documentary of how we all change, run away from what we know to find what we are supposed to do, and sometimes find our brick road that leads us home. I've watched your career and been like a proud distant friend who grew up with the kid that no one knew but everyone claims to know now. I don't know you, but in my mind you're a brother who writes and sings his letters to the rest of us back home. You can't possibly remember the hundred appearances you did to get your face and music out there, but I remember the shy boy with a mullet, mustache and oversized black ball cap. I remember your willingness to stand on the outside of boot store and shake hands with people who didn't realize how famous you were going to be. Maybe you didn't even realize it yourself.
And one more thing - you know how I'm livin' the life with the radio guy I met in Tennessee? That August, he did take me to your concert in Nashville and managed to score floor level seats. We missed supper with you and Faith but we had a great time anyway.
All my best.
"I miss the slow down, don'tcha' know." - Meanwhile Back at Mama's