The Great American Roadshow
John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was underwriting a show called “The Great American Road Show” where musicians and singers were part of a musical extravaganza showcased in outdoor venues in various cities during the summer. He asked Mary to perform in Little Rock Arkansas in late August. Mary invited me along. I was ready. With little overhead I could afford to take a couple of weeks off from my practice to investigate new facets of life I previously considered frivolous, bordering on gossip-ville.
While in Little Rock, Mary set up other appointments to see about revitalizing her singing career. Evidently, financial instability is common in the biz; two of Mary’s record companies went down the tubes. Ariola Records was Mary’s first music company, producing two of her albums: ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ and ‘In Your Eyes.’
RSO, another record label picked up Mary’s contract, helping her put out a third album, resuming her tours to promote the album. This newest trip was centered in the East Asian area, starting in Hong Kong. Things with RSO were happening for her. The two-month was going well. Reaching the halfway mark in Bangkok, Mary acquiesced to her band members’ pleas. They badly missed their loved ones at home. And so she paid for their spouses/girlfriends to fly over, doubling the number of people on tour to sixteen.
But in Bangkok Mary learned from the concert promoters RSO was having financial woes, and stopped providing advertising funds for any of their concerts. Mary and her manager Jay left Melenie the road manager to babysit the band in Bangkok while they flew to Australia.
The five band members were all male, that's why they needed babysitting. It was the same reason they missed their better halves. Even with their wives or girlfriends, they had too much free time while the star was away, spending their days on the rooftop smoking Thai weed with a janitor from the hotel.In Australia, Mary learned RSO was folding. Deciding to cut her losses she flew back to Bangkok, gathered the band, and returned to the United States, losing four weeks of concert revenue. That was when she decided she’d had enough; she left the music business and came to Creston.
That’s when I came into her life.
We drove east in Mary’s Mazda pickup truck. It was a small truck with a camper shell on it. I built a sleeping platform that fit inside. This way we had access to our supplies under the platform and slept in the camper shell above the platform, but this created little headroom during sleep, making me anxious and uncomfortable, while Mary felt cocooned and protected.
She loved being cocooned while she slept so this was no problem for her. My head was screaming claustrophobia! There was too little space for me not to worry.
Still, I was game for a road trip with a pretty gal in a new relationship.
Arriving in Little Rock, we checked in, washed up, and headed down to the bar/restaurant area to network with others involved in the festival. We found John McEuen seated at a large round table with six others. After introductions, he invited us to sit down. I pulled over two chairs. The seating was getting crowded, so I settled behind Mary as she sat at the table. The group became a magnet for others. Soon the second tier of seating, which I started, began filling. Unsurprisingly, I was not familiar with anyone in the group.
The table was filling with people, and their drinks, and appetizers. When I offered to buy a round, the others declined my offer. I suppose I was a guest of their southern hospitality or maybe it was a benefit of being near celebrities.
The concert, scheduled the next day at an outdoor park next to the Arkansas River, was well attended. It was festival style where people sat on a gradually rising grassy slope looking down onto the stage. Mary had lots to do, so I left the organizing area and settled down a distance from the scene.
“This entire milieu is cool,” I marveled as I listened to the performers, wondering what future options would unfold for me in this new relationship, allowing the excitement of fame to influence me, a thing I ran from for so long. But why did I shun anything casting a person in the public spotlight, why? Maybe I was worried that glamor and fame bring control and power an individual shouldn’t have, maybe my mother told me never to think about success as an entertainer, perhaps my churchy self-eschewed fame as one of those deadly sins… whatever this was, wherever it came from, it felt wicked in a fun sense. I was freeloading on another’s prestige... and I liked this, it took a lot of financial responsibility off my shoulders.
After the concert, Mary and I walked in the warm night, wandering along an old railroad right of way. The grass was green and fragrant, the night was not excessively humid, and the fireflies worked their magical nightly twinkling.
The next morning we headed off to Nashville. Just outside of Nashville we pulled into a one-story brick motel. The air was thick with moisture as we unloaded our stuff and made our way to the room. Now Mary needed a hotel room because she had lots of things planned that precluded camping in her truck; she was going to be on the TV. So she needed a shower and a mirror to put on makeup. This was fun for me because I didn’t like being cramped in the sleeping quarters in the back of the pickup.
Mary spent a few years in Nashville before her hit song ‘Torn’ debuted, spending time with composers and songwriters doing commercials and singing backup to various bands, and had maintained some of those connections. She was scheduled for a TV interview the next morning in Nashville.
When we left for the interview, I was struck by the bright greenish hue of the surrounding forest. Besides this visual assault on my eyes, I heard the loud zst-zst-zst-zst noise of the cicadas in the trees. I hadn't listened to this sound since I was a youngster growing up in Ohio. The noise was all around me. We were indeed in a forest. As I looked around, I envisioned the giant forest canopy stretching for hundreds of miles in this region before covered by roads of asphalt and cement.
At the studio, Mary was led straight to makeup where she sat in a barber type chair while an expert painted and brushed her face. Periodically people came in to ask her questions, scurrying off to fill another niche in the TV program.
Finishing makeup we were led to a TV set. I sat behind the façade and watched while Mary answered questions and explained things to the commentator. Her song “Torn” played as part of the program.