It was about a month before school was out, in 1956.
I was walking down the hill to my house on Elm Street, and just as I stepped over the curb I glanced toward the backyard, and there in my favorite Chinaberry tree I saw a strange kid crawling out onto the limb toward my “tree house”; actually, it was just some planks I had nailed across where the limb forked, but to me, it was an aerial chateau. Anyway, I tossed my schoolbooks into the glider on the front porch and raced around the side of the house toward my tree to banish this trespasser.
As I got closer, I noticed the “kid” wore jeans, a red flannel shirt, and had…gulp…pigtails! This added insult to injury as it wasn’t just any kid invading my space.
It was a G I R L!
I commenced yelling at her to vacate my property immediately, when all of a sudden, she turned and started yelling back.
I was stunned!
All the time she was yelling, she was shimmying back down the limb and climbing down the wooden steps I had nailed to the tree trunk, still yelling as she retreated to the house she and her family were visiting next door.
Still in a daze, I meandered up towards the back of my house and just as I reached the bottom of the long stairway, I noticed my Mother standing behind the screen door.
As I looked up, she asked slyly, “Do you know who you just ran out of your tree?”.
I replied, “Just some dumb ol’ girl!”
She smiled as she said, “That ‘dumb old girl’ was Brenda Lee.”.
You could have knocked me over with a feather as I gulped, “Brenda Lee?”
Turns out the little singing star was visiting some relatives that had moved in next door to us, and bored, she decided to explore my Chinaberry tree.
I felt terrible, we had watched Brenda Lee on Atlanta television since she was needed an old orange crate to reach the microphone. She was a regular on “TV
Ranch” with “Boots Woodall and the TV Wranglers“. On top of that, my Uncle Jerry Fambrough played drums for that band on several occasions.
There was a definite connection there, and I blew it!
Well, I’ve told that story for years, some folks believe it, and some don’t…but it’s true.
I’ve never been a celebrity chaser, and only met a few, like Brenda Lee, Percy Sledge, and Ollie North. Didn’t even ask them for an autograph. There are only a few I would have like to have met, mostly all gone now, like Roy Rogers, James Arness (Marshall Dillon), Johnny Carson, Chet Atkins, etc. However, had I met them, I would have asked for their autographs, for sure.
In my early years I played in probably 30 bands, and dreamed of becoming a “star”, but one day a wise old man told me, “Son, you’re good, but there are guitar players living in the street in Nashville that would blow you away.“. And, he was right.
Then life gave me kids, I hung up the old guitar, and went to work. Looking back, I think it was a good thing to not pursue that elusive dream, as I’ve watched many young musicians chase the dream only to watch them crawl into a hole of despair and disappointment when they didn’t “make it”.
It’s a cruel trap that ensnares many.
If I had played it smart back in 1956, I would have been nice to that girl in my Chinaberry tree, and maybe I could have become her guitar player, maybe even “Mr. Lee”.
But I was only eleven-years-old…what did I know?