I am a great believer in luck, and over time I have discovered that the harder I work, the luckier I am. Case in point: 2018 was my second year in a row to entertain on board the big Country Music Cruise sponsored by Time Life...and I'm booked back to perform on the 2019 Cruise! Now THAT, my friends, is a run of good luck!
The 2018 Cruise was so much fun. I had a blast! While most of America was digging out from blizzard-like conditions, we set sail out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on January 27 for seven days of surf, sand, sun and country music. The entire ship is chartered, so I was on board with 2,000 country music fans who quickly became 2,000 country music friends.
Country, bluegrass and gospel music are performed in every theatre and lounge throughout the ship. Often times, a variety of shows are going on simultaneously, so it's up to the passengers to decide who they want to see perform and when they want to see them. You can do everything, or you can sit back and do nothing at all. But who can sit back when you're on board with Alabama, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Mickey Gilley, Johnny Lee, Lorrie Morgan, Lacy J. Dalton, Bobby Bare, Jim Stafford, T Graham Brown, Wade Hayes, Chuck Meade and so many other cool cats? It truly is the biggest country music party of the year...and I'm honored to be a part of it.
Every night I performed a dueling piano show with my dueling partner Chrissy Sparks. I'm not sure who had more fun—our audience or me and Chrissy. In addition to the dueling pianos, I was asked to perform the Tribute To Bakersfield Show with Chuck Meade. I was also contracted to perform on the Sunday Morning Gospel Show in the 1,100 seat theatre hosted by Larry Gatlin. I was touched beyond belief when the audience jumped to their feet after one of my songs. Singing about the good Lord has a way of moving people and touching hearts.
When I initially boarded the ship, I have to admit, my heart was heavy. I was supposed to perform two shows on board with Jeannie Seely. Jeannie, as most of you know--besides being a tremendous songwriter, 50 year member of the Grand Ole Opry and Grammy Award winner--is my friend and champion. Talk about being lucky! Just days before we began our journey south, Jeannie had to cancel the cruise because her husband Gene Ward was gravely ill. Jeannie's place was by Gene's side. When I left Nashville, I wondered if I would ever see Gene again in this lifetime...but Gene is a fighter, and today—with the support of great doctors, family and friends—Gene is regaining his strength, and soon he should be out on the road again with Jeannie. I look forward to that day.
I performed the show Jeannie and I do together, as a solo artist—just me and my piano. I wondered if anyone would come to the show, but it was standing room only for both rounds. Again, I am a fortunate man.
During the first set, I sang The Little Kid Song—a song I've performed regularly on my show since I first saw Jim Stafford perform it on The Captain & Tennille TV show over thirty-five years ago. Now, I am rarely a man at a loss for words, but somewhere in the middle of my song, I looked to my left and there was Jim Stafford standing six feet away from me with a smile on his face and his hands on his hips. It was a surreal moment.
I stopped singing and the crowd howled. Before I sang the song, I had explained to the audience that this was Jim's song, and he was on board ship, but I was positive he wasn't at my show, so I was going to sing it for them anyway. Wow! Was I ever wrong. Jim was there! We all had a great laugh. I finished the song, and after it was over Jim said he had forgotten that he had written a third verse to the song. He was going to put that song back in his own show!
Truthfully, this week at sea, is one of the most fun times I've ever had. It really is about making friendships based on the common denominator of a love for country music. In 2019 (January 10-February 3) I'll be entertaining alongside Jeff Foxworthy, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Joe Diffie, Jimmy Fortune, Shenandoah, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Jeannie Seely, The Bellamy Brothers, Johnny Lee, TG Sheppard, Wade Hayes, Chuck Meade and other country greats. This is the biggest country blowout yet! Check out the website at countrymusiccruise.com and come sail with us.
If you do decide to join us, use the code TIMFAN as you book your cruise. I get a brownie point from the powers that be, and you'll get a cruise discount if you book now.
When the six feet of snow and bone chilling winds of January set in, we'll be chilling in the 80 degree temps and basking in the sunshine thinking just how lucky we really are. Again that old saying: The harder I work, the luckier I am!