You Can't Make Old Friends
Recently I played piano for Jeannie Seely and performed as her guest for The ROPE Awards. Do you know how absolutely cool it is to play, for and with, a 48 year veteran of The Grand Ole Opry who happens to be a Grammy Award winner? Well, let me tell you right now: it is the coolest!
Jeannie was already a member of the Opry when I started to play piano with the Grand Ole Opry staff band. Not too long after I settled into that position, Jeannie walked over to me in the middle of a song and decided to “mess” with the new kid. I was in my twenties at the time, and Jeannie leaned down as I was playing an intricate solo and whispered in my ear, “Atwood, if you make love, as good as you play piano, you must be wonderful!”
WOW! For the next ten seconds, I hit every wrong key you could hit on that piano. I looked up at Jeannie and she was grinning down at me... that mischievous smile with one eyebrow raised, a look I have come to know so well over the past three decades. Jeannie had no intent of“sexual misconduct”. Her intent was to rattle my cage—and she succeeded! That made her very happy. From that moment on, we were friends.
Playing for The ROPE Awards, even with Jeannie by my side, was a little intimidating for me. ROPE stands for Reunion of Professional Entertainers, and basically we were performing a show for our industry peers....just Jeannie, me, and the piano. My wife calls it “playing naked.” The only thing you have to cover you up out there is your talent.
During the show Jeannie shared back stories about some of the songs she has written, she performed those songs, and she entertained her butt off.
Then as only Jeannie would do, she shared some of the spotlight with me, and asked me to sing a few songs from my new CD. I felt the audience “with me” the entire time. It was such a thrill.
We concluded the evening with a duet originally recorded by Kenny and Dolly called You Can't Make Old Friends...a fitting song to perform with my dear friend of almost forty years, and for all of those old friends in the audience.
We must have done something right, because we ended the evening to a standing ovation!
But perhaps the icing on the cake for me was when Charlie McCoy, a member of both The Musicians' and Country Music Hall of Fames, waited for me after the show just to shake my hand and say some very kind words to me that I will never forget. Charlie has always been one of my heroes, and MY hero waited for ME to tell me I did a great job as both a musician and as an entertainer. I don't share this with you in an egotistical way whatsoever, because this country boy from Peoria, Illinois was humbled beyond belief.
It's true what they say: You can't make old friends...but I'd like to add, once you've made them, you cherish them.