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Rhett Akins autograph

13 May 2013

Store date: 17 November 1995

Rhett Akins_ticket stub_111795

One great perk of being involved in the music business is, of course, the free stuff. Never one to turn down an offer of free seats at a mega-show, I accepted a pair of floor tickets to this country music mega-show from my Polygram (this was pre-“Universal”) sales representative – most likely Doris Barden. Even though I am not an avid fan of contemporary country music, I had an old schoolmate and friend who was, so I invited her. She left the baby home with hubby and we rolled down to the Birmingham Civic Center for the show.

I don’t remember much about the evening except these things:

  • We were seated at the edge of the floor of the arena, about two-thirds of the way back.
  • We arrived late, and barely caught the opening sets by Rhett Akins and Tracy Byrd.
  • The place was packed. Birmingham folks love their cawntry music.
  • And, also…

After all of the openers had performed, and prior to Reba McEntire’s set, we snuck away to a “meet-and-greet.” We were hoping to meet Reba, who a different co-worker, at the job I had prior to opening Laser’s Edge, called “doe-eyed” (I immediately understood the visual connection in the name.). We were lined up in a big utility room, against the walls. There were about forty or so of us. Most everyone in that room had gained admittance by calling in to one of the local country music stations and being the X-teenth caller. We were the oddballs, having basically been asked to attend.

Here comes Tracy Byrd, all fifteen-feet tall of him. That dude was tall. Country tall. His handler was rushing him around the room, allowing him to say “Hello, my name’s Tracy,” give a handshake or sign a CD, and then pushing him along to the next fan. It wasn’t like he had to be anywhere, necessarily, as he had already finished his set. And he wasn’t even sweating. He zoomed in on us, shook our hands, and was gone.

Then came Rhett Akins: quiet, shy, reticent. Quite the opposite of the poised and direct Mr. Byrd, the difference in their music biz tenure definitely showing in their composure. He signed my ticket stub (the one shown above) on the back (shown below). I’ve never listened to that CD. That’s not a crime of etiquette, is it?…I mean, if you asked me to sign something that I wrote, I would probably assume that you’d read it; that is, if I even had time to pause to think about it.

Rhett Akins_autograph_CD

But Rhett Akins wasn’t thinking about anything, judging from the shell-shocked expression on his face. He finished his round, and we were all rushed back into the hall as soon as he left the room; we felt as if we may have been holding up the show. I’m sure this is untrue, as meet-and-greets are generally reviled by practically every artist with whom I have ever discussed the topic. Reviled, but also respected as a necessary evil of the game. They all probably just wanted it to end.

I remember that Reba’s show was BIG, and that she seemed to change clothes after every other song. When Linda Davis eventually came out, they sang a couple of duets together (I think I remember “You’re Not Woman Enough to Take My Man”), then soared out over the audience in a big sky-bucket, waving and singing into their headphone mics. And glittering.

Janie, my concert companion, loved every second of it.

But, I’m thinking now, on a tangent, that other country-style singer (or alt-country, if you prefer) James McMurtry wouldn’t be caught dead flying in a glittery sky-bucket over the audience at one of his concerts.

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