Happy Birthday Doyle!

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Out of all the posts I’ve ever written for this blog, coming up with an opening sentence for this one was the most challenging of them all. How do you begin to talk about a man who not only deeply influenced me on a musical and personal level, but hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of others?  How do you begin to talk about a man who helped different musicians become household names within the Bluegrass genre? I guess my point with all this is no first sentence will truly capture the impact that Doyle Lawson has had within the musical realm of the world. With that being said, I’d like to share my story of how I came to love Doyle’s music and how I got to know him personally.

I first heard the sounds of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver when I was four years old. My grandfather had popped the live VHS tape, Treasures into the VCR while I was at he and my grandmother’s house one night. From the moment I heard the first few notes of “That’s How I Can Count On You” I was hooked. At that point in my life I had heard a pretty fair amount of Bluegrass music, but to my toddler ears this was different. I couldn’t play an instrument then, but I could tell that Doyle’s mandolin playing had a power to it that no one else had. From then on every time I went to my grandparents’ house, I would always ask to watch the “Doy Lawsom” tape.

I finally got to see Doyle and the band live about 4 or 5 years later at the Museum of Appalachia’s Tennessee Fall Homecoming in Norris, TN. It pains me to say this, but I don’t recall much from that day. I do remember that the band consisted of Barry Scott, Jamie Dailey, Jesse Stockman and Terry Baucom. I also remember being in one of the festival’s luxurious porta potties, and hearing them belt out “Treasures Money Can’t Buy” from one of the five stages on the grounds. I remember begging my Dad, who was helping me, to get me out of there as quick as he could so I could actually see them. Beyond that I don’t remember much.

I saw them again in March 2006 at the Argyle Bluegrass Festival in Argyle, TX. I remember a lot from this particular night, but the thing that I will always remember the most was getting to meet Doyle. To a 10 year old kid that was a huge deal. He was extremely nice and gracious to me and I never forgot that.

My grandparents on my mother’s side of the family went to the National Quartet Convention every single year. Doyle often made appearances there because of the numerous Gospel recordings he had made. My grandmother in particular knew how much Doyle meant to me. In September 2007, I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapy clinic I went to at the time. My mother’s phone rang and I didn’t think much of it. She handed it to me and the next thing I know Doyle is on the other end of the line. I about fell out of my chair! My grandmother had met him (or stalked him as we often joke) at the convention, called my mother and put him on the phone. I don’t remember much of what we talked about, but I’ve always considered it the event that forged my friendship with Doyle. He even still remembers it to this day!

As the years went on, I went to many more of his live shows and bought and studied more of his recorded material. As I was first learning to play the mandolin, he was the man I tried to model myself after. I didn’t neccesarily try to figure out how he played things note for note, but I made a point to capture the essence of what he does and get that same powerful tone out of my instrument that first caught my ear as a little kid. Easier said than done!

I could tell you many stories about Doyle, but I’d like to tell you one that to me speaks of his overall character. In February 2012 I had major surgery on my spinal cord in St. Louis, MO. In the weeks following the operation I was in a lot of pain and in a really bad place from an emotional standpoint. The next month Doyle and his band released a gospel album titled Sing Me a Song About Jesus. I fully intended to buy a copy, but about two weeks after the album’s release I was rushed in an ambulance to Dallas Children’s Hospital where it was discovered that repair needed to be done on my spinal cord due to some things that happened during my original operation. I endured a second surgery and stayed in the hospital for another 9 days. I could feel myself just crumbling on the inside. One afternoon, my stepdad came into my hospital room with a package in his hand. He said it was for me and he found it in our mailbox that morning. I opened it up to find a copy of the new CD signed by the man himself along with a Quicksilver sticker. I was blown away of course. I then had the nurses scrambling to find a CD player. Once they found one, my parents put it in for me to listen to. When the music came on I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness that I had not felt in almost two months. I later found out that my grandmother had contacted Doyle’s management office and explained my situation. I’m still blown away every time I think about it. Doyle really didn’t have to do that for me, but he did. The sticker now has a permanent spot on my mandolin case.

On April 20, 2019 Doyle will be turning 75 years old. He’s had an extremely succesful career in Bluegrass music not just because of his talent, but because of a strong work ethic and firm beliefs in what he wanted and how he wanted it done. If I may be perfectly honest, I admire his tenancity as much as I do his music. I’m sure others out there would tell you the same. Doyle, I hope you have a very Happy Birthday! I can’t thank you enough for your friendship as well as the influence you’ve had on me and so many others. To quote the title of the first song on Treasures Money Can’t Buy, “You’ve Been An Inspiration To Me.”

 

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