While trudging – and I do mean trudging – through a Florida airport, I took a tumble.
The fall was a hard one, hard enough to tear a couple of tendons in my bicep as well as my rotator cuff.
The date is easy enough to run down. I know it was Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 the morning after I had watched Wake Forest lose at Florida State for the 14th time out of the 16 football trips I made to Florida’s state capital as the Deacons’ beat reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal. This time I was flying out of Jacksonville because the Tallahassee airport had left me stranded too many times and the Tallahassee hotels always shook you down so bad on football weekends.
Going on three years later, I can see what a fortuitous fall it turned out to be. I was 64 at the time, and, though I tried hard not to let it affect my performance, I was done with being a sportswriter. The industry was imploding under my trudging feet and I was so dog tired of the travel. And since my junior year of college, 1973, writing sports was all I had ever done for gainful employment.
Workman’s Comp handled the bills, and for all the pain of the resulting surgery, it was probably less than what I would have endured covering another season of Danny Manning coaching Wake’s basketball team.
Here’s where the hero of the story emerges. After I had recovered enough to return to work, my brother Joe asked if Workman’s Comp had settled my claim. I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Joe just happens to be a lawyer well-versed in Workman’s Comp litigation. And without his expertise, I wouldn’t have realized that I had money coming in the form of what is called a Clincher Agreement – struck to prevent any further claims on my part should the surgery not be successful.
Like manna from heaven, I received a goodly chunk of change I never even knew I had coming.
So lo and behold, I finally had the kind of money (and eventually, upon retirement in August of 2017, the time) needed to fulfill a lifelong dream. Since taking up guitar at age 16, I have written songs. In fact I learned guitar so I could write songs. Here was my opportunity to get in a studio and record my original songs, and do it right.
The key was finding the right studio and right engineer, and through the sage advice of my long-time buddy and bassist John “Hootie” Hoots, I was led to Geoff Weber.
Geoff, a fairly recent Wake grad who works at Salem Music, turned out to be the next hero of the story. Not only is he a sharp, even-keeled guy who knows his stuff, he also happens to be an ace musician (bass, keyboards) who plays in a hot-as-fire local band, Bad Cameo.
He even enlisted his band mates, Will Huesman (guitar), Lando Pieroni (guitar and banjo) and Dan Mead (drums), to contribute their considerable skills to the project.
It all took about a year. There was no deadline, and I wasn’t paying Geoff the entire amount of my insurance claim. I am, after all, married with bills to pay. And there was also so much I had to learn about the recording process besides just showing up at the studio with songs written and arranged.
For one, I had to learn to play with a metronome to make sure we were on time. On time and in turn became our motto.
Along the way, other buddies rallied to my cause. Jeff Shu, long-time member of the par excellence Honky Tonk band, The Bo-Stevens, brought his pedal steel to the studio. Bubba Spear, a pal I’ve played music with for years, brought his harmonica. And Hootie, of course, brought his bass. We weren’t doing this without Hootie.
By the time we got down to production, I needed a cover. I had this wonderful photo taken by a good friend named Mike Anderson from a gig I did at Second and Green, and my daughter Rebecca took time from her day job with Eversource Energy in Boston to handle the graphics and design.
So it’s with great pride that I announce the result, titled CDC: A Lifetime in the Making. As of yesterday, it became available on Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music, and pretty much all the other streaming sites I never even knew existed.
Feeling really good about what we got down. And we’re putting together a band called the Whippersnappers (because the members of Bad Cameo who will be included are all young enough to be my sons, if not grandsons).
And on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m., Country Dan Collins and the Whippersnappers will play the CD front to back at the CD Release Show scheduled for my favorite haunt in its final days, the Muddy Creek Music Hall. Hope you circle the date on your calendar because I know it’s going to be worth the trip to Bethania and the $10 cover.
In my dreams, the CD will launch a new career as America’s next great songwriter. But, truth be told, I’ve already thanked my lucky stars so many times over for the opportunity to spend a year doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
And if the CD doesn’t sell anymore than my last great dream gone poof – The ACC Basketball Book of Fame published by Blair Publishing in Winston to far less-than-overwhelming reward – then that won’t hurt my feelings a bit.
Because, thanks to a fall, and the advice of a brother who happens to be a lawyer, it’s already been paid for.