And Not Yet Through
By Ken Goldsmith
Back in 2007, Brenda & I decided to buy our lake house at The Cliffs Resort on Possum Kingdom Lake in north central Texas. Being conservative working people, paying more for a lake property than we paid for our home in Midland was an extravagant move on our part, but our family business was doing well, our boys were grown, and Brenda was soon to retire from her 29 year career in teaching school, so we took the leap of faith, borrowed the money & bought the resort property of our dreams.
Anxious to begin building relationships in the resort community, and before we even had our new dream home fully furnished, we threw a "bring your own lawn chair deck party". Brenda whipped up the normal snacks, finger foods & frozen margaritas, and our first deck party was a success.
The highlight of the party was that one of our new friends, another lake property owner, Ken Parsons, brought his guitar & entertained us with some picking and singing of tunes we all loved. This was truly a rare, but pleasing experience for Brenda & I, especially me. Since it was "our" home, Ken seemed to make a special effort to share the spotlight with me by involving me in his singing. Being the southern gentleman he is, he enjoyed the attention that his talent drew to himself, but he kept at it until he got me involved in the entertainment. I remember he asked me, "Ken, what is one of your favorite singers, or country songs?" I said, "How about a little Johnny Rodriguez?" So, he took off picking out "Riding My Thumb to Mexico". Being a little loosened up by Brenda's margaritas, I casted aside my inhibitions & sang along with Ken. As I sang along, a big smile came across Ken's face. He stopped singing lead & began to harmonize with me. Everybody else around the circle seemed to stop singing and just listen to me & Ken.
When we finished stumbling thru his acoustic rendition, Ken made a big deal out of me singing along, and said "Man, Ken, you're a good singer. You ought to sing more often!"
Something amazing was happening at that moment and none of us knew it. I was hooked. I had spent 25 years struggling to make ends meet & raise a family & there had been little time for entertainment. I had enjoyed singing along to the radio as a child, teenager, and young adult, but any ambitions of singing in a band, or professionally in any way, had been suppressed, or considered a distraction to getting focused and getting ahead in life. My wife & sons always knew how much I enjoyed singing in church, or driving down the road listening to the radio, but the notion of singing in front of a group of people was NEVER discussed. It was as off limits, or out of reach, as buying an exotic sports car. Entertaining was what OTHER people did, not us, not me.
After everyone said their goodbyes, Brenda & I discussed how much fun we both had. We knew a new chapter in our life had begun, but we had no idea how that chapter would change our lives forever.
There would be other outings where Ken would play his music & he'd even invite me to sing on stage with him, but I'd refuse. My excuse was that I didn't know all the words to the songs I might choose to sing. Little did Ken know that I DESPERATELY wanted to sing; I just couldn't do it until I built my confidence. A burning desire was developing.
I never ask for anything for Christmas, but this year was different. I asked Brenda to buy me a small karaoke machine, to see if I could make a decent sound thru a microphone & over loud speakers. She did & I was pleased with the sound, and how it made me feel to entertain others.
In 2008, my 50th birthday rolled around in September. Again, my wife, sons & employees tried all year to get me to give them ideas of what to buy me, to make me happy on my 50th birthday. As usual, I couldn't think of one material thing I really wanted. Finally, I gave in. I told them what I REALLY wanted was to see if I could still sing like I could when I was younger.
I suppose it isn't unusual for someone turning 50 to long for what made them feel good when they were younger. When I shared my birthday wish with those who asked, they unanimously laughed at me! What a ridiculous thing for a 50 year old oilfield hand to say that he wants to sing like he did when he was a kid! Little did they know, I was not joking. I wanted this. I inwardly longed for this, and it had become obvious to me that I wanted it more than I'd ever wanted anything else in life. I needed this! There was a sleeping giant inside me that wanted to wake up. It wanted to come out and do what giants do; BIG THINGS!
Brenda knew what made me happy, so, she went along with the idea of me buying a 'bigger' karaoke machine. I went to a few karaoke bars, but only to watch how it was done. I befriended Jim Holman, another lake resident who was also a Karaoke Jockey, and Howard Lee, a musician and performer from Olney, my father's hometown about 50 miles away from Possum Kingdom Lake. Howard is an excellent musician & performer, but I noticed he used karaoke tracks as helps for his gig. Both of these guys advised me on what equipment to buy, and where to get the software and tracks I needed. I was a man on a mission. My mission was to equip myself, and to practice and develop a catalogue of songs within my vocal range that I could do as well as the major artists.
It took only a little practice and I was ready. By the time my birthday rolled around, I was prepared to sing in front of a crowd. Brenda hired Ken Parson's 5 piece band to entertain us at the party, and I sang my favorites to karaoke tracks during their intermission.
The giant had been uncaged!
I now even had the courage to stand in with Ken & the band & sing along on a few tunes.
It was either the night of my 50th birthday, or soon thereafter that I began to joke about my mancave being affectionately named "Nashville on the Brazos" because it was a great singing venue, and our lake is located on the Brazos river. I thought the name sounded cool because I recalled studying about Washington on the Brazos back in my childhood school days.
Nashville on the Brazos had a nice ring to it. I did a little research & learned that there was once a community on the Brazos back in the late 1800's named Nashville on the Brazos. So, for Christmas 2008 my sons gave me a red & blue neon sign of "Nashville on the Brazos" with a music note which still proudly hangs in my mancave at our lake house.
Another byproduct of years and years of self-denial is often self-neglect. In my case, I had became a workaholic and eating was the height of my entertainment. By the time I was 50 years old, I was more than 50 pounds overweight, I was nearly bald, I'd had back surgery, corrective eye surgery, my teeth were chipped, and I had been on blood pressure and cholesterol meds for at least 8 years. I looked and felt 20 years older than I really was.
I was an unhappy and unhealthy man.
I mentioned earlier that I "needed" to sing. I now know that I REALLY did need it. My heart needed it, my soul needed it, my mind, and even my body needed it. Although, I was excited to see that I still had a healthy & youthful voice, when I looked in the mirror I saw a man who didn't look very entertaining or appealing standing on stage in front of an audience. I wanted to perform and entertain so bad, that I now knew it was time to get healthy, and do what I could to reverse the aging process.
In 2009, I was 51 and I decided to have a hair transplant. It took nearly a year to notice the improvement, but I was pleased, so I had a second procedure in 2010.
My cardiologist, my knee & back doctors, and my family doctor all told me I would benefit greatly from losing weight. So, I hired a personal trainer, began a low carb diet and lost over 50 pounds.
I invested several thousand dollars on dental work to install veneers, fix chipped teeth, & correct my bite & smile.
I had corrective eye surgery to improve my vision, and I had sleep testing done & began using a CPAP machine to correct my sleep apnea. Although, most of the action steps I took on my journey to reverse the aging process, I could not stick with the CPAP machine. I decided weight loss would have to be the key to fixing my problem with sleep apnea.
I almost completely stopped drinking Diet Coke, and I developed a habit of drinking water as much as possible.
I also noticed I sang much better, and I lost weight easier when I didn't drink beer. I learned that I burp every other word when I drink beer. I also learned that I could lose weight if I drank one beer, stay the same of I drank 2, and gain weight if I drank three. So, my singing has helped me to drink less and to lose weight!
By the time I was 52, I was looking better, feeling better, business was good, and I was generally a happier & healthier man. Maybe starting a music career at 52 is not such a bad idea after all!
Brenda loves to travel & she's always asking me where I want to go. In the past, I rarely picked vacation destinations, but when she asked the happier & healthier me where I wanted to go back in 2010, guess where I tossed up for consideration? NASHVILLE!
On our first trip to Music City we did the typical tourist things, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Studio B tour, the Grand Ole Opry, and the dives down on Broadway. One dive we ducked into just happened to be Troubadours, a karaoke bar. Guess who wanted to sing on a stage in Nashville? This was another turning point for me. I stood on a Nashville stage & sounded better than most of the performers I'd heard up & down Broadway. My opinion, of course.
Another turning point is when we met J.L. Hickerson that same night at Troubadours. Brenda was impressed by J.L.'s stage presence, so she called him over to our table to ask him to tell us his story. This discussion rekindled my interest in writing songs & recording in Nashville.
When we returned to Midland, I immediately began researching recording studios in Nashville & we planned another trip for me to record a CD. I put together a list of cover songs I wanted to cut for an album entitled " Legends In My Mind". I worked out a schedule with Gerry Peters at Midi Magic Studio to do my first CD project. On our next trip to Nashville, I would record while Brenda shopped & visited more tourist attractions.
Early on it became obvious that my CD project would require multiple trips to Music City and Brenda began to worry about the sleeping giant she had helped to wake up and uncage. I was OK with returning, but Brenda's idea of me making a CD was more liken to stepping into one side of a photo booth, then stepping out the other side with your brand new CD!
On one of my recording trips Gerry began to ask me if I'd done any songwriting, and if I'd like to record some original music. Another sleeping giant was about to wake up. Anyone who knew me well knew that I had always been big on written communication, poetry, and inspirational & motivational oratory & prose. So, I began to write lyrics & Gerry helped me develop melodies. It was both challenging & exciting seeing my ideas develop into reasonably good songs.
As my CD project came together, Gerry encouraged me to set up a small record label & publishing company so I could publish and/or sell my CD's. He said, "Ken, your stuff is as good as lots of major artists, better than some. You should try to sell some CD's; at least enough to cover your costs." Gerry is a smart guy. Producers know artists who never sell anything will eventually quit recording. An encouraging word from him costs him nothing, but it could make him a bundle if it causes me to believe I actually have a future in the music business. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." The great motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, said "The promise of the future is an awesome force!" Gerry Peters is a great guy, and his flattery was definitely food for this recently uncaged giant. And, of course, I instantly had a great name in mind for my new independent record label & publishing company; NASHVILLE ON THE BRAZOS PRODUCTIONS, LLC.
So, now I had a newly released debut CD, a record label, a BMI publishing company, and some brand new fully mastered original songs. I needed a second CD! Well, after all, the title of my debut CD is Legends In My Mind, Volume 1.
Therefore, there MUST be a Volume 2. The title of the second album would also be Legends In My Mind, but Volume 2, with a subtitle "Five Guys Named Hank", which is the title of an original song I wrote about a guy who dreamed about being a country star, who was inspired by five guys named Hank, all country music legends; legends in his mind.
The other original song on Volume 2 is FIFTY-TWO, another song about me, you, or anybody else is, has been, or ever will be 52. It is 99% autobiographical about me and my journey into the music business after becoming old & gray, and my kids all grown & out on their own. The 1% fiction is the part about taking a little blue pill to help you answer the call. Heard about it, but never did it. Just a funny line, I thought, and according to the TV commercials, millions of men take little blue pills.
The other 12 songs are our new arrangements of hits by the Hanks. Hank Cochran, Hank Locklin, Hank Thompson, Hank Snow, and last but not at all the least, Hank Williams, Sr.
One story worth telling is Gerry wanted our arrangements to fall within a 2.5-3.5 minute run time and the old Hank Snow classic, "I Don't Hurt Anymore", which was actually written by Don Robertson, was "too short". Gerry said, "You should go to lunch & write a second verse to this song." So, I took a lunch break, and wrote verse 2 to "I Don't Hurt Anymore" while sitting in my rent car at the Sonic Drive Inn a few blocks away from Gerry's studio. If you hadn't read this, you'd never known that Don Robertson didn't write verse 2. Nevertheless, I paid full licensing, or songwriter royalties, to reproduce this song, and I did not ask Don Robertson for a cowriter credit.
On one of my recording trips to Nashville, in the spring of 2011, we met our buddy J.L. Hickerson at Troubadours to sing a few karaoke tunes & that was the night we met Tamara Fosdick. Tamara was a standout to Brenda & I because she had a college degree, and a good job. Although, she aspired to be a successful songwriter and stage performer, Tamara seemed to be a well disciplined young lady who wasn't a substance abuser, nor did she seem like one looking to sleep her way to the top. Just a hard working little red headed gal that blew into Nashville from Bakersfield, another music town, hoping to make her mark in the music business.
Since I now had a publishing company, and a record label, it was time for Nashville on the Brazos to sign it's first writer to the label. So, September 1, 2011, Tamara Fosdick signed on & began writing for our brand.
Tamara's deal with us was different than the typical Nashville deal. In addition to writing & pitching her songs, Tamara was hired to pitch my music products as well, and to help us develop a network of industry contacts. Her first job was to help me find & meet any of the writers or original artists, who were still living, that were responsible for the hit songs I covered on both of my CD's. Very quickly we met Dallas Frazier, then Stonewall Jackson. It was becoming obvious to me that these legends, were just good people, who not unlike me, had once ventured into Music City with a dream. They stuck with it, overcame the obstacles, and became legends.
On another trip to Nashville, Dallas & Sharon Frazier invited us out to their place to get better acquainted & I surprised them with my version of a hit song Dallas wrote back in the 1960's for Charlie Rich, called Mohair Sam. I entered the room wearing a long haired blond hippy wig & everyone in the room was shocked. Sharon Frazier had made me a copy of Dallas's BMI catalogue, and suggested I consider covering more of his songs. I was so pleased to hear that Dallas & Sharon liked my cuts on his songs. Another turning point. Dallas & Sharon were also feeding the uncaged giant. Because of this, I decided to make Volume 3 of Legends In My Mind be my Dallas Frazier tribute CD.
Another legendary writer Tamara brought into our circle of friends is Jerry Foster. Jerry & Bill Rice met in 1961 & were inducted into the hall of fame 1994 for being one of the most prolific songwriting teams ever in country music. At a Songwriter's Night hosted by Jerry in the fall of 2011, I met two more legends; Ira Allen & Buddy Mize. I later learned that Buddy had grown up with Dallas Frazier in Bakersfield, and the two friends both ended up being legendary songwriters. When Buddy learned about my Dallas Frazier tribute CD, I was able to persuade him to co-write a song with me on the life of Dallas.
One of the lines in "This Man Called Dallas" says "He wrote with Doodle Owens and he wrote with Buddy Mize; he even wrote with me, yeah, he was BIG in my eyes." Whether my remaining days are few or many, co-writing songs with Dallas Frazier & Buddy Mize will be recorded as two of the most gratifying experiences in my life.
Living the dream has been tons of fun, but at some point one must return to reality. In the past year and a half I've cut nearly 50 songs, and I'm about to release my 3rd album. At about a thousand dollars per song, plus travel, plus equipment, plus, plus, plus, a lot of money has been spent. Which leads to the question, "Has it been spent, or invested?" I figure, if I quit now, it was just a lot of money spend living the dream for a few years. If I stick with it, it's an investment that still has a chance of generating a return at some point.
So, what should I do?
While some writers & performers make money, the majority of them don't. My observation is the majority of the money makers in the music industry are the publishers & the 'work for hire' services.
Well, I have a publishing company but it takes years to generate significant income in the publishing business and writers will only sign with a publisher if they believe the publisher will invest time, effort & money towards getting their songs cut, and getting listeners to buy their music.
So, what makes our publishing company different? Initially, other than what we do in-house, we're outsourcing publicity, social media marketing, and song plugging to vendors in Nashville.
The BIG difference is in the works. Currently under construction is MudRock Studio, a world class recording studio and ballroom we're building in Midland, TX.
MudRock is designed, and built by Michael Cronin, world class studio designer, who builds studios all over the world for stars like Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow, Big Kenney, Ryan Teddar, and many, many more.
MudRock Studio will be a draw for artists & bands in West Texas, Southeastern New Mexico who need a place closer to home to do everything from cutting a rough demo to a fully mixed & mastered CD project. The ballroom in MudRock will provide a set for live band performances as well as multimedia video recording and broadcasting. Our goal is to employ highly skilled audio & video engineers & technicians, AND we hope to air a weekly music show which will showcase up & coming performers as well as big named stars. Our hope is this will give us a national distribution network to sell the music developed writers signed to Nashville on the Brazos Productions.
What's next? God only knows, but we also have an idea to create our own subgenre of music called "CLEAN COUNTRY", and we'd like to air it on our own Sirius XM radio channel, but then, that's a story for another time.
Meanwhile, I thank God for using me in the way He has in this life thus far. My prayer is that I continue to live every day as if it is my last, and I wish that for you as well.
...to be continued.
Legends in My Mind
Being the son of a truck driver and a restaurant waitress, and growing up in several small west Texas towns, I was exposed at an early age to the realities of working class life such as hardship, suffering, and self-denial. My mom and dad’s priorities were to provide food, shelter, love, protection and to encourage us kids to strive for a better future.
Wealth, status, and material gain were never important to them, although, there was one luxury that they valued and I am so thankful for that. That luxury was their record player and their record collection. Since we couldn’t afford to travel, go out to eat, or participate in activities that required money, we stayed at home and listened to the records my mom and dad chose to “splurge” their limited funds on. My source of entertainment was to memorize these country classic hits of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and to attempt to impress my parents that I could sing these songs “just like” the country stars they admired so much. Being a pleaser, I longed for them to be proud of me.
Now that I’m over 50 years old, I am certain that my mom and dad were proud of me, and I didn’t have to sing like Johnny Horton or Marty Robbins to make them proud. Nevertheless, my life was so inspired by the hours and hours of listening to the legendary artists of the first twenty years of my life that I suppose they are permanently recorded in the archives of my mind.
Because my parents believed in me and encouraged me, I have achieved significant wealth and material gain, although, the most valuable lesson I learned from them was that I should inspire and have a positive impact on the lives of others.
Legends in My Mind gives me an opportunity to honor those who have inspired me, as well as an opportunity to inspire others to not give up on their talents because of age or social class.
The poet, Edgar Guest said it best when he said “Courage must come from the soul within, but you must furnish the will to win”. My hope is that this tribute album inspires you to use your God given talents to inspire and encourage others as well.
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