This is the old water tower that stands in my hometown of Newton, Mississippi. When I was a kid it was always painted bright silver and had NEWTON painted across two sides... with the yearly "Seniors of "current year" spray painted off to the side.
Someone sent this picture to me for my autobiography I'm working on. I smiled at first and them felt the magnetic melancholic pull of a mission.
You see, when I was 15 young years old, after singing professionally since I was 10, my voice changed at 14 and I lost pitch attack for what seemed an eternity... a whole year! I was so despondent I climbed this tower one lonesome night.
I had lost my Nashville record deal offers, my club gigs, everything I had worked my entire short life for was gone with the aching stretch of puberty. After a few rungs I first looked down on the tin roof of Sangsang's warehouse where I took brown grocery bags full of pecans I picked up from our yard to sell by the pound. A little higher I could see Newton High School and the tortured memories of being picked on and made fun of for being different and imagined how sorry they would all be very soon. I strolled around the railed platform and my eyes came to rest on WBKN Radio station where I sang every Saturday with Skinny Lang and the Southern Playboys. I followed the roads I had spent my childhood filling my bike basket with Coke bottles to take out to the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. for two cents a piece. It sat just down the road from the fair grounds where I won every talent contest I entered.
Yes, looking down my pitiful life flashed before me and looking up at the endless stars I saw just how small and insignificant I was in the big scheme of things. Who was really going to miss me? I can still feel the cold wind of that late fall evening wrap numbly around my MUCH younger wet cheeks?
Suddenly, up from the only world I had ever known, rose an almost comical realization. There was nothing down there worth splattering myself on. I mean the people were good hearted, honest folk... but my dreams had never been tied to this place. Somehow my soul knew I was destined to sing for a world that had never even heard of Newton, Mississippi. If I was going to cut a wide swath and stitch my name into the crazy quilt of country music, I was going to have to climb down off this tower and MAKE THAT HAPPEN.
Within a year I had written 30 songs and signed my first publishing deal In Nashville, Tennessee at 16. That was 45 years ago... and the road has been long, wide and yes quite crooked. Guess what I'm trying to say to the young people out there is... I was lucky. I lived through that first dark hopeless night to see a brighter day. This day, September the 25th, 2012. I am reflecting on that long ago night as Wrinkled Records releases my first solo independent record.
With a smile and yes a small pang... I can say that me and that old water tower are still standing. With my Brenda at my side I can look back... knowing I can turn around and look ahead to the blessings of another day... what ever happens with this record. Wish me luck gang... Just goes to show you, the road continues for those who are brave enough to walk on when it seems to have come to an end. Here's to the trailblazers in us all and to the water tower that lifted me up high enough to see that.