New York, New York

After spending three great years in Ft. Worth, which saw the birth of our son Luke LeCroy in July of 1978, Melodye with an E and I packed up and headed for the friendly confines of sweet home Alabama in June of 1980.

Shortly after arriving back in LA (Lower Alabama for the uninitiated) I preached a sermon at the Camden Baptist Church. There were two search committees there that day and the one (at a time) that we chose to deal with was from the Shady Grove Baptist Church in Burnsville, AL. We wound up receiving and accepting a call from Shady Grove and spent the next three years of our young marriage there.

Our daughter, Leah, was born at the “new” Vaughn Memorial Hospital there in January of 1983. Oddly enough, I was born in the “old” Vaughn Memorial Hospital back in September of 1952. It was there, before me and mama even left the hospital, that I was nicknamed “Tweetie” by my brother Jerry LeCroy. Tweetie eventually evolved into “Bird” around 1966. I have my dear departed friend Tom Ratcliffe to thank for that moniker.

In the summer of 1982 a pastor colleague of mine was about to take a call to a church in Montgomery. He was the volunteer BSU (Baptist Student Union) campus minister at nearby Wallace Community College. He asked me if I would like to fill that position when he left Selma. I agreed to do this.

Accepting that role would prove to be another huge turning point in the saga of Me and Paul.

It was during the brief time I was there at Wallace that I felt a powerful affinity for working with college students. I could certainly relate to being quite lost and gloriously “found” during my collegiate years. I do so relish the memories made at Auburn, Patrick Henry and Troy to this day.

While attending seminary in Ft. Worth I went on two “mission” trips to fledgling churches in Upstate New York. One trip was to Brushton and the other to Saranac Lake, NY. It was on these trips that I sensed a deep connection to that part of our country. The work taking place there did not enjoy the relative riches and resources that many of our baptist churches in the bible belt did. I was moved by the dedication of those who stepped out of their comfort zones to take on such challenging work.

Now back to Selma.

I began to pray seriously about what God would have me do next. I was experiencing that restless stir of a “call” again way down deep in my soul. It was during one of these times of prayer that I put together the love of student ministry with the connection with the people and place of Upstate New York.

After one of these prayer sessions I remembered a package sent out by the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. There was a new program entitled Mission Service Corps that placed people in places of service that had no funding. One would be required to raise their own funds to take this type of position.

I browsed through the booklet and saw that there was a need in Buffalo, NY. The light went on at that point. I talked to Melodye with an E, we prayed about it and I promptly phoned the head of this program in Nashville, TN. He told me that the coordinator of campus ministry in New York, Quentin Chip Lockwood, was in Music City as we spoke and would I like to come meet with them IMMEDIATELY !!!

Long story short is… we went to Nashville, we met with Chip and we came up with a loose outline of a plan to work toward a position at the University at Albany – SUNY. Neither Chip nor many other people, saw the strong possibility of this plan coming to fruition. It seemed like a long shot. But me and God had different ideas and we went after it like somebody trying to kill a snake with a hoe. And, with a great assist from the good folks at Shady Grove in Burnsville, everything fell into place and me and Paul found ourselves set to make the trek to the beautiful Hudson Valley in Upstate New York.

The three years we spent at SUNY, and Trinity Baptist Church in Schenectady, NY, were three of the absolute best years of our lives. God blessed us so very very richly during that time and that was due, primarily, to some of the finest people we have ever had the good pleasure of meeting in our lives.

Many of you have found out, as did we, that just when you think you are presented with an opportunity to, hopefully, touch the lives of others YOU are the ones who are profoundly touched and changed. And when you feebly take that step of faith, into the unknown, that you are blessed and transformed beyond your wildest dreams. These memories continue to move me profoundly today.

I would now like to pause and give a BIG shout out to some of the wonderful people who helped make that time so special to me and my family… Don Meagher Linda Meagher Donna Williams Durfos Bob Longobucco Mary Robinson Oill Steve Oill Maureen Athens Christopher Hoyer (Doris Hoyer) Gus Ribeiro and many others who are not on Facebook (or, at least, I have yet to find them). God bless each and every one of you. I love you all so very dearly !!!

During our time in New York Melodye with an E taught at both Pineview Christian Academy and Shaker High School. I was stationed at Chapel House on the campus of SUNY. Chapel House was comprised an interfaith group that consisted of Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal and Jewish ministers and representatives. The staff at SUNY graciously accepted this fast talking southern oddity into their circle and I will be forever thankful for their love, patience and kindness. The lessons God taught me through them will stay with me forever and I cherish them all a great deal.

In New York we learned to pick apples, call co-cola soda and eat fluff ‘n nutter. We also became hopelessly addicted to Buffalo wings during this time and we have yet to find wings that match those we enjoyed so so much at Skipper’s Tavern and the Across the Street Pub. My mouth waters and I begin to sweat under my eyes when I think about them !

Community Supper was a great time at SUNY. It was held at Chapel House on Wednesday evenings and all faith groups participated. On two of the occasions when I was responsible for the festivities, I put together a “Southern Culture and Cuisine” program. Some of the women in our church would fry up some chicken, put together some tasty southern side dishes and we would have us a hoedown. After we ate I would, in a most rudimentary fashion, strum a few cords and do my best to cover a few tunes by George Jones, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson and the like.

When Paul was on spring break we would take the train down to “The City” and spend a week attending Broadway shows and taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.

We also adopted the New York Mets as our team (’83-’86) and had some great times at Shea Stadium. We did make two trips to hallowed Yankee Stadium. This was HUGE to me as the Yankees were my favorite team throughout my childhood. I started following baseball closely during the summer of 1961 and that was the year of the great home run chase that saw Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in hot pursuit of the Babe’s home run record of 60 dingers in one season. Maris, of course, broke the record with 61 and The Mick hit 54. Mickey Mantle has been my favorite major league player ever since that season.

Well, it’s time to conclude today’s blog in the continuing adventures of Me and Paul. And let me say this with feeling… I LOVE NEW YORK !!!!

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The Grand Tour

Before we leave Ft. Worth and head for Upstate New York, via Burnsville, AL, I must dwell on country music for just another moment.

First of all, I am, unashamedly, an “old fart or a jackass.” I LOVE TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC with a deep, burning and abiding passion. A steel guitar sends me ! (Anybody know the the song and artist where a pedal steel was first used on a recording ?) And “you’ve gotta have a fiddle in the band.” THAT is honky tonk music. And that honky tonk piano intro or interlude ? Thank you Jesus !

Now bear with me as I list a few of my favorites… Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Gene Watson, Verne Gosdin Conway Twitty, Buck Owens and Charley Pride.

How about the ladies ? Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, “Pretty Miss” Norma Jean, Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Donna Hall Foster and Patty Loveless.
Now an aside on the “Miss” club. When there is a female artist of ANY genre that truly rolls our socks up and down, Me and Paul will nominate said artist for the “Miss” club. Then we’ll have a discussion on the artist and decide, whether, or not, they belong in the “Miss” club. These ladies are goddesses in our humble opinion.

All of the above listed ladies are in the “Miss” club. Dolly Parton was our latest inductee. Her bluegrass stuff, recently purchased, put her over-the-top and into our Hall of Fame, albeit much too late.

The goddesses, who are not traditional country artists, in the club are Patti Smith, Lucinda Williams (pretty darn close to traditional but probably Americana), Joan Jett, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.

There are some omissions, you will say, but those artists have probably never struck us both simultaneously or overwhelmed one of us. Some examples of great ones lurking out there, but never inducted, would be Bobbie Gentry, Kitty Wells, Susan Tedeschi, Whitney Houston, Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

You get the picture.

Now back to traditional or “real” country music.

You might have noticed that there is a gaping hole or one HUGE omission to the list of male artists. That would be the greatest singer in the history of country music, the legendary George Jones. George Jones is our favorite singer from ANY genre.

When you talk about someone who can make you cry and/or give you chill bumps on the fist line of the first verse of most any song he sings, that would be Jones. I’m getting misty writing about him.

It truly saddens me to know that Me and Paul will never be sitting in an audience eagerly anticipating these words, spoken by Ron Gaddis of the Jones Boys, again… “Ladies and gentlemen, America’s greatest country singer, the living legend… GEORGE JONES !!!! And at this time the Jones Boys would break into “No Show Jones” “High Tech Redneck” or “Ragged But Right.” That would often be followed by “The Race Is On” which would then give way to one of my favorites, that I relate deeply and emotionally to Me & Paul, “Once You’ve Had The Best.”

I think back and thank God for the times I have come in, often on a Friday, off a long stint on the road and played this song for us on our Saturday night setlist. “I’m so glad to have you back within these arms of mine. I can finally close my eyes and get some rest. Never once did I think of finding someone new. Cause there’s nothing better ONCE you haaayaayad the best. Within your arms I’ve had the best and I want the world to know that I don’t care what you’ve said or done, I’ll always love you so. You’ve got more love in your little finger than all the rest. And there’s nothing better once you’ve had the best. ” WDE !

We would, often, also be anticipating whether or not The Possum would show up. There were two occasions when that happened. One was in Chatom, Alabama in the middle of a pasture in 1981 and the other was in Birmingham at Boutwell Auditorium in 1982.

The first time we saw George was at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Ft. Worth. He opened for Tammy. This was in 1980. It was a Sunday afternoon. He had been really hit of miss over the past few months and, I suppose, there was concern that “No Show” might do just that. But show he did and sing he did. He was sober, but rather thin, and he just completely swept us away with that baritone voice that could scale the heights of the high notes and plummet right down to the lows of the low notes. Wow !

The last song Jones did, before Tammy came on, certainly impressed us on that warm afternoon in April. He said, “Before I go I would like to do a song that will be on our new album which has not yet been released. I hope you like it. And then the lines that every true music fan of any type knows by heart, “He said I’ll love you till I die. She told him you’ll forget in time. And as the years rolled slowly by, she still preyed upon his mind… ”
My dear God. What a talent ! Now let me toss this Kleenex and continue.

As beloved a classic as “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is, it is not my favorite Jones song. Can there really be a FAVORITE Jones song ? I don’t know. But I do think “Bartender’s Blues” captures the pure essence of a Jones song as well as any he ever did.

All that being said, if I had to name ONE favorite George Jones tune that would be “The Grand Tour.”

Now a quick “Grand Tour” story and I am out of here…

I was driving a short bus, oddly enough, for the Ft. Worth Independent School District back in the fall of 1979 and the winter and spring of 1980. Oh my the blog I could do on those times and those kids !

Anyway, Kimberly was the last student off my bus which was number 454. Also I was known to break into song more than once when it got toward the end of my route. On this particular day it was just me and Kimberly and I busted “The Grand Tour” wiiiiiiiiiide open. Wearing my cowboy hat and black Justin 10D boots I came to the line, “Over there sits the chair…” And I heard Kimberly from the back croon, ‘Where she’d braaaang the paper to me” and WE continued , “Sit down on my knee and whisper, Oh I love you.”
That fills my heart with great great joy !

God bless George Jones. May he rest in peace.

The answer to today’s trivia question, on the first time a pedal steel guitar was used on a recording, is “Slowly” by the late great Webb Pierce.

 

Me and Paul

Last week’s blog brought us to the week of July 25 – August 1, 1975. That week was the biggest turning point in my life. I will deal with that week in a blog on it’s anniversary Friday August 1st of this year. And, not coincidentally, it falls on a Friday this year as it did back in ’75.

Onward…

I began to become a fan of Willie Nelson back in that summer of 1975 oddly enough. Willie’s album, The Sound In Your Mind, had been released that year and the single, I’d Have To Be Crazy, played often on the campus radio station in Troy.

But when the hook was truly thrown in, and I was reeled into the “Family”, was in the summer of 1977. That was when Willie & Waylon’s “Luckenbach, Texas” was released. I was Youth Director at Salem Baptist Church in Brundidge, AL at the time. I had my radio set on alarm to the country station in Dothan and it woke me up in the mornings. Invariably “Luckenbach” would come on, what seemed like every day, during that time frame when I would get ready for work.

Me and Melodye with an E have been to Luckenbach. That was in the summer of 2001 when we spent three weeks in Austin during my time as an Inspector with AAA. And that is another story for another time.

Me and and Paul is my favorite Willie tune. It is because of this song that I gave Melodye the nickname Paul. That songs tells our story to a great degree. “It’s been rough and rocky traveling but I’m finally standing upright on the ground. And after taking several readings I’m surprised to find my mind’s still fairly sound.” Paul English is Willie’s drummer and lifelong friend.

“We received our education in the cities of this nation, Me and Paul.” That we did and continue to do. From Brundidge to Ft. Worth to Burnsville, AL to Albany, NY to San Rafael, CA to Auburn to Nashville and, finally, to Hotlanta. Those have been our geographic homes. And during the 22 years I worked for AAA we took on countless cities in this country. What an education it has been !

Travel is about the best education one can receive and those of you who have traveled a bit can attest to this.

The first time Me & Paul saw Willie and Family was in December of 1979 at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Ft. Worth. Opening for him that night were Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Raitt. Leon Russell and Ray Price were there as well. What a maiden voyage !

Me and Paul sat with Delbert at an hibachi style Japanese restaurant on one occasion in Ft. Worth. Delbert didn’t take a shine to the Japanese style food it seems. He left most of it on his plate. He did seem happy that we recognized him and was very gracious in signing an autograph for us. Thank you Delbert ! And thank you also for the song “Every Time I Roll The Dice.” It is one of my all-time favorites and if you’ve never heard Donna Hall Foster sing it live then you have missed one of life’s great great treats.

I have to bust a serious move whenever I hear anybody do that song !

But anyway, the first Willie show. I was a seminary student and Paul was a teacher and funds were not in abundance. We really couldn’t afford the tickets and the night out. The tickets were $9 each. I would not be deterred. I went to the nearest pawn shop and hocked my high school class ring for $18. Yes ! We’re going to see Willie ! It was Christmas time and what a Christmas present for Me and Paul !

Our car was in the shop and we didn’t have a way to get to the concert so my mentor and friend, Doug Ezell, his wife and married couple friends of theirs, graciously swooped by seminary housing in a van and we all headed merrily to downtown Ft. Worth.

Man I can still feel the electricity that was in the air that night ! The show was sold out and people had obviously “gotten their heads screwed on straight” for the event. Willie’s popularity was really peaking at that time and the anticipation was palpable.

Delbert did his set and Miss Bonnie blew us away with her time on stage. Now it was time for THE Red Headed Stranger to bring his motley crew out and we were PSYCHED. (OMG I’m getting chill bumps recalling this one !)

The lights go down and a sweet smell begins to overtake to auditorium. Women are screaming and Texas men are bellowing things like “YeeeeeHaaaaa.” The enormous Texas state flag is unfurled and forms a backdrop to the proceedings. And then… AND THEN we hear Trigger (Willie’s beloved guitar) break into the opening cords of “Whiskey River” while Mickey Raphael blows sweet on the harmonica.The spotlight now reveals The Man himself strolling to center stage.

“Whiskey River take my mind, don’t let her memory torture me. Whiskey River don’t dry, you’re all I’ve got take care of me. I’m drowning in a Whiskey River…” OH the rapture !!!! Willie you have just picked up another disciple for LIFE !

When the show was over I turned to Dr. Ezell and said, “I can die happy now.”

The second time we saw Willie was just a few weeks later at the Sportatorium in Dallas. The Sportatorium is a small wrestling arena. They set up their stage in the ring itself. We were surrounded by a goodly number of revelers that night. The first time a “sacrament” came our way my uber-naive “Paul” didn’t know what to do with it. I took it and passed it without partaking. That had to be a first !

Since those eventful evenings the Lone Star State, Me and Paul have seen Willie many many times. He never ceases to amaze us. I do believe his playing, today, is as good or better than it has EVER been. The man can FLAT OUT pick ! Also I simply love his lyrical phrasing. And if you have never heard him do Amazing Grace, with cigarette lighters and matches burning brightly throughout the venue, well… it IS church.

“I thought Nashville was the roughest but I guess I’ve said the same about them all. We received our education in the cities of this nation Me ad Paul.”

God bless Willie Nelson !!!

Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers (Troy)

Drink beer. Smoke weed. Chase women. Repeat (as often as desired and reverse order if deemed necessary).

That pretty much wraps up January 1974-July 1975 in the county seat of Pike County Alabama, Troy. Thank you for coming out tonight ! It was great being with y’all ! Tip your waitresses and drive safely !

Sandwiched somewhere in those epic months were some Speech & Theater, Journalism and Political Science classes.The operative word in that sentence was SOME.

And, in all seriousness, I met some of the most wonderful & important people in my life at Troy and I also continued some relationships I had previously made. I was fortunate enough to meet many of these good folks as a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha – Troy University fraternity. ZAX my dear brothers. And to our little sisters… I love you one and all.

Now on to a couple of highlights/lowlights of those crazy days down in Southeast Alabama.

Throughout this entire time there were a handful of us that considered ourselves “experts” in the area of picking the outcome of sporting events
as a means of profit. We had varying degrees of success in these endeavors. There was also a great lack of success in more than a few instances.

One such instance occurred in September of 1974. Those involved took a three game “tease” on college football that weekend.

At that time a “tease” involved taking three games and adding 10 points points to the “line” on the teams of your choice.

The University of Tennessee came to play at newly renamed Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time on that particular Saturday. I guaranteed my cohorts that the Auburn Tigers would be a “lock.” They were a four point underdog to the Vols and I was exceedingly confident that my Tigers would cover the spread. In said “tease” we could have Auburn PLUS FOURTEEN POINTS !!!

Not only did Auburn “cover”, they won the game 21-0 (a reverse of the score from a year ago in Knoxville) and we were on our way to a big payday. So we all thought.

I cannot recall the second portion of that “tease” but it also covered quite nicely. All that had to happen now was for Michigan State to not lose to UCLA by more than FORTY POINTS and we could collect our payday. Final score… UCLA 56 Michigan State 14… UH OH !!!

To make a long story short, we experts “doubled up” on Monday Night Football two days later. We took the Philadelphia Eagles PLUS a few points versus the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were and excellent team that year and the Eagles… not so much. We took the Eagles because some “expert” told us that the home team ALWAYS covers on MNF.

WRONG !!! Dallas won going away and we owed several hundred dollars to a couple of bookies from Wilcox County Alabama. We scraped up some of the money but never could get it all paid. And, thus, we were blackballed by said bookies. Luckily, one of the bookies found Jesus and we wiggled off that hook somehow.

The second and last incident I will regale you with is the Beer Drinking Contest at the Theta Chi house During Greek Week at good old TSU in the spring of 1975.

As you might have guessed, yours truly was nominated, along with another fraternity brother (Greg White), to represent Lambda Chi Alpha at this great event which kicked off Greek Week. Whichever team drank the most beer in ONE hour would be declared the winner. WINNER ? Funny term for the idiots that came out on top.

I hate to report that LXA did not win the contest but my brother and I consumed thirty beers, 17 contributed to the “cause” by Bird, between regurgitating, during the allotted time. Then all contestants had to go upstairs and perform a series of tests like walking a chalk line and reciting the Greek alphabet.

I’m very happy that there is no evidence of those series of “tests.” If it were today I trust it would have gone viral and we would live forever in infamy. Whew ! (Alpha Beta Gamma Delta…)

Many other feats of similar “genius” were attempted, with varying degrees of success, by me and my compadres form the winter of ’74 through the summer of ’75. All I can say is that I am joyful that we all survived.

And now I will attempt to “tag” as many of these people as I can remember from that, oh too short, time at T-ROY. If I somehow miss you just scold me gently and I will add your name to the list from those nineteen months…

Joe C Williams Mike Jellison Ed Starkie Woods Culpepper Tom Mathews Roland “Little Man” Bounds (Karen Sanders Bounds) Karen Trimble Mary McCall Jan Taylor Goings Marshall Sanders Steven Straughn Jeff Annis Sr. Giovanni Doglione Ted Hicks Keith Harvey Ken Talley Chris Kaufman Jim Williford Jim Parks Dorothy Goodwin Cindy Godwin Spencer Ruth Yancey Diane Howell Adena Moree William Lane Rick Ryals Bob Powell Timothy Martin Hendrickson Larimore Henley Greg Vann Joel Wayne Williams Jo Norman Barrett Cathy Culbertson Howard Tony Martin Douglas A. Nelson Doc Averette Kathy Henry Sullivan Kathryn Mowrey Armstrong Deborah Crew King Deborah Hicks Belle Nichols Walker Meg Tatom May Danny Canning Elaine Holladay Rebecca Persons Wells Paul Richardson Debbie Gabel Floyd Lee Argo Rawlinson Susan Hardman Susan Spink Susie Shoman Suzie Dover Barr Anita Bazzell Allman Leslie Hayes Decker Mitzi Yarbrough Lisa Clayton Beth Abbott Lum Randy McRae Andrew Harrison Kay Walther Kay Simmons Meriwether John Kay & Steppenwolf Donna L. Reynolds Mary Swindle Massey Mary R. Hasselwander Tricia Guy Starkie Marci Wall DockeryCaroline McManus Jones Barbara Findley Harrington Kerrie Hoffner Ellen McGowin Canada Charles R. Driggars Charles Adams Douglas Lavender Gary Miller Carlos Romero Ronald Lee Wheeler Al Crawford Michael Doyle Jim McClellan Tom Sims Tammy Tase White Paula Stokes Paula Latham Hutt Hiram Davis

A couple of y’all came after July 31,1975 and I tagged you anyway ’cause I love and remember you as well. For August 1,1975 was the day that rose from a culmination of events in my life that led me say YES to Jesus Christ. I alluded to that day in my first blog entitled May Day. There will be much much more about the following days, months and years in future blogs.