True Friendships Take Time

December 15th, 2010

Friendships take time.

I met the Oak Ridge Boys with General Chuck Yeager. They were singing at a dinner during a convention. Fun! They gathered round to have their photo taken with General Yeager before they went on stage.

They asked if he had a favorite of theirs. He said Elvira. They replied, well that’s a given. Any others?

No. That’s fine.

Over the next few years, we would end up in the same town across the country – one year Alabama, often in Reno, a couple times in Oroville.   In Alabama, we met Brenda, William Lee’s wife. Beautiful, kind woman. She was holding their son Solomon – a baby. With us was another former Beauty Pageant Queen – they had a lot to talk about.

Always a photo with the Boys. And then the band would ask for one too. And the members of the back up band changed a few times – each new person would want a photo – not believing this was happening.  Always honored. Usually conversing for short periods. A bit of shyness in that it’s short periods of time.

Then the Oak Ridge Boys graciously came and sang at General Yeager’s 80th birthday. Joe came down and sat with us while we had lunch – regaling us with stories. Very funny. We insisted one of the boys sit at Gen Yeager’s table. Joe did. And he got to talk to Gen Yeager for a longer time.

I told you some of the story on an earlier blog. But what was also funny is that I was the one to introduce Gen Yeager. When I returned to the table, Joe was looking at me anew. My short intro was pretty darn good – and Joe clearly was impressed. (He was speechless – so I think that was impressed :-) For Joe.

And as usual, they sang their hearts out.

One time in Reno, one of the Boys suggested Gen Yeager introduce the Oak Ridge Boys.

When Gen Yeager went out on stage, the audience was confused, surprised, and you could hear the ripple thru the audience – as recognition dawned. And then the wave grew to a standing ovation.

General Yeager introduced each of them, Energetic Joe, Beardy William Lee, Sweet Voice Duane, The Evil One Richard (Barbara Bush had called him that when he had a goatee: “Richard! That makes you look downright evil!” And it stuck.)

Over time General Yeager has introduced the Boys. Each time, as soon as they hear General Yeager’s name, the audience starts cheering, clapping, and jumping to their feet. It is just so cool. He’s a great opening act!

We often bring different friends who are elated at the adventure.

One year around New Year’s our friend got to go and we didn’t. The Oaks were in Reno – and our friends were flying from Oregon. We were driving – and couldn’t get over the pass due to the blizzard. So our friends had a good time without us! Hmmm.

Each time we go, backstage the members of the Oak Ridge Boys and we share a little more. Like when William Lee’s Mama died. She had been an unpublished poet, but a great one. William Lee was sharing some of her life and poetry with us.

And occasionally, we’d see Solomon when Dad brought him along. He was growing up. Quickly.

Another time, Joe asked Gen Yeager if he had a favorite song of theirs they might sing. Gen Yeager said: It Takes A Little Rain.

Duane was honored – it’s his song.

The next time, Gen Yeager was asked & he named “It Takes a Little Rain” and about 5 others none of which were on the play list that night.

As we headed to our seats after Gen Yeager’s introduction, we figured if we were lucky, maybe one would get on the list.

Well. The Boys did ALL of them. And while the ones not on Gen Yeager’s play list were well received, the ones he requested got the biggest audience response.

Afterwards, Joe acknowledged this with: General! You can pick our song list any time!

Another time, William Lee came out to a friend’s ranch and got a chance to fly with Gen Yeager. Gen Yeager said he couldn’t see while he was taking off, flying, and landing – there was so much long hair from W.L.’s head and beard swirling around in the cockpit! He was kidding – don’t try this at home.

Darrick came out as well – both really enjoyed the helicopter ride out and back.

One time, Chris Golden, drummer, son of William Lee, saw us first. He pulled us aside and asked Gen Yeager if he could have a copy of his book to read. Gen Yeager was surprised at the interest. So we sent him one.

And the next concert, Chris was thrilled to be able to tell Gen Yeager his enjoyment from and impressions of the book. Very thrilled. It was pretty nifty.

A few more concerts, more introductions. Just plain fun.

Gen Yeager did the foreword for Joe’s latest book which just came out.

The last time in Reno, we spent some more time with the Boys and with the musicians that back them up. We all opened up a little more and felt we got to know each other a bit.

And while Gen Yeager was away, I went back up with our friends to be supportive – the family of the Oaks had had a tragedy.

Chris Goldin told us his very creative idea – Beautiful Bluebird – his Dad sings it – would be great in a documentary about Gen Yeager. I like it.

We listened to the CD Chris gave us – such a lovely voice.

In Reno last August, this time just Jimmy was on the keyboards with Duane singing “It Takes a Little Rain”. Just when I think he can’t do it any better, Duane does –  he sang his heart out.

Last night, was the first time we saw the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show. That is some production!

We met up with the Boys in the “Green Room” before the show. Duane and Chuck were talking about Duane’s family who grew up singing together in Quartets in East Texas. I got two hugs from each of the guys because I was giving them a hug from our friend Kelly. And they believed me. Tee hee. Seriously – she was supposed to come but just couldn’t make it.

Rex suggested we come to Laughlin and bring our friends in February. Sounds like a fun idea. Rex is amazing – he can play anything. Imagine being able to do that. Wow.

Richard has shaved off all his facial hair. Of course we all looked at him…hmmm….Did you lose weight? Kidding. Gen Yeager did a double take. Richard said I shaved it off for you, General Yeager.

Being retired military, Gen Yeager is not a fan of beards and mustaches – grooming standards. And really the oxygen mask doesn’t fit as tightly so you might not get enough oxygen at 30,000’ in your fighter plane.

So Gen Yeager would tease Richard whenever he saw him. Until now.

I don’t think Richard was thinking he was going up in a fighter jet – he just wanted a change. Or he did it for Gen Yeager as he said :-). It was nice to see his face. I kept trying to imprint on my brain the new look. Richard. Nice.

Talked a little more with Chris Nole. He’s a homeboy – from Phili. Joe Bonsall, Richard Sturban, Chris Nole, Victoria Yeager….We talk Phili. I love being from there. Such great character. I saw a photo of Joe Bonsall with his daughter on the Rocky steps of the Art Museum with arms up – they had made it up the gazillion steps. She must have been 4. Joe had the ‘fro and mustache – must have been the 70’s. So cute! So Joe.

Darrick Kinslow introduced Gen Yeager: “Now the Oak Ridge Boys are legends. You know what the meaning of legend is?…..We’ve been around a long time.

“But we have a true American hero with us tonight. He’s a dear friend of ours. He was just telling me he was just in Africa, Australia, fishing in Alaska 0 he travels more than we do. He’s our good friend – please welcome General Chuck Yeager.”

Instantly a cheer of surprise and delight broke out.  Two thousand people started clapping and jumping to their feet as General Yeager walked out on stage.

I LOVE that!

I was backstage watching and listening with the musicians. When Gen Yeager was saying how it gets him in his heart to hear the Oak Ridge Boys ‘cause he grew up with Quartets in his town. And the youngsters that back them up are really good…”

Well, I was standing with some of those youngsters – and they LOVED being called youngsters…in their 40’s.

Jimmy noted: I guess to him, we are youngsters!

Gen Yeager then went on to say he had played the trombone for 8 years in high school. Not that he was in high school for 8 years, but he played the trombone for 8 years.

The first half was some of the Oaks’ favorite songs – the usual fun concert.

Then they had an intermission and the second half was Christmas songs. And snow! With the variety of colored lights, it was spectacular!

We don’t often hear Richard sing a solo – this night he did and with that deep voice…what a treat!

Jimmy Fulbright sang “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas.”  I never was wild about that song. Until Friday night. Wow! Thrilling. Goosebump thrilling.

Santa Claus showed up. There was some hilarity with that. He came into the audience – and handed out some gifts to a lucky few.

To my left were a couple of gals and behind us were 3 gals. All noticed I was chair dancing again! One of them wanted to get up and dance in the aisle. I told her if she did, I’d join her!

To my left, the gal had a relative in the military – had received a purple heart. The Oak Ridge Boys are very patriotic and so are their audiences – it is always very heartwarming.

The gals who surrounded us had joyful smiles –thrilled to be sitting near this handsome American hero. I was too!

That evening we had suggested to about 5 people they come to the concert. None of the 5 were familiar with the Oak Ridge Boys. Each of the five had a blast! What an adventure for them! Five new fans.

And two long time fans – General Chuck & Victoria Yeager.


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