So last night I threw a tweet out there that said something like “most of what I do is easy, but leaving home is always hard.” I was sitting on my couch watching baseball, sipping a nice Cabernet with a cat on my lap, and my wife, Mary, was preparing ice cream and berries in the kitchen. I have been away a lot of late, and I was content and happy, and really didn’t feel like leaving out for Somewhere, USA even though my bags were packed for another eight day run and already in the truck.
The responses were mixed, as is usual in the social network universe. Most tweets and such were supportive. But several people laid into me.
“Don’t you know how blessed you are?”
Ummm yes. That’s my point!
But most people, especially those who know me, got my point! I love my home life and it is always tough to leave. So, yes, leaving home is hard! It always has been and always will be. Like I said, for me it is the ONLY thing that is hard about singing with The Oak Ridge Boys.
But let us explore the matter on a deeper level.
Most people look at our schedule and assume that everything we do borders on the abnormal. I would tend to agree. But…what is really hard about being a 40-year member of the American Music group The Oak Ridge Boys, and what is NOT?
I joined this group in October of 1973. I was 25 years old. It is now October of 2013, and I am 65. Although we are celebrating 40 years of singing together all year this year, it is only now technically correct.
Richard Sterban joined the Oaks in 1972. Duane Allen in 1966. And William Lee Golden in 1965. All of this is quite amazing to me and, if we were to decide to end it all right now, music history buffs would have to shake their collective heads at what we have accomplished over the past four decades. It is quite the résumé for certain, and we continue to put stones on the mountain every single day.
We have recorded some relevant music over the last few years, including a top notch live recording that will release in February of 2014—yes, 2014, who would have thunk it!—called THE OAK RIDGE BOYS: BOYS NIGHT OUT. Our date book is rapidly filling up with show dates for next year as well.
We have a schedule that many acts would give anything for and that includes some of the NEW kids! We are very blessed for certain, and we give God the honor and praise. We thank Him for the good health that has allowed us all to continue to live out our dreams every single day.
So what is hard about singing songs for a living? Nothing hard about that part. My daddy worked in a factory so, by comparison, singing songs is easy as long as health is holding up and voice is working. It can get a bit difficult if a cold or something hits and you have to force singing instead of just enjoying it and letting it flow. But isn’t good health the key with everyone? To perform at a high level you MUST be feeling good and that it is a fact. Age has nothing to do with it either. Bad health does not respect age. Just visit any children’s hospital for proof of that.
But overall, walking onstage and singing songs is not really hard for me. It is what I do. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since childhood, and that I can do it is a blessing beyond words.
However, there are some rules that insist on being followed. The voice is NOT electronic! Vocal chords can wear a bit, so one must get quality sleep after a big show. I also find that a bit of quiet time every afternoon is helpful. And for me that is somewhat difficult. 🙂
The sleep part brings to mind travel accommodations. For me and my singing partners riding in a big custom tour bus is NOT hard, no matter how far we roll on any given trip. Our clothes hang in closets. We have WiFi and plenty of satellite TV, along with laptops, iPhones, iPads, iPods and ALL of the iSomethings. Our bunks are comfy and we truly have a home away from home. Familiar surroundings are always welcome to Ban-Joey!
But flying is hard. Early flights mean not enough sleep and the hassles of flying today with all kinds of show gear, as well as security and the high costs, are monumental. However, on certain occasions it is necessary so you suck it up and go. If we never had to board another commercial flight again EVER I would be good with that. Give me my bunk on the bus any day. I just wrote a bluegrass-flavored song called Flying Sucks, but I doubt you will ever hear it.
Here is a verse…
The oxygen is flowing though the bag may not inflate
My tray top it just won’t stay locked, my seat back is not straight
The iPod police are on the prowl. My “on” switch must be “off”
No. I don’t want ANY peanuts.
I never mind spending days in a hotel room or riding the bus for hundreds of miles at a time. I never mind rehearsing or taping TV. I never mind doing press of any sort. Or singing lots of songs. That’s all part of the job description, of living the dream, and none of it is hard from my standpoint.
I have never really cared much for photo shoots but, again, they come with the job. When we DO a photo shoot we try to take a ton of different shots that can be utilized for a long time to come. Not really very hard though. You plan it out and just do it! I am not much of a male model, as pictures throughout the years will illustrate.
Being around a bunch of guys who are brothers and friends each day is also not hard. Each guy supports the other in every way possible and, quite frankly, this is a phenomenon on every level. WE ARE CLOSER THAN BROTHERS and that’s a fact. Brothers fight… I can tell you that overall there is never a bad word said or felt among any of us. Not that we don’t have a disagreement here and there, but at this moment in time I cannot even remember one of those. These guys are all honest and true and totally dedicated to doing things right. Pretty decent work environment, huh? From the time I was a little boy I dreamed about traveling around with a group of men who I could trust with my life, true friends who had my back at all times. True friends who I would die for if it ever came to that!! Not hard at all…
So to reflect back upon the beginning of this little commentary and say without hesitation that only being away from home and family is hard. There is a price to pay for constant success no matter what your field of endeavor may be, and MY sacrifice is missing a lot of precious family moments.
Graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, and such. Precious events that never return once they have passed. My wife sleeps alone most nights and so do I. My Mary is prone to nightmares, which probably stems from her childhood (or the many ghost shows she watches) and when I am there I always gently wake her and tell her it is all right. Many nights, as I roll down the highway safe and secure in my bunk, thoughts of her without me beside her during a nightmare keep me awake. I have never admitted this…
God has blessed me beyond deserving, and I am indeed thankful every single moment for His constant love and mercy. So singing with The Oak Ridge Boys? NOT HARD! Being away from Mary, daughters, grandkids, and my cats is the price I pay for a life of songs. THAT is the only HARD part!! JSB
Addendum: Always remember…. success in any form requires hard work and sacrifice. There is always a price to pay for anything worthwhile in life. Nothing just happens. It takes a team, it takes family—a supportive and loving family—but most of all it requires being WILLING! Willing to step out there when the odds seem against you. WILLING to pay your dues and build your career a step at a time. The “where’s my limo” approach does NOT work.
Most of all you must be WILLING to put JESUS CHRIST first in ALL things. Lean upon Him and allow His WILL to lead you. Let HIM be the light unto your pathway and good things CAN and WILL happen!
And check out the New OAKS 40th Anniversary Faith Family Freedom Collection NOW on iTunes and Google Play.
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