I accidentally ended up in the music business. Through a series of unexpected circumstances, the same year I wrote my first song ("Mountain Man," 1976), I was offered a record deal. I was fifteen. Chris Christian, the man who "discovered" me, is rumored to have said, "She's not that great of a singer, but she's sincere." I was also clueless.
I booked myself to sing for churches, youth groups, weddings, anyplace they'd have me, along with my songs about faith.
A few days a month I drove to Goldmine studio after school in my plaid kilt uniform to work with my youth-group leader and producer, Brown Bannister. There was no rush and no deadline. No one was holding his breath. My first record came out in 1978 during spring break of my senior year in high school. I autographed album jackets for my classmates at Harpeth Hall the way one would autograph yearbooks. There was no fanfare or publicity around the quiet release of my first record. I was seventeen, and within a few weeks I got my first concert offer.
Brown got the call about the booking and phoned me, so I drove over to talk to him about it. Up to this point, I had only sung for people I knew—family, friends, schoolmates—and the idea that a total stranger would call and ask me to sing for a group of more strangers was mind-boggling. Brown said the request was for three hundred dollars.
Three hundred dollars. My mind went racing. I had been saving money for my freshman year at college. My parents were paying my tuition, but I was saving up for extra spending money. As much as I wanted to go to Denver for the concert, spending three hundred dollars would wipe out my savings. I told Brown why I couldn't go. He started laughing and corrected my thinking. No, I did not have to pay them three hundred dollars for the opportunity to sing. Miracle of miracles, they were willing to pay me. I couldn't believe my ears. As it turned out, my appearance at Lakeside Amusement Park, sandwiched between the deafening roller coaster and the fish-feeding area, was the beginning of a long, steep learning curve about hard work, expectation, preparation, and professionalism. I've sung thousands of concerts since then, released over twenty recordings, and I've watched the music business change drastically. I have some awards on the shelf and gold and platinum records in frames on the wall.
It's been hard work and always interesting. I'm amazed that doing my job led me into the company of so many fascinating people and has taken me to so many unexpected places. Doors that I never thought existed, much less considered knocking on, have swung open for me. That high-school kid (or, for that matter, this forty-six-year-old woman) never had any aspirations for fame or success, but because of the people in my life who dreamed for me and stood beside me and enabled me, I have lived an amazing life.
As I sit here rolling back over the years in my mind, one memory leads to another, far too many moments to recount, but here are a few that make me smile.