Meeting Heroes -Part 1
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
This getting older is an interesting ride, isn't it? The years have certainly simplified things for me. Today I'm 20 years sober. I am grateful for my sobriety and the clarity it has brought me. In my youth, I was, sadly, very confused regarding what was truly important. Then, after retirement and a breathtaking and heartbreaking injustice, I had to re-calibrate everything. Many days I just wanted to go away for good. I can't tell you how low I was because it was an exhausting trial every day just to continue to live. I felt utterly useless and desperately despondent. Fortunately, I did have a wonderful shrink who said to me, "Well, Doc, you tried to change the world. How'd that work out for ya? Maybe you should simplify and just change yourself." She also suggested for me to do things that "soothed" me, reminded me that all things are temporary, and to just hang on.
It became clear to me that two things, besides my beautiful family, might soothe me and help me to make it through the days. One of those was music. The other was nature (part 2 is coming). I have been a music addict since birth (My mother claims that she listened to Calypso music daily while she was pregnant with me in an effort to make me a music lover - evidently it worked). I have been a Bob Dylan fanatic since about 1965 when I was 8 and my cousin Staci played, "Blowing in the Wind" for me. I was also hugely influenced by my blind Uncle Edgar who, in the cool of the evening in his tiny apartment in Southgate, California in the 1960's would put Jimmie Rodgers on his old record player and listen to him yodel and sing songs about trains. He was definitely "soothed" by that and so was I. The songs made my uncle's sadness just vanish. As a result of these particular influences (and growing up the 1960's when AM radio was great) I have been a lifetime lover of American Roots music and the Blues - it's now often called "Americana" and a group called simply, "The Band" epitomized it in many ways.
15-20 years ago I discovered a fellow with the same last name whose music really spoke to me. It's rootsy and swampy and bluesy and the lyrics are witty and hit me right in the heart. He may be best known for "Redneck Mother" and "Snake Farm" and those are certainly fun songs but hardly capture the particular genius of Ray Wylie Hubbard. I could write paragraphs with my recommendations of his albums but couldn't tell you my favorite - there are too many. Occasionally people ask if Ray and I are related and I always say, "Not that I am aware but we do appear to be brothers from another mother". His new album, "Co-Starring Too" has gotten rave reviews and is zooming up the Americana charts so it's an easy place to start if you're just now hearing of him. Email me if you want to know more.
I started following many of my favorite artists on social media and one day while I was out on a walk I got a notification on my phone that Ray Wylie Hubbard had followed me back. Well, lemme tell ya - that was a kick. Then in August 2020 I was lamenting the fact that while I had been sober for 18 years the pandemic sometimes made me feel like drinking again. I then received - in my private messages - a message from Ray which said, "Old timer told me once: "no matter how bad it gets, taking a drink will make it worse. ODAT".
For the un-initiated ODAT means - one day at a time. I was blown away to have the man himself, a fellow friend of Bill W., send me such a kind and meaningful message. I responded and hoped to one day meet my friend in person. That actually happened last December in Las Vegas. Ray was playing at the Golden Nugget and I sent him a message and asked if I could get a picture. To my surprise and delight he said OK. The show was marvelous - I've been attending concerts for many, many years and I cannot recall another where the musical artist connected so easily and deeply to his audience. Ray was humorous and friendly and the crowd adored him.
After the show I was told to wait near the exit and sure enough a gentleman came up to me and asked, "You Doc Hubbard? Ray says for you to come on back." I went back stage and Ray was talking to some people but his son Lucas and drummer Kyle Schneider came right up and asked me how I was doing. They were so damn nice. Then Ray came over and said hello and, you'd think at my age this wouldn't happen, but I got tongue tied and a bit star struck. This, to me, was a really big deal. Dammit! How was Ray gonna know how cool I am? Still... Ray was great and couldn't have been more welcoming and kind-hearted and personable. I managed to mumble something about how much I loved his music. I wanted to be respectful of his time and so asked someone nearby to take our photo so I wouldn't be too much of a bother. Check this out:
Can you believe it? That is me and Ray! We said our goodbyes and off he went - me? Still on Cloud 9, I wandered around Las Vegas in a bit of a stupor... it was such a pleasure to meet a man I respect so much for making some of the best music on the planet and being my brother in sobriety. I'm still over the moon that it happened.
Now, go listen to, "Mother Blues" and "South of the River" or "Conversation with the Devil" and tell me what you think...
4/1/2022 12:00:37 pm
Wow. This is a great and inspirational tale. It is refreshing to know that good people still exist in this troubled world—and that some of them are even stars.
5/4/2022 07:03:24 am
Linda - thank you so much as always for your kind comments and friendship. I hope your friend starts feeling better soon.
4/1/2022 12:40:28 pm
Hey buddy, I know we texted back and forth this morning about your 20 years, and I look forward to hitting 16 years myself in a few months, but congratulations on turning that corner.
5/4/2022 07:04:26 am
Tracy - such a cool comment - your friendship means a lot. Thanks, amigo.
4/1/2022 12:52:16 pm
Did Lucas have Ray's gold top Les Paul? I've seen Ray once in Santa Fe. I listen to him all the time. Like many people, I first heard his name on Jerry Jeff's cover of Redneck Mother, which led me down the RWH trail. You chose a great hero and congrats on being 20 years sober!
5/4/2022 07:07:20 am
Cheers, Eric! Thanks for the kind words - yes, sir I'd be dead now if I hadn't stopped drinking and so all these years feel like gravy. I'm not surprised you are a fan of Ray - man, you have great taste! Hopefully this is the year we go camping. Blessings brother...
5/4/2022 07:12:19 am
Oh, and yes! Lucas had the gold top..
4/2/2022 08:54:35 am
Thanks for sharing this story and your therapist's advice, Doc. I feel like I need to send payment to her for that. Life kicks us around but it also helps us pick ourselves up. It must have been early 60s when three of my friends and I performed Blowin' in the Wind at a talent show in elementary school in our white pleated skirts and mohair sweaters. Thanks for that memory, lol, and for bringing a smile today.
5/4/2022 07:18:16 am
Trust me Carol she doesn't need the money. haha - my question for you is - do you have a photo of that talent show? Come on - let's see that!
4/2/2022 12:11:46 pm
This Earth School is truly a miraculous place in the journey of our souls. Sounds like you are embracing the lessons your soul came here for.
5/4/2022 07:11:32 am
"Earth School" - how I love that phrase - it is so damn apt. I LOVE Loreena McKennitt - great choice and sounds like you had a "peak" moment listening under that beautiful sky. I am hoping soon we can catch up in person - you are an inspiration and Iove you - after all these years,
What a wonderful story and isn't it amazing how at times we hear what we need to hear at just the right time.
5/4/2022 07:19:19 am
Hey Jeff! Thanks for the kind comments - you are sure right awbout all...nothing like a train...
4/25/2022 09:14:46 am
Thanks for sharing this story. ODAT, indeed.
5/4/2022 07:15:50 am
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