Danny Merrell Birthday Lesson, Don’t Try to Upstage George Strait
On August 7, 1964, at 11:05 a.m., a baby boy was born to Antonia and Kenneth Merrell at the Lockhart Hospital. His parents, for whatever reason, were expecting a girl and they planned on naming her, Danielle. From the beginning, I was full of surprises.
Today, I turn 58 years old, and what I have done on most of my birthdays since I turned 50, is to take a look back and what pearls of wisdom I have learned in the previous 365 days. Sometimes, I'll sit down with my children and pass those flecks of information to them. Who knows, it may do them some good.
This year's lesson - Don't Try to Upstage George Strait...or Willie Nelson
I got my first radio job in Lockhart, Texas in 1979. It was 1060 KCLT. We played 'Casual Country', whatever the heck that meant. I spun records on the weekends. I'm talking literally, this was before CDs and hard drives, we had two turntables and two full walls of country songs on vinyl 45s.
In 1982, I caught a huge break and was hired to work as a part-time DJ at KASE 101 and KVET 1300 in Austin. These were two of the best country radio stations in the state, and today they are still the leading country stations in the Capital City. I was still a teenager and I had landed a dream job. A short time later, I started doing full-time overnights.
Country superstars frequently played in Austin, and our radio stations were always involved in promoting those concerts. That meant I got to go backstage and meet many of these artists.
What Happens When a Dumb Teenager Meets His Country Idols?
Here's come the teachable moment, kids. The correct answer should be, just be yourself and be kind and conversational. The incorrect answer: DON'T TRY TO UPSTAGE GEORGE STRAIT!
Yes, that's me standing next to George Strait. We were on his bus following his concert in Austin. So, there I am in my glossy radio station jacket with the sleeves pulled up halfway, because that's the cool look.
Do I smile? Of course not, If I were to smile then I couldn't suck in my checks and go for the vogue look. Oh, and for one final touch of vanity, just before the photo was taken, I ever so slightly stood on my tippy toes so that George would be shorter than me.
What was I thinking!!?? Apparently, not much. Word to my daughters and to any other female out there, if you ever see a guy pose like this in a photo...run away, run far away. Granted, I've learned my lesson and matured, BUT NOT BEFORE I DID IT AGAIN!
Lesson Two - Don't Try To Upstage Willie
Are you kidding me, Danny Merrell? Again with the silk jacket, again with sucking in your cheeks, again on your tippy toes, and this time with the necklace, and how much gel did you use to get your hair to stay like that?
That's Bob Pickett, another KASE/KVET DJ in the photo. We're about the same age, but he understood the value of being yourself. Here's an interesting side note, I have no recollection of ever taking this photo. Could be due to something called secondhand smoke and being backstage with Willie.
Proof That I Did Learn My Lesson
A year or two later, I got the chance to meet Randy Travis and Ray Price. Thankfully, I learned to smile and got rid of that silky jacket. I probably could have covered some of the chest hair, but if Tom Selleck could show it, so could I.
The Uptake From All This
Be yourself. Don't try to be someone you're not. About the time that I turned 40, God intended me to look a lot older than I actually am. So, when someone comes up to me and asks if my wife is my daughter, I just say thank you, and smile, because when you smile you can't suck in your cheeks.