Country Music People March 2019 - Page 29

Corner Of Music Row by Stan Hitchcock 1968 , Sherman Club, Indianapolis, Indiana - TONIGHT…LITTLE JIMMY DICKENS AND STAN HITCHCOCK DIRECT FROM NASHVILLE. That’s what the sign said, all lit up on the trailer it was mounted to in front of the parking lot. Inside, life went on just like the words of a country song. I arrived, way early before show time to go over some songs with the house band, and also, because I was excited to be able to visit with my friend, and music hero, Little Jimmy Dickens. I had worked a lot of shows with Jimmy through the years, and it was always a hoot to get together with him again. I had run over some of my songs with the guys in the band, and then just sat in the dressing room, laughing at Jimmy’s old jokes and stories. We agreed that I would go on and do the first hour show, take a break, and then Jimmy would do his show next. The owner of the club, Mister Sherman, was a retired Indianapolis police officer, and he came into the dressing room to welcome us and to tell us: “If any fights break out, just keep the music going, don’t worry about it, I will handle it”. Jimmy and I grinned at each other and nodded our heads, ’cause we knew the drill from working other fighting clubs in the 50s and 60s, you always kept the music going, no matter what. In front of the bandstand where I was doing my little country songs there was a couple dancing so close together you couldn’t cut’em apart with a chainsaw. In fact the dance floor was full of other couples doing approximately the same thing as I got into the old familiar ballad that always drew folks to the floor. Meanwhile, the couple dancing right in front of me were so engrossed in the rubbing together of their bodies that they did not notice the front door swing open and the man standing there with the pistol in his hand. He came in with a purpose…and the purpose was focused on the couple right in front of me. I kept singing, but my eyes started searching around the room for help. Over against the back wall, the dressing room door was cracked open and Little Jimmy Dickens was peeking out to see what was happening. The man with the gun (hereafter known as the Mad Husband) headed across the dance floor, pushing aside the other dancers, until he was standing right behind the welded together couple in front of the bandstand, who had their eyes closed and no idea they were fixing to get shot. The problem was, as the Mad Husband raised the pistol and pointed it at the couple, I happened to be directly on the other side. While they were the target…I was the backstop! I’m still singing, just as Sherman, the owner of the club, had told me to do in case of trouble, and I’m looking right down the barrel of that pistol pointed at the passionate couple, and therefore pointing also at me. The Mad Husband’s finger was tightening on the trigger, just as Sherman, the baddest retired cop that ever lived, conked the pistoleer upside the head with a loaded sap and Mad Husband dropped like a sack of horse feed. As Sherman was dragging the would-be shooter across the floor, to fling him out in the parking lot, I finished my song and decided it was break time. I walked back to the dressing room and as I entered, Little Jimmy, standing there in his stage finery Nudie Suit, said, “Now, Stan, you know that is country, ain’t it?” And I reckon that it was, in 1968, before country got homogenised and sterilised and fertilised, and moved to the more genteel establishments where it rests today…different days… different times. But, y’know what? The thing that stuck with me about the incident all these years later was that the couples on the dance floor NEVER stopped dancing to my song, the whole time the straying wife and boyfriend and innocent country singer killing was about to take place. Shoot, the dancers were not gonna let something like that break up a good time if they could help it. So, it’s not only the singers and musicians and the songs and the honky tonks that have changed…it’s also the crowds that used to come out to hear us and dance the night away. Wild and wooly as it all was...I miss those years. cmp Stan Hitchcock has been a country music recording artist, performer, songwriter, host of his own national television show and founder of three television networks that celebrate music. He shared the road with legends and gave the country video generation their start on CMT. His book, At the Corner of Music Row and Memory Lane, gives an insider’s history on the business of country music. Today he writes a daily Facebook column on his front porch just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. For more about Stan Hitchcock go to: MARCH 2019 - cmp 29