Country Music People May 2019 - Page 55

i n the early 1970s I was working a tour with Ernest Tubb up in Ohio; it was after the show and Ernest and the Texas Troubadours were stage left, all lined up, signing autographs on pictures and a zillion fans were standing in line to shake Ernest’s hand. I was sitting on the other side of the stage and about five people were patiently waiting for me. I signed four of them, and then the last lady was standing in front of me. She stood there, staring up at me, and said, “Sign this picture of Ernest ‘To Lucy, Love Ernest Tubb’…his line is too long”. Well, I did my best Tubb signature as we all gathered up our stuff and headed for Ernest’s bus. Ernest and the Troubadours had invited me to ride on their tour bus for the whole tour, and this was an unexpected treat for a green horn singer and guitar thumper. Now, everyone knew that Tubb’s bus was the home of an endless poker game when they were out on tour, and the guys in the band loved to get fresh meat; new players like me that they could strip a few dollars off of, and who would help to pass the endless miles of highway that were the life of the travelling picker. Well, they had the perfect victim for their poker cleaning in me, ‘cause I can’t gamble worth a darn. One night, after a show in Findlay, Ohio, we were motoring down the interstate, hitting about 78 miles per hour and had a hot game going, with Ernest being the big winner. We were sitting around the table; Ernest on my left, the bulkhead and the window of the bus on my right, and there was about three hundred dollars in the poker pot, lying in the centre of the table. Ernest was raising and looking like he was going to take it all again. It came around to me; I folded, and it passed to Ernest to make his bet. Well, I noticed it was getting kinda warm on the bus and losing my little dab of money was making it even warmer; so I reached over, sorta slid that big window open about six inches to get some air, and learned a very important lesson: you don’t open the window on a big tour bus when it is barrelling down the highway at 78 mph, because the window immediately becomes a vacuum cleaner and sucks whatever is loose right out. In this case, the three hundred dollars in the pot that Ernest had just won. It is a moment frozen in time in my memory; the tens and twenties sailing right by my nose and out the window, like butterflies heading for sweet nectar on a warm spring morning. After the last bill had zipped by, I sat, paralysed by the horror of what had occurred. Ernest said, in that deep, quiet voice and without even looking up from his cards, “Son, you want to close that window?” That is a good example as to the character of Ernest Tubb; he had a kindness and patience that is legendary, and a love for this country music business that knew no bounds. He was happiest when he was on tour, in touch with his fans, travelling and living with his band, and doing three hundred shows a year; year after year. Yes, he was patient, and he loved those boys in the band. Ernest was a champion of our music, a monumental artist and a man to hold in honour and respect. In the friendship years, following that money out the window event, Ernest never once mentioned to me that my stupid window opening had cost him a pile of money. But, come to think of it, I never was invited to sit in at one of their poker games again. cmp