It was one of those moments you can't forget ... one of those "I remember the first time ..." events that are seared into your memory so deeply that if you close your eyes, you're back there again, just like that:
... It's 1978-ish. I'm sitting in my friend Bruce's truck, watching him pop in an 8-track tape ("I can't believe you've never heard of Shake Russell!") and then I hear it for the first time ... that beautiful melody and Shake's distinctive, soothing voice singing "Deep in the West" - a ballad that, to this day, reaches way down inside of me ... triggers unexpected emotions ... carries me away on the first notes.
From that moment on, I was hooked on Shake Russell. He never got a lot of air play on the radio (and still doesn't for some reason that I can't understand) but he played in small venues all around Houston. Tom and I went as often as we could to see him.
But then there were kids, a move, an accident, a house to build ... suddenly almost 15 years had passed without hearing Shake sing in person. I felt the weight of those years back in October when our friends Bob and Lisa called to invite us to hear Shake perform in their home. In their home! Shake Russell in their living room, playing those songs!
But we couldn't go; I tried so, so hard to squeeze it into an already packed weekend, but it was just impossible, and the disappointment added to the weight of those 15 years was crushing me. Then I realized, Hey! We could have our own Shake Russell concert!
So we did. Last night Shake Russell stood in my living room, right in front of me, just two feet from where I sit at this very moment, and sang "Deep in the West", "Two Silver Hearts", "You've Got a Lover" ... all my old favorites, plus several of my new ones, like "What This Heart Holds".
But, of course, that's not all. As if having the Shake Russell Trio (Shake, Mike Roberts and Doug Floyd) serenade me and my friends with their beautiful music for several hours, and listening to them sing happy birthday to my brother Donnie wasn't enough ... well, sit down - you're never going to believe this!
...I played the drums with Shake Russell! Okay, not really. But he did play my drums!
All in all, the night was a wish come true ... a wish I didn't even realize my heart made on that night so long ago in Bruce's truck ... a wish I couldn't have even imagined.
Scenes from an unforgettable evening ...
Shake playing my drums!
Me playing the drums with Shake! Well, sort of.
New friends, me and Dee (Shake's wife)
Me, Shake, Ann and Rae (who each have their own "Shake" stories to tell)
Shake singing "Deep in the West"
The Shake Russell Trio in my living room!
My brother Donnie, the birthday boy, with an actual smile on his face (Shake is singing Happy Birthday to him)
Thank you, Bruce. Thank you, Bob. Thank you, Shake.
Thank you, Lord.