WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11 AND 12, 2006:
Today I left Washington, D.C. to fly to Kumamoto, Japan for the 18th Annual Country Gold Festival (the one people said would NEVER last in Japan!). I am traveling with Charlie Daniels, Cowboy Crush, and the Grascals. Moot Davis (featuring Pete Anderson) and his group are flying from Los Angeles and we will meet up with them in Nagoya. Yesterday, I got up at 3 am and flew to Washington, DC with Aaron Tippin. Aaron donated his time to perform at a USAREUR reception at the AUSA Conference in D.C. USAREUR (U.S. Army Europe) is the organization that funds the majority of my tours for the troops. It was a “magical” night for me. My guests were a couple of my little injured “heroes” – one soldier and one marine, plus a Colonel that I saw numerous times in Kuwait who is now at the Pentagon, a Lt. Colonel and a Special Forces Agent that I met twice in Iraq – both of whom are now in D.C. and my friends from the USO (present and former). Aaron also had a “guest” who turned out to be a well-known correspondent for Fox News. I kept thinking he looked “familiar” and when everyone started asking to have their photo taken with him, I finally figured it out! J I, of course, re-connected with my friends at USAREUR and met lots of new “Generals” at the event. Got up early this morning to get Aaron and his musicians off to Nashville. I got to the airport much earlier than my scheduled flight and the airline put me on an earlier flight to Detroit. I went into the world club to wait for the passengers from Nashville and Minneapolis to arrive. Got a call from Penny in my office saying their flight was delayed because it was snowing and thunderstorms in Detroit. Now, I was SITTING in Detroit and there was nothing going on but a few clouds and some rain. When we landed, it had not even been turbulent. I asked one of the attendants in the World Club if she knew anything about bad weather and she was as shocked as I was. Everyone finally landed about an hour and a half late…but we had a long layover, so there was still plenty of time. We boarded the plane to Nagoya and as soon as we got on, there was an announcement that a plane had flown into a building in NYC. My heart just stopped. It is amazing what you think of when you are sitting on an airplane, getting ready to fly overseas, and you think 9/11 is happening again. Thankfully, he came back on pretty quickly and said that the report was now coming out that it was a helicopter that hit the building. I talked to my daughter several times in my office but was unable to confirm exactly what had happened. We were well past our scheduled departure time when the pilot came on and said that we were “holding” the plane for some passengers who were arriving on other flights but were delayed due to the weather. I couldn’t believe it. NWA NEVER holds the plane for my groups. I reminded the flight attendant that we have 28 people on board with a connection in Nagoya that is the ONLY flight out to Fukuoka tonight. They kept assuring us that we would not miss our flight because we would “make up time in the air”. We shall see….. Does everyone remember my LAST Road Kill report where I said I am never going to wait to eat until I get on the airplane with the expectation that we will take off on time and I will eat right away? Well, once again, I blew it. All day long, I had one little container of non-fat yogurt. I was starving by the time we finally took off and they fed us. You KNOW you’re hungry when even the airplane food tastes bad.
We finally took off and one of the flight attendants said that they had a nice birthday cake for Charlie. Now, his birthday isn’t until October 28th (he will be 70 years old – quite a milestone – especially since he can still run circles around me!). Evidently, there is a flight attendant who is friends with Charlie and Hazel (his wife). She was supposed to be on the flight today but could not get to Detroit – again because of weather! So, after the meal, they rolled the cart down the aisle and Penny, Bebe (Charlie’s tour manager), Scott (my production manager) and I sang Happy Birthday with all the flight attendants. It was pretty cool! I feel sorry for Charlie because I’m sure Japan will have a cake for him and every Camp in Korea will also have one. Plus, I have planned a huge birthday celebration for him when we go to Hong Kong. Charlie and his band are going to Korea for me to perform for our troops and then Charlie, Hazel, Dean (Charlie’s assistant) and I are going to Beijing to see the Great Wall and then on to Hong Kong. I won’t be back in the U.S. until October 30th. One “unhappy” part of the trip for all of us is the fact that David Corlew – Charlie’s manager – had to cancel at the last minute. He was diagnosed with cancer on one of his kidneys last week and had it removed immediately. From what Bebe says, he is doing great but we are all so disappointed that he isn’t with us. He loves these trips – especially the shows for the troops – so much. We’re hoping that he will be feeling good enough to meet us in Korea next week. Please keep him in your prayers! We landed over an hour late in Nagoya and it then took a long time for all our luggage and equipment to come out. We had to pick everything up (54 pieces) and take it upstairs to re-check it. Moot Davis and his group and Charlie and Shoji were there waiting for us with a couple of ANA Airline reps. They whisked us through and we actually made it to the gate with 5 minute to spare — although I think they were holding the plane. Easy one hour flight from Nagoya to Fukuoka but the airplane is smaller than a SW Airlines jet. I had Charlie and Hazel a row to themselves but they were still very “cramped”. Landed in Fukuoka and again picked up all our luggage and equipment. Charlie’s son – Seiya – and our Japanese staff were there to meet us and help with everything. We have new buses this year which are much nicer than last year. More comfortable! It took 1 ½ hours to drive to Kumamoto. By this time, I have been traveling for 30 hours. Got checked into the hotel and then had our staff meeting with the production company. Finally got in my room to “unpack” and answer emails. It is now 4:15 am and I have to get up at 7:00 am, so I’m outtahere! J Jude
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13TH:
Got in bed at 5:00 am and up at 7:00 am. Did NOT have time to go jogging today. L The weather is BEAUTIFUL!!! We all departed to the Suizenji Park at 10 am. I have now been there 32 times! Most of Charlie Daniels’ guys had been before but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We had a fantastic “Japanese style” lunch (sitting on the floor) at a restaurant in the park. The sushi here is amazing. Then I had to leave with the Grascals to go to a University for them to perform a couple of songs for the students. Everyone else went to the Kumamoto Castle. The visit to the University was fun for everyone. The students didn’t know a lot about bluegrass music, but after listening to it, they liked it. We left the University and the Grascals went to tour the Castle and I came back to the hotel to answer emails. Typical! Tonight was the Welcome Party at Charlie’s nightclub. Charlie performs and then each artist gets up and does a couple of songs. I always enjoy this “jam session” more than the actual concert. Charlie called Jimmy Mattingly (Grascals fiddle player) and Renae (Cowboy Crush fiddle player) and Charlie’s fiddle player up on stage with him. They tore it up on “South’s Gonna Do It Again” and “Devil Went Down to Georgia”. We have two reps here from Associated Press in Tokyo – one with the print media and one with AP television. They will both be doing a story on Country Gold. The guy with AP television said he’d like to come back and shoot an entire 90 minute show on the event. Got out of Charlie’s nightclub relatively early and have been on email for hours. Hope to get in bed before 1 am tonight! Sound check tomorrow! Jude
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14TH:
Must have really been tired last night when I typed the Road Kill. When I said Charlie’s fiddle player – I meant Charlie Nagatani’s fiddle player –which made 3 “guests” on fiddle plus Charlie Daniels playing fiddle. It was “magical”. Yesterday at the University with the Grascals, we took questions from the audience. We weren’t getting a lot of questions until the interpreter gave a little history of the Grascals and mentioned that they had all played in Dolly Parton’s band. An older man (teacher, I assume) in the audience said something in Japanese and then made a big circle with his arms. The Grascals started laughing and said that they didn’t need what he had said translated. Their answer was, “Yes, she is VERY big”. J We were all packed into a small van for the ride from the University to the Castle. I was in the front seat holding a huge bouquet of flowers that the University had given the Grascals. Jimmy – the fiddle player – was in the seat behind me with the interpreter. He let out a yell and almost jumped into the lap of the interpreter. There was a huge bee – at least an inch and a half long with a stinger almost that long on the window beside him. We didn’t have anything to kill it with and it was crawling towards the front seat – where I am sitting like a “target” with a bouquet of flowers. They finally managed to open the window and it flew out! Anyway…..this morning I went jogging along the river and for some reason decided to do sprints – which I HATE to do. The weather was beautiful! Had breakfast and then we took the scenic route up the mountain to the venue. I think it was the first time the production company wasn’t set up and waiting for us. We ran a little late with sound checks because of this. Grascals and Moot Davis went to see the volcano while Charlie Daniels Band and Cowboy Crush did their soundcheck. Everything ran pretty smooth until the tv crew that was there to film for the public broadcasting company started trying to tell the artists how to run their soundcheck. Scott straightened that out pretty quick! We were all back at the hotel before 6 pm. Everyone split up to go to different places to eat – sushi, Italian, Kobe beef. I went for Italian tonight and it was as great as always. Back in the room answering emails now. Hope the weather tomorrow is as beautiful as it was today!!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15TH
Got up at 5:30 so I could run before going to the concert. Everyone was supposed to depart together at 9 am on two buses but the person who handles the scheduling of the buses screwed up. He had one bus set for 8:30 am and one for 10 am. Had the bus that was there early wait until 9 am to depart and we were able to call the bus company and get the other bus there by 9:15 am. It is a BEAUTIFUL day! The past several years, it has rained off and on throughout the day. All the artists arrived at the venue and started their interviews. Charlie and his band drove back to the volcano and they had hired a professional photographer to take some photos for their next cd cover. As usual, the concert ran exactly on schedule. The Governor came and gave all the artists gifts. It is a female Governor – which is unusual for Japan – and she is absolutely lovely. She dresses up in her “western” wear and goes out into the audience to shake hands with everyone. She gave everyone in our group – not just the artists – this beautiful container of Kumamoto Sake. The guys from AP were there all day and filmed and did interviews with the entertainers. They were pretty much blown away with the entire event and I’m hoping their involvement is going to turn into something wonderful for the concert. Charlie and his Cannonballs were the first group on stage. You can tell how many people he knows personally in the audience by their reaction. Moot Davis and his band which features Pete Anderson, took the stage next and the crowd loves them. Moot only wears suits – I mean ALWAYS – even when we were sightseeing. It’s just his “thing”. He and his band are great – they don’t even use monitors and they are definitely NOT acoustic. Takes really great musicians and vocalists to be able to do that. The Grascals – who last week won Bluegrass Entertainers of the Year – were next. The crowd went crazy. Bluegrass is more popular in Japan than country music. Cowboy Crush – an all female rockin’ band – was up next. Of course, the audience loved them because it is unique for them to see an all female band. Then Charlie Daniels took the stage. Here’s the only way I know to describe it – when you go to an event and let’s say it’s for a political party that you support. First the Secretary of Defense speaks and then the VP goes on and you are “awed” by both of them. But then, the President of the United States takes the stage and it is history in the making for you. That’s the way it is everything Charlie Daniels takes the stage. There is an electricity that runs through the entire crowd – no matter WHAT country you are in. I see it every time he performs for our troops, too. And, the best thing about it is, not only is he a legend and fabulous entertainer, but he is a kind, generous, caring man off-stage – which is even more important to me. And, then, there is Charlie looking out at that crowd of well over 10,000 spectators – all jumping to their feet when he walks on. I wonder if he ever becomes accustomed to that type of response? It’s like when I go to Switzerland and see the Alps, no matter how many times I see them each year, I always look around in wonder at the sheer beauty and majesty of my surroundings. It never changes and I never become so accustomed to seeing them that I don’t notice them immediately. Charlie rocked the crowd for an hour and when he performed Orange Blossom Special and Devil Went Down to Georgia, he again brought up Renae from Cowboy Crush (female) and Jimmy Mattingly from the Grascals (Jimmy played with Garth and lots of other popular country music stars). The crowd went absolutely wild. Trust me, Renae can hold her own with that fiddle! At the end of the show, Charlie called everyone on stage to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with him. The show ended with a fabulous display of fireworks. At all the previous Country Gold concerts, we’ve usually lost a lot of the crowd because it’s dark and they want to get home. I don’t think ONE person left early this year. What a fantastic group of entertainers we brought to Japan! We all went into the Green Room for a “Com-Pai” (which means “toast” in Japanese. I told one of the guys in my groups that we were going to the Green Room for the Compai. He said, “Really? I LOVE Pecan Pie”! J You can take the boys out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boys. LOL. Charlie Nagatani made the “compai” but he got so chocked up and started crying that he was bearly able to finish. Charlie Daniels saved the day by going up and thanking Charlie and telling him that if had not started Country Gold – NO ONE would have known about country music in the country of Japan. It is so true. Charlie Daniels looked Charlie Nagatani in the face and said, “I want to tell you I love you”. Does it get any better than that??? Came back to the hotel and went out for the best sushi in the world with some of the interpreters. We took Roger from Charlie Daniels band with us and he was asking what a certain dish was. I kept telling him it was fish testicles and he wouldn’t believe me. Finally the interpreters told him the same thing and believe it or not – he ate some of them. YUCK. I think I could eat the delicacy of Kumamoto – RAW HORSE – before I could eat FISH TESTICLES. I honestly didn’t know that fish had testicles and wonder how you’re supposed to know it’s a male fish?? Came back to the hotel to pack for our departure tomorrow. I go to Korea with Charlie Daniels to perform 5 shows for our troops. Everyone else goes back to the USA.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16TH:
(Have been in Japan at my Country Gold Festival since last Thursday with Charlie Daniels, the Grascals, Cowboy Crush, and Moot Davis. Today I fly with Charlie Daniels to Korea where he will perform 5 shows for the troops.) Up at 4:30 am to see everyone off to the Kumamoto Airport. Every year I think it’s the BEST year we’ve ever had for Country Gold. But this one will be very hard to top in 2007! After the other groups left for Kumamoto, I left with Charlie and his group for the Fukuoka Airport. We were supposedly on ANA Airlines (a sponsor of Country Gold) but it was really operated by Asiana. Asiana won’t “work” with us at all. They charged us $1,100 in excess luggage fees! At least we were on a beautiful, new aircraft. Business Class was practically empty but, of course, they sat some strange man by me. The flight attendant asked him if he wanted to move and he said “No”….so I MOVED!!! It was only a one hour flight and we were served some really horrible sushi for lunch. All our luggage and equipment arrived in Seoul with us. We checked into the Dragon Hill Lodge and I had asked that Bebe, Dean, and I be in a room near where Charlie and Hazel are placed. It just makes things easier since you must use your room key to push a floor on the elevator keypad. But, once we got it our rooms, we learned that there was a desktop computer in the rooms. It was impossible to plug in our laptops. So, we had to take all our bags back down to the lobby and get rooms in a different tower. Bebe and I went to pick up the cell phones that we were renting. Only $16 for two weeks plus a $20 calling card. What a deal!!!! I had their card from when I was here in February and we “pre-reserved” the phones. Instead of it taking an hour or more for them to program the phones, everything was ready and waiting for us. Everyone had to go get their ID cards made. Even though we had submitted all the information months ago, nothing was prepared and we spent 2 hours just getting the cards made. Charlie sat for 30 minutes waiting for his because the girl who was making it had no idea what she was doing. Bebe wanted to have a “nice” dinner – which meant going off the base. We took a taxi and went up the Hyatt Hotel where I stayed last October with Trick Pony. Had a wonderful dinner at a French Restaurant. Then hopped in a taxi back to the base and now I’m on email until God knows how late! 🙂 Tomorrow is a “day off” except for a couple of hours of interviews with AFN. Then we perform one show each night for the next 5 days at a different Camp each night. Jude