Today “we” fly to Japan for the 19th Annual Country Gold Festival.   How did the time pass so quickly????
“We” would be myself, Penny from my office, Mark Chesnutt, Lost Trailers, Bomshel, and Cherryholmes (every group brings their own musicians) and a production manager.  Not everyone flew out of Nashville and we had “issues” first thing.
My “journey” actually started Monday night when I flew from Nashville to LA.  A dear friend of mine from the record label ended up on my flight because hers got delayed via Dallas because of weather.  We were able to switch seats and sit together.  “Weather” in Dallas should have been a “heads up” but since our flight was direct, I really didn’t give it much thought.  Bad decision.   About 30 minutes after we took off, I was convinced this was the flight that was going down.  The turbulence was unbelievable and the pilot didn’t come on and reassure us for a very long time.  Then it was only to say that the “controllers” would not give him permission to go higher and get out of the bad weather.  If it’s possible, I think my friend was even more frightened than I was. Good seat-mates we were!  NOT!!!
Landed LA, got my rental car with the GPS and drove to my hotel in Santa Monica.  Only made ONE wrong turn.  J  The only reason I say in Santa Monica is so I can run from the Santa Monica pier down to Venice Beach – a 5 mile roundtrip jog.  The weather was beautiful and I had a great run.  But, Venice Beach is now reminiscent of Harlem in NY several years ago before they “cleaned” it up.   If there had not been a few other joggers, bikers, and walkers out there with me, I would have been really frightened.  Not at all like it was even 5 years ago.
Worked on setting 2008 international dates all morning and then drove to my friend Karri Turner’s house (actress from JAG TV).  She and I went out to the set of CSI NY to watch our pal Gary Sinise film.  Karri has been on sets thousands of times – usually working – so I really appreciated her “babysitting” me.  She and I adore Gary Sinise not only because he is a fantastic actor but because he is the “real deal”.  He gives so much of his time to visit the troops overseas, in the U.S. and at the medical facilities.  His generosity is boundless.  It was really fun for me to watch the filming since it’s been many, many years since I’ve been on a movie/tv set.  He had one small break and took us into his terrific “office” to chat.  Afterwards, Karri and I met our best friends – Bryan and Alec – and Bryan’s son Blake (who was celebrating his birthday).  Had an incredible meal at Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel.  There was some snotty red carpet thing going on while we were there but I’m not sure what it was.  After dinner we all went to the Viper Room to see Bomshel perform a private gig for their record label.   They were awesome and my friends were very impressed with their talent.
So, now we are up to this morning.   First call was to my office because Fedex was supposed to deliver a package to me to take to Japan before 8 am.   Lindsey drove to the main fedex office yesterday to make SURE it would be delivered before I had to check out at 9 am.  Of course when she called to check on it, Fedex informed her that they had “made a mistake” and didn’t service it as Overnight First as she had paid for.  She spent the next 2 hours trying to get them to deliver to the airport to me.  Of course, the hotel called me after I had checked in and said that Fedex had delivered a package.  I called Fedex and got some truly RUDE representative.  Gave up and decided I’ll write a letter when I get to Japan.  NEVER trust Fedex to deliver anything important on time.  This isn’t the first time it has happened and their attitude is always the same, “oops.  It happens”!
So, the other “challenges” this morning – Mark Chesnutt thought his flight was 2 hours later than what was booked for him, so he missed the flight out of Houston..  He was supposed to be connecting with Penny and the Nashville group out of Detroit.  They re-routed him so that he is going through Minneapolis and hopefully connect with me and Bomshel in Tokyo.   On a positive note, Penny didn’t have any problems getting the Nashville group checked in and they made it to Detroit before we ever left LA.
Bomshel got stuck in horrible traffic and didn’t arrive as early as they wanted for check-in.   I found a great skycap that I tipped generously and he took care of everything for us.  Except, the ticket agent said I was the only one who had a reservation that went all the way to Fukuoka.  The other 7 people in Bomshel supposedly only had flights to Tokyo.  Jeez.  Fortunately, I had a printout of ALL the e-tickets and was able to walk her through it.  But, she still wouldn’t give us our boarding passes for the flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka.  We’ll deal with that when we land.   We have to pick up all our luggage in Tokyo/Narita and re-check it to Fukuoka.    Will be around 9:30 when we arrive Fukuoka and then we have a 2 hour bus ride to Kumamoto and a “staff” meeting at midnight after we arrive.
So far, so good on this flight.  No turbulence….yet.  J
We landed in Narita and of course, NOTHING was as NW told us.  We had to go through immigration (as I thought) and pick up all our luggage.  As we were in line for immigration Mark and his manager showed up, thank God.  All our luggage made it but when we exited Customs, there was no where to “recheck” it.  I found an information desk and we had to find a bus stop, then take a tiny busy (cramming all our luggage and gear inside with dozens of other people) to another terminal.  From there we had to totally “recheck” in.   Everything was smooth until they got to Mark’s ticket.  When NW rebooked him, they put him in Coach.  Fortunately, Penny and Lindsey found out before his long flight and got it changed – especially since it is a $10,000 ticket!  But JAL didn’t want to honor it.  I spent an hour waiting for NWA to bring them a copy of his paper ticket to prove that he was business class.  Then, after all that time, the ticket agent said, “Okay.  He’s business class  But there are no seats left in business class”.  If she had told me that in the beginning, I wouldn’t have waited for an hour.
Anyway, we made it to Fukuoka and Penny and the other artists arrived a few minutes after us from Nagoya.  All the luggage and gear made it.  Only little “snafu” on the Japanese side was that they decided to send one large bus and one tiny bus.  Never done that to us before.  Of course, it wasn’t large enough.  Tomorrow that will be corrected.
All the keys and Big Macs from McDonalds were in the lobby waiting for them when they arrived.  Everyone except the production people from each group went to bed.  We had a production meeting that lasted about 2 hours.  Now it’s after 4 am and I’m going to sleep for 2 hours and then go jogging.  Busy day tomorrow.

So, the report yesterday was ACTUALLY for Wednesday and Thursday, October 17 and 18th.  Forgot that we “lost” a day flying to Japan.  No worries.  We get it back when we fly home.  J
Slept 2 hours and then went for a “quick” run.  Did lots of sprints since I didn’t have time to go my usual 5 miles.
We all met in the lobby a little after 10 am and went to Suizenji Park for sightseeing.  It’s a beautiful park and we were lucky enough to happen upon a “ceremony” taking place in the temple.  From the park, we went to a “new” restaurant for a traditional Japanese lunch.  Everyone sits on the floor and must remove their shoes prior to entering the room.  Since this was our first visit to this particular restaurant, I didn’t know what most of the food was that we were eating.  But, it was really good.
After lunch, everyone except Cherryholmes went back to the park to shop and then to Kumamoto Castle.   I went with Cherryholmes to a Junior and Senior High School.  They performed for the students there and then took questions from the audience.  There were some pretty funny questions.  One of the kids told the father in Cherryholmes that he looks just like the guy in Harry Potter.  They asked the ages of everyone in the group.  The first kid was only 15 and he got a huge “Ahhhhh” from the audience.  They went up in age from there 16 to 23.  As each age increased, the enthusiasm from the audience decreased.  The mom and dad decided they were NOT going to tell their ages.  The promoter called me this morning and had me ask Cherryholmes if they could “cover their tattoos” before going to the school.  Evidently, tattoos are frowned upon at school.
Cherryholmes went to the Kumamoto Castle after the visit to the school.  Then everyone came back to the hotel to rest or to go shopping.  Dinner was “on our own” tonight and as I was not hungry after the big lunch, I bailed and spent the time answering emails.
Everyone attended a great “Welcome Party” at Charlie’s nightclub.  The new Fukuoka Consulate was there.  Nice lady with her husband and 2 children who are from Ft. Lauderdale.  The Lt. Governor of Montana and Miss Rodeo were also there.  Montana is the Sister State of Kumamoto.
Each artist got up and sang 2 songs and Charlie did a short set with his Cannonballs.  All the sponsors were there, so it was pretty crowded in his tiny little nightclub.
I left as soon as the “jam” session was over but was stopped before going out the door to do an interview for the “Japanese stick donuts!”
Tomorrow is Sound Check day and a visit to the volcano if it isn’t too active!  J

Time passes so quickly.  Today is sound check at the venue which is about a 1 ½ hour drive from our hotel.  It’s a beautiful scenic route but can make you nauseous since we travel winding roads up one side of the mountain and down the other.  Except our bus driver didn’t take us the way I told him to go, so my group missed the beautiful scenery.
I have a new stage manager for the first time in many, many years.  He’s doing a great job, though.  Sound checks all ran on time.  Some problems with the backline equipment not being as good as it has been in years past.   Hopefully nothing breaks because they don’t have any “spares”.   The buses they provided are much older this year, too. One of them broke down in the parking lot today but they were able to repair it.
It was colder in Kumamoto today than it has ever been in Japan at this time of the year.  I wore a jacket all day even though we were inside.  I can’t imagine how cold it must have been up at the volcano.  All the artists and their entourages have been very nice and easy to work with.  I think they are all enjoying having themselves.
About 18 of us went out to my favorite Italian restaurant tonight.  Much better than many of our Italian restaurants at home.  Mark ordered a beer and they brought it out in a Germany beer stein.  He remarked that he is drinking beer in a German stein in an Italian restaurant in Japan.  Pretty bizarre.  It was lots of fun listening to Mark Chesnutt talk to the Japanese waitress in his “southern accent”.  I’m not sure she every understood a word he said.
My friend from last year – Toby with A.P. — was at the party last night and at the venue today.  He really wants to do a documentary on the 20th anniversary of Country Gold next year.  He’s going to come to Nashville to meet with me in November.
Not so many emails to answer tonight so I’m hoping to go to bed soon.  Earlier start tomorrow and a very full day – Concert Day.

For the first time in about 10 years, I’m getting shin splints when I jog.  I’m hoping it’s because I’m running every day instead of every other day and running on pavement!  At least when I get to Korea, there’s a great gym in the hotel so I can work out with weights every other day.   As I was running back to the hotel, I ran into Kristy from Bomshel and we finished the run together.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Probably around 50 degrees.
Had a really quick breakfast and then got dressed for the concert.  It was supposed to be a 2 hour drive from the hotel but our driver made it in 1 hour. Not sure how he did that!
We had a huge crowd this year.  Not sure how many yet, but the numbers will be large.  The new lady from the Fukuoka Consulate “opened” the show with a speech.  We had allotted time for her but she finished much quicker than we anticipated.  This put us about 15 minutes ahead, which was great.  Charlie and his Cannonballs were the first act up with Cherryholmes following them.   The Japanese love Bluegrass Music, so they were very well received.  Lost Trailers went on next and you would have thought they were rock stars the way the young girls in the audience were screaming.  The Governor arrived (tiny little female) and greeted everyone.  She is so gracious and sincere.  She holds my hand and speaks Japanese to me and waits for an answer – without an interpreter.  I think she believes I should know a lot more Japanese than I do since I’ve been coming to Japan since 1987!  All the artists met her and exchanged gifts.  Then Bomshel took the stage – two beautiful women with a high energy show.  Charlie’s wife is teaching line-dancing to the school students.  She brought 24 young boys and girls (teenagers) on stage and they danced to the Bomshel Stomp.  It was great.  Mark Chesnutt closed the show and I was amazed at how many people were still in the audience.  It had turned very cold when the sun went down.  But they seemed to know every word to his songs.  We closed the evening with the finale – She’ll be coming round the mountain – and some amazing fireworks.  Every artist and their musicians have come up to me and said that this is the most amazing event they have ever attended.  I agree.  Of course, we’ve had 19 years to “perfect” it.
Little glitch as we were leaving.  Our buses couldn’t get through the traffic to pick us up.  In the past, they have always arrived early to avoid the traffic.  So, we were later getting back to the hotel than anticipated.
Keiko and I went to my favorite sushi bar and pigged out.  Now I’m going to call my absolutely special baby – John Adam Murph – and check on him then go to bed.  Will get up at 4:00 tomorrow to get the first group off to the airport.  I won’t leave until 8 am with Bomshel as we’re going to Korea to perform for our troops.