Music has been the one true, soul-uplifting, joyful constant in my lifetime. Everything I am and everything I have accomplished in my life I owe to music. My wife and our son? I met Janet in my teens at a New Year's Eve concert at the Stanley Theater.
My folks? My best childhood memories are associated with songs from those formative years, many of which we danced and sang along to, then.
My closest life-long friends? The ones I played music with, shared music with, or spent hours on end listening to music with.
The crazy, misguided days of my youth? That would be the adventures I shared with dozens of musicians in local bars emulating the lifestyles of the rock stars we so wanted to be.
My most poignant lessons in life? Contemplating my experiences while listening to artists with a conscience.
My contributions to society? I have shared my music and the history it reflects with thousands of school-age children; I have documented the struggles of American coalminers and their contribution to the American work climate we all are a product of; I have helped secure the health and benefits of 18,000 retirees; and I leave behind hundreds of songs on more than a dozen album releases that have touched the hearts of thousands.
My wildest successes? Writing on Music Row with famed writers and legendary performers, and being invited to share my songs along side of them at venues like The Bluebird; playing in front of crowds as large as 80,000 and spending precious moments with the special artists who brought them there; I toured Italy in a rock-n-roll band (enough said); I played my bluegrass flavored songs in my home late one night accompanied by Chris Scruggs with Rosie Flores sitting next me; I even played "Pink Cadillac" with Bruce Springsteen and my friends in The Houserockers.
My treasures? I have met and become close friends with the most creative, sincere, just, ambitious, talented, and beautiful people this world can offer.
Most importantly, I continue to help support my family with a career that I was given because of my life-long commitment to making music. One in which I bring young people from every corner of America to serve, help, and learn from the great people of my home state of West Virginia. And yes, I share with all of them my music. And not a day in my life has gone by where music hasn't brought at least one brief moment of satisfaction to me.
So yes, I may be idealistic; and yes, much of this is the result of 50 years, a time to reflect on the bright side; but every word is true - and so am I - because of this great gift of music. The business is tough these days, but hasn't it always been? My wish for my son is to enjoy at least half of the success I have found in this world of music, along with the wisdom to appreciate it. It is surely enough.
In closing, I wish peace, Love, happiness, and success to every soul I have ever met because of music. And right now, that would include you, my friend...
"Of all the earthly treasures and the wonders that they bring, may we find a place in heaven...with six silver strings."