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Darrell Huckaby: Tuning in to a country classic

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Well, another Christmas has come and gone and now folks are standing in long lines at the malls and department stores to give back all the stuff they got that wasn't the right size or color or that they just didn't have any use for. Bless their hearts.

Not me. I make it a point to be happy with what I get, even when I don't like what I got. Makes life easier. It is kind of like that old country song, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

Besides, I always make sure I get what I want for Christmas by doing a little bit of shopping for myself. Then I wrap the gifts and slide them under the tree without putting who the gift is from on the tag. The kids always assume the presents are from my lovely wife, Lisa, and she always assumes they are from the kids. And no, I am not giving myself away because none of my family ever reads my columns. They are afraid of what I might have said about them, for one thing, and for another, they have never much cared what I have to say.

Even a prophet is without honor in his own home.

This year I gave myself the gift of music. I put several country CDs under the tree. I'm not talking "The Band Perry" or "Lady Antebellum" or any of these Johnny-come-lately country stars that wouldn't know heartache if it hit them in the head. I'm talking classic country. I got myself Waylon and Willie and George Jones -- and I got myself a CD called "The Legend of Johnny Cash." If Johnny Cash ain't country, I'll kiss your grits.

Wallace Christian turned me on to Johnny Cash back in the days of eight-track tapes. I don't think I ever thought to thank him. Later, I actually got to meet Johnny Cash backstage at the Fox Theatre. It's a funny story, too.

I ordered tickets as soon as I heard he was coming to town and got great seats, right on the front row of the balcony -- on the aisle. I couldn't wait to see him walk out, look at the audience and say, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."

As curtain time drew nearer and nearer, however, the seats beside me remained empty and I began to fret to my date that the owners of those seats were going to be climbing over us when that magical moment arrived. I was right, too. Just as the Man in Black walked onto the stage, here they came, "Excuse me. Excuse me. Sorry we are late. Excuse me." That's what I heard as Cash was introducing himself.

Never one to keep my thoughts to himself, I turned and fussed at the offending couple. Imagine my surprise when said couple turned out to be former governor, Lester Maddox, a good friend.

"I'm sorry, school teacher," Lester said. "I'll make it up to you."

Let it be said that Lester Maddox always kept his promises. At intermission he and his beloved wife, Virginia, went down to visit with Johnny, who credited Lester with helping him along when he'd lost his way, and June Carter. He brought me and my date along with him. Gov. Maddox introduced me and Cash shook my hand and said directly to me, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." It was a great Forrest Gump moment.

Now understand, every song on my new CD I probably have on other CDs, but this album -- ask an old person if you don't know what an album is -- has all the classics -- the essentials, if you will, on one disc.

"Cry, Cry, Cry" for when I'm feeling a little blue, and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." One of my great memories is singing "Sunday Morning Coming Down" with Mike Morgan at Crossroads United Methodist Church.

My new CD has the classics, of course. "Ring of Fire" is on the record and so is "Jackson."

I sang "Ring of Fire" at karaoke night at Benihana's on Elvis's birthday one night and two dozen drunk Japanese people thought I was the greatest singer in the history of the world. Danny and Nancy Preston were witnesses. Ask them. They'll tell you.

I heard Johnny Cash and June Carter sing "Jackson" together in a farmer's field somewhere in west Georgia. He tried to kiss her afterward and she said, "I ain't kissing you. You've been in the pen!" to which he feigned great offense and responded, "I have not!"

He hadn't either. He had been in the Starkville City Jail and the Ringgold, Ga., jail, but not prison.

And of course the CD had "I Walk the Line" and even "A Boy named Sue."

Ties are nice and everyone needs an iPhone update every now and then, but if you need me for the next couple of days, I'll be at an undisclosed location listening to some real country music and remembering the way life used to be.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.