Who said timing is everything? In this case I guess it was pretty close. I pulled out a tape of songs written and recorded by my friend Toby and the Easy Money Band. Perfect! I love his music, maybe Mr. Mercury will love it too. I popped it in my topper pocket, and headed toward his seat. For a split second, I almost turned around. If I give him the tape, thats the only one I have…..Funny when I think about that today, but that is the truth, I didn’t want to give up my only tape of my friend. I thought better of my turn around plan and decided to give up the tape. Approaching his seat, a little nervous, I wanted to say the right thing.
“Excuse me, I just remembered that I have this tape of my friend Toby from Oklahoma. He is a really good singer, and I really like the songs that he writes. Would you be willing to listen?”
“Oh ok, I’ll listen to it in the car a little later, I’m a bit tired right now.”
My heart sunk. He’s giving me the brush off. My only tape……Oh Lori, maybe he is just tired, besides you have always thought that music sounded better blaring in the car anyway, right? Then I realized the tape I handed him had a name and only a name. That wasn’t very smart. I quick scribbled my name and number on a piece of paper and headed back to Mr. Mercury.
“I’m sorry to bother you again. I realized that if you like the tape, you will need a contact.”
He was very polite and said, “Oh yes thank you. Is this you?”
“Yes it is.”
“I will give you a call. Thank You Lori.”
“You are welcome. Thank you for being willing to listen.”
Ok, now that was a little better than, “I’m tired”. Maybe he will listen. Maybe he will like it. Maybe…….Oh there I go again…big dreams…..
The trip ended three days later, and I walk in the door of my apartment in Nashville. Just a one bedroom, but it was nice to have my own place. In New York we lived four to a two bedroom, which was fun for a while but not a life I wanted to live for too long. I did what I always did coming home from a trip, I went straight to the answering machine to see who called me when I was gone. This was before the days of affordable cell phones. The only cell phones out there were about the size of a good size paper back book, with a long antenna sticking up on top, and not yet affordable for most people. I pushed the flashing button to see who had called. The first call caused me to sit straight down on the nearest chair.
“Ah hello there this is Harold Shedd with Mercury Records. I have a tape here that you gave me on my flight to LA….ah let’s seeToby Keith? I listened to his music, and I was pleasantly surprised. Could you give me a call back? I have some questions for you. Thank you, Goodbye.”
Nervous I grabbed the phone. I couldn’t wait to talk with Mr. Shedd.
“Mr. Shedds office.”
“Yes hello my name is Lori Hardin, I am returning Mr. Shedd’s call.”
“Just one moment………Lori, please hold for Mr. Shedd.”
“Hello Lori nice to hear back from you. I’m interested in hearing more from Toby. Did he write the songs on the tape?”
“Yes he did.”
“Do you know if his publishing is open.”
Publishing open……not sure what that means….
“No I don’t but I can find out.”
“Yeah why don’t you do that, and do you have any more of his music I could hear?”
“Yes I have a project he recorded about a year ago with his Easy Money Band”.
“If you don’t mind, drop that in the mail to me, my assistant can give you the info., and then find out about publishing and give me a call back. Will that work?”
“That’s fine. I will get right back to you.”
My heart was pounding. In my gut, I somehow knew that this man was truly interested in Toby, and I also knew he had the power to give him his big shot. Only one problem. How do I get in touch with Toby? The only time I would ever see him was when he was performing somewhere. I didn’t have a phone number, address, anything. I did have a number for one of his band members, I decided to start there.
I called this gentleman and he actually answered the phone. I explained the situation and asked him for Toby’s number.
“I’m sorry Lori, I don’t think Toby would want me to give out his phone number.”
“Are you serious???? Do you know how big this could be!!!!! Here is my number……….call him right now and tell him to call me it is urgent!”
Somehow the seriousness of the opportunity got through this guys head and he said, “OK, I’ll call him now.”
In what seemed like forever, my phone starting ringing……..
I’m really having trouble finishing up with this story. Not that it isn’t a great, fun story, but as I was reading through what I had written, I wondered why I was writing the story at all. I started it out wanting to share how fear had been such a huge part of my life when I was younger, and that was my focus. But somehow I got into what I think sounds more like, look what I did, I am so wonderful. That really wasn’t my beginning intent. But you see I have this thing called the flesh, and the flesh really likes to feel good. It really likes to pat itself on the back. I am going to try to continue this story in a more appropriate way, that might have some hope for others as well.
The phone was ringing. I picked it up quickley, and yes on the other end was Toby Keith. I explained to him the details of my flight and that a Mr. Harold Shedd was interested in his music and wanted to hear more. He knew right away who Mr. Shedd was, and before the days of Google, he was able to enlighten me as well. I asked him about his publishing, which was open, and if he could send me more music.
The next few weeks, Toby sent me more music and I delivered it to Mr. Shedds office. At one visit he asked me if Toby would be performing anywhere the next weekend, he had some free time and would like to fly out and see him. Toby happened to be playing at a club close to his hometown on just that weekend. Thats perfect, said Mr. Record Guy. I will have Joyce book my flights. Now, are you going as well………These words made fear race from my shoulders all the way up my back. I had never thought about that. Then he said, “You did put this all together……” “Sure I can do that.” Oh Lori what are you saying. You don’t even know this man, and all you know about the music buisness you have read in books.
Here’s where the fear began to really torment me. What if something goes wrong……what if he doesn’t even like Toby when he hears him. What if he is not a nice man……then what. You are pretending to be something you are not Lori. You know nothing about the music buisness, you just have a good ear for music. You are acting like a manager, and you are not.
I wish I could go back to that young girl and tell her that she does have talent. I would tell her, “You are a good communicator, people like to talk to you. You are a hard worker, and yes you do have a great ear for music, the kind of ear that instinctively knows what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try.
The week passed and Mr. Shedd and I flew out to Oklahoma City to watch Toby perform at a club called Chastains. When we walked in the door Toby was on….and I do mean ON! He was singing a cover of The Kentucky Headhunters Song called Walk Softly on this Heart of Mine. Mr. Shedd had just signed the Kentucky Headhunters about a year earlier, and they were hot! Another moment of great timing.
As the night went on Toby sang many songs that he had written. Blue Moon, She Ain’t Worth Missin, Wish I Didn’t Know Now. These songs in the very near future would top the Billboard Charts.