Growing up in Clovis, NM, memories of my Dad are mostly of him at work. Dad leased a gas station, and ran the business along with the help of my mom. The first station that he managed, was pretty far from our home, on what was called the base highway, because it led to Cannon Airforce Base. The first few years of operating the station, Dad kept it open 7am to 9pm 7 days a week. Because I was still just 5 years old, I spent those days with Mom and Dad at the station. Mom would take me to the library, I was an early reader, and I would read much of the day. I also liked to stick a red rag or grease rag in my pocket, and follow Dad around. He would let me go into the shop bay, but not out in the drive where the pumps were. He was always protective of me getting hurt.
Dad also had a disability. He never talked about it and he never let it stop him from working. When he as two years old, a family member was driving with Dad in the front seat of the car when they had an accident. I never knew the details except that the car drove under a semi truck. Dad amazingly survived the crash, but his right arm and hand were torn up pretty badly. His right hand turned completely under, and he could not use those fingers. His hand was never fixed. There was no attempt at surgery. For reasons unknown, it was just left that way. Many years later after Dad had retired, a Dr. told him he would love to fix it for him, but by that time Dad said he was too old to worry about it. Dad also had a knee that was held together by screws. This incident was in his teens, and another car accident. With no one willing to take care of him, or possibly couldn’t, he was left in a hospital for a full year. I can’t image that, but it is the truth, verified by one of my sweet great aunts, who used to visit him. Dad had many things happen to him in early life that probably could have just kept him down, but he was a survivor.
I watched him work, walking on the concrete and pumping gas in the New Mexico heat. I watched the sweat drop into his eyes and him wipe it away with the red rag. I watched him pull his pants up and tighten his belt. He was losing weight. He was small anyway, he probably weighed around 140 lbs. I cried to a God that I really didn’t know yet, but I believed he was there. I asked him why? Why did Dad have to work so hard out in the sun? Isn’t there a job inside he could have. I would watch Mom take his boots off at night and gently work on his feet. He had calluses and corns. As a little girl this made me so sad. I wished God would change things for him, give him an easier job. Finally my Mom saw the toll it was taking on him. I believe it was by her encouragement that he started closing on Sunday. The pay that Dad received from gas, was only pennies on the gallon. The station was open to take in flat tires and cars with issues. Dad together with Mom learned to fix many of those issues. I can remember my mom doing what they call rebuilding a carburetor. She was definitely not afraid of work. Once my Mom got here finger hung in the tire machine, big machine that they use to take a tire off of its rim. To this day there is a mark on her wedding ring where Dad pried her finger loose. God answered my prayer in not exactly the way I had asked, but he gave my Dad a much better station, with better location, and a better owner to work with, who paid him more money on gas purchases. Dad was able to hire extra help and the station eventually became known as the best full service gas station in town. They had contracts with the post office and the police department. That meant not only did they purchase their gas from the station, but Dad was responsible also did all of the maintenance and service work on each of the vehicles.
Dad, and Mom too, had huge hearts for helping others. Dad actually had his phone number printed on the large glass front window of the station. In an emergency call Bill — — —-. I’m not making this up, he truly did this. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get a call late at night from someone who needed help. Broken down vehicles, but also just people traveling through who had run out of money, and needed gas to get back home. I don’t think I ever heard him turn away anyone. If he could help he always did. I hope I can always have the kind of heart for helping people that he did. I believe I got my survival skills and work ethic from him. My Dad had his flaws like we all do, but he was a good man and I am forever grateful for the good things I can hold onto from him……My Dad.
That night at Chastains was a night that I will probably will never forget. Toby introduced us to some of his family and friends in between sets, and the band and Toby sounded great. He sang several songs that he had written, and also a rock song with a rap in the middle. It was the first time I had heard anything like that, but it worked! It really worked! Creativeness in music and songwriting was certainly one of his strong characteristics. I don’t think there’s much that he wouldn’t try musically, and he seemed to just have the gift for putting it all together and producing something that makes you want to hear it over and over. The night went by way too fast, and we all made plans to meet for breakfast in the morning.
I believe it was a Denny’s. Present were myself, Toby, Mr.Shedd and Fred Cortez, who was Toby’s close friend and owner of Chastains. After what seemed like small talk that would never end. Harold said something close to this,
“Well I’m interested in doing a record on you….”
Toby immediately replied, “I want you to produce me.”
So there the conversation began of the timeline and what that might look like, and then one small detail…
Toby asked, “What about the band?”
“Well you can use any band you want on the road, but I don’t need a band on the label.”
Toby truly was the backbone of the band, but I’m sure it was still very disappointing for those other men who had played with him for quite some time. But business is business so Toby Keith solo artist was about to get his big chance.
I excused myself to the ladies room, and on my way back out, Toby and I were face to face in the small bathroom entryway. We were both speechless really. I think I let out some kind of immature girly squeal and hugged him. Neither one of us could have fathomed the road that lie ahead.
It was several months before recording actually started. The project fittingly titled
Toby Keith, was recorded at the famous Music Mill Recording Studio in Nashville.
The label staff were throwing around the idea of which song to use as the first single. They decided on a song, which would later be given the title of the most played country song of the 1990’s. That song, Shoulda Been A Cowboy was Toby’s first number one song, and still one of my favorites.
I continued to stay close to Toby and his career that first year. I can remember thinking, wow that was easy! But in reality I would come to learn that these types of success from an artist on their first album are pretty rare. Many times it takes lots of trial and error, and even then there are problems such as record companies closing down, and getting radio to even play your songs. Yes, I learned a lot during that time about the business of music.
One afternoon Toby called me up, and asked me if I would be interested in working with his Fan Club. I immediately said yes, but fear shot up through the back of my neck like it was on fire. He asked me to get back with him about a time that we could talk about the details. I said I would, and hung up the phone.
What have I done? I don’t know anything about a fan club? Did he say, “working with his fan club” or “running his fan club?” What if I screw it up. What if I don’t know what I’m doing….what if….what if
What if he can’t pay me….I can’t quit my Flight Attendant job. So here is where I did what I had done so many times in my life, I didn’t respond back to him, out of fear. I was afraid to try. Afraid to fail. Afraid of disappointing him. Afraid that in the big world of the Country Music business, I would look stupid. Fear and Pride, the bondage that kept me from trying to do a job that might have eventually led me to my dream of working in the Music Business.
Over the years we have kept in touch and my family and I make it out to a show when we can. I still love music, but God has given me another passion, to help others in recovery, and serve him. Through Toby’s support, we are able to give Life Recovery Bibles to the women in the jail ministry class. God is good, and he knows what he’s doing, even when we have no clue😊
I was having one of those days of complete anger and frustration. I couldn’t seem to get a person to see my side of an argument, or really my side of anything. I could feel the resentment building, and getting stronger.
Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.
I went to the Lord with my complaint, “Lord how do I handle someone like this?” My first thought, before I listen for his response, Andy Stanley! He always has great sermons on how to handle difficulty. Then I hear the voice
Not Andy Stanley
“Then where do I go Lord?”
Go to my word
Ok God, well that makes sense, but where do I start? What do I Google? This problem has so many elements, where do I start?
And the voice says….
Love, you search for Love
Then the tears started and I opened my Bible, and used my Ipad to Google
What Does the Bible Say About Unconditional Love
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you Luke 6:27
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:5
And then the one that spoke to me the loudest…….
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Wow no wonder words spoken in anger are never heard correctly, or said how I intended. They are a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, they are an anoyance, not a solution. I heard it said “Speak the truth with kindness” or “Speak the truth with love.”
No matter where I wanted to go with this, whatever blame game I wanted to play, God took me back to Love.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
The true significance of the word “meek” in the Bible is a mental attitude for which there is no other single word available, and it is this mental attitude which is the secret of “prosperity” or success in prayer. It is a combination of open-mindedness, faith, in God, and the realization that the Will of God for us is a always something joyous and interesting and vital, and much better than anything we could think of for ourselves.
Wow! One if my favorite writers. I have learned so much from him.
Emmet Fox/The Sermon on the Mount
Only with God🙏
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.