Seven Artists Dale Mann Can’t Live Without
I was asked to write a little about some of my favorite artists and never realized how hard it would be to pick just seven. But anyway here are some of the country stars that made a big impact on my life and what made me love this business so much.
Tracy is a great guy. In fact I guess he’s about the only guy that is close enough to hear me on the radio and he’s told me he’s listened a lot. He still lives in Beaumont and even though he’s off the road, I still see him every now and then. One of my favorite stories about Tracy is when he came to Lake Charles to play at Contraband Days. He invited me on his bus and he told me he wanted me to listen to some songs he recorded because he wanted my opinion. Well he played me an up-tempo song about a cowboy hat that I really liked. Then he played an old song made famous by Johnny Paycheck and a few more songs and then asked me which one I thought he should put out as his next single. Well I told him the song about the cowboy hat, you don’t want to come out with a cover song as a new artist. Well that night he dedicated the cowboy hat song to me. A few weeks later the new Tracy Byrd single came out. It was the old Johnny Paycheck song “Don’t Take Her(she’s all I got). It went to number one. But we’re still friends.
I saw him for the first time in Atlanta when I was in broadcasting school. They had announced that he wouldn’t be doing interviews or autographs because he had to run to make it to another engagement on time. Well, the concert was great with Johnny, June Carter, Statler Brothers, and Carl Perkins. I was back-stage when the show ended and saw Johnny rushing to leave, like he said he had to. As he headed for the door he passed a little girl (maybe 11 or 12) in a wheelchair. He then stopped and turned around and came back to her, kneeled down beside her, kissed her forhead and talked with her for a few minutes. He was in a hurry but took the time to make a little crippled girl the happiest person in the world. I’ve been a fan ever since.
I first met Neal McCoy when he had his first big song (at the time) called “If I Build You a Fire” and he came to Lake Charles for Contraband Days. Everybody here fell in love with him and he fell in love with Lake Charles. He even chose Lake Charles as the location to make his video “Hillbilly Rap”. We became friends after several return engagements to town . This is a man that becomes friends with everybody he meets. He’s got that kind of personality. There’s no doubt that he should be a super star but I think he’s happy where he is. He has a great voice and the best stage entertainer I’ve ever seen. And he truly loves his fans. One example of this, he was playing Cowboys one night, and the day of the show I got a call at the radio station from a fan. Shirley and Marie were sisters from Iowa that never missed a Neal show when he was close. They made him shirts, brought him food, they loved him and he them. The call was Marie telling me that Shirley was in the hospital and not doing too well and wanted me to tell Neal that they would not be at the show that night. Well during sound check that afternoon I told Neal the news. He looked at me and said, “ Dale, would you take me to see her?” We walked into that room and it was like the whole room lit up for that lady. The nurses later told us her vital signs improved the whole time Neal was in there. That’s the kind of man my friend Neal McCoy is. If you ever get a chance to see him perform, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
I first met Dolly when she did a concert at the Lake Charles Civic Center. She was the sweetest lady as was her whole group which was mostly her family. I made good friends with her brother Randy and Uncle John Henry. . Now John Henry is the uncle that brought Dolly to Lake Charles when she was 13 and recorded her first record “Puppy Love” with Eddy Schuler at Goldband Studios. Much later while I was working in Nashville I hooked up with John Henry again who was still working for Dolly selling t-shirts and pictures etc. He asked me if I’d be interested in going on the road with Dolly selling t-shirts and pictures and stuff. So I did and had a great time. I recall the nights before we would leave out for the weekend John Henry would come pick me up and he’d go to every TG & Y around and buy all their little toy binoculars for a dollar. Then at the concession table at concerts he would sell them for $10.00. Several years later Dolly opened Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. And for the first three years it was opened we were special guests of Dollywood. Thanks Dolly for being so sweet.
This guy is my very best friend in the music business. John Wesley and I met when he was down here doing a concert. We became friends right a way and kept in close contact. A few months later I got a call from the owner of his booking agency telling me that John had suggested me as a possible agent to book the talent that they represented. So after thinking about it a while, I thought , what the heck, let’s go to Nashville. So for a couple of years I was on the road with the Likes of John Wesley Ryles, Narvel Felts, Ronnie Milsap,Little David Wilkins, Norman Wade and a few more. When I left Nashville John gave me the rights to continue booking him in Louisiana because we really had him working good here. And besides he’s a La. Boy too. Well we’ve stayed in contact all these years and try to see each other as often as possible. He’s married to Joni Lee, Conway Twitty’s daughter and still doing back-up singing and studio work. You can still see him on a lot of Alan Jackson Videos.
George Strait is the king and has had more number one hits than anyone. I’ve been a fan from day one. We had a radio promotion with George when “Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” was out. We ran a contest for a trip to Ft. Worth for New Years Eve with hotel, limo, plus tickets to Billy Bob’s Texas to see George Strait in concert. My brother and I were chaperones and brought our winners back stage for the meet n greet. It was a great time. I’ve also been to the George Strait Team Roping Invitational in San Antonio plus numerous other concerts. He’s a great guy but pretty shy.
I had been friends with Conway Twitty for many years before his untimely death. I have emceed more Conway Twitty Concerts than any other artist because he used to come to Contraband Days and play for many years. I was friends with his road manager Al Harris and many of his band members. And one of my best friends in the music business is now married to one of his daughters, Joni. I’ll get into that a little later. I also worked in the same office complex in Hendersonville, Tenn. As Twitty Bird Enterprises back in the 70’s. It was a pleasure knowing this great entertainer and as his drummer “Pork Chop” use to introduce him in the opening of the show as “ The Best Friend a Song Ever Had”.