Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Killin' Time until the Clint Black concert

I have worked in, or around, politics for my entire career. For that reason, most of the "grip and grin" photos in my office are with politicians. While meeting and having photos with a president, congressmen, senators, heads of state from around the world, legislators and local officials were thrilling experiences, my secret vice is my collection of photos with country music stars.
 
So when I got to go to the White House with a country music star, I was over the moon.

My love of country music started with a high school friend. This was back in the late '70s when the first of the "new wave" of country singers was coming along on the heels of the greats like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. I came to love Reba McEntire, Lyle Lovett and the Statler Brothers in college.  
Backstage with Merle Haggard

Later, as a young professional in Washington, I often had access to concert tickets and backstage passes thanks to lobbyist friends. One friend often got us backstage passes for the likes of George Jones and Merle Haggard.

But my biggest country music thrill came in 1991 when I got to visit the White House, ride the tour bus and visit backstage with Clint Black and his band. At that point, Clint Black was a successful newcomer on the country music scene opening for Merle Haggard.

"Smartly dressed" in the
White House press room
This once-in-a-lifetime treat was a birthday gift from a friend who worked for Lee Atwater at the time. When Clint Black’s “people” called Atwater’s "people" to request a White House tour, my friend Rhonda (who was then-assistant to Atwater) arranged their tour...and got us on it too.

I remember it vividly. Rhonda and I spent hours deliberating over the appropriate dress for a visit to the White House with a country music star. Jeans and boots would have never occurred to us, so we dressed "smartly" in pared down work attire.

Tour bus parked next
to the Treasury Building
Clint's "people" told us to meet the tour bus on the corner by the White House on that hot Sunday afternoon. Rhonda and I were giggling like two kids waiting anxiously for the bus on the first day of school. This was back before tight security and street barriers kept the White house very off limits. So when the bus drove up, we just hopped on, and it parked on the street next to the White House...easy as that.

W
ith quick introductions all around, we made our way to the White House gate. While I had been on several White House tours before, I couldn’t contain my excitement while trying not to be the star struck groupie (after all, Clint was about my age and not a whole lot taller than me without his hat).
Oval Office in the background


Photos were still allowed in the White House back then, so I snapped and snapped shots of this great adventure. Now almost 24 years later, the photos have survived in one of many scrapbooks in my attic. They chronicle our extended tour of the Oval Office, press room and West Wing. Looking back on the photos and seeing the look on my face, it's easy to remember I was just this side of giddy.


Entrance to the West Wing
I snapped shots outside the West Wing office door and at the press secretary's podium. I have pictures of the band posing behind the desk in the Oval Office and Clint playing the piano in the grand foyer of the White House (he was actually singing happy birthday to me!)
Singing Happy Birthday

I've wondered occasionally when I hear a Clint Black song on my ITunes if this was a cool visit for him and his band or "just another day at the office" for a country star.  
Now, 24 years later, I have tickets to see Clint Black in concert in Florence later this month. Maybe we'll have a chance to reminisce about that adventure at the White House?
Clint and the band
Relaxing in the Red Room




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