Have you ever just kept putting something off until one day you wake up and find it is too late?
For months now I have been planning to call my old fiddling friend Art Stamper, 71, and interview him, I have even went so far as to pull out his telephone number and put it on my desk.
Sadly, I learned last week of his passing Jan. 23, after a four-year battle with throat cancer.
Art was one of those truly unique old-time fiddlers whom I greatly admired. His artistry is woven in the music and recordings of the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, the Goins Brothers and many others.
Through my work with the Grand Ole Opry and at festivals around the country, I often got the chance to stand side by side with Art.
We swapped out on one of Bill Monroe’s favorite group performance songs such as “I Saw the Light” or his theme “Watermelon on the Vine.”
Backstage, Art was always kind enough to trade a few fiddle licks with me from the literally hundreds of tunes that he kept stored in his head.
I got a thrill out of watching him work for the audience in that he gave his heart and soul to the instrument, and it was easy to see and hear in each note that he played.
My last visit came with him in Alabama where we were both performing at a Gary Waldrep’s Festival on the Farm in Kilpatrick, Ala. It was a joy to again sit and visit with this true Kentucky fiddler.
On the same day of Stamper’s passing, the world said goodbye to TV legend Johnny Carson.
I would have to say that while I was growing up it was a treat to get to stay up long enough to watch a few minutes of Carson’s monologue or see his antics with various animals who tormented him in some comical way.
While the dream was never realized, I really would have enjoyed walking out on his stage and trying to make him laugh.
I received a call from a friend that Johnny and I share, Ramblin’ “Doc” Tommy Scott of Toccoa, Ga., telling me of his death. Carson and Scott originally came to know each other as they alternated performances at theaters in Carson’s home state of Nebraska and the surrounding area.
“Sometimes when we’d work that circuit, Johnny would plug my show coming up the next week, and sometimes I’d plug his magic act,” Scott remembered.
The duo met again as Carson began his rise on network stardom, and Scott and his wife, Frankie, appeared on one of his early network shows in New York.
“The girl came in and handed us all a script to read from,” Scott said.
“Johnny and I looked at it a few minutes, and he said, ‘let me see yours.’ He said, ‘here’s what we are going to do. We will fold this like this, and this.’ Then he crumpled both of them up and threw them in the trash.”
He reminisced that Carson told the girl to tell the producers that Tommy Scott and he could handle 15 minutes or five hours without a script.
Thankfully, Frankie kept her copy of the script that Scott still has, he said.
“That day we talked about one of my biggest mistakes, when I neglected to give a boy out of Memphis who shook a lot when he sang a job for $40 a week on my show,” he said. “’Course, if he came to work with me who knows; he may have never become the Elvis Presley we all know.”
While Scott said he and Carson had not spoken since he retired from the Tonight Show, he will miss the magic man who grew up to make the whole world laugh.
It is safe to say that Carson’s millions of devoted fans agree with Scott. I know I do.Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” now on Turner South. His latest CD release, “God’s Children,” is by etrecordshop.com. He is a member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. He is a columnist and staff writer for The Catoosa County News and can be reached at email@example.com.