It was the end of Ted's sixth Saturday of practice with the band when Al and Jim approached him. They stood there and watched Ted as he put his stuff away in a backpack and prepared to go home. He did not realize Al and Jim were there and so when Al broke the silence it caught him off guard.
"How you feeling, Teddy? Feel like you are keeping up with the band okay?"
"Sure do," Ted said confidently. "I am really enjoying this"
Al hesitated a moment, looked sideways at Jim who nodded his head,"
Well, we been thinkin' it is about time for you to earn a little cash
for your playing. Can you be here at six tonight ready to play?"
"Sure can sir. I'll be here anytime you say to."
"See you at six then." and Al and Jim walked away talking to each other.
Ted got home he excitedly told his parents that tonight he was going to
be an official part of the Hogey Opry. Excitement filled the room and
his mother started figuring out what Ted should wear that night.
"I think I'll just dress normal mom, you know blue jeans and a button shirt. Don't want to look new, you know."
mom agreed and then time stopped for Ted. It was the longest afternoon
of his life. He kept imagining in his head how it would go. How
people would whisper about the piano and the kid playing it. The Hogey
Opry was about to change their sound a little for the first time in many
years and Ted was going to be at the center of it.
night Ted showed up at six. The group had a meeting going over the
line up of songs and skits for the night. Basically it was about two
songs followed by a skit and then two more songs. The show would last
After the meeting, Al pulled Ted aside by the arm.
we been thinkin' that, well you can't hear that old piano very well so I
want you to practice a bit on this thing I bought you in town. Jim
bring that thing out here."
From behind the curtain Jim
appeared pushing an electric piano. Ted was stunned and excited. He
had never played one before and he wanted to practice on it as bad as Al
wanted him to.
Al pointed at the piano as he began to
talk. "Now they tell me it plays just like a regular piano. The harder
you hit the keys the louder it is so you can still put some of that
emotion in it the way you do in practice. It will be hooked up to the
sound system along with all the other instruments. Go ahead now, play
on it. Get use to it, get the feel. I want to be sure everyone hears
this addition we are about to ad."
Ted didn't need to
be told twice. He spent the next hour or so playing what he was going
to do in the show that night. He found it to be a little awkward at
first but slowly got use to it until he felt comfortable with it. After
he had worked through the numbers he went backstage with the rest of
the troupe and sat down waiting for the show to begin.
it got to be closer to eight, Ted began to hear the sounds of the crowd
arriving for the show. It got louder and louder and then at precisely
eight, Al walked out onto the stage to the main microphone to welcome
the crowd and to start the show.
"Ladies and Gentleman,
welcome to the show. We think, and certainly hope, that you will enjoy
yourselves tonight. We are going to play some good ol' music and have
some short skits that will keep you smiling and entertained. So let's
get it started. Here they are, the Hogey Opry Band!!"
with that all the members of the band came out from back stage and took
their place at their various instruments. Ted was the last one out and
he felt sweat beading on his forehead as he sat behind the new piano.
He looked at Al intently as the old man picked up his fiddle and started
an introduction to the first song. Right on cue, Ted joined with the
rest of the band in the song. Two of the girl singers came out and
started to sing. Suddenly Ted was unaware that there was a crowd out
there watching. He was playing music just like in practice and he was
having a great time.
The band stayed on the stage in
their places during the skits between songs and Ted smiled and laughed
with the rest of the band. He had seen the skits several times but it
was part of the band members job to laugh at them as if they were seeing
them for the first time along with the crowd.
It was about halfway through the show and between songs when Al stepped to the microphone.
"I wanna introduce my band to y'all", he said in an almost fake southern drawl and one by one he named off the musicians.
each name was called the performer would step forward and and wave to
the crowd or tip his hat if he was wearing one. Ted nervously waited
for Al to call his name. Suddenly Al stopped introducing band members
and started to put his fiddle under his chin to start the next number.
He had not introduced Ted to the crowd and for a second Ted was just a
little hurt. Then Al lowered his fiddle and started to speak again.
you know folks, I almost forgot. You see we aren't use to having a
piano in the band but tonight for the first time, we have a piano as
part of the permanent band. The boy is sitting back there and this is
his first night with the Hogey Opry. Folks please welcome for the first
time Teddy Senner to the stage!"
Ted stood up almost
shyly as the crowd applauded the new arrival. After that first night Ted
was introduced along with the rest of the band as a regular member and
his shyness that would overcome him as he waved to the crowd slowly went
away until he felt quite at home at the Hogey every night.
During the next three years Ted began to experiment writing songs
during off hours at the theater. He would come in early and stay a
little late to see if he had it in him. At first the song writing was
difficult. He was good at writing the music but lyrics would not come
easily. Slowly he progressed to learning how to write a song and one
day he felt like he had finally written one that he wouldn't be ashamed
of playing in front of people.
One Saturday morning
after practice for the show, Ted asked Al to come over to the piano and
listen to his new song. Al was skeptical but agreed to give it a
listen. The song was medium tempo and gave a message of a lost love
like trains passing in the night. The situation that each of the lovers
were in never allowed them to be as one. It was a very emotional and
sad song and as Al listened to it he could see a picture appear in his
mind of what the two were feeling. Ted came to the conclusion of the
song and looked up at Al who was standing still with his head lowered.
"Umm, that song there, you wrote it?" asked Al very seriously. "Have you written any others?"
sighed as his reply came out softly. "Yes sir, I have written a few
but they aren't very good. Matter of fact been thinking of just
Al pointed at the piano, "Play me one of those other songs Teddy."
began to play what he thought was the best of the other songs and when
he finished he looked up at Al who was now sitting in a chair shaking
"Play another of those songs you wrote," Al
ordered and Ted began to do another song. The two of them were there
until almost showtime as Ted played all of the seventeen songs he had
written. After playing some of the songs, Al would offer a suggestion
or two that would improve the song. As the session between the two
musicians came to an end because showtime was creeping up on them Al
stood up and asked a question that Ted never expected.
think you could play one of those songs next week for the show?" Al
was staring at Ted with a cold stare that showed he meant business.
"I guess I could. Would it be solo or with the band?"
"Whichever you prefer," Al said. "Those are damn good songs kid. You need to get them out there."
next weeks show featured "Teddy Senner" playing a brand new song alone
on the piano while the rest of the troupe stood on the stage facing him
and his piano. When he was finished everyone applauded, even his fellow
band members. Every week from then on there would be a Teddy Senner
special song and each show Ted was applauded loudly by the crowd. He
began to write more songs and it seemed that each time he did, it was a
little better than the one before. Ted had become a star of the Hogey
Ted spent another two years with the Hogey. He
continued to write songs on a regular basis and was building up quite a library of them. He had been called Teddy so often that after
five years he responded to Teddy without thinking and even introduced
himself as Teddy Senner. There was no longer a Ted. It was Teddy now
and would be for the rest of his life.
morning as the troupe was gathering for practice, Teddy noticed a lone
figure sitting in the theater. Teddy know that Al sis not like visitors
during rehearsals so he found it odd that Al didn't pay no mind to the
man watching. As Al walked by Teddy decided to ask Al about the figure
sitting out there.
"Hey Al, who's the visitor?"
Al looked Teddy straight in the eye and lifted his hand up and placed it on Teddy's shoulder.
that man sitting out there is here to listen to you. He is here to
watch you and, well, quite frankly, if you impress him enough, he could
be your ticket out of the Hogey. He'll probably want to talk to you
after we are through. Just do me a favor okay? When he talks to you,
remember who gave you your first gig, okay? Just remember that when you
are thinking about things that he might talk to you about."
looked back out at the figure and suddenly he felt his stomach start to
roll. He decided to do his best to forget the man sitting out there
and just act as if it were another Saturday morning. The troupe went
through the paces of the show for that night and Teddy played a new song
that touched every heart in the place. It was a slow, emotional song
with a great melody and lyrics that everyone could relate to. When he
had finished the song, it was quiet for a few seconds before Al began to
clap and the rest of the band joined in. It was by far the best thing
Teddy had written and he happened to have it ready on this particular
Saturday with the stranger sitting in his seat watching and listening
When the run through of the show was
finished, Teddy along with the rest of the band prepared to go home to
rest for that nights show. As Teddy was getting his things together Al
walked up and cleared his throat before speaking.
"Um, Teddy, this is Mr. Chapman. He would like a word with you if you don't mind. Mr. Chapman, Teddy Senner."
Chapman reached out to shake Teddy's hand and suggested that they go
out and sit in the theater to talk a bit. Teddy followed the well
dressed man down into the third row and sat waiting to hear what this
"What can I do for you Mr. Chapman?" Teddy asked seriously.
the first thing you can do is call me Brian. The second thing you can
do is listen to an offer I have decided to give you. It's the chance of
a lifetime Teddy. Lots of people wait their whole lives to hear what I
am about to say to you."
Brian Chapman leaned forward
to explain. " Teddy, you may not realize it but word of your talent has
gotten outside these four walls here. People are starting to ask about
who this Teddy Senner is. I decided to come up here and hear for myself
if you were as good as the talk is about you and I got to tell you kid,
you are better than they think."
Brian turned and reached
into his briefcase and came out with some papers that were stapled
together. He looked them over page by page and sighed as he shook his
"Teddy, this is what I came up here for, to offer
you this. Not sure I want to now though. These papers are a contract
that I was hoping you would sign to come down to West Plains and be a
studio musician for a couple of years. You ever here of the label TMR?"
say I have," Teddy said gazing at the papers that Brian was still
holding with the question of what Brian was going to do.
surprised that you haven't. I started the label about five years ago.
My vision was to give artists, young artist, well new artists a chance
to record because the big labels are too busy to mess with too many new
singers. A company like, well RCA for example might, just might sign
one or two new artists a year. The odds are pretty well stacked against
you. You know, I have been coming up here for the last eight shows
listening to you and frankly, I am surprised that one of the big labels
haven't approached you yet. That being the case, I find myself in a
position to make you an offer before they do. From what I have seen and
heard, you could be the one that puts TMR on the map. Here's the
deal. I have only got six artists recording for me under contract.
They have done okay regionally but have not spread outside southern
Missouri and northern Arkansas. Not going to give you these papers.
What I am going to do though is write up a new contract that would bind
you to record at least three singles, that is six songs, with an option
for me to get four albums from you on my label."
stared at Teddy to see if he could read a reaction from the young man.
Teddy just sat there looking at the floor between his feet while
thoughts and questions flooded his mind.
Brian spoke again
to finish his pitch. "I'll get a publisher to publish all the songs you
record so you'll get a percentage if someone wants to record one of
your songs. You'll get a percentage of any record sales on the TMR
label. Son, I think you got what it takes, I really do. What I am
offering to you is what could be your big break. Personally, I think
you would be damn foolish to turn it down. Now I'll be back next week
with a new contract. Think about it between now and then. Chance of a
lifetime son, for both of us."
Brian stood up and looked down at Teddy. "See you next week Teddy. Give it serious thought, okay?"
Ted stood up and nodded his head, "yeah, sure, I'll think about it. Thank you Mr. Chapman."
"That's Brian." and with that Brian Chapman turned and walked up the aisle and out of the theater.
had been sitting on the stage watching the conversation and picking up
bits and pieces of it. He jump down to the floor and walked over to
"Well? What did he say?"
"He offered me a record deal at TMR in West Plains, Al. I am kind of stunned, you know?"
it Teddy. You don't need to think about it. If it works, then great,
you are on your way. If it doesn't work out, at least you'll know you
gave it a shot and you always have a home here. You can't turn this down."
Al was right. He had to take the deal. He left the theater quietly in
deep thought and headed home to talk to the folks about it. He was sure
their reaction would be the same as Al's. Can't afford not to give it a