From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

Just What the Doctor Ordered

God respects you when you work, but he loves you when you sing.

Cliffie Stone

I’ve been asked a million times why I’ve chosen to put up with all the hassles and inconveniences of working the road all these years when I could have easily stayed in Nashville, written songs for a living, and enjoyed a peaceful and comfortable existence. My reply is now and has always been: Nobody applauds when you write a song.

Applause surely must be the most powerful aphrodisiac known to mankind. The quest for it is a disease of the blood. Or, at best, a genetic disorder. What else would cause an apparently rational person of sound body and mind to pack his belongings and heedlessly ride away from his spouse and family in order to pursue such a nomadic and pointless existence? I mean, it’s not like entertainers cure cancer or anything.

Or do we?

I once rode all night and half a day through a blinding snowstorm only to arrive in the little North Dakota town where we were booked to perform to find our concert had been canceled because of the weather. A handful of people hadn’t heard the news, however, and had managed somehow to brave the elements and make their way to the auditorium.

Normally, under such circumstances, no one would expect the entertainers to perform. All performance contracts contain an “Act of God” clause stating that if something out of human control occurs, the contract becomes null and void.

The promoter was under no obligation to pay us for the date. Likewise, we had no obligation to go on stage. We were cold, tired and hungry. The endless miles on a narrow, snow-swept highway had taken their toll. But there was something in the eyes of those few fans who had shown up that told us how badly they wanted to hear the music they knew we could play if only we would.

A small kitchen was off to the side of the auditorium, and the promoter offered to cook us some food. We warmed our hands by the steaming heat rising off a small group of antiquated radiator coils in the corner of the hallway and talked the situation over. There was certainly no place else for us to go. The entire town was held prisoner by the storm. Why not drink some coffee, fill our bellies and pick a little country music?

Which is exactly what we did. I told the audience they’d better treat us real good, though, because we had ’em outnumbered. We gave them our time and our talents and, in return, they were more than generous to us with their applause.

When our show was over, we stood around for a while and signed a few autographs and visited with the people. An elderly lady, wearing a heavy coat that had obviously kept her warm for many long winters, her head wrapped in a faded blue scarf, approached the stage where I was standing.

“You don’t know how much this evening has meant to me,” she said, reaching up for my hand and looking deeply into my eyes.

“Well, we’ve enjoyed it, too,” I replied, smiling and giving her hand a slight squeeze.

“My husband just passed away,” she said sadly, lowering her head. “I haven’t been out of the house since he died except to go to the grocery store and to church. I didn’t really want to come here today, but my daughter insisted on bringing me. My husband and I had lots of your records, and we used to enjoy so much watching you on TV.”

I smiled and thanked her.

“I’m so glad to get to meet you,” she continued. “Thank you for playing and singing for such a small crowd. Today is the first time I’ve smiled since my husband died. Your music has helped me to forget my problems for a while.”

Okay, so entertainers don’t cure cancer. But maybe, every once in a while, we cure some other things that are almost as important.

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson

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