I’m beginning a new series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a van full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“When I was a very young kid, around sixteen, Hank Williams Sr. played in Brownwood at the old Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium. He was definitely an idol of mine. It was sort of an amateur type show first, and then they brought Hank out as the big entertainment. I did my little part in the amateur show. I don’t remember what I sang. Little Joe Carson was there…some people may remember him. He was quite a musician. Anyway, I did my bit and I got to talk to Hank, which I found out in later years was very unusual. He didn’t talk that much, or at least that’s what I was told by Sammy Pruett, who was Hank’s guitar player. I did some gigs with Sammy years later on down the line and I related this story to him. He said that Hank simply didn’t often talk to people, but that every once in a while, he’d talk to a kid like me. Probably because I was young and sincere and he sensed something in me. Anyway, Hank Williams Sr. told me to go out there and ‘make the audience feel what you feel. You make them hear what you are saying…’
Projecting yourself is what it basically came down to. I watched him that night and I never saw any other entertainer that had the magnetism, or projection that this guy had. He was not flashy and it almost appeared as if he had stage fright. He had a presence. There was something around him beyond himself and it worked. He could captivate an audience with just his presence on stage before he said anything. It really wasn’t that he was all that great of a looking guy or anything like that, it was just something that he did. It was a form of magic and I worked hard to understand it and to learn to do that – to project. I got to where I could bring the audience to my way of thinking. I could make them cry or laugh or feel whatever emotion I wanted them to feel. I think this is probably one of the most important things an entertainer can learn to do.”