This is part of a 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 bus 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.
“I managed to rack up one #1 record in my early career. It was the strangest thing. My records were getting a lot of airplay in Europe around 1965 and the people in Denmark really liked my song, “Den of Sin.” It was a reverse tearjerker. The guy wasn’t upset because his baby was leaving, he was crying because she was coming back. It hit the charts in the number one spot in Denmark and charted in other countries and in the United States but never climbed to number one. I had several others make it up in the Top Ten, but none other charted in the coveted spot.
At one time all of that was important to me. I was chasing a dream. I went to Nashville with a letter in my pocket written by Ernest Tubb, asking Nashville record executives to listen to my songs. I’d never have gotten in the door without his help and I was always grateful. He was a great man.
I’ll never forget the day I walked into Owen Bradley’s office in 1968 on music row. I was more nervous than if I had been in front of 10,000 people. But, I played some songs for him and he sat back and listened. When I got through, he said, “Son, you’re a big ol’ boy and I sure don’t want to make you mad, but I have to be honest. You’re a good singer and you’ve got some pretty good songs, but pretty good ain’t good enough. I can’t sign you with Decca, but come back again and maybe I’ll have a different opinion.”
When you’re a songwriter and someone tells you your songs aren’t good enough, it’s like telling a mother she has an ugly baby. But, I didn’t get upset. I had so much respect for him and for Ernest Tubb for setting up the meeting that I didn’t dare do anything to blow it.
He went on to say, “You can go down the street to Columbia and they may just love you. I’ve missed some of the hottest acts in the business. When they brought Elvis Presley in, I told him I wasn’t impressed with the way he wiggled his ass and didn’t sign him. He went to Columbia and well, you know what happened there. So, don’t let me discourage you. Keep after it. Keep writing and come back.”
Well, I never made it back. I had record deals go bad. I had promoters promise the moon and deliver nothing. I had songs stolen and got cheated out of royalties. All part of the business, I suppose.
I was slated to be picked up and managed by Tillman Franks once he got David Houston‘s career launched. David Houston went on to have several big hits and I got busted and sent to prison. I was always on the edge of doing something big and never quite getting there. I do believe I was my own worst enemy.
I got disillusioned with it all but I was stuck on a merry-go-round and couldn’t find a way off. The United States Government and the State of Texas found a way to help me off, you might say.”