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.
I hope you enjoy this series, but before we get to the “road” stories, I want to go back a little farther to the beginning.
Rick Sikes got his first guitar when he was twelve years old. He recalls, “My uncle gave me an old Montgomery Ward guitar. The thing was an F-hole guitar and the strings on it were old and rusty. They were more like saw blades than guitar strings when you would run your fingers down them. The neck was warped, but I like that guitar a lot. Some of the strings were two strings tied together. They’d break where you could get up above the nut and tie them back enough to get them wrapped around the key. I loved plunking on that old guitar and trying to sing. I did a lot of it. I was so bad and getting a little braver and louder and finally, my dad asked me if I wouldn’t like to take the guitar down to the barn to the feed room where it was dry. I could go down there and get some practice and sing loud. In other words, he’d had about enough of that damn racket in the house and it was time to take it elsewhere. So, my first real audience was cows.”
(Just an interesting side note. Rick’s family moved to Odessa for a short time and during these years, 1948-1949, Rick attended school with Roy Orbison.)
Now on to the first stage appearance:
“Sometime in the late Forties, at the Coleman City Park, they had a Pavillion where guys would gather to sing and play music on Saturday nights. I would go and listen a lot. Some of the older musicians kept after me to get up and sing with them. So, I finally did. I’ll never forget the first song I sang. All those people were looking at me as I was singing “Your Cheating Heart.” I sang it through. The old guys in the band knew I was scared because my knees were knocking together. They wouldn’t stop and the band played on through the bridge and told me to sing another verse, and another and another. They wouldn’t let me quit. I just kept singing. I came home and stayed awake most of that night because I was a nervous wreck. Then I got to thinking…’Well, if I’m ever going to sing, I’m going to have to get up there and do it. I can’t put it off any longer and I can’t be afraid.’ It took me a few days of kicking it around trying to decide whether I ever wanted to get back up there again. I made up my mind it was what I wanted to do. I copped an attitude that the worse they could do is kill me and they probably wouldn’t want to eat me. So, I got back up there for many, many years afterward. I don’t recall a time during the first minute or two when I walked out on a stage that I didn’t have what I can only call an adrenaline rush. It was a moment of tension until after I got into the first song. By the time I was half through that first song, I was okay…I had it. Five minutes into the gig, I had the audience exactly like I wanted them. They didn’t have me, I had them zeroed in…”
I hope you’ll come back each week as I share some of the “Stories from the Road” with Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels!
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