The Fields of Home
1988. Nashville, TN spring: I’m in Ricky’s office in the Welk building talking to Karen Tolley, who is Ricky’s office manager. She tells me Lorrie Ann Crook (of The Nashville Networks hit program, Crook & Chase) is going to be doing a show on Ricky, called ‘celebrities off stage’. Karen asks if I’ll go to East Kentucky with them to make sure they don’t forget something. I think she really just made that up, to make sure I get to go with them, & relive some of the many memories made from our childhood up on Brushy Creek; in and around our home place in Lawrence County, Kentucky. On the morning of the taping, I pick Ricky up at the airport in Huntington, WV, some 65 miles away. We play a recent demo session of mine and talk some. When we get on Route 32 going out toward Brushy from Louisa, KY, it gets really quiet in the car. Neither of us is talking.
We’re too busy looking at a strange land. Finally, Ricky comments on how sad and depressing everything looks. The corps of engineers is building a flood control dam on Blaine Creek. The government has already bought out many of the old residents and…. Their beautiful old homes, yards and farms that I so fondly recall are now falling into decay and ruin. It’s called progress they say…we’re not so sure. I feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, heartbreak and sadness sweeping over me. It turns out to be a song idea. I know what I’ll call it… the fields of home. When I’m back in Nashville, I have a writing appointment with my best friend Larry Shell. At my office I tell him the story of out trip home, how the idea came about etc. He likes it and we begin to try to write the song. It’s taking a lot longer and a lot more out of me than I had imagined. Several times, over the several sessions it takes to write the piece, I have to leave the room to compose myself before going on. Finishing the song takes me places emotionally that I had not been in a long, long time. It proves to be therapeutic for both Shell & myself. It’s hard remembering sometimes but in the end it’s always worth the tears.
We demo the song a couple of months later and Karen sends it, (along with 3-4 of my other songs), out on the road with Ricky. A few days after that, I get in from a gig late at night and find a message from him on my voicemail. I wish I had saved that message. His voice is breaking. He was remembering too. I felt he would react positively to the song & sure enough he did. The honesty in the song hit a nerve in him. Ricky records it & puts it on his great record “Kentucky Thunder”, that I believe came out in 1989 or 90… It is still one of my favorite songs I have ever had part in writing and I thank God for it. Kenny Chesney is fairly new in town and tells me one day that he really loves the song. I remember this when I call his producer and friend (Buddy Cannon), and ask if he thinks Kenny will be part of this CD. Kenny says yes and his vocal here is one of my favorite things I have ever heard him sing. I thank you Buddy and Kenny Chesney.