By Jonathan Sawrie
By I have finally arrived!
Few people in recorded history have achieved such a position of notoriety that has recently been mine to obtain. Only a handful can share the particular station in life that I have now reached. Oh, I thought several times throughout my short life that I had arrived, but only now do I realize that those experiences cannot measure up to a recent development that has brought me to the place that I know I have finally become somebody!
Looking back I can think of several times when I felt like, “you know, I’ve finally arrived”.
Maybe it was the time we bought our first bus. It wasn’t much. Generator didn’t work. Had to change clothes in the dark sometimes, but we had a bus! Of course, after you buy a few tires and pay a repair bill or two, you realize you’ve reached a destination, but you can’t say that you’ve arrived.
There was the first time I got to perform at the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium in Little Rock. To be on the same stage where so many great concerts had taken place through the years was certainly exciting. The Speers were there, Ed O’Neal and his Dixie Melody Boys were there too, and I got to sit backstage and watch J.D. smoke. Surely I had arrived by now? But then we had to pay our commission on table sales, and after we split what was left, we bought a coke. And shared it.
Our first year to sing at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion was certainly reason to feel that we had really gotten somewhere. All the great quartet men – and Lily Fern – were there and it was the last night a gospel concert would be held at the Municipal Auditorium in Greenville. Man, I really knew I was somebody to be reckoned with now. But then we had to drive the bus all the way back to Little Rock in third gear.
Then there was the year at the Great Western Quartet Convention I got fined for going half a verse and a chorus past the red light. We felt like we were hittin’ on all cylinders that year, and needed to move some product. I saw it turn yellow before we started the last song, but it didn’t matter, I was gonna finish the list I walked on stage with if it hair-lipped the Governor.
While we’re here. I hear a few quartet MCs (and a lot of mixed group MCs) say that the Lord is leading them to do the next song, or change the program or something. I’ve always been under the impression that if the Lord is sovereign and omniscient (and I believe He is) that He should be able to make up His mind what He wants you to sing before you get right smack dab in the middle of the concert and then say, “Wait, wait, what I told you on the bus ain’t gonna work – change it.” The only time in 16 years He ever led me to change the show was that Sunday afternoon in Ohio when we were standing outside in the middle of a couple hundred volts of mic cable and a rainstorm blew in. The Lord came to me in a vision and said GET OFF THE STAGE! I obeyed.
Anyway, back to the story. We sold enough to make up for the fine, and I went away feeling pretty salty.
But none of these experiences compares to a recent event that has taken place in my life. I can think of nothing that could ever happen again that would put me in a place of such prominence.
Somebody heard I died.
Art Montgomery said he was taking a load of folks somewhere in the church van and caught something out the corner of his ear. Shook him up so bad he actually pulled over on the side of the interstate and turned around to get clarification.
It was true. One of the good ladies of the church had heard that Jonathan Sawrie, yes the one who used to sing with the Melody Boys, had passed away. Art broke out in a cold sweat. But after further investigation, it seemed that she thought it was a couple of months ago and he knew he had seen me at least in the past three weeks, so he felt rather confident she was mistaken.
How many of you can say, “the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”? Not many I suspect. So eat your heart out everybody – somebody thinks I’m dead!
I did tell Art though, that if I felt like I was fixin’ to go, I’d call him first and let him call 911.
See you next month – if I live that long…
P.S. Clarke – I still feel like I shouldn’t have had to pay for going over. If you’ll remember, I quit early the year before in Louisville so we could get out before midnight. I may come to the next board meeting.
Jonathan Sawrie has spent most of his short life involved in gospel music as a pianist, singer, writer, teacher, and producer. He is a life-long resident of Faulkner County, Arkansas and makes his home near Greenbrier on Horseshoe Mountain with wife Danna, sons Jacob and Joshua, and cat Samson. They are active members of Central Baptist Church in Conway. (Samson has not joined the church.) He holds a BBA Degree in Accounting from the University of Central Arkansas and is a master Spades player winning the Toad Suck Ferry Spades Tournament in 1998 and 2000. He enjoys gardening, motorcycling, Razorback football, and has no spare time. He gave up full-time bus riding in 2002 after 16 years with the Melody Boys Quartet but continues to do free-lance quartet work filling in for the sick and afflicted and those who were fired for stealing mic cords. He appears at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion each August as the pianist for the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet. (And everybody else who doesn’t have one or left theirs at home.) He does not play golf.