NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER
As Rose Lane and I depart for the rehearsals for the upcoming Stones European tour ‘07, I am reflecting on all that we have done over the past several months since the tour finished in the US late last November. I did not keep a day-to-day journal of our experiences, but thought I would at least touch on the highlights of our “home time” before I resume the tour diary entries for this summer.
We arrived back home on Nov. 27th. It was quite a long flight from Vancouver to Atlanta, and we had to connect in Salt Lake City. The flight from SLC left around 5pm, putting us in to Atlanta very late, around 11:30pm. Our faithful manager Mike Hattaway picked us up and drove us home. We got there well after midnight, pretty frayed from the trip, but very grateful and excited to be back home. It took us a couple of hours to calm down enough to hit the bed. The next morning was glorious, and after an hour of waking up I took a nice long ride around with the dogs…. Lilly, our Jack Russell “terrorist” on the “Lilly Board” in the passenger seat of my Chevy truck (the Lilly Board is a device I made that is a 1/2 plywood board covered in short nappy carpet with a little rail across it so that she can climb up on the board and see out the window) and our border collies Maggie and Molly in the back of the truck. We rode all around the plantation, and I was taking mental notes on things that I wanted to try and accomplish in the coming weeks and months. One distressing thing was all the standing dead pines I saw. 2006 was a drought year…we were about 14 inches under for rainfall and many trees were stressing out inviting bugs (Ips Beetles and Black Gum Turpentine Beetles for the most part) to come in and finish the job. I could tell that I’d be working a lot with my Stihl chain saws to take them down and salvage what lumber I could out of them. Other than that, things looked pretty good. It was just so great to see the place, and to feel a part of it again. We saw a good many deer and some wild turkeys during the drive, and I let the dogs get out and chase them a couple of times.
After the ride I went back to the house to help Rose Lane unpack all our bags. We went through that for a good hour or so, getting most of it done but leaving some of it for later as we’d had about all we could stand of suitcases! Mike came over and we talked about the place…about things that had transpired over the last few months, about the hunting season…how many hunts we had booked and when, and just general discussion of how Charlane was doing and what we had coming up. I knew that we would be tackling all kinds of projects. working and renovating our dog kennels, restoring our wooden pasture fences and some other building projects.
In the coming days we would settle in…taking more notes on things that needed doing and preparing for some of the hunting parties that would be coming in soon. Of course another priority was to see our family. Rose Lane’s mom, Rosaline; our aunt Mary, Rosie’s brother Alton and his family, and of course our daughters and little Miles. Amy, Steve and Miles came down a few days after we’d been home, and it was so great to be re-united with them. Miles was on the verge of walking….and starting to blubber some words…“doggie” was his first word and he was using it often. We talked to Ashley long distance in Boston several times, and she came down to visit us during the Christmas holidays, so we got to spend some good quality time with all of us for a couple of weeks.I had several things on tap to do other than just working on the plantation. One of the first duties was a meeting of the Georgia Land Conservation Council, which I’m a member (appointed by Governor Perdue). That was on Dec 1. On Dec 3rd I traveled to New York to make a short appearance on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and all the gang. A group that I work with, the Abundant Forests Alliance, was donating $800,000 worth of books to their Toy Drive, and my children’s book, “The Tree Farmer” was part of that. It went very well and was nice to be invited on the show.
Another thing was that Rose Lane and I had made a decision to donate a Conservation Easement on part of our property. So there was quite a lot to do to get that done before the end of the year. I had to meet several times with all the entities involved…The Conservation Fund, The Georgia Forestry Commission, our attorney Wendell Bowden and others. We also had to get the designated property surveyed and an appraisal done. Governor Purdue had asked the Georgia Legislature for $50 million for the Land Conservation Fund, and we would be making a combined press conference about our Easement and his Conservation Initiative some time in the next couple of months.
On Dec 11 I did a video segment for the “Georgia Read More” campaign. This involved a camera crew coming out to our local elementary school, Jeffersonville Elementary, and me reading “The Tree Farmer” to a group of 2nd and 3rd graders with the whole thing being filmed. After the reading, the camera crew came out to Charlane to film what they call the “Meet The Author” segment in which they do an in depth interview. Then they take all of the footage, edit it and make a DVD that is sent to all the elementary schools in the state, along with a poster and some other fluff. It’s a good campaign, and I was honored to be a part of it.
On the 13th I had a Board meeting of the American Forest Foundation up in Washington, DC. This was the first in person meeting the Board has had since we received $150 million dollars as part of the settlement between Canada and the U.S. from the Softwood Lumber Dispute. At that time not all of the funds had been transferred, but we had to make some decisions concerning what to do with the money, and we had a little discussion on where and how we might look for projects and partners. This presents some great opportunities, and as time goes on and we look deeper into things, I believe we’ll find some very exciting ways to help AFF’s programs.
The rest of December activities mostly consisted of some hunts (when I would spend most of the time on horseback…great fun!), family time, Christmas shopping and relaxing. I did have a meeting with the GLCC (Ga. Land Conservation Council) down at Ichauway Plantation in South Georgia. This would be about the third or fourth time I’d been there…it’s such a marvelous place (see: http://www.jonesctr.org/ for more information). We had a fine meeting and discussed a range of issues concerning conservation in our state. After Christmas we had a few days to just enjoy ourselves with family…and of course a good deal of that time was spent watching our grandson Miles. He is just such a joy and every moment with him is precious.
We didn’t go off for New Year’s Eve. I was invited to come up to sit in with Widespread Panic in Atlanta at Phillips Arena…but as we’d been on the road so much I just wanted to have a nice quiet time at home. Plus, we had some new hunting clients coming up right after the first of the year and I wanted to be at home for that. We had John Dewberry, a very talented developer from Atlanta coming down with a hunting group as well as a large group from the Georgia Department of Transportation right after Dewberry’s group. That kept us busy the first week in January. Then on Jan 6th I left for Salt Lake City to give a breakfast keynote address to the national convention of the American Farm Bureau. This was in partnership with the Stihl Company…. they sponsored me there. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I got to meet with and spend quality time with many of the higher-ups of AFB (including the President, Bob Stallman) during my stay there. AFB does some great work and I was interested in hearing their views on the new Farm Bill that was being formulated up in Washington. We had some productive discussions about that and my new friend Ron Gaskill from AFB promised to stay in touch with me about it. The afternoon after my breakfast presentation, the keynote speaker for the General Assembly of the convention was Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns. I had met him a couple of years ago when I gave a speech to the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation in St. Louis. We became fast friends, and it was good to get to see him again even if we only had a short time to talk before his speech.
The day after my speech I headed from Salt Lake City to San Francisco to attend the Mac World convention. I was there to be part of the Chestnut Hill Sound Company’s release of the new iPod product called “George” (www.chillsound.com). A rather interesting and unexpected thing occurred while I was waiting in the Salt Lake City airport to catch my flight. I was just hanging around the gate, killing time…and looked over to see someone that looked very much like Bernard Fowler. And I thought…well, that can’t be Bernard, what would he be doing here? Then a couple of minutes later I see him walking up to me…. and then recognize that he has his family with him…his wife Jane and their two daughters Bernadette and Morgan. Wow, what a surprise! It turns out that they had been on vacation to the beautiful resort we had all stayed when we played Missoula, Montana called “Paws Up”. Bernard had liked it so much that he took his girls there for a week. We had a great (if short) chat…. they had all really enjoyed the stay…they had gone snowmobiling, horse back riding and other activities during their winter experience there. All the girls looked fantastic, and it was really a treat to run in to all of them. We all had flights to catch, so we said our goodbyes.
There in San Francisco I hooked up with my pal from Apple, Richard Kerris. Richard was kind enough to get me in to see Steve Jobs keynote address about the new iPhone and to hear him talk a little about other Apple products such as Apple TV. That was a real treat. Then the Expo officially opened and there was quite an array of new and already established products on display in the hundreds of booths that the Expo consisted of. Our “George Team” did very well…winning the coveted “Best Of Show” award. George is really a cool product, and I’m confident that it will catch on quickly.
Just before I made my plans to come out to Salt Lake City and on to San Francisco, I had a call from my publicist Dan Beeson. Dan told me that Vanity Fair had called him to see if I would be interested in being included in their “Green Issue” that would be coming out in April of ‘07. He told me that it was short notice, but that they would be putting together a photo shoot in LA with some of the participants. So of course I told him I’d love to do it…and was already headed out to California. After a couple of quick calls, he got back to me and said that if I could fly down to LA right after my San Francisco trip, then it would work. So I found a flight and booked it…. arriving in LA on Jan 10 and going straight to the studio for the shoot. The others that were in the shot included Jack Johnson, Alanis Morissette, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Keb Mo’, Dave Stewart and Perry Farrell. Very nice company indeed! The photographer was Mark Seliger…a very talented and respected man with a strong reputation. I thought he did an amazing job. It was a positive experience overall, and I was most flattered to be included.
Back home, I had a meeting with a sub-committee of the Georgia Land Conservation Council on Jan 15…in which we discussed strategies for getting our messages out to the public. We are going to need the support of the citizens of Georgia if we are to expand this program and find more permanent funding. We’re hoping to eventually gain support for a real estate transfer tax (other states like Florida have this) or some other similar method of raising significant dollars in order for us to fund the projects that we feel will really make a difference. No doubt this will take some time, but we all understand the importance of this…and the positive impact it can have on our state.
The rest of the week was spent mostly working on the plantation…and we had a couple of hunts as well.
Then on Jan 17 I flew from Atlanta back to San Francisco. I had promised my old pal Jimmy Dillon that I would make up the benefit concert that we had tried to put on during the Stones tour when we were in the Bay area. We had a date set for it back in November…but Mick had lost his voice and we had to re-arrange things, causing us to cancel the benefit. It was for a group of organizations that promote music education programs in the Bay area. Jimmy’s program is called “Blue Star Music Camps” (www.bluestarmusiccamps.com). He does a wonderful job teaching kids about music…and there were three other organizations involved. “Kids Rock” (www.kidsrock.com) being one of the other major ones.
Jimmy had organized a band consisting of the two of us, Michael Narada Walden (drums), Norton Buffalo (harmonica), Mark Karan (guitar…from Rat Dog), and some other very talented musicians from the area. The show was held at Bimbo’s Club, a really good venue for the occasion. It was a total success, and raised significant money for the music camps. The gig was really a special one…with everyone contributing.
But this was a whirlwind trip…with a rehearsal on the day I arrived and the show the next evening. Next day I was on a morning flight back home.
Then it was back to the Charlane duties until Jan 30th, when I flew down to Howie-In-The-Hills, Florida to give the keynote address to the Davey Tree Expert Company (www.davey.com). This is a very special company that cares for trees…mostly in residential and commercial settings in urban areas across the U.S. I had flown up to visit their excellent facilities in Ohio a few months before, and they had invited me to give the keynote to their Manager’s Meeting. My new friend O.J. Buigas (who I had met at Charlane when he came as a hunting client…and we became fast friends) offered to fly me down on his private plane. So he flew up to get me with his son Alex accompanying him. We had a short time to give Alex a tour of Charlane and to play a little music together…Alex is an aspiring guitar player…and to have a short visit to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon. Then we boarded O.J.’s plane and flew Alex back to Tallahassee where he is going to school…and then on to Howie. We had a bit of time before my speech, so I took a short nap.
My friend Greg Gumble, the famous sportscaster, and his beautiful daughter Michelle also came for the event. Michelle books her dad’s speaking engagements and they both wanted to see me in action, and the Davey folks were kind enough to accommodate them as well as O.J.
The presentation went really well…and the 300+ attendees seemed to really enjoy themselves. I was pleased with the reception and am hoping that we can find some other ways to work together. Davey is a great company and does some fine work in caring for America’s Urban Forests. They also have an excellent educational program, the Davey Tree Institute, where they teach many students about the care and maintenance of trees.
The first week in February was spent working at Charlane, with some hunts and general attention to the plantation. Then on Feb 8th the Georgia House of Representatives gave me a special honor. Our district representative, Allan Freeman, had arranged for me to receive an official Resolution from the HOR citing my work in music and conservation. He had also arranged for me to play a couple of songs for the Assembly, which was quite unusual. I think the last time they allowed someone to play was way back when Ray Charles did so…maybe in the 80’s. I was introduced by the Speaker, Glenn Richardson, and of course by Allan. I was able to say a few words to the Assembly, and took the opportunity to ask them to approve Governor Purdue’s request for $50 million for our Georgia Land Conservation Program, as well as making some comments on how Georgia stands to lead the Country in conservation efforts, especially concerning our Georgia forests. The playing was well received as was the comments, and after leaving the House we visited the Senate where I was introduced and was able to give a few short remarks, but no playing. It was a very special experience for me, and to receive the Resolution…the second one I’ve been given in Georgia in a decade, was both flattering and a true honor.
The next day I did a video shoot for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources (part of the University of Georgia). This was a recruitment video that will be available to high schools across the country to let students know what great programs the Warnell School offers to students interested in Forestry and Environmental studies. Rose Lane and I sponsor the Leavell Scholarship fund at Warnell, and we know first hand of the high quality of students that come out of there.
We had more hunts in Feb. as well…scattered throughout the rest of the month. But the most fun event was celebrating our grandson Miles’ first birthday. Amy, Steve and the “Bransford Clan” (Steve’s brother Jeff and his family, and their mom Ave) as well as our friends Jason Hibberd and Alison Ayotte came to stay with us and celebrate. Miles seemed to really enjoy it all…and we took lots of pictures to document his first birthday. Amy had asked me to pick out a tree for us to plant for the occasion, and I picked out a Live Oak tree. We planted it behind the Bullard house in a spot that needed some shade and where we could watch the tree grow through the years…along with watching Miles’ growth. Great fun!
On Feb 18th I flew to Jackson, Ms. to participate in the first face-to-face meeting of a new Board called the U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities. This new group was formed as part of the settlement about a year ago between the United States and Canada concerning Softwood Lumber imports. The Endowment received $200 million that we will control. The directive is to promote sustainable forestry and to help timber reliant communities. Our chairman is Dick Molpus, a distinguished and talented man that runs the Molpus Woodland Group, a TIMO located there in Jackson. We have some 11 members of the Board, and we all met in person for the first time. Dick and his wonderful wife Sally hosted us in fine fashion for two full days, and we had a great start for our group. I believe that we will do some great things in the coming years, and I’m very happy to be a part of this. Dick is a great leader, well suited for leading the charge for our efforts. The other Board members are also very talented and caring people, and I look forward to working with all of them.
On Feb. 23rd, I flew out to Portland, Oregon and drove from there just across the Washington State border to the beautiful Skamania Lodge resort to give a keynote address to the Stihl Northwest group. Dave Bulger is the President of Stihl NW, and we’ve been friends for a long time. He had invited me up to speak to his group which includes all of his own folks as well as their distributors…a total of over 300 people. It was a beautiful setting to be in, and I only wish that I’d had several days to spend in that pristine environment. Dave and company had all in good order, and we had a run through of the procedures the evening that I arrived. The next day was full of activities and presentations for the group, and my speech came at the end of it all. I concluded it with a power point presentation of Charlane Plantation, and it all went very well. I managed to fit in a nice massage in the mix, which was a nice stress-buster. The next day I flew back home, and the last week of the month was spent with Charlane work.
On March 4, Rose Lane and I drove up to Nashville, TN. I had a week of session work up there, and as usual, my good friend and manager, Buck Williams, had insisted that we stay at his house in Franklin, just 20 minutes or so from Nashville. I have made this journey several times in the past two or three years to do session work, but this was the first time in years that Rose Lane had joined me. Buck’s wife, Patti, and Rose Lane are good friends and they had not spent time together in quite a while, so this was a special treat. My session was for a new artist, David Nail. My good friend Frank Lidell was producing, and we had actually recorded about half of David’s CD slightly less than a year ago with the same group of musicians: me on keys, Waddy Wachtell on guitar, Dan Dougmore on guitar and other stringed instruments, Glen Worf on bass and Nir Z on drums. A great bunch of guys, all extremely talented. We recorded some 8 or 9 tracks over the next four days…. and this promises to be a really great debut CD for David. He has a beautiful voice…to me a bit reminiscent of Christopher Cross…a very strong but soothing tenor. Frank is always fun to work with and provided good solid vision for us. He had asked me to stay on an extra day to record some stuff on Bo Bice, who was one of the finalists a couple of years back on American Idol. Bo has a wonderful big voice…and we cut a handful of songs for him. During our stay we had some quality time with Buck and Patti, and our Godson (their son) Hunter. We also got to see our pal Jo Jo Herman and his wife Christie….Jo Jo is the keyboard player with Widespread Panic. I also had great fun hanging and playing with all the musicians. I love Nashville, and it’s always a groove to work there with such talented cats.
We drove home on the 11th, which gave me three days at home before I had to head out to give another speech. This time it was for The Smith Center, a special think-tank sort of organization located out in San Francisco…so back to the Bay area one more time! The Director of the Smith Center is Chuck Baird, a professor at The University of Southern California at East Bay, in Hayward, Ca. The Smith Center is involved in private enterprise studies, and I had been suggested to them by my friend Terry Anderson, President of the PERC organization (www.perc.com), for who I have given a couple of presentations in years past. Owen and Emma Smith are the founders of the Center. Upon my arrival on the 15th, Chuck had me picked up and I met him at Cal State at his office. We chatted some there, and he introduced me around a bit before we headed out to have dinner at the home of the new President of Cal State East Bay, Mohammed (Mo) Qayoumi and his lovely wife Najia. Mo and Najia had put on quite a spread, and we had about 15 or so at the affair. We had some time to socialize, and I enjoyed getting to know everyone…the Smiths, the Qayoumis, Chuck and his wife JoAnn and all the others…. mostly faculty of Cal State. After dinner we headed on over to the venue for my speech, which was a lovely little room like a small theater…with a nice stage, comfortable seats for the attendees, and good acoustics and sound capabilities. They had brought in a nice grand piano for the occasion, and after my presentation I played several songs for the group of 150 or so folks. It all went like clockwork, and I made some great new friends and had a wonderful time. Chuck and Co. treated me very well and they all seemed to enjoy my talk and playing.
This was a very quick trip, and I was on a plane back home the next day, on the 16th. Of course flying “backwards”…from west to east…I lost time in the process and didn’t get back to the house until late that night.
The next few days were spent mostly on Charlane issues…and then on Monday, the 19th, I went up to Atlanta to participate in an event with Governor Perdue. Rose Lane and I had announced our Conservation Easement on part of Charlane…and the Governor wanted to make a joint announcement concerning our Easement and his Conservation Initiative for the GLCP (Ga. Land Conservation Program). We met him in his office at the Capitol, and there was quite a lot of press there for the event. We went through the procedure…. making our announcements and then answering questions from the press. The end result was some good media coverage on our efforts…and I can only hope it will help with our plan to expand Georgia’s Conservation Program.
Only two days later, on the 21st, I was back in Atlanta to give some short comments to a big Conference on Water Issues. This was being sponsored by the EPA and by GEFA (Ga. Environmental Facilities Authority). This was quite a large and important conference, lasting three full days with folks from all around the world. Water issues are becoming more and more important…and more and more in the minds of our leaders and politicians. It was interesting to be involved, and while I didn’t have time to participate much beyond my remarks, I did read a lot of the material that they had. That event went very well…. and I was glad to see so many wise participants trying to solve some of our current challenges concerning water issues and the environment.
On the 27th I flew up to Washington, DC to meet with some Senators, Representatives and other “politicos” to discuss issues concerning forestry and the new Farm Bill being formulated. I met with Larry Wiseman, President of the American Forest Foundation, and we went over the agenda for our presentation and meetings. We put on events at both the House and Senate, and had private meetings with several key folks including Indiana’s Senator Richard Lugar (who wrote the preface to my book Forever Green) and our own Senator Saxby Chambliss and Congressman Colin Peterson from Minnesota. In the process…. after meeting with Senator Chambliss in his office…I walked out into the hallway and heard someone calling my name….“Chuck! …What are you doing here?” It was Sheryl Crow! What a surprise to see her…she looked great…and after explaining my efforts on forestry and the Farm Bill, I asked what she was doing there. It didn’t surprise me to find out there she was there promoting awareness for breast cancer, a cause she’s been deeply involved in for a while now…ever since she went through it herself.
We felt we had a successful run at the Capitol…and the next day I flew back home.
I had one final event to do for the month. That was to participate in the “Piano Extravaganza” that was a benefit concert for the Macon Symphony Orchestra. This was held in the Neva Fickling Hall at Mercer University. All of the piano players were classically trained except for me…I guess they needed one Rock and Roller! It proved to be a very interesting night. There were some 6 or 7 pianists involved. Myself, Neva Fickling, John and Joan Roberts, Edward Eikner, Susan and Margery McDuffie. It turned out to be a very fun and successful event, raising good money for the MSO. I must admit to being a little nervous to be playing with all those classically trained pianists…but I guess I might have provided some “comic relief” to the situation. In any case, it all turned out very well and was a nice way to finish out the month.
There has been an announcement in recent months that a new facility will be built in Soperton, Georgia by the Range Fuels Company that will be the first facility in the United States to make ethanol from wood chips. This is great news for all of us tree growers, and several weeks back during one of my trips up to Atlanta I had met with my friend Ken Stewart who is the Commissioner of Economic Development for Georgia who told me more about this. I was also informed about a plant being built in Camilla, Georgia that will be making ethanol from corn. After several conversations with some of Ken’s staff, I was asked if we would facilitate a meeting between these two companies. Both companies wanted to meet the other to discuss ways they might cooperate. I welcomed the opportunity, and on April 3rd we hosted about a dozen folks from Range Fuels and First United Ethanol and some folks from Ken’s office. It was a very productive and interesting meeting. One of the highlights was getting to know Bill Schafer, Sr. VP of Business Development for Range Fuels. He’s a great guy and it turns out he’s a fan, knowing my work from the Allman Brothers, Sea Level, Clapton and Stones. He has a great vision for the company, and I am very excited about what Range is doing and what is in the future for them. I feel like we might find some ways to work together on some projects. It’s just very exciting to finally see some companies in the US start to find ways to get off of our dependence on foreign oil. Both Range and First United are great companies that will take the first steps for us to do just that. We all promised to stay in touch and to try and do all we can to get this ethanol thing going.
The next day, on the 4th, I had an interview with Field and Stream radio…mostly they wanted me to talk about our Conservation Easement and how it might help to protect wildlife…and how others might consider this option. Nice interview.
On the 5th, I went up to Rome, Georgia to sing and perform the Star Spangled Banner for the opening night of the Rome Braves baseball team. That was a lot of fun…the Rome Braves are part of the Atlanta Braves minor league system, and the game was sold out. My rendition of the National Anthem was well received, and we enjoyed watching the game.
The next several days were dedicated mostly to Charlane work. We are re-vitalizing our “Pondo”…the dock to our pond…as well as all of our wooden horse pasture fencing. This entails pressure washing all the wood and then re-staining it. Quite a job when you consider the amount of wood involved. The pasture fencing is over a mile, and the “Pondo” is a large two-story structure. We got that all underway, and also started planting our seasonal feed plots. But we have been so dry…we’re now about 24 inches under for rainfall over the past 20 months or so. It’s getting very critical and we keep praying for rain every day… but so far to no avail. Still, the work has to go on.
On Saturday, April 14th, Rose Lane and I participated in a “clean up day” for the historic Old Richland Church. Old Richland was founded in 1811 in Twiggs County. For over a century it served as one of the main places of worship in that particular part of Georgia. Somewhere around the second decade of the 20th Century it began to lay dormant. It came back into life around 1948, and since then has gone through various stages…of restoration, disrepair, revitalization, back into disrepair…and so on. Rose Lane sits on the Board for Old Richland, and has been active in trying to keep the wonderful landmark in good condition.( http://www.historicrichlandchurch.com/old_richland_baptist_church.html) This day was set aside for all of us locals that love and respect this historic building…and about 20 or so of us all showed up to groom the grounds, clean up the place and generally do our best to keep it up. It’s really a fun and moving experience…. the way that everyone chips in and helps. It’s a combination of blood relatives, neighbors and other concerned citizens that assemble to get their hands dirty…and are prepared to sweat and do some good honest hard work and to give love to this wonderful treasure. It’s especially important to me…having been able to travel to a goodly number of places in the world…and when you realize the deep history of some of these places…going back literally thousands of years…even more…and then think about our relatively short history of America. In my mind it emphasizes the importance of trying to preserve these icons of America.
On the 18th I did a reading of “The Tree Farmer” at Stratford Academy (where both Amy and Ashley went to school) for 3rd and 4th graders. We had received news recently that the National Arbor Day Foundation has given “The Tree Farmer” their “Media” award. This is of course some great news and quite an honor. The reading was fun and went very well, and we had coverage on the event from our local television channels as well as the Macon Telegraph newspaper (www.macon.com).
On the 19th I went up to Athens, Georgia for two reasons. The first was to meet with the External Advisory Board for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the second was to rehearse with the Randall Bramblett Band (www.randallbramblett.com). I had two dates booked with the RBB…one was a private party for George Fontaine and his wife, Celia for their 30th wedding anniversary. George owns New West Records, and Randall is on his label. He and Celia had booked Randall, me, and Delbert McClinton to play over a two day period at their beautiful Texas ranch an hour or so outside of San Antonio. Randall and I were to play on April 27, and Delbert on the 28th. I had also been booked to play at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 4. So this rehearsal would be to prepare for both of those occasions. The meeting for the External Advisory Board went fine, as did the rehearsals. I had hoped to get at least one more day of rehearsals with Randall and the band, but it turned out that this would be the only day it would work for all of us…and we made the best of it. We rehearsed in a little place in Watkinsville, just outside of Athens…in a studio called ??.
I drove back home that evening, on the 20th.
The next day I was to fulfill a promise I made to our friend “Daddy” Rick. Father Rick Lansford is a Methodist priest that runs the Methodist Children’s Home in Macon, Georgia. We’ve known him for several years now. He is the coolest preacher we’ve ever known…such a great guy, loving and caring…and very open-minded and forward thinking. Daddy Rick is also a hunter…and we have donated quail hunts to him over the years, where he gets clients to come to Charlane and hunt with us…and donate money to the Children’s Home. It’s wonderful to have him out…he always offers a special prayer for the hunters…asking blessings for the dogs, for the hunters and in general for the Great Outdoors. I love this and his prayers and blessings are always welcome and appreciated. Daddy Rick presided over the Christening of our grandson Miles at Charlane. It was such a special and beautiful ceremony…that took place at our Water Garden on May 15th, 2006. It’s an event that I shall never forget…and we will always be grateful to him for that wonderful occasion. When I offered to make a contribution to him for the Christening, he told me that he would rather have me come and play for a benefit for the Children’s Home, and this was the day to make good on my promise to him. It turned out to be a very special time…and it was a pleasure and a privilege to play for him and his cause.
On the 24th I had a RMT (Radio Media Tour) for the Abundant Forests Alliance. AFA is a great organization (www.abundantforests.org) dedicated to sustainable forestry. It involved me getting up early (which I do at home anyway….) and calling quite a number of radio stations across the U.S. over the course of about three hours, doing interviews. This is a great opportunity for me to discuss environmental issues in a public forum. It’s really quite exhilarating to do. I am very passionate about these things, and I get to express my messages and thoughts to folks all over the country in a matter of a few short hours. And it’s very encouraging to me that all of the stations…and the radio personalities…seem to be genuinely concerned about the challenges we face. I think America is waking up…and I so much hope that we will now truly engage with the rest of the world in tackling our changing climate challenges and all the issues that we face concerning our environment. This is the time for all concerned to make their voices heard and to do what we can…. not only as individuals, but also collectively…to bring about change for the better. I believe we can do this, but it won’t happen without serious commitment from all of us.
On the 26th I headed to Arkansas. I had an invitation to attend and participate in the “Expo In The Woods”, a very special event hosted by the FRA (Forest Resource Association…http://www.apulpa.org/). This took place near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Rose Lane came with me, as we had plans to do quite a “whirlwind weekend”. Our wonderful friends, Herren and Susan Hickingbotham, live in Little Rock, which is not that far from Hot Springs. Herren had insisted that we stay with them…and that he would pick us up and host us during our short stay in the area. Rose Lane stayed with Susan and Herren drove me to Hot Springs for the event. It worked out perfectly. My presentation was a fun and casual affair. I first talked informally to a group of mostly loggers, late in the afternoon. Then that evening I played for a benefit for the “Log A Load For Kids” fundraiser. Herren was kind enough to stick with me during all of that. At the end of the day we drove back to Little Rock and met Susan and Rose Lane for dinner at a place called ??. Herren had taken us there before, and it was as good this time as it was the first time.
We enjoyed our night spent and Herren and Susan’s home…and of course loved spending a little time with their lovely children, Hayden and Christian. The next day they drove us to the airport where we departed for San Antonio and our adventure for the Fontaines.
We were really in for a unique experience for this journey. I’ve met and spent just a little time with George Fontaine before, but can’t say that I knew him very well before this situation. But as the events unfolded, we realized what wonderful folks that he and Celia are…and were truly honored to be involved in their celebration. The way it progressed was that we rented a car at the San Antonio airport and drove to their Mason Fork Ranch, about 20 miles from Kerrville, Texas. They had really gone to extremes in the setup. There was a huge tent which included the stage…a great sound system and a generous number of tables spread around for the guests. It’s a beautiful property and made for a wonderful and unique setting. Randall and the band were already there, and we did a sound check to tweak things up. Then we had some down time before the gig. Rose Lane and I took advantage of this to drive to Kerrville where George and arranged for some hotel rooms and took a short nap. Then we drove back to the ranch about 7pm or so. Randall played first, starting around 9 and playing a really strong set for a bit more than an hour. Then we had a short break of 15 minutes and all hit the stage again. It proved to be smooth and fun set…and all the guests were dancing, jumping up and down and seemed to really enjoy themselves. I felt it went really well, and all were pleased. George and Celia expressed their thanks to us, and we ended up with a great feeling.
After the gig we drove back to the hotel and crashed. The next day was my birthday, April 28. We debated whether to stay and hear Delbert and his band play at George’s…or whether to opt for a quieter scene and drive into San Antonio for a day off. We decided on the latter, thanking the Fontaines for the experience and heading over to San Antonio. It made for a great day….we took our time driving and stopped in at a couple of great shops. One was a fabulous Iron fabricator…I think it was called Texas Metal Art in Bourne, TX. just off of Interstate 10. We didn’t buy anything, but took note of the great work that the proprietor, Charlie Chakales, had on display. He had some beautiful entrance gates and maybe one day we’ll get him to do one for us at Charlane.
We also stopped at an interior decorator place that was located nearby. I can’t recall the name, but they had some fun things there, too. Then we drove on in to San Antonio. Rose Lane had booked us a room at the Westin, and we found our way there and checked in. We just “vegged” for a little while. Rosie had Googled up some restaurants and we settled on one called Biga’s. It was a great choice, and we had a table outside overlooking the Riverwalk. Beautiful setting, great food and service. After that stress busting experience, we walked back to the Westin to complete the day.
On the 29th we headed back home, and finished out the last couple of days in April at Charlane.
We left for New Orleans and the Jazz Fest on May 3rd. Our friends Benjy and Teresa Griffith offered to fly us down on their King Air plane, which was a real treat. Benjy didn’t come, but Teresa and their son Wesley (who has the same birthday as me) and his fiancé Betsy were coming, as was our mutual friend Lynn Lavery. We all boarded up and made the flight, getting to New Orleans in the late afternoon. Amy and her friend Alison Ayotte (who we see quite as another daughter to us) were coming down as well…leaving Steve in Atlanta to look after Miles for a few days. The Griffiths have a residence in the French Quarter, and were staying there. Rosie and I have stayed there before…it’s a really neat place. But we were staying at the Sheraton, where many of the other performers were staying. Our other great friends, Herren and Susan Hickingbotham had come down for the occasion, and had arranged for dinner at the famous and exquisite Galatoire’s restaurant. There were six of us for dinner…Herren and Susan, Rose Lane and me, Lynn and Teresa. Amy and Alison were doing their own thing this night. It was great as always…..but it was quite crowded and the decibel level of all the talk made for a very loud experience. Still, it was good fun and we all enjoyed it.
Next day was show day for me and the Randall Bramblett Band. We all met at the show…. Randall had come down to New Orleans a couple of days before, as his son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first child…and indeed they had the baby…a girl…the day before the show. So we all headed to the grounds of the Jazz Fest, to the “Acura Stage”, one of the main stages…where we were to perform. But just as we arrived, it began to rain. And rain…and rain some more. HARD rain…as a matter of fact, it rained some 5 inches over the next two hours, causing some flash flooding! We were delayed…and for a while it looked like we wouldn’t get to play at all. But finally we were called to the stage and told we had about 20 minutes to play. But play we did, and while it was a bit bizarre (the flash flooding caused a sort of “instant pond” right in front of the stage…and some people were standing in waist high water), it went quite well…and we were given a very warm and enthusiast reception. We wound up playing just four songs…“In The Night” by Professor Longhair (I wanted to salute the heritage and influence of that New Orleans icon), “Route 66”, “Tumbling Dice” and “Compared To What”.
There was a bit of rain still happening during our set, but at that point it was mostly a drizzle. It amazed me that the fans had waited through the incredible downpour, tolerating some very challenging circumstance….but they did, and we were all very grateful.
My friend (and one of the greatest boogie-woogie piano players in the world) Bob Seeley had showed up…Bob lives in Detroit, but tries to come to Jazz Fest every year. I don’t get to see Bob very often, and I was honored that he stopped by. Brian Wise who runs Rhythms Magazine, an Australian publication, had also come to Jazz Fest and made a point of seeing me. It was nice to see these very special guests along with our other friends and fans that were in attendance.
That evening we went to dinner again with Herren and Susan…this time with Amy and Alison with us. Herren had made reservations at August, a brilliant and fairly new restaurant in NO headed up by Chef John Besh. August is located at 301 Tchaupitoulas Street…. and I can put it on my “highly recommended” list with confidence. We sampled several of the offerings…including the foie gras three ways, the oyster appetizer, the trout, the pheasant and other wonderful dishes. Herren chose some great wines as he always does.
After dinner we all split up…Amy and Alison going out to hear some band they were interested in, Rose Lane and Susan going back to the hotel and Herren and me heading over to the Parish, a small upstairs listening room that is part of the House Of Blues. My pal Jon Cleary (www.joncleary.com) was playing there and had arranged for passes for us. Jon plays with Bonnie Raitt, and is one of my favorite players/singer/songwriter. He’s written several songs for Bonnie’s CDs over that past few years…all which I love. He was playing with his own very funky band…the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. I had coerced Bob Seeley in to meeting us there, and we all enjoyed watching and listening to Jon and band. Great set, good fun!
The next day the Allman Brothers Band was headlining Jazz Fest and had invited me to sit in with them. I had run into some of them at the hotel…and when I was out on the street walking around and killing time, I ran into Jaimoe. “What are you up to?” I asked him. “Trying to find some oysters…this is the only place I’ll eat them!” he told me. So I suggested we walk around to Mother’s, which we did. There is usually a waiting line outside Mother’s, and today was no exception. We had to wait about 20 minutes before we could get to order…and while Mother’s is a bit pricey and somewhat over rated…. it’s still a fun place to be and for me it’s hard to beat their Oyster Po Boy sandwich. It was great to have some time to re-connect with Jaimoe, and we talked about a range of things from family to our respective bands and projects to old times. Jaimoe is one of my favorite people in the world, and my time playing with him in The Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level and other settings are times and experiences that I will cherish forever.
We split up afterwards…with him going back to the hotel and me walking around the Riverfront area for a while. Their set was to start about 7:30, and we all made our way over back to the grounds of Jazz Fest. There I saw all the other cats in the band…and we worked out what I would play on. I wound up on just a couple of numbers…“The Weight” and of course “Jessica”. I would have liked to play more, but they had other things worked out, which was fine. It was a great experience and it’s always very special for me to play with my old mates! There was a huge crowd for their set…probably about 30,000 people, and they were all totally into the music.
After the set we said our goodbyes and headed back tot he hotel. The next day, Sunday the 6th, we boarded back up in the Griffith’s King Air and flew back to Macon. We thanked Teresa again for letting us travel with them and said bye to Wes, Betsy and Lynn and headed back to Charlane.
On the 8th I had a video shoot to promote our Georgia Land Conservation Program. This involved about an hour and a half of shooting in a couple of different settings at Charlane, but was pretty easy and went well. They will use the video to help people understand what the GLCP is all about and how it helps Georgia to preserve some lands against development. The following few days were spent supervising the work on Charlane…the revitalization of the pasture fencing and Pondo, some roadwork and other activities. We have been breaking in a new part time helper, Clay Huffman, who is the son of a Forester we know, Russ Huffman. Clay has been in the military service and will be going back to school soon…but was looking for a bit of work and we needed the help. So we’ve been training him a bit. Mike will certainly need the help for all the work to be done while we’re away.
On May 14th I was to be Moderator for a very special “Round Table” meeting. Ken Stewart, Commissioner of Economic Development had asked me to participate in this. The purpose was to invite an array of folks connected to the music business in Georgia and just have an informal discussion about ways we can grow the music biz in our state. This proved to be a very interesting and productive exercise with some special people attending. We had the General Manager of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, John Sparrow; the famous Hip-Hop producer Dallas Austin; Charlie Brusco who manages Bon Jovi, Styx and several other bands; Joel Katz, one of the best known and experienced music attorneys in the world who has represented artists such as James Brown, Willie Nelson, Estate of Otis Redding and tons of others; two representative from the Gospel Music Channel, owner of Tree Sound Studios, Paul Diaz; manager of the Indigo Girls, Russell Carter; heads of the Music Business Program of Terry College, Bruce Birch and Steve Dancz and a host of other major forces in music in Georgia. I think we came up with some very good ideas and we all vowed to keep the ball rolling on our efforts. I have to say that it was quite an honor for me to be involved…and even more so to be asked to moderate the event. I have to also say major kudos to Ken Stewart and Bill Thompson (Director of Film, Video and Music for Georgia) for the desire to put this together and for the wonderful way they hosted the event. I know that some great things will come out of this, and no doubt we’ll all be getting back together to do more.
Two days later I was back in Atlanta for my final significant event before leaving for Brussels, Belgium to begin rehearsals with the Stones. This event would be for Georgia Pacific’s Environmental Conference. Koch Industries, the largest private company in the world, bought GP out about two years ago. Charles Koch is the head of the Koch family and serves as CEO and Chairman of the Board. He is truly a visionary and no doubt one of the most astute business icons in the world. He has written a book called “The Science of Success” which I was able to go through prior to our meeting. It’s a fascinating read and goes into his theory of Market Based Management and the five dimensions that govern MBM. I was privileged to be seated next to him at lunch and to hear his address to all the GP folks.
My presentation came at the end of the Conference, and it was an honor to be able to speak to the fine folks that run Georgia Pacific. They are really working hard to improve the compliance and the quality of the company’s business, and no doubt they will be successful in their efforts. My bit went down well, and I was given a flattering standing ovation afterwards.
That wrapped up my activities and now Rose Lane and I turned our attention to final details before leaving for Brussels. We are having some work done on our house while we’re away, and we met with our builders…Bobby Hullemeier, A.J. and Skoots Lyndon and others working under them to discuss our plans. Basically, we are enlarging and renovating our kitchen as well as adding extra space to our “great room”. We’ll also be changing our patio area and re-designing that. It’s quite a lot of work…and while we’re a little anxious about most of it being done in our absence, we’re confident in our team and the good news is that we don’t have to be there for the inevitable mess that will come with the work. We also spent time with our faithful and dedicated “Charlane Team”…Jacque Bryant, Linda McDuffie and our plantation manager, Mike Hattaway, to discuss some of the other activities and issues concerning Charlane over the next four months. Mike will be The Man In Charge, and we had a good talk about the particulars. Jacque and Linda will run the house and our office business. With all that done, we put our attention to packing and preparing for our long summer in Europe. We leave Charlane with mixed emotions…. concerned for the ongoing drought that we’ve been experiencing here, thoughts about all the work on the house that will go on, knowing that we’ll be missing all our animals…Lilly, Maggie and Molly, the horses and all our hunting dogs…the cats and of course the people. But it’s time to re-unite with our other family…. our Stones Family…and to concentrate on putting on a great tour for our fans. So…. on May 22nd we said “au revoir” to Charlane Plantation, our family and friends…and Mike drove us up to Atlanta for us to board our flight to Brussels.