Read Diary of a Player Online

Authors: Brad Paisley

Diary of a Player (7 page)

ou might be wondering why a bunch of accomplished musical veterans would tolerate backing up someone too young
to get a driver's license. Well, these guys were really doing this for one reason, and that was to give me this opportunity. They believed in me. They all had children of their own and a soft spot in their hearts for a kid with this much passion for music. It also was fun. I mean, we really had more work than we could handle there for a while.

Come on, what Lions Club or Knights of Columbus dinner on earth would
want to brag about
booking? A preteen with his band of card-carrying AARP members? I may not have been all that hot of a guitar player yet, but nobody else knew that. And thanks to my youth and charm, I was, at the very least, public relations gold.

Think about it this way. Say you're running a nice local family event in West Virginia and you have a choice: You could book a really in-demand, hip local rock band with all the baggage they carry.
you could get the C-Notes, complete with a nifty twelve-year-old front man and a sweet old-timer rhythm section. It wasn't even close to a fair fight, and that's why we won so often. Hank and all the guys in the C-Notes had tremendous skill and seasoning on their side, and I had my youth. Add it up, and we were getting all the gigs we could handle—and gradually earning more than a hundred dollars here and there.

People have heard about Brad Paisley and the C-Notes over the years and asked me what it was like being a kid playing with a bunch of old guys. It's yet another example of the way I seem to bond with older generations. And I realized through this experience how much you can learn watching true veterans do what they do. Not to mention how these guys lived their lives. They were all humble, fun-loving, supportive people who were great role models for me. I will never be able to fully repay them for the lessons I learned by their side.

My time with the C-Notes ruined me in one lasting way—after playing with them, I've never had any tolerance for destructive behavior in my bands. I don't need a musician cultivating his drug habit or trying to live out that whole escape-on-the-road fantasy on my dime. So many musicians turn to the road life as a place to escape from reality and leave the rules of decent society in the dust behind the tires of their buses. Frankly, the appeal of that whole myth has never made much sense to me. As someone who's been lucky enough to get paid to make music most of my life, I don't think there's much to escape from. Of all possible professions on earth, why would you ever need to escape from
? To pretend music at this level is a hard life? Come on, on our
we're basically on vacation, and I think we should remember that. Why in the world do you have to unwind so badly from a job that's called

Why in the world do you have to unwind so badly from a job that's called

hether he was playing guitar or just talking to me in between sets, I loved listening to Hank Goddard. Hank had a lifetime of stories and knowledge to share with me, and I was happy to soak them up along with all the guitar lessons. Hank told me about how he enlisted in the army and they sent him around the world with a guitar—a nice fifties Telecaster. When he came back home from the war, Hank got a day job at the Triangle Wire and Pipe Plant in Moundsville, West Virginia, and played music on the weekends. He was a spectacled, clean-cut man with a warm smile, soft-spoken demeanor, and incredible sense of humor. He loved his normalcy in small-town USA. He and his wife, Eileen, raised a daughter, Denise, who as I mentioned was briefly my teacher as well. Just
when Hank thought he was out of the music business, a ten-year-old who worshipped him dragged him back in kicking and screaming. For whatever reasons, Hank decided to play a little longer with me, and for me. No matter what other honors I have or may receive in this world, there's one I will always treasure: Hank Goddard shared his time, talent, and generosity of spirit with me—an inexperienced little kid—and almost single-handedly taught me how to be in a band.

Over the years, people would go up to Hank and say, “You could have been so big. You could have played the Grand Ole Opry and everything. Why did you walk away from all that?” Hearing that question again and again could not have been easy. In the end, I think the bottom line was that Hank Goddard simply didn't want “all that” bad enough. He had heard one too many stories about people whose lives were ruined by the big time, and he erred on the side of caution in gracefully deciding to settle down in Moundsville, West Virginia. I think he was too well-adjusted to do whatever it took to make it as a musician. Hank always used to tell me, “Brad, I just didn't want to live out of a suitcase. I am going to enjoy seeing you take on the world though. You go get 'em.”

So I did.

month before I was supposed to leave for Nashville, Hank Goddard walked out on his back deck after lunch on a Sunday, and a neighbor saw him fall lifeless to the ground. He was a deep shade of blue. His neighbor was a registered nurse who immediately started CPR. My dad, an EMT, heard the call and met the ambulance at the ER. After three attempts with the paddles, his heart restarted. When I heard what had happened, I took off running from my house up the road toward the hospital, which wasn't too far. When I got there, they told me Hank was stable, but his heart had stopped for several minutes. The question would be whether or not he had brain damage. When Hank Goddard came to, I'm told one of the first things he asked was, “Doc, after all this, will I be able to play the piano?” To which the doctor replied, “Most certainly!” Hank said, “Great! 'Cause I couldn't do that before.”

Hank had multiple bypass surgeries, and I'm so happy to know that he lived to see me drive out of town and eventually got to read about himself in
Guitar Player
magazine. I've raved about his talent in just about every guitar publication that has ever interviewed me. The truth is that Hank Goddard deserves to be in all the guitar rags based on his monumental
ability alone, and whenever I could help him get in one, that meant the world to me.

One of the first things I bought with the first royalty check I ever received was a Gibson Chet Atkins hollow-body electric. But it wasn't for me. I drove home that Thanksgiving and walked right up onto Hank's porch and handed it to him. I said, “This doesn't even begin to pay you back, but here you go. I owe you everything.” I think that's the only time I really ever saw him cry.

In March of 2008, while I was working on my guitar-heavy
album, I got a very bad case of the flu and had a 102-degree temperature. I must have slept for three days. Then in the middle of this strange fevered state, I had a melody in my head and an idea for a song about Hank. Lying in bed and burning up, I came up with some of the words for the first verse: “I met this angel with callused hands who let this boy into his band . . .” I remember typing those words into my computer and immediately falling right back into some fever dream. The next morning, I woke up and found out that my friend and teacher Hank Goddard had passed away that night just as I was writing about him. He had been battling cancer. This was such a strange moment of serendipity that at first I just couldn't get over it.

After Hank Goddard died, I felt it was important that he be properly honored in the community where he spent so much of his life. And so I wrote a personal tribute to him in our local paper in West Virginia.


As barges go up and down our mighty Ohio River they leave a tremendous wake. I think some lives are like that. One person in particular passed away last week that changed my life, and the Ohio Valley deserves to know more about him. His name was Clarence Goddard, his friends knew him as “Hank.”

As a kid, my grandfather would tell me stories about this local legend, this guitar player named Hank Goddard who was every bit as good as anyone who ever held a pick.

He worshiped Hank's talent and taught me to as well. I was not aware until later that the rest of the world didn't know who Hank was. I was brought up to think he was as famous as they get. I remember going to a weekend backyard party at Mayor Biggie Byard's house in Glen Dale. Hank was playing lead guitar and my Papaw took me over to him to watch and learn. I couldn't believe this
international superstar was this close. I figured he must be on a break from touring the country and just playing here on a day off. When he heard this 8-year-old who wanted to learn guitar was there, Hank turned his back to the band and basically gave me a lesson as they played.

This was the first of many.

At 11 years old I was invited to play at the church picnic and Hank put together a small band for me, which went on to play at Glen Dale Fire Department parties, church events, clubs, VFW's, nursing homes, political rallies, fairs, infinity and beyond. We were called the C-Notes. Some of you may remember us, a 12-year-old front man with three AARP members backing him up, Gene Elliott, Tom Berisford and Hank, a semi-retired world class lead guitarist who had played in the military, in Europe and with countless jazz and country bands over the years, and then in mine. I look back now at my luck and I can't believe it.

Here was a man who was willing to take a kid under his wing, all the while standing in the background. He was incredible, he could play ANYTHING from Chet to Les Paul, Hank Garland to Joe Pass; and yet if you look back at those videotapes, there I am with my cheap
Japanese Strat, flogging away and playing way out of tune with him grinning ear to ear. No ego about it. A master guitarist, standing in the shadows, letting an unpolished little upstart take the lead.

When someone would gush about his talents, he would blush and say they were too kind.

When we were paid well for a gig, he would come over to my dad and say, “Let Brad have most of it. He's the front man.” He insisted I take a solo in every song, right next to him. He would hold back and make sure I never looked out of my league. He was humble and selfless. He taught me how to lead a band and he treated everyone with respect and kindness.

He led his family in the same gentle way. He was an incredible father, husband, grandfather, worker, and friend. I learned so much from him, from how to treat people to how to handle praise. And so I have spent the bulk of my career trying to honor him. I talk about him in interviews; I mention with pride the way I was taught by a master. And I wanted to write this today because I feel so strongly that his talent was extraordinary. I want my hometown to feel pride in his life and the overabundance of talent we are so blessed to have in this area.

It's not right that he passes on silently without recognition. If you know who I am, if you have enjoyed my songs on the radio, if you've ever wondered how I got to this level, well, one person is at the top of the list of who's responsible. His name was Clarence “Hank” Goddard. He left a wake the size of a river barge. I will spend all my days trying to live up to the example he set for me, with this career that he made possible for me.

I thank God for Hank Goddard.

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