When I was a kid: Island Of The Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)—it was assigned reading in 5th or 6th grade and the ending made me cry. It was the first experience I can recall about how moving a book can be.
Now: Several, but here’s one: To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley’s Marta Becket (Marta Becket).
Interesting fact about yourself that people wouldn’t expect?
When I was around 9 years old, I was brought on stage at the Grand Ole’ Opry by Roy Acuff and he introduced me to the audience.
First album or single you ever owned, how old were you and what was the appeal?
I want to answer a different question since my earliest single and album purchases blend together in my memories: The earliest clear memories I have of hearing a song was hearing Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue” (not sure my exact age) and Tanya Tucker’s “San Antonio Stroll” (possibly around age 9). In the case of “Boy Named Sue,” the funny story and Johnny’s great performance/delivery really grabbed me. With “San Antonio Stroll,” I loved the song’s melody including the mandolin (and fiddle) hook, and of course Tanya’s very unique voice. Years later, Johnny Cash would make a guest appearance on a CMH album and the fiddle player on “San Antonio Stroll,” Johnny Gimble, would become a CMH recording artist.
Favorite place in the world and why?
A tie between Griffith Park and Death Valley. Griffith Park because I grew up near it, spent time there as a young boy with my father and family, and it was my first experience out in nature. It also represents the natural Southern California landscape which I greatly love. I now live near its border, so I get to live near one of my favorite places in the world. Death Valley (National Park) is my other favorite place in the world. I have made many trips there during my lifetime with my loved ones.
What’s the one thing you love now as much as you did when you were 14?
Frank Zappa’s “Rat Tomago” (although I might have been just a little older when I first heard it).