I thought that this would be a good time and place to share a very special personal story that occurred exactly 15 years ago today.
My fans should recall that late 1995 was when I entered the public eye…
After 4-1/2 solid years, A Christmas Collection was done – and at the insistence of Jaci and with financial help from my supportive parents, we finally released it in the beginning of November, 1995. I know…only a few weeks of Xmas shopping left!
I had essentially zero fans, visibility, gigs, prospects. No Internet at that time – we just beat what few bushes we could locate. We got the CDs into a couple local Borders stores because they “looked interesting.” My friends and I sent the set out to any radio stations that we thought might give it a listen and that might conceivably play something like that. And whaddaya know – a couple actually played it! My friend Ben Elder (Acoustic Guitar contributor and Weissenborn geek) played some tunes on his weekly show Wildwood Flower on KPFK, and another eclectic segment host there, (microtonal guitar guru) John Schneider asked me in for an interview. Hey, I could get into this!
But my “big fish” was Bonnie Grice over at L.A.’s Public Radio classical station KUSC. She did the daily afternoon commuter “classical crossover” show, meaning she played anything she liked. She was very popular (though quite controversial amongst the strict, stuffy classical diehards), as she was passionate, fun, witty, had great eclectic taste, and an irresistible, inviting voice. I bet she received at least a hundred CDs (and stalker letters) a day. My package would, of course, combine the two.
As fate would have it, she was “touched” enough by my blunt and personal letter to listen to the CDs, and immediately had her assistant call me, telling her “I could do a whole hour with this guy.” And she did.
I think we were into the first week of December when I nervously traipsed into the small studio to meet Bonnie and prep for my “60 minutes” of fame. I remember taking for demonstration the Marxophone, Miner-cello and I think the Knutsen harp guitar. Within moments, Bonnie and I were hitting it off splendidly.
While my Charlie Brown Christmas Medley was playing over the air, we learned that we were the same age (both just turned 40), and we talked about many personal things, including the effect of the famous Peanuts T.V. special on us at age 10, and all sorts of other personal and musical trivia. We apparently were having so much zany fun that halfway through the hour Bonnie’s husband Wally Smith (who happened to be the station owner and manager) called in from the dentist’s office to tell her ‘Keep it up – you guys are great!”
I can’t explain it – by the end of the hour, we were like some well-oiled comedy team. It was definitely hard to say goodbye. She had another hour to go, so I packed up my stuff, and during the commercial, we shared a sentimental hug like old friends.
With only 2-3 weeks of shopping left until the big day, I have to credit Bonnie for my “overnight success” (so much so that we somehow sold almost the whole run of 1000 copies [each volume] and decided to gamble on a second, last-minute pressing). With thousands of CDs to choose from, she still played at least one of my tunes a day and would continue to talk it up. Within days, all of the dozen southern California Borders stores (who prior hadn’t given us the time of day) were calling us to order it, due to KUSC listener demand. I have no recollection of how they found me (remember – no Internet. Did Bonnie give out our home phone # over the air?…she must have…) – but we somehow managed to get them out and sold, day after day. I remember selling through the old Public Radio Music Source as well. Meanwhile, we’d send Bonnie faxes every time we got a new store to stock them, which she’d read over the air after the tunes. When she got our Christmas card, she mentioned that. It was incredible.
But all good things must come to an end. Not only was Christmas almost upon us, but it developed that this was to be Bonnie’s last month in her time slot (she would move to mornings the next year). If memory serves, her very last show before signing off to her loyal drive-home audience was the day before Christmas Eve (ergo, the title of this story). I do remember that I had a radio on at work (in the cleanroom lab) so that I didn’t miss a thing, and could hopefully hear my music play in public one final time. I started to get worried when the first hour came and went, then the second dragged on, without a single Christmas Collection tune. Oh well, I had had my run and more than my fair share of attention!
Just to be sure, I ran out to the car at the end of my shift, turned on the radio, and rather than risk missing anything, drove around the neighborhood until the show ended.
I had now pulled up to our house and was sitting there, feeling really melancholy, as there were now barely 3 minutes remaining. Bonnie was saying her thanks to all the staff, listeners, supporters – the final wrap-up.
The whole crazy couple weeks was going through my head as if it had all been just a dream when Bonnie said “And now I’d like to close with something by a special musician I recently met, who also became a friend…here’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Gregg Miner.”
The last show of the year, the last show of her old timeslot, the last hour, the last minutes. Those were the final words from Bonnie Grice. As the song ended and the next segment started, I could only sit there and bawl like a baby.
I’ve had a lot of amazing musical adventures since my debut, but that moment is etched in stone.
If you’d like your own audio soundtrack to conclude this little memento, here is that track.
Thanks for listening.