The 2001 CAAS Convention in Nashville has just ended and I'll be the first to admit I had no idea what to
expect. On one hand, I was sure the event would be a sorrowful, maudlin affair without
the excitement of previous years. I had no idea how the performers would play or what
they would say on stage given the fact that Chet had died just 11 days prior to the
convention. I was pleasantly surprised to see performers moving on with the music
just as I imagine Chet would have wanted. Every performer I saw played Chet's music with emotion, love and
respect. There was a spirit of Chet's influence which at least for me, kept the convention upbeat.
The playing at the convention was as always, unbelievably great. I always enjoy hearing
players like Buster B. Jones, Tommy Emmanuel, Muriel Anderson, Jim Nichols, Thom Bresh, Ray Cummins, Guy Van Duser,
Richard Smith and Paul Yandell. I particularly enjoy
time with young players who are so far ahead of me it boggles my mind. Jim Herald of Wisconsin,
who is only 18, plays circles around 90 percent of the players at the convention. He's only been playing a little over
2 years!! He and Buster B. Jones played a few hot duets in the Lounge and Buster had to put the boy in his place
a few times, but what a great young man Jim is...talented, yet humble. I picked some with his Dad, Bob Herald,
who is closer to my playing level (no offense, Bob!)
I also enjoyed seeing Paul Yandell play with Ray Cummins. I had not ever
heard these two players play together and it was a real treat.
I played with Buster B. Jones, Daniele Bazzani from Italy and many many others.
I missed not having the chance to play with Julian Smith or Lee Ramirez.
So much to do, so little time!
There were lots of stories told about funny or inspiring times with Chet. I spent most of my time with some of Chet's
closest friends, and I heard incredible, wonderful things about Chet that I did not know. I soaked them all
in and felt so grateful to know things 99% of Chet's fans will never know. I felt very close to the man I had
met on only 4 occasions.
Three months prior to the convention I had decided to give a present to Chet's wife, Leona.
With Chet's cancer, the last few years have been tough and I wanted to do something special for her. In April of 2001, I commissioned artist Dennis Auth of Norfolk, Virginia to paint a grand portrait of Chet throughout his career. The portrait, entitled
"For Leona", would show images of Chet from his early days up until the 90's. I picked Dennis Auth because he had
done a wonderful portrait of my father Russ Redmond, who died unexpectantly at age 53 in
1987. Dennis had also done a portrait of Hank Williams Sr. for use on a TNN special. The portrait was
completed on June 1, just 29 days before Chet's death. I had hoped to present it to Leona but that also
Chet would get to see it. That was not to be.
I presented the very first print of the portrait to Chet's daughter Merle on Thursday July 12, with a special card for
Leona attached and Merle seemed delighted and was sure her mother would enjoy the work of art.
I made only 7 additional prints of the original piece, and gave them to some of Chet's closest friends. To see a closer view of the portrait, click here.
The finished prints are 16x20 inches. Here is a little closer look at the finished portrait
chose to drive up Route 100 to Harpeth Hills cemetary to see Chet's gravesite, something
I didn't feel up to doing myself. Here are a few photos of some of the flower arrangements
around Chet's grave.
Like every year, I vowed to
leave early in the evening Saturday rather than staying for the whole show, so that I could get a
few hours of the 14 hour drive home out of the way. As usual, I could not pull myself away
stayed up late yet
again, playing guitar and listening to others. Conway Twitty's son Mike showed up and three or four of us pickers
even SANG a bit, standing around the Grand piano in the lobby of the Sheraton. Russ Jenkins of the UK and I managed to find some
cheap cigars. He calls them "rubbish" yet we smoke them Saturday night every year!.
One special moment was the highlight of my trip this year.
Ted Walters, who has been a Chet fan for fifty years and was a close friend of Chet's for many years was pretty ill
this year. He wasn't sure until a few days before the convention that he would be able to attend. Tommy Emmanuel told me
at about 8PM that he
wanted to dedicate a song to Ted Saturday night. The player's schedule however, appeared to have Tommy taking
the stage late in the evening, perhaps too late for Ted.
I told Tommy that Ted might not be around that late at night, and he immediately asked me to get Ted and he would
spend a few private moments with him. Ted, his son Chet Walters, and I met with Tommy in a small meeting room
for about 20 minutes at around 9 o'clock. Tommy treated Ted to a few special songs face to face. A private concert
from one great picker to one of Chet's closest friends. Ted is a friendly, humble man many of us know and love.
Before going on stage, Thom Bresh humored me by letting me play "Hangin with the Girls I Know" with him, and someone caught it on video. Whoever it was, please send me the tape!
About 4 different people told me I had improved my playing from the previous year. I don't see how, I never get a chance to play. I suspect
we all improve in an environment so plentiful with talent. The July convention makes us all play a little better by weeks end.
- Tom Redmond