Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Rest in peace Charlie ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I were on stage in Kosciusko, Miss., performing at the Natchez Trace Festival this past weekend when I felt the phone buzz in my pocket.

The day was warm, but the sun lay hidden behind a thin layer of cloud the color of wood smoke. The humid air was thick with the aroma of bar-b-que, funnel cake, roasted peanuts and cotton candy, which made my mouth water.

While we played, people in the audience munched on corn dogs and other mystery meat on a stick. I love just about anything on a stick.

After the set, we packed up our guitars and headed out. At one intersection, we had a choice of turning right and heading back to the Interstate, or turning left to drive up the two-lane Natchez Trace to Tupelo, before getting on the interstate there. We chose the road less traveled.

A few miles down the road, I remembered the call I’d received earlier and fished the phone from my pocket. Glancing at the display, I saw it was from Charlie Watts. My stomach clenched.

When we last saw Charlie, he was not doing well, and I knew we’d get “the call” sooner than later. There was a voicemail, and sadness crept into my heart before I ever listened to the message.

It was his wife, Yvonne. Her voice not much more than a whisper, “Charlie died this morning.” My heart broke. I will never travel that stretch of highway again without thinking of my friend.

I met him when I was a staff photographer for The Community News in 1973. He was on Congressman Tom Bevill’s staff. Congressman Bevill spoke at a local event and I was dispatched to take pictures.

I remember that Charlie’s voice had the power and timbre of a tenor. His accent was deep, but he had an honesty that made me like him immediately.

Our friend Edie Hand reintroduced Jilda and me to Charlie about five years ago when she was promoting the book she co-wrote about Elvis Presley.

Charlie was a radio announcer in the 1950s and he interviewed Elvis, along with his mother Gladys and father Vernon Presley. Edie wanted to use the taped interviews as a part of her book promotion.

Charlie captivated me with the stories he told. Each line was filled with details that painted a picture and put you there with him.

Since that time, we’ve spent hours visiting with Charlie and Yvonne. We were guests a number of times on their weekly show on cable television. He always requested we play our song, “Do What You Love.”

Charlie, Yvonne, and their son, Randall, dined with us one summer evening a while back. As we sat in the great room and chatted, the birds outside the front windows put on a show. The hummingbirds hovered just outside the glass as if posing for a snapshot.

Just after we sat down at the table to eat, I heard Charlie exclaim, “Look!” When I followed his pointing finger, there were three deer just beyond the garden fence playing tag.

The conversation paused while we watched the deer play. When they scampered off into the woods, Charlie said, “We’re in Shangri-La.”

We swore upon parting that we’d have them back over, but his health steadily declined, and unfortunately it never happened.

Yvonne asked us to play “Do What You Love” at his funeral. It was hard, but Jilda and I were both humbled and honored to play Charlie’s favorite song one last time.

Rest in peace, Charlie.


  1. Ah my friend, what a weight to lose a good friend. But you have blessed his memory with that column. What a wonderful tribute. A very touching column. Thanks for relating, everyone should have a Charlie. Good stuff..

  2. My condolences and admiration.

  3. Anonymous11:43 PM

    We buried a good friend today--I am so sorry for your loss!!

  4. A beautiful tribute to a good friend. May he rest in peace.

  5. Sorry for your loss. Your writing is such a lovely tribute to your friends, though. God bless.

  6. Please accept my condolences for the loss of your friend. What a privilege for you to play his favorite song at his funeral.

  7. It is so sad when one must say goodbye to a loved one. No words can express the sadness you feel upon losing a dear friend and knowing that you will not see him for a while. It is also tough to see his wife and son having to deal with this loss. Even when it is expected, it still is not easy. It sounds like you gave a fitting tribute to your friend and you wrote something truly lovely here

  8. Sorry for your loss Rick. I know how difficult it is to sing when your heart is sorrowful.
    I had to sing the Ave Maria of Schubert at my father in law's funeral and it was the first time I sang this in public and it was difficult to block off my personal sorrow and concentrate on singing. Of course after it was done my supporting friends gave me a big hug and tears could finally run free. I love that old man, he was like a father to me.



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