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  • TRUE STORIES: Kid with a red guitar

  • This column originally appeared July 23, 2000.

    A couple weeks after I wrote about the Southeast Kansas All Star Rock Review out at Frontenac last March, I received a letter postmarked Hendersonville, Tennessee.

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  • This column originally appeared July 23, 2000.
    A couple weeks after I wrote about the Southeast Kansas All Star Rock Review out at Frontenac last March, I received a letter postmarked Hendersonville, Tennessee.
    Inside was a letter from none other than Dick Feller, who‘d been sent a copy of my column about that night that “we touched something akin to prayer’” by the organizer of the rendezvous, Jon Sherman.
    In addition to a word of thanks for mentioning him, he sent along some of his story “what I have been doing since I had those musings of musical epistles in that mobile home in Frontenac.”
    A native of Bronaugh, Mo., who astonished and delighted me and my friends with his guitar playing in the 1960s at the Tower and Roadhouse, Feller got his start when his grandfather gave him a cracked guitar with only one string that he’d bought at a junk sale. “But I took it and tuned that one string ... and for just about an hour, I was sure I was Chet Atkins!”
    Back then, Feller wanted to be a poet. “But my teachers gave me the idea that all the great poems had already been written and the great poets were all dead.”
    But, just as the saying goes about a good man, you can’t keep a good poet down, either, so after years playing southeast Kansas dance halls and honkytonks, Dick moved to Nashville.
    It wasn’t long before Johnny Cash had a hit on Feller’s “Any Old Wind That Blows” and Jerry Reed hit number one with his “Lord, Mr. Ford.” They weren’t the only ones impressed by his poetic sensibility, ironic sense of humor and musical talent. Ray Stevens, Mac Davis, Hank Snow, Tex Williams The Kingston Trio, Burt Reynolds, Julie Andrews and John Denver also recorded his tunes.
    “Some Days Are diamonds, (Some Days Are Stone),” which was made popular by the late John Denver, is a cherished song to Feller. One that not only makes him proud, but imparts in him a poet’s respect for the muse. “Every time I hear that song it’s like I’m listening to something by another writer.”
    Feller also had hits with several of his songs he recorded himself, including “Makin’ The Best of a Bad Situation” and “The Credit Card Song.” He’s toured with Jerry Reed, played guitar with the Mel Tillis Band, written the main theme, “Eastbound & Down,” for the Burt Reynolds movie “Smokey And The Bandit” and penned tunes for other movies, TV shows and commercials.
    It was just after his album “No Word On Me” was released that I saw him live in Chicago where I was living at the time.
    My cousin, Joe Fowler, former manager of The Seibrings, one of the many bands in which Dick played, came up for a reunion. It was inspiring ... to see a guy from southeast Kansas, whose songs I’d been hearing on the radio, up there making it in the big city. Within a year, I bought a guitar, took some lessons, and wrote my first tune — a two-chord train song.
    Page 2 of 2 - Despite all his success, Dick is most turned on when he’s creating (”dilating the universe” ... to quote Walt Whitman’s description of what a poet does). “It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a dollar or an expensive foreign car,” Feller’s bio quotes him as saying, “... none of that makes any difference. Because when I am in the middle of a song, that is the time I can be sure I am a songwriter. That’s when I’m a happy guy!”
    Indeed. About what one might expect from a guy who’s letterhead describes him as a “Phantasmagoricyst.” According to Websters, “phantasmagoria” is defined as a rapid succession of images, as in a dream. Speaking of which, Dick’s take on the concept of “time” — based on the quote “Time is just God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once!” — certainly caused me to ponder my own then-to-now, youth-to-middle age dream journey.
    “Well, I have a theory that everything does happen at once,” Feller says. “It is only the human mind that slows it down and sorts it out into chronological order that our small brains can handle.”
    “If that’s true,” he said in the closing of his letter to me, “then I am still a 17-year-old kid with a red guitar playing Wednesdays at the Tower ballroom and Saturdays at the Roadhouse.”
    Yeah, Dick. And we’re there with you. Teenagers all, rocking and rolling around the hardwood in eternity’s dance.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net

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