A Father's Heart - New Coke

Coca-Cola used to be the most popular soft drink in the world. It was everywhere. 

Ubiquitous. 

Then, in 1985, it started to lose market share to Pepsi. Taste tests suggested that people preferred Pepsi’s sweeter cola taste. So, some genius deep in the bowels of Coca-Cola decided it was time to change a recipe that had endured for nearly 100 years at that point.

 Thus, New Coke was born.

 Perhaps the single greatest marketing disaster in history.

 Three months later, the original recipe was back on the market.

Now, my Father’s Heart podcast, blog and platform did not have the impact of Coca-Cola. In fact, it was barely a molecular-sized blip on the digital radar. It seemed to get so little notice, that I decided to try and rebrand it. Jazz it up a little. Change it up.

 But, it turns out that those that liked A Father’s Heart REALLY liked it, kind of like those folks that loved Classic Coke, and weren’t so much on the later permutations. 

 They missed A Father’s Heart. And I discovered that I missed doing it…

 And so, it’s back … Time for some new songs and some new stories …

I was lying on my back during recess in a humid but somehow still dusty Maryland schoolyard sometime in May 1962, watching jets fly over head in a bright blue sky as they took off and landed from nearby Friendship Airport. 

I was in the first grade, and the shy, nerdy kid I was then had not set the school on fire socially. Perhaps another reason I was spending recess lying alone on the ground in a humid, dusty playground.

 Mostly though, I was there because I loved airplanes.

 Just a few months before, John Glenn had circled the earth three times in his Friendship 7 Mercury capsule. 

 Watching those blurry black and white images on tiny TVs both in school and at home had, I thought, set the course for the rest of my life. 

I knew, KNEW, I was going to be an astronaut. John Glenn had been a jet pilot in the Marines, so I was going to following his footsteps, become a pilot and then an astronaut.

That the name of his capsule matched the name of our local airport just added to the sense of destiny.

Never mind that the black, horn-rimmed glasses resting on my nose with their taped arms were whispering ‘probably not’ into my oversized ears …

 

I was going to touch the stars.

 

Even though I’ve owned a few NASA t-shirts over the years, it will probably come as no surprise that I didn’t become an astronaut.

 My 6-year-old brain could not have imagined the changes about to come, in both my own life and across the entire world.

 The handsome young president that had been sworn in just the year before my playground meditations would be gunned down in Dallas in November of the following year. 

 And we watched it all on those blurry black and white screens. This time aching with sadness. To see such hope and promise end in such an ugly way seemed to throw the entire country into a deep depression. 

 And then, on a cold February night in 1964, everything would change again. 

 Four young men from Liverpool would spellbind me to another tv screen and I’d forget all about being an astronaut. 

 It was my parent’s crappy black and white Zenith, but I swear the Beatles performed a ‘Wizard of Oz’ magic trick and transformed everything into technicolor that night. 

 Hell, by the time they finished ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, I had even dropped my fall-back plan of replacing Brooks Robinson at 3rd base for the Baltimore Orioles.

 Like so many of my generation, I became obsessed by the Beatles and the wonderful, cheeky bands that followed in their wake.

 The bad pictures of rocket ships I had been sketching in my school notebooks were replaced by clumsy renderings of Höfner basses and Rickenbacker 360/12s.

 My parents bought me a cheap electric guitar and a tiny amp and like thousands - hell, maybe millions - of other kids, I started a really, really bad basement band. 

 Holding that guitar was like holding a magic wand. That shy, nerdy kid from the playground all of a sudden had all of the confidence in the world.

 

I was gonna be a rock and roll star, baby!

 

My life became Battles of the Bands. School dances. Supermarket openings. Farm implement expos. Anywhere anyone was willing to let us set up and play. 

 

Payment optional.

 Eventually, the law of averages caught with me and I actually put together a good band that had a decent run as local heroes scratching out a meagre living in dive bars up and down the East Coast. When it ended the way most local bands do, I decided to try to do something with the songs I had been writing throughout the years.

 Oddly enough, most of them were country songs. Well, country-ish, anyway.

 So, of course, it was on to Nashville and years filled with near misses and damn closes and “thanks, but no thanks”, kid.

 And then, suddenly, I wasn’t a kid anymore because there was a wife and kids of my own and the need to earn a regular living. 

 My music and my stories got pushed to the back burner. So far that they were often not even on the stove anymore. They just sat mouldering, mostly unfinished, in a drawer somewhere under carry out menus and kid’s drawings.

 There were gas crises to sit through and house payments to make and noses to wipe and the Berlin Wall fell and 9/11 shocked us all and the world kept spinning and just got so much more complex. 

 

And sadder.

 

And, yeah, scarier.

 

My dad died, and I lost a sister and my own children faced serious challenges that required all of my time and focus and one morning I looked in the mirror and where a 16-year-old rock and roller used to be was an old man in his 60s.

 

I felt … over. 

 

I certainly had fewer days ahead of me than I had left behind, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with the days that were left.

 I figured I had missed my chance. Chances, to be honest. I had squandered a ton of them. Oh, there had been a few CDs made and stories published and even a taste or two of success along the way, but most of my life had been spent both earning a living and, well, just living. 

 I had dozens of jobs and projects that put food on the table, and I told myself that each one of them was “fine” and exactly what I needed and wanted to do at the time. 

 So, the little boy in the schoolyard never became an astronaut and the Telecaster teenager never became a rock and roll star.

 And why in the hell am I telling you all of this?

 And why should you care?

 Because I strongly suspect that I am not the only person that has lived through the same changes.

 Some of you grabbed the brass ring of whatever defined success in your life, and I’m happy that you did.

 But many of us -  most of us, I’m guessing - had a dream or dreams that got left behind in the simple day-to-day of living.

 But you know what?  All of the above being said, and yeah, I know it’s a lot, I’ve had a pretty damn fabulous life. I’ll bet most of you have as well, whether or not you made it to the NFL or Broadway. 

 Me, I have three wonderful children, a beautiful wife and a crazy Australian Shepherd named Max.

 I’ve travelled a lot of the world playing my guitar and singing, and people seem to like it. Mostly, I sing other people’s songs on those shows. I’m ok with that, because I’ve never lost my love for singing a great song.

 But, I have also never lost the ache to do my own music and tell my own stories. And, man, has life given me a lot of stories to tell!

 The thing is, once an artist gets to a certain age, record companies, agents, producers and the like just aren’t interested anymore. They believe that all music and art should be directed at young people and anyone past about 25 or so isn’t worth considering, either as an artist or a consumer.

 I think they’re wrong.

 I think that there are a lot of people - of all ages - that want to hear an experienced artist sing songs and tell stories about real life.

 So, I have decided to celebrate what life has given me and use the time I have left to do what I’ve always wanted to do.

 I want to tell you my story, and hopefully a bit of your story in the bargain.

 I am working on new songs for a release sometime next year. Since there are no agents or record companies involved, I’m doing the heavy lifting on my own. 

 I am going to use my podcast and this blog to tell you about the new music, put up simple acoustic versions of the songs and get your feedback as I get ready to record them.

 And, me being me, I’ll spin a few yarns as well.

 I have the support of my wife and my family, but I didn’t fall into a bucket of cash, so everything is self-funded. That’s another reason the project will take as long as it takes to become reality.

 

In the meantime, I do have other songs and stories from across the years to share with you. 

As I said, I think many of us have been down similar roads on this long, wonderful trip called life, and I think you’ll find something that touches you, makes you laugh, shed a tear or think in my songs available at CD Baby.

 My book "A Father's Heart" collects some of my stories and songs into a multimedia package that includes links to stream or download nine songs that relate to the stories included in the collection. It is available in hardcopy and digital formats.

 Every sale helps me get closer to getting the new music and stories to you.

 I am booking shows in venues that feature original music and storytelling. I hope to be in your town soon.

 Thanks for hanging in this far. Hope to see you down the road.

Here are the lyrics to the song included in this week's podcast.

 

Whispers on the Wind © 2019 Ray Weaver

 

Last night I wrote my failures down on some yellow notebook paper,

struck a match on a midnight highway and set that note on fire.

I watched the smoke swirl above the clouds and twirl beyond the Twins

Now all the things that have been bringing me down are just Whispers on the Wind

 

Whispers on the Wind, blowin’ down the road, up around the bend.

Out in the distance like some old highway hymn,

God smiles at our secrets and hears our Whispers on the Wind.

 

On the side of that nameless road beneath the endless sky,

I heard a semi struggle in the distance, I heard a baby cry.

Telephone lines hummin’, a radio a-cracklin’ Loretta Lynn

The sounds of hopes and dreams and wishes and Whispers on the Wind.

 

Whispers on the Wind, blowin’ down the road, up around the bend.

Out in the distance like some old highway hymn,

God smiles at our secrets and hears our Whispers on the Wind.

 

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