All that stuff was other peoples’ fire; his only burning desire was to be on the air and start playin’ great music for all the great people he was sure must be ‘out there.’
Only in that place did David Hall finally find his own voice--and only there, could he make the world the way he wanted it to be.
Others were slaves to fashion, drugs, or danger--but only talking to “that one person out there” brought any real sparkle to the lanky hometown guy, in that faded ol’ Yankee t-shirt.
David Hall was a great son and an only child, whose many cousins today mourn the loss of a childhood pal and confidante, but all would agree--especially Dave--that he was truly ‘born’ on the day he first switched on a radio microphone.
At first imitating the jocks he’d grown up with, he eventually found a voice he liked, listening intently in headphones (a practice he continued throughout his career, always tweaking the sound to perfection) and it was more self-assured than anything he’d ever heard himself say or do before.
He had truly found his home, 'on the air.'
Not that he particularly aspired to any great ‘career heights.'
He wasn’t at all intent, as so many radio dudes are, on jumping from town-to-town just to get ‘bigger’ in bigger markets, until he was ‘King of the Hill.’
(Don’t get me wrong; those are admirable goals indeed, but they weren’t Dave’s goals.)
David Hall’s goals were as simple and as humble as Dave himself:
To be able to touch one listener;
To share as much of the great rock music he loved with as many people as possible;
To avoid insult and controversy, while providing a righteously safe ‘haven’ for his fellow music freaks, known and unknown;
…and perhaps most of all…
To find in his own voice that trusted and steady hand he could believe, himself.
It was David's great gift to everyone he knew and loved, that he worked hard enough to actually become that man.
By the end of his life, he had achieved it all, in full...and yes, "what you heard was what you got."
Never ‘cool’ in that amphibious way that FM DJs can be, but never ‘hot’ in the grating manner of a controversy-seeker, David Hall on the air just seemed to want to be friends.That may account for why so many hearts are broken today, in Nashville and Western Kentucky, and beyond. Even casual listeners felt like they had a friend in David Hall--and the truth is, they did.
If he had an exclusive interview or a brand new record to debut, his manner was never in the realm of “Here comes my Exclusive!”
Rather, it was like your best mate sharing something because he loved you.
“…I just got something very interesting in the mail, this morning…what’ll you hear this!”
He could barely contain his excitement, yes…but it had nothing to do with self-aggrandizement. In fact, to know David personally, you'd hardly guess that his tenure in rock radio was the all-time longest run in Nashville history.
No wonder he loved his job so much.
David Hall dealt with the music he loved, every single day of his life. And if you asked him about his job, he’d tell you, in words that almost seemed to echo Lou Gehrig's, “…I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
See, it wasn’t about money or fame--nor even getting close to the famous.
That wasn’t Dave’s thing.
It was that thing that he’d first found with Yankees and Beatles, but which later extended to Van Halens and Stones, and much later, into making musical discoveries of his own, and going on the air to present them to his listeners--be it Drew Holcomb, One EskimO, or any other great new act.
A digression, if you will...
In 1993, after several years of living here part-time, I finally packed up and moved to Nashville full-time. I’d been on the radio for two decades already, and (call it a mid-life crisis) after years and years of hiding my first love (songwriting) during interviews with other writers and celebrities, I decided to try my own hand at performing again.
I was merrily going along with my Bluebird Café gigs, when one day I got a call from Ray Skibitsky, my old boss at Boulder’s KBCO.
“Peter, I’ve got a guy you should meet in radio, there in Nashville.”
“Why, Ray? I’m retired from radio.”
“Listen, I told him you’d call him. Just do it. You don’t have to do anything, just call him. He wants to meet you.”
That was in the late spring of ’93, and by year’s end, we’d come to an agreement. I would revive ‘Sunday Night with Peter Rodman’ exactly as I had done it for years at KBCO, with no limits or interference, as a contracted show, leased to the station on a one-time basis each week, retaining full ownership of any content I'd created. No taxes, no meetings, no "employee," no answering to anyone but the owner of Lightning 100.
In other words...as long as I didn't have to play 'grown up!'
[End of digression; thank you for your indulgence.]
I was scheduled to begin doing SNPR on 'Radio Lightning' on February 7, 1994--30 years (to the day!) after the Beatles had landed in New York City, an irony not lost on me at all.
Then, in early December of 1993, Frank Zappa died.
Ned Horton (Lightning’s co-owner) and myself decided that we would move my start-date up, to accommodate some sort of 'Frank Zappa Tribute'--which I would hastily assemble from existing interviews I’d done with Frank, over the years.
All well and good, but I hadn’t a clue as to how to work any of this new radio station’s equipment!
Ned asked around, and there was only one guy curious enough to volunteer to ‘train’ me, while we cobbled together something that would both introduce me to the listeners and suitably honor Frank, for all his (notoriously rabid) fans.
|Lindsey Buckingham |
(of Fleetwood Mac) with David Hall
As we nervously shook hands and got started, David graciously and gently began to ‘show me the ropes,’ and helped me work the unfamiliar machines, and we tried to sort through the many Zappa interviews I owned, some from a full decade before.
At some point during the process, after at least an hour of sweating in an airless, windowless production room full of tape recorders, we “lost” all the work we‘d just done.
The looks on our faces were of complete horror, knowing we’d have to start all over again, from scratch. But within just a few seconds we both began laughing hysterically, irreverently pretending to talk to the deceased ‘interviewee’ right then and there (“Come ON, Frank!!!”) and before long, these two guys--who’d met only once before, and knew nothing about each other--were uncontrollably howling, in that sort of 'silent-scream' laughter that makes you hold your sides in pain, getting up and walking away and sitting back down again, just to try to control your bladder--almost dancing around the room, like lunatics!
Neither of us had ever had so much fun in a radio production room, before.
The laughter had brought tears to our faces, and the notion that those poor Frank Zappa fans would never know what went on in there is probably all for the better, looking back on it. (In truth, from my experiences with him, I’m betting Frank would’ve been on our side, here!)
Anyway, the radio special got done--in no small part due to David's dedication to helping some guy he didn’t even know, a guy (me) who walked into that studio a stranger, and walked out a "friend for life."
From that day to this, we had an unbreakable bond.
And now, almost 20 years later, I am humbled and grateful just to say that David Hall was my friend.
Okay…I’m gonna have to stop soon.
I actually thought this would be easier than it’s turning out to be. But if you’ll bear with me for just a few more paragraphs, I’d like to recall another few tender moments that signify so much about the man I knew and loved.
Though he was never one to show too much affection at first, I watched that change over the years. This past Christmas, Dave dropped by my home to hand me a card personally…and right before he left, he gave me a big bear hug, and said “I love you.”
To be honest it took me back for a second, and I wondered if everything was alright. But I finally decided it was just another of those 'surprises' that shouldn’t surprise me at all, knowing David.
I have lots of stuff around here that he just gave me out-of-the-blue, and he has the same from me. We didn’t actually talk all that often, but we didn’t really have to. We were always 'one-upping' each other with little surprises, tickled to know somebody else was tickled by all the same exact 'stuff.'
If I was in New York, did you think he wasn’t going to get something directly from Yankee Stadium?
If he had tickets to see ‘The Concert for George,’ did you think he wasn’t going to ask me along?
Just last night, I found a CD he’d produced expressly for me about five years ago, called 'Surprise, Surprise’--a compilation of the very best Beatles pressings and masters available, back then. It must have taken him hours to find just the right tracks off the right discs and LPs.
He was so enamored of my annual Christmas compilations that for years he’d send me suggestions ("...for next year's disc?" he'd write).
That is who Dave was:
“How can I make YOU better?”
And when I made a serious blunder (read: brain fart!) on a Facebook 'Beatle post' last year, Dave very gently reminded me that “Don’t Let Me Down” was the flip side of “Get Back,” not “Hey Jude.”
I was mortified!
It meant a lot to me that I not make such a basic, doofy mistake in front of Dave--but he actually turned it around to make me feel better, writing “I actually knew you knew that, but I kept checking and re-checking my records, just to make sure I was right--because I was sure you’d know some clever little secret that I might have missed!”
Nope. Not true, Dave!
But in that, I did learn another little secret:
I learned how far you would go to protect me--more than once. I’ve only given little examples here, but there are others, believe me.
When I claimed (on facebook) that the government had been paid back in full for the GM bailout, David (correctly) corrected me. Yes, though few people knew it, David Hall kept up on the minutiae of politics with the best of ‘em!
Most peoples’ interests probably intersect somewhat; ours were a virtually-identical lock.
This will be inartfully put, I know…but I never knew how deeply David cared about me, until I began finding e-mails that said, “Check your windshield," and there’d be an amazing package containing some CD he’d made 'specially for me, out in my driveway on a rainy night.
His wonderful wife Trish told me just yesterday, about how Dave actually drove her by my (nothing-special-to-look-at) house one time, just to show her where I lived.
“Why didn’t y’all come in and say hello?” I wondered.
“Oh, I don’t know," she said, "he said he just wanted me to see it.”
Paul Simon was another thing we had in common, and of course it doesn’t hurt that the guy wears Yankee caps a lot, either. David marveled at my stories of meeting Simon & Garfunkel as a kid, and we'd even gone to see them reunite, a few years back. But again, we rarely picked up a phone…we just liked to surprise each other.
So last summer, David sends me a message:
“You busy this Thursday?”
“Well, I might be able to get Paul Simon tickets…”
Turns out, he had talked it over with Trish, and she had graciously said, “You guys oughta go!”
I showed up at Merchants an hour beforehand, per our tradition, and after a drink and some food he said mischievously, “Gee…I hope these seats don’t suck!”
Now we were virtually race-walking toward the Ryman…like…well...like two little kids, on the way to the ballpark!
“Hey,” I said with my 'adult' faux-confident air, “Don’t worry about whereever the tickets are! There’s not a bad seat in the house!”
We might as well have been 10.
“We’ll see about that!” David said, feigning pessimism.
I wondered why he’d even care about what seats we had at all--that wasn’t like him. Pretty soon we were inside, being ushered down toward our seats:
Not in the first few rows...Not even in the first row!
No...ours were among a group of about 12 folding chairs--set up, center-stage--
in front of the first row!!!
I’d been to dozens of Ryman shows before, believe me--but I never suspected we’d be lookin’ up Paul Simon’s nose the whole night!
It was to become the best concert in a lifetime of concert-going, for me.
He’d known all along where the seats were; it was all a part of his sneaky little 'plan!'
We were so close to the stage, I felt too guilty to even use my camera or my fLiP very much--because poor ol' Simon could see little else but us, in front of the footlights!