When I was around 10 years old, I played a game at the county fair. The game was one of those booths where you pay a dollar to take a few shots, with a BB gun, at paper cups lined on the back wall. Each cup had a marking, unseen and underneath, for either “small”, “medium”, or “large”, indicating the value of the prize you could claim. Through a fantastic string of luck I hit one of the “large” prize cups! What in the world would I get to choose from the wonderful bounty of carnival prizes?!?!!! (This is SERIOUS business to a 10 year old!).
After much deliberation, I decided I would pick a prize I could give to my mom. Would it be a mirror with a beer logo on it? (Classy, of course, but my mom doesn’t drink so, no). Would it be a fancy roach clip with dangling feathers? (Um, she doesn’t smoke weed either. Definite no). Would it be a gigantic stuffed bear? (Not quite her style. No). Finally, my eyes rested on the perfect prize: A t-shirt with Lionel Richie’s face on it! This would be genius! My mother was in total love with Lionel Richie and I would certainly please her by sacrificing my opportunity at a live gold fish to get her this t-shirt. (Daughter of the year anyone?) I took the t-shirt home and my mother showered me with praise and thanks.
As I recall, I don’t know that she ever wore it. Looking back it was most certainly a horrible, 80’s knock off, that didn’t do Lionel any real justice either if my memory serves me. (It was the 80’s, so remember, t-shirts of this type were printed with horrible ink that dried solid on the surface of the shirt.).However, it’s the thought that counts and my mother loved it. She loved it because she loved Lionel’s music. Her favorite song is “Sail On” not to be outdone by “Three Times a Lady”. I have wonderful memories of listening to these songs on cassette (very fancy and new then :-), in the car with my mama.
I told Lionel this story when I first spoke with him on the phone at the beginning of his Tuskegee project . He was lovely and gracious, and laughed as he pictured this scrawny little southern girl winning her mama his t-shirt.
When I was invited to sing on his album, I knew immediately which song I wanted to sing. “Hello” is one of my all time favorites! I enjoyed every moment of its recording and I am looking forward to performing it live with him very soon. In the meantime, I am certain we will have some fun times coming up, as we help our respective contestants compete in ABC’s upcoming show “Duets”. However, I will remind Lionel that, just like that scrawny little girl at the county fair, I shoot straight and I go for the big prize!