Up At The River

The Tennessee River near Perryville, Tennessee. Photo by me January 2003.

In the mid 80s I was staying with my grandparents part of a summer up in middle Tennessee at the river. I say at the river because they had a cabin on the Beech River and not far off from the much bigger Tennessee River. It was common in our family to say, "up at the river," for anything that took place or involved where my father was born in Decatur County, Tennessee.

 My family history goes well back into the 1800s in Decatur and Perry County, Tennessee. They were and some still are big land owners, farmers and involved in the transportation of goods along the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers. My grandfather was the exception, after leaving the Navy he took a job with Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia and he and his family left Tennessee. My father though born also in Decatur County was raised in Georgia and that's how I would become a Georgia native. Upon my grandfather's retirement in the 1980s he and my grandmother moved back home to Decatur County, Tennessee. Incidentally my father would also for work Lockheed his entire career, retire and then move back home to the river just like his father.

My grandmother once back home became a social butterfly. She wasn't one to want to stay home and tried to be involved in as many community activities as possible. She loved to go to these Saturday night country dances mostly so she could gossip with the locals and she would drag my grandfather along not that he much cared for it. My grandmother was the biggest gossip in the county and she loved to hear herself endlessly talk. The dances would take place in nearby Lexington.

Being up at the river for the summer with my brother and a few cousins probably cut into her social time, though she did still manage her weekly trips to the beauty parlor, but one time she took all of us to the dance. There was a singer performing a concert and for the life of me I couldn't remember who it was for thirty years, I could only remember he had a beard and kind of looked like my father. 

After his show he was signing autographs if you bought his glossy photo that he already had printed up. You had the choice of his picture in color or black and white, well I was cheap so I bought a black and white one. I have no idea why I bought one because he wasn't famous, obviously because if he had been he wouldn't have been performing at these dances in small town Tennessee. It's not like this place was on the circuit and it was a couple hours west of Nashville. You couldn't be much further into the middle of nowhere than Decatur County.

Then out of nowhere it hit me that it was Tom Grant (my elephant like memory finally kicked in).

Apparently he had two top 40 country hits and went on to work for the legendary Ralph Emery. He had a nice voice in that late 70s & 80s country kind of way. Sail On, better known by the Commodores, was one of his hits.