Just in case you were wondering, they go real cheap (and by cheap I mean non-existant) on the high-fructose corn syrup over here. They don’t – however – go cheap on the fresh fruits and veggies. Give and take.
The country music community has lost a valuable member in the passing of musician Owen Mays. Proclaimed by friends and fans as “The Human Jukebox” and “The Walking Encyclopedia of Country Music” – Mays was a symbol of honesty, humor, and talent. That package of attributes is as rare as it is beautiful and this is a truly great loss.
Every week at YMR, we post a musician for “#dangthatsagreatsong Thursday.” Today we honor Owen.
A good friend of Owen and music contributor to YMR – Josh Green has been kind enough to lend a few words and choose the following tune.
Owen, was a very funny guy. He said what he wanted, even if it wasn’t popular. His love for country music and country music history was second to none. He could talk and debate with the best of them.
Professional wrestling was what initially brought Owen and I together — and particularly our endless love for Ric Flair. When I shared with him my “famous, not famous” Ric story (In this story for those who aren’t familiar, Ric doesn’t come off very nice.) Owen 100% defended Flair and almost justified it to me.
The low lit, cheap dirty barrooms all across the Midwest have forever lost a student and a teacher. A true Honky Tonker. Rest in Peace Owen.
There have been some updates available on the Owen Mays & The Last Calls Facebook Page: HERE. We’ll also update this post with information about memorial services when that information becomes available.
( Lloyd Settle, the founder and head “vibe” coordinator of famed big-time, small town music festival Goose on the Lake in Allegre, KY has provided this written tribute for Jon, Jonathan, the Colonel, Hensley, and all the other facets of the magnificent creature that was his best friend.)
“BLACK TIE AFFAIR AT TPAC”
When Ritchie Albright called me and his first words were, “Did you hear about Hensley yet?” — my heart sank before he even said another word. It still has not recovered.
I wanted to contribute to the many eulogies for Jon because of the place he occupied in my world, but I simply could not get my emotional feet under me. The loss was too great. All the people close to Jon knew the role we played in each other’s lives. We were tied together both personally and professionally and had been for half of Jon’s life. Goose on the Lake had been Jon’s entry into the music world. His heart and soul were tied to the show and the people involved. This would be the first year in over 15 years that Jon was not backstage doing what he does and the void was as large as the lake.
I started out trying to write a eulogy — but my head and heart both balked. I decided midstream to try and tell the basics to Jon’s story because he cannot. He had planned to write a book about his journey because it was very unique. We laughed dozens of times about incidents and both of us would say at the same time “This needs to be in the book!” Jon’s story is one of hard work, dedication, seizing opportunities, and making good decisions and it deserves to be told. He did not “Luck in to what he did and who he was.” Colonel Jon did not just happen.
I apologize if I get too wordy but remember, I was reared a Baptist. At times like these, wordy is acceptable.
I first met Jonathan Hensley (I try to use Jon, but he will always be Jonathan to me) when he was in the 9th grade and I was looking for a student to work on my school computer. I knew there were a few “kids” in school that knew computers better than the college educated technicians the board had hired to work with us. Jon was recommended by a fellow teacher and I “borrowed” him one day during my planning period. He was quite good and he fixed my problems. He had heard about my Napster song list on my ‘puter (I played music during tests to relax students.) and wanted to check it out and play a few tunes instead of going back to class. I let him do it and he never left my world after that and became my personal computer tech at school until he graduated.
He began bugging me about doing a website for the music festival that I did in the summers. I had absolutely NO interest in a website because at that time I had no interest in doing the festival long term. I also had not allowed any students to go to the festival until after they had graduated and Jon did not qualify to go. I think he wanted to do the website – so that he would have a reason to go and take pictures for the website. I finally relented and let him do the website to keep him off my case.
Jon’s dad and mom, Tony and Dawn, brought him to the festival and they even ran the gate, took up money, and watched over Jon. He had a tiny little camera and took pics for the new website. That happened a couple of years or more. His pushing me to do a website for the festival was my first indication that this dude had his finger on the pulse of music and the future. It was certainly a harbinger of things to come. I would use these same words in a few years to Charlie Gearheart in wanting him to give Jon a chance to work with him.
“THE GOTL FAMILY”
I allowed Jon total freedom to build and develop the website. It was his first real opportunity to express his creativity. It was also the beginning of 15 awesome years of partnership, friendship, brotherhood, shared creativity, and learning on both our parts. After graduation from high school, he continued to work on doing websites and had a short stint as a student at ITT in Evansville, but found that did not really fit his skills. He shared with me that he wanted to use his computer skills to work in the music business and he used the Goose on the Lake website as an example of his work. He did websites for the likes of Al Green, Wanda Jackson, Percy Sledge, Merle Haggard, and several other big name artists.
He asked me when he was in his early twenties if it bothered me for a guy his age to want to hang out with a guy my age. I told him then that I would not hold his youth against him if he would not hold my older age against me and that I wanted us to let our spirits do the communicating because our spirits were ageless. The age difference was never an issue. Jon got to take chances in creativity in doing a website he wanted to use to show what he could do and I got some cutting edge work for my festival website. As was the case for the rest of Jon’s life, it was always a win, win for both of us working together.
When Jon was about 20, he had an opportunity to go to California to do some work on a documentary about the country music scene in that state. (Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakum, etc.) It certainly was not a unanimous decision in his world to go. It was my turn to bug him and I did relentlessly. I pushed him to make the trip. He finally asked my why I felt it was so important for him to go to California. I replied that he “Must go to California before he could go to New York!!” He laughed and asked my why a kid from Greenville, Kentucky would need to go to New York. “Because,” I replied, “You must go to New York before you go to Europe”!! He really laughed this time and said, “You are crazy old man!!!” I told him I had dreamed it and it was going to happen. He eventually did make the California trip and it became another large stone in his musical foundation. Within 5 or 6 years of his trip to California, he texted me pic of him backstage with Jay Leno, Charlie Sheen, and others. He made several trips to New York in his twenties. Apparently, I did not dream large enough for him because this summer he was scheduled to travel with Shooter and Waymore’s to Europe for several shows. He would have made Europe at 31. I had not calculated the power of the shooting star I had latched on to.
Through much of the next 10 years, we traveled to lots of music functions to scout music and just listen to music. During these years, he wanted to learn all the facets of doing a music festival and that he did. He learned about budgets (difficult for him to stay within a budget) and negotiating and all the basics of promoting a musical event. I let him try different methods of advertising to see which was the most effective. He learned about demographics, the most important thing to consider in planning an event. I was very, very proud of him and how much he had learned and his thirst for knowledge. I took every opportunity to tell anyone who would listen how good he was and how good he was going to be.
I told Jon many, many times that he had the potential to be really unique in the music business because he was learning to speak both languages, that of the business side of music and that of the artist side of music. Those two rarely understand each other or really care about the others needs and are often at odds. Jon was learning to be an interpreter for both sides and learning to speak each language fluently. Jon got a great deal of pleasure introducing me to music people as his high school chemistry teacher, which they found quite difficult to believe. I am not sure if my appearance was what made it difficult to believe or if it was the fact that a dude as slick as Jon would hang out with a former teacher. I was never sure whether we came across as the “Odd Couple” or the “Beauty and the Beast.” You can guess which one I was!!! I had a ponytail and an ear ring and was quite grizzled. He was good looking, slick dressing, and a guy that always looked like he stepped off the cover of Rolling Stone.
” THE REDNECK HIGHWAYMEN”
Invariably, people would eventually ask what it was like to have Jon in a chemistry class. I told them I would often hum the theme to Mission Impossible when Jon came into class or did lab. I honestly told them it was like having Janis Joplin or Jimmy Hendrix in class and it was. Jon’s potential would never show up in a chemistry class. To make matters worse, it was an early morning class. Jon was not going to be good at anything before noon. I found out in later years that Jon’s spectacular hours of productivity were from about 10 pm until 2 am.
We synthesized our skills and neither of us made an important decision regarding music or careers without discussing it with the other. He often told me that he hung out with me so much because he was selfish enough that he wanted the wisdom, savvy, and understanding of someone my age and he wanted it NOW at his age. He did a damn great job of it!!!
Whenever there was a question about how to handle a given situation, my advice to him usually was the same, “Fortune favors the bold.” He heard that from me hundreds of times over the years and he learned to be quite bold. Another huge leap for Jon came when he was able to grasp the importance of the much misunderstood value of imagining, positive thinking, and dreaming the things you want to make happen.
I shared a book with him, “Illusions” by Richard Bach. He snickered!!!!Jon, reading a book???????? What the hell do you want me to read that for he asked?????? It was over 6 months before he picked it up to read. In the years that followed, it is safe to say he read it multiple times and he even shared it with others. He got it!!!! That in itself shows how special Jon’s mind was. I was lucky to be born a natural teacher and even luckier to have had a career as a science teacher with the opportunity to teach biology, chemistry, and physics to so many wonderful and gifted students. Yet, in the totality of stuff learned and the time spent together learning, Jon Hensley was the best student I ever had.
I had shared my belief in Jon as a talent with Charlie Gearheart. After seeing what Jon had done with the Goose on the Lake website and others, he enlisted Jon to do the Goose Creek Symphony website. After working with Jon on the website and seeing firsthand his talent, Charlie enlisted Jon in some managerial duties and the two of them did some pretty amazing work over the next few years, some of which you hear when you listen to recent Goose Creek Symphony albums. They released albums, started and maintained a record company, and did several other things and Jon’s knowledge base increased hugely. Getting to work closely with Charlie, an icon of the highest degree in the music world as an artist, writer, and innovator gave Jon skills that money and college could not bring him. Working with Charlie brought Jon into “a world he had been hungryin’ for” and it opened doors to music executives who would not return his calls a year or two earlier. Jon, the manager, was on his way.
He told me that those same executives who had talked with him on the phone were really surprised when they met in person at how young he was. They would ask him, “How did you get into the music business at such a young age?” He would say, “I had this chemistry teacher who did a music festival on his farm and I started doing the website in high school.” They would say “No, be serious, how did you really start?” Chemistry teachers and music festivals apparently do not go together. They would then ask, “How did you get involved with a legendary 70’s band like Goose Creek Symphony at your age?” He would say, “Remember that chemistry teacher, he was good friends with Goose Creek Symphony and they played on his farm every year.” They would say “That sounds too bizarre to be true. It sound like something out of a movie.” They literally could not believe his story but it was true.
The time spent with Charlie really developed his skills and foundation for Jon to take his game to a new level. Those skills were put to use in his putting together Jack White to work with Wanda Jackson and produce her album. He followed that with Justin Townes Earle(who Jon helped bring to GOTL) producing another Wanda Jackson album. By now, Jon, in his late twenties, had a scope of knowledge and skills superior to most people twice his age. Just what he had told me he wanted when he was 20. How proud do you think this made me feel?????
In the summer of 2012, Shooter Jennings was playing Goose on the Lake for the first time and I spent a bit of time just talking with him on the deck at Donna’s and getting to know his vibe. (And a great vibe I found it to be.) It did not take long before I knew something special was going on here. I told Shooter, “Dude, you need to meet my friend Hensley!” I went over to the stage and told Jon to come over to Donna’s house. I wanted him to meet Shooter. Jon was on my old Polaris and rode up into the yard, dismounted the 4 wheeler like a horse, and stuck out his hand. I think all of you know how this story goes. My pride in him, his growth, and his professionalism was soaring. Colonel Jon was now in the house. His and Shooter’s union was a blending of talents and skills that bordered on surreal. It felt like there were no limits with the two of them.
Jon has been a very close and trusted member of my family, not by birth, but by choice for many years.
The lines were very blurred in our relationship. Father, son, brother, and best friend were all roles that we both played at various times depending upon our needs. I have been fortunate to have had the best seat in the house on the journey from computer geek to Colonel Jon. Countless nights on my sofa, late night calls he received from Dwight Yoakam, Ron Jeremy, and a multitude of other powerful and famous people were a common occurrence. He always said things did not get rocking on the west coast until about midnight our time. I never did adjust to that!!! Memories of Jon getting so excited to show me the first clip he discovered of Angry Grandpa and then each new one as they were added.
“MARY’S FIRST VISIT TO THE OL’ TRAILER AND FOUR-WHEELING“
The happiest I ever saw Jon in the 15 years was our 2 am 4 wheeler rides with Davo and he and Davo building trails through the woods that they would ride until 4 or 5 am. They even had the trails named. Big Dave even rode the “Bluebird” with Jon and I after Davo passed. Somewhere Jon, Timmy, and Davo have gathered and are holding court, ruling, and sharing high fives. Woe be unto anyone who tries to get a word in with those three. Jon has been characterized in many ways by many folks since his untimely passing and all of them vary and all of them are accurate to some extent. To me, he was the Wizard of Oz. He stood behind a curtain and made magic happen for the rest of the world to see and he entertained the world. He used his powers to dole out special treats and rewards to folks that he felt were deserving. But, get behind that curtain (which he hated) and you had one of the sweetest, most gentle, and compassionate souls who ever walked the planet. Jon was a musical meteor that illuminated our night sky for a short while. I feel exceptionally lucky to be one of those whose night sky he illuminated. As Johnny Ray wrote on the GOTL banner that I had all the musicians this year sign to Jon, “See ya backstage dude.”
I LOVE YOU JON
Lloyd — as Jon would have of course recommended — wants to leave this tribute with three pieces of music for Jon.
FROM LLOYD ON THIS TUNE: The first is the Harvey Cameron band. I asked them before their set at GOTL if they did a song I had heard on their CD live. They said yes and I asked them to do it as an encore song as my personal tribute to Jon. It is called “One More Tequila.”
From LLOYD on this tune: When Vessel arrived Friday, Myron, who took over the Goose on the Lake website from Jon this past spring, told me he and a couple of the guys in the band talked about doing a version of the Goose tune “Goin Home” for me because he knew how important Jon was to me. The whole band had not practiced it but they did it Friday night. Even though some members of the band changed from Friday night to Saturday, I asked them to do it again Saturday night and put some jam in it for Jon because that would have been what he really liked. Tramp, and old friend from Bone Pony, days even joined in on the jam on the fiddle. We fittingly did it to end the show and it is the second of the three songs.
From LLOYD on this tune: The third song is a Ray Price and “Nightlife”. Jon loved music too much to have one “favorite song.” Any list of his “Top 20″ or “Top 10″ would include this song. We usually closed the late nights at my place when Jon was DJ’ing with this song. It is the closest he had to a favorite song and he said it described “his life.”