Monday, March 26, 2007

Meeting Your Heroes: Talking With Robert Earl Keen

One school of opinion suggests that coming face to face with your heroes can be a seriously bad downer. Feet of clay don’t show up at a distance. This hasn’t been my experience. From meeting early rugby heroes from the New Zealand All Blacks like Earl Kirton and Waka Nathan 20 years ago, to meeting Robert Earl Keen a couple of weeks ago in Austin, Texas, hero worship has been a universally uplifting experience for me. Meeting heroes and inspirational players is the best way to keep positive feelings and self belief growing. And the world is full of inspirational people.

I’ve been a big fan of Robert Earl Keen since hearing his album, A Bigger Piece of Sky in the late 90’s. I’ve been to a bunch of concerts and was lucky enough to be invited to sit on stage with him at Billy Bob’s in Texas last year. In Austin we met at the Four Seasons, an unlikely venue for an ad guy and a honky tonk guitarist to get together. The result was 1-1/2 hours talking about creativity, the excitement of the music business, the pressures of touring 180 days a year. and the joy of family (Robert has two daughters who are 12 and 6). We also talked about the price of success in terms of having to take responsibility for multi million dollar a year enterprise. It’s a big step from writing songs, singing them, and playing them.

Robert is a big, friendly, warm guy with humor and mischief in his eyes. Some of his songs are funny, some are deeply personal and all drip with truth. The Road Goes on Forever is one of the great stories of all time and if the 21st century does indeed belong to the storyteller, as Rolf Jensen claims, then Robert Earl will be right there at the front of the queue. To get started on the Robert Earl Keen Experience, try and see him live in Texas. If you can’t make that, he will be in New York in November. And, if you can’t make New York, buy Live Dinner No. 2, Live at the Ryman, and What I Really Mean.

p.s. Anyone in or near the state of Oklahoma should check out Robert at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City on 7th April. (How could you resist not going to a place called the Wormy Dog Saloon?)


Nickelas Knight said...

Glad to see you're still living the dream Mr. Roberts. Can singers and performers be branded? Under the right circumstances, can they evolve into lovemarks? Is hero-worship just a human lovemark?

On another note, thank you for your email a couple months ago. I pinned it up on my board and show it to my ad friends ha-ha. they're jealous.

All the best sir, Nickelas Knight, University of Colorado.

Shawn A. McKinney said...


Glad to read that you agreee with me on another point, i.e., first, dropping the 'football' from Rugby Territorial sites and maybe more, and second, meeting my football hero, Johnny Unitas by chance after the Pro Bowl game in Los Angeles way back when . . . my Dad and I were walking to the car, about fifty yards from the stadium, and my Dad happened to see Johnny U walking outside the stadium heading for another entrance. I had a very hard time keeping myself from running over to him and jumping on him. Kept my cool, and walked, swiftly, over to him, and let him know my name, and while reaching out my hand to shake his told him how much I loved the way he played the game, and that I adapted his style of throwing the ball, which was helping me a great deal. He reached back, and shock my hand . . . we talked for several minutes before he apologized for having to get with the guys to return to Baltimore, BUT gave me his mailing address, and we kept in touch over the years . . . such a huge deal to a high school kid that loved the game of football, loved being a quarterback, and loved watching Johnny Unitas play the game and disect defenses.

Meeting people, heroes or otherwise, has never been a problem for me. What has bothered me, over the years, is when I've had a few people walk up to me and tell me that I am one of their heroes . . . it happened after my football playing days while taking part in a high school alumni game to raise money, and while playing fullback for the Belmont Shore Rugby Club. I've never had the feeling that I'm a Johnny Unitas or a JPR Williams, because I never made it to the pros in football, or a World Cup in Rugby. In fact, I keep telling people I'm no poster boy due to my life style over the years . . . wink, wink!

By the way, thanks for your response awhile back on that Rugby Branding issue, and just to let you know, you responded in a day, and I haven't been able to get a response from some people in the USA Rugby National office for three years.


Shawn A. McKinney, Thunderhead Marketing, 422 N. Main Street, St. Elmo, IL 62458
Phone: 618-829-3806

Midwest Rugby Territorial Union Promotional Director:

St. Louis Royals Rugby Club backline coach:

Eastern Illinois University Men's Rugby Club assistant coach:

Belmont Shore Rugby Club old, old, old boy:

Pedro Nunes said...

The thing more beautiful than we can try is the mystery. This is the source of all the art.

A Little Guitar said...

viva rek! you ought to check out his message board at: