There’s no such thing as a coincidence.
I feel a bit guilty for posting this so long after it happened, but while some friends were in Nashville this weekend I took them to eat at Edley’s BBQ in the 12 South neighborhood. I told them a couple times about Holly Williams and the incredible story I had about our first chance meeting. As we sat down to eat I looked over my shoulder and guess who was there..none other than Holly Williams and her husband Chris. Coincidence #2? Let me tell you about the first time we met and then you tell me.
Rewind to May of last year and my first long visit to Nashville. I had been a few times previously but decided to spend a month to determine if this would be the place I’d want to call home in the future (which of course is now is). While I had a few great friends in Nashville already I made an effort to get out and meet people daily. One of these walkabouts led me to Dury’s Camera Store downtown. The salesperson I spoke with told me I should check out a place called Marathon Village which is an old automobile factory from the early 1900’s that has recently been renovated. I bought something that I likely already owned, per usual and headed to Marathon Village.
When I arrived at Marathon Village I was amazed at the size of the place. It’s literally blocks long as it was the manufacturing facilities for Marathon Motor Works from 1907-1914. I grabbed a coffee in the little coffee shop and started walking around. Inside houses all kinds of craftsmen and boutique shops. As I walked around I saw a sign for Otis James Nashville. I knew of Otis’ work from Garden & Gun and walked in and said hello. A few weeks later I photographed Otis and got my first custom brawler but that’s another story. I went to Antique Archeology which is a retail store for the A&E show American Pickers..again another story on that also.
As I walked past Marathon Music Works I heard someone ask me if I was going to “the show.” I turned around and they told me it was Blackberry Smoke, Drake White and A Thousand Horses. I told the guy I hadn’t planned on it but would try to check it out. He said “I’ll leave you a ticket if you want” which of course I gladly obliged his generosity. Later I realized the guy that randomly left me a ticket was Blackberry Smoke’s Richard Turner. Why he randomly offered I’ll never know. I never got the chance to say thanks so I’m making it public now! Thanks Richard!
I went to Corsair Distillery, another gem in Marathon Village and had a few drinks before going in. Once inside I realized these bands had some serious fan support. The place was packed. Stay with me about the original topic…just hang in there. After the first band, Drake White gave an amazing performance and I started looking around for folks like me who didn’t know anyone else. I spotted a woman by herself watching intently from the corner and for whatever reason approached her. I asked her “Are you the only other person here who doesn’t know anyone?” She laughingly replied “No, but I represent all the bands.” I then introduced myself to Shannon Casey who was there with CAA. After a few minutes of telling her my story we realized we had a few acquaintances in common.
After chatting through the Drake White set I asked her if she knew anyone in the Ernest Tubb or Hank Williams family. Of course the first question she asked was why. A few weeks before making the trip to Nashville I was going through my Mom’s shed and found a box full of old papers and letters. One of the letters I found was written by my late uncle in 1953 and was never mailed. It was a letter to Ernest Tubb a few months after the passing of Hank Williams Sr. with a poem about Hank. My uncle died in 1959 and I have no idea why the letter/poem was never mailed. I brought it with me thinking I’d try to deliver it somehow to someone but never thought much about it. I remember my Father used to tell me stories about Hank Williams and how he changed music before his untimely and controversial death.
When I finished telling Shannon my story she said “oh my gosh..I have chills right now.. I represent Holly Williams, Hanks granddaughter.” I was speechless which for those who know me realize the large feat that is. Fast forward a couple weeks I went to 3rd and Lindsley to meet Holly. I got there early and met her and her mom, read the poem and letter to her and “delivered” it after 60 years. The words, written in the language of the day on Naval stationary just added more nostalgia to these lost papers. Holly embraced the letter and I felt there was a connection unlike what I’m sure is something pitched to her regularly. She said she gets songs and stories of about her grandfather but this was written just three months after his untimely death and was real and tangible. I gave her the letter, shot her show and shot a few frames of her with the letter after the show. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her I was HUGE fan of her Dad, Hank Jr listening to “A Country Boy Can Survive” while growing up along the Suwannee River and had a dog named Bocephus.
For me, the memories of capturing moments is what it’s all about. These memories and the real serendipity are what I’ll remember. I didn’t approach Holly on this Sunday as she was enjoying her time with her husband but after she left I briefly said hello to Chris as I left and reminded him of the few minutes I got to spend sharing our two families histories. Hers, legendary and historical and mine only letters and photos but no less valuable to either of us.
This is a very, very small world if you put yourself out in it. Thanks again to Richard for the ticket, Shannon for the intro and Holly and Chris for being so cool.
I’m a Nashville resident now because of that one incident. I knew there was a reason for all of those lines to connect. There are no accidents in life. Keep putting yourself out there and amazing things will happen.