As I look back throughout the memories of my past growing up, the hard lessons I have learnt along the way has made me truly thankful for each and every step that I have had to take to make me who I am today. However, this does not excuse any parent from the idea that it is alright to send their child out into the world alone without supervision, to live out a dream, whether it be their dream or the child’s dream; and not expect there to be consequences to follow. Do not be naive to the idea that nothing will happen to your child because things do happen and if you think closing your mind to such thoughts will make you feel better, guess again!
I saw horrible things at age sixteen that no child should have to ever witness, I saw kids my own age walking the streets with guitars hanging off their backs, begging for food, waiting for the chance to be heard, to be discovered, only to be ignored, walked over, passed by, and I often wonder how many of those souls made it out alive. Did any of those kids get to go home, or are they still wandering the streets today clinging to that dream of becoming a country singing sensation like everyone else in that city is working for. I honestly do not know. (maybe?).
I was an awesome singer, very confident and I had a natural, fearless stage presence. I wanted to be a Country star, I wanted it all and I would do everything it took to get there. My parents could see my path, the direction I was heading, so they did what most parents would do, they began to back me enthusiastically. They were willing to turn their living room into a weekly rehearsal room for my band because they enjoyed the music as well. Both my parents were present at every local show I did because I was a minor. But I always found comfort in seeing my Mom and Dad in the audience, seeing their smiles, watching their facial expressions because that would tell me if I was doing good or bad. We became a great team!
One afternoon, a man came into town claiming to be a talent scout out of Nashville, Tennessee. His name was J.T. Willy. My parents talked it over with me and asked if I wanted to audition for this man and that they would be willing to allow me to do so. My heart was pumping because this was a chance of a lifetime for me. I wanted to go to Nashville and I felt I was ready, so my dad made the phone call and this gentleman and his wife showed up at our doorstep. He was a big man, not much to speak of. He was a smooth talker and his wife was mousy and did not say too much. He made himself comfortable in my parents’ living room, while I sang my heart out for him. J.T was also a singer and he sounded just like Johnny Cash, and after I was finished, he complimented me and told my parents “I can make this young lady a star.” He then invited us to a place in Madison, Wisconsin where he was performing with some friends and wanted to see how I would do with a live audience and my parents agreed. When we arrived, there was another man present, his name was Casey. After being introduced, I was then thrown up on stage with the band and again, I sang my heart out without fear and captured my audience without any problems.
The problems then began. My parents were told they had to pay $250.00 up front in order to confirm my position within the company. We then signed a contract, without any lawyer present, which is an absolute no-no. Do not ever sign any type of contract with anyone unless you have a lawyer present or at least have had one look over the contract first. It was all for show, it was a bogus contract, but still, my parents believed that what they were doing for me was a good thing and this would have locked me into this company for seven years.
My first road trip was to Bismarck, North Dakota with J.T and his wife. To perform with a group that he worked with frequently. I had never been away from my parents or out of Wisconsin for that matter, so I was a bit intimidated at first. My Second trip, J.T. decided to send me out with Casey to Redwood, Minnesota to perform for a week with a band and I ended up coming home three days later. Casey tried to take advantage of me in a hotel room and when I denied his advances, he dumped me with the band and left. When I called my parents and told them what had happened they called J.T. and then the band put me on a bus to come home. I was horrified, scared, stuck with strangers. I was angry that this man tried to do what he did to me and when I would not comply, he had the nerve to dump me and walk away. Without going into too much detail, you can imagine how horrifying it would be for a sixteen year old to have to encounter this type of situation and be so far from home.
After that, J.T. took me to Nashville! A dream of a lifetime, or so I thought. Upon arrival, my nightmare began. One lie after another and the so called company was office space they rented on Music Row above another Record company. They had a cot set up in a spare office for me to sleep in. Months had gone by and nothing, I went into the recording studio and recorded Hey Big Man, and Baby With You…but later found out that all I did was record my voice over someone else’s. When I started demanding answers, and wanting to do more, they became frustrated with me, in return they sent me on a bogus trip to Florida. Telling me that this was a hotel circuit singing job, I had no idea it was a one way ticket. Luckily I had a friend who was visiting her grandma and I was able to call them to come and get me.
They helped me get back to Nashville and once I arrived back at this office, it was locked with an eviction notice. The rest of my luggage was inside and I could not obtain my belongings at all. Nobody was in sight, they were all gone! I was ditched. Even though I was scared and all alone, I knew I had to fight back in order to survive. I did just that. I placed what clothes I had under the stairs of a hotel and walked the streets, worked in a soup kitchen, and survived. There is more to this story but the main point is never, ever send your child out into this world to live out your dream. Never, ever send them out with someone you hardly know. You have to go with them, you have to hire lawyers. Do it the right way and make sure the child wants this as well. I did want this but I didn’t want to go alone and I ended up seeing things I shouldn’t have, and things happened to me that shouldn’t have happened.
Do the right thing and make sure you do your homework first before you dive into something that you think looks really good. There are some really slick people out there still today that know just how to candy coat and talk their way into your pocketbook before you have a chance to even realize what has happened. Sometimes your children may not even make it home alive; some may even be sold as sex slaves as well, abd this does go on in Nashville as well as your bigger cities. I know this because I almost experienced this first hand.
Nashville may be a place for all the big stars to go and make their records and showcase their talents, but in the heart of it all, the dark side is rarely seen unless you actually have lived it. Trust me it is not that pretty!