15 July, 1957…on the Main Deck of the USS Bryce Canyon (AD-36), Long Beach Naval Base.
I’m standing, with all my gear resting on the deck by my feet, saying goodbye to my shipmate, fiddle player and best friend, Pee Wee Garrison. Standing by Pee Wee is Smoky Rogers, another friend, shipmate and the big Dog House Bass player and harmony singer of the Bryce Canyon Troubadours. After three years of service on the Bryce Canyon, I had drawn Shore Duty and was leaving the ship and the Band that I had played with on board ship and all over the Far East. It was three great years of Naval Service and Music. As we were saying goodbye, Pee Wee squeezed my shoulder and said, “Stan, one day we will see you on the Grand Ole Opry.” I laughed at the jest…and then realized that Pee Wee was not jesting. That last comment by Pee Wee stayed in my memory for many years thereafter.
October 3, 1967…Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN…ten years later. I came out to the stage as Billy Walker introduced me and Hal Rugg and Jimmy Capps kicked off my song. The spotlight was in my eyes so I could not see the faces of the audience, but at the end of my song, the crowd was clapping and the spotlight got out of my eyes…there in the third row of the old church pews…I was getting a two man standing ovation…Pee Wee and Smoky were standing up and Smoky was hollering “We told you we would see you on the Opry!!!” It was a heartfelt reunion, back by the backstage stairs in the Alley, as we laughed and slapped each other on the back.
Pee Wee and Smoky were the first ones to believe…at 21 years old at the time, I did not even suspect that it might happen. So, my first band mates, for those three years of picking on board a Navy Ship…they were preparing me for what would become my life work.
Pee Wee and Smoky are both gone on now, but they left me with the memory of two friends that believed….even before I believed it myself. Thank you my friends, you saw something in a raw kid from the Ozarks. You believed at the very beginning. stan