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Unread 08-23-2019, 09:57 PM
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He clutched the microphone in his right hand. His left hand was extended out towards the crowd. His long, dark hair held out of his face by his bandana. Johnny Anderson was at home in two places. The wrestling ring and the stage. Tonight it was the later. The Denver Warehouse, a concert venue located in Denver was the home of this event. Almost five hundred people had filled it. He was, after all, a local celebrity. He had been on TV in the Denver area for years. Pretty much since he started wrestling. They knew who he was and tonight was a special night. Tonight was the night that Johnny Anderson released his first album.

Johnny sang into the microphone. His voice was classified as a tenor. Not as low as a bass singer, but low none the less. It carried a lot of weight and pain in it. Gravelly. Johnny put his all into the words.

"I know you loved him, a long time ago
Even now in my arms, you still want him I know
But darling this time, your memories die
When you hold me tonight, don't close your eyes"

He sang the old Keith Whitley song. He had made it more bluesy than typical country. He'd describe himself as a blues singer more than a country singer -- or a blues/soul singer, but he would take any kind of radio play he could get. His eyes were narrowed. He was above the crowd. Above the noise. He could see everything. He could see Keith and Luis and Brett and February by the bar. Keith towered over everyone. They looked so proud. Their pride in him made him dig deeper into himself. To pull the song from the depths of his core.

"Don't close your eyes, let it be me
Don't pretend it's him, in some fantasy
Darling just once, let yesterday go
And you'll find more love than you'll ever know
Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight
And don't close your eyes"

Along with Dolly Parton's Jolene, this might be the saddest love song ever wrote. A man begging his woman to not let her mind stray. To stay be present in the moment with him. It took a willingness to be open, to admit the kind of doubts that creep into your mind when you love a woman that you're not entirely convinced is all in on the relationship. At twenty-seven years old, Johnny understood that all to well. Johnny had thought, foolishly so, that he'd been in love before. Some woman who came to the matches all the time. She would come to the bar after. She bought Johnny drinks. Could you believe that? She bought the drinks. She never asked him for anything. She just wanted to be with him and Johnny was sure he'd found the one. Yet here he was. On a stage with the spotlight on him. His voice carrying out over the crowd. Friends and strangers alike were mesmorized by the sound of his voice. But Laura? She was somewhere else. With some med student, or lawyer or accountant. Someone who wasn't Johnny.

"Maybe I've, been a fool, holding on all this time
Lying here in your arms, knowing he's in your mind
But I keep hoping someday, that you'll see the light
Let it be tonight and don't close your eyes"

For six years, Johnny had dedicated himself to his wrestling career and his music. He'd played shows when he wasn't training or on the road. He practiced and wrote songs on a near daily basis. He kept a notebook with him for the car rides with Keith and February so he could write in the car. He studied the greats. Stevie Ray, Merle, Whitley, Redding, Yoakm. He consumed music. He had been working on this album for a long time. With the exception of this song, every song on his album was written by him. No other writers. No other composers or producers. Just him and his brain pouring into the music.

"Don't close your eyes, let it be me
Don't pretend it's him, in some fantasy
Darling just once, let yesterday go
And you'll find more love than you'll ever know
Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight
And don't close your eyes"

His voice rang out. He made eye contact with two women at the front of the stage. One of them, with scarlet hair and eyes the color of envy, was reaching for him. She was in this moment with him. That's what music could do. It could connect people who would otherwise never been connected. This woman didn't know him. She didn't know what kept him up at night. She didn't know that sometimes he looked at Keith and February and it made his stomach wrench. They were so happy together -- and such an odd couple to be happy together. Johnny was jealous. He didn't want February -- but he wanted someone. Maybe the scarlet-haired woman also wanted someone. Maybe she couldn't sleep most nights because the other side of her bed was empty.

"Don't close your eyes, let it be me
Don't pretend it's him, in some fantasy
Darling just once, let yesterday go
And you'll find more love than you'll ever know
Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight
And don't close your eyes"

Maybe she too knew what it was like to not feel good enough. To be afraid that the person you're with doesn't really want to be with you. They want to be with a previous lover. The one they never got over. The one they were convinced was the right one, but the one they had still lost. Johnny didn't know because he didn't know her either. But she was staring at him. Her eyes filled with the same kind of pain that Bob McDill must have been in when he wrote this song. The same kind of pain Keith Whitley had to tap into when he first sang this song. The same kind of pain that Johnny tapped into to sing this song tonight. It was a slow ballad. He dropped to his knees. His six-feet-four, three hundred pound frame touching the stage. His eyes on her. She sang the final lines with him. Not into the microphone. No one else but the people immediately around her could hear her. Johnny couldn't even hear her. But he could see her mouth move in time with his.

"Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight,
And don't close your eyes."

Johnny lowered the microphone. He let his band play the few remaining chords. Beads of sweat rolled down his face -- having escaped the bandana. The top of his chest glistened with the same kind of sweat that Bob Seger used to sing about. The band drifted into silence and the crowd roared with their approval. The scarlet-haired woman applauding loudly. Her eyes on him, but no longer with the same kind of tranfixed gace. The moment was over. The song had been their intimate moment. A shared moment between two strangers. Johnny rose back to his feet.

"I want to thank you all for coming out tonight. It means the world to me. I've spent the last couple of years trying to make sure this album, my first album, was perfect. I wanted it to capture just how I feel about music and I think it does. It's available at the tables off to side of the floor. If you want to pick one up, I'd appreciate it. If you like what you hear, tell your friends, tell your family, tell your radio stations. My name is Johnny Anderson and you've been great."

He let the microphone fall from his hand. His night was done. He was spent. Physically and mentally drained. He had poured everything he had into this performance. Into this night. Hopefully the crowd would buy every copy of "Even The Devil Gets The Blues." Hopefully. He backed away from the edge of the stage. His eyes looked out at the crowd once more. He looked down at where the scarlet-haired woman had been just moments before, but she wasn't there. She had been lost to the crowd. Johnny smiled to himself. He knew that he had reached her. She was going to be buying the album and tonight...that was all that mattered.


Quote:
Author's Note: I want to thank the incomparable Togg for his graphical work on the album cover. He helped me bring this idea I had to do an album release for someone to reality (at least fictional reality) by creating a look for it. If you haven't, make sure you check out his WCW - Saving the Legacy diary. You won't regret it. Hopefully, you enjoyed this narrative. I wanted to do something different, something that wasn't focused on wrestling per say but still developed a character. Feel free to leave any thoughts.
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