My uncle Hoyt Roberts taught me to play the guitar, and he has been home for a week. I am discovering that a return to your roots can stir up some great pride and deep appreciation.
When my grandfather ran a corn grist mill in Mooresville, Ala., I was a young child, and I would be sitting at Uncle Hoyt's feet as long as he had out his old Gibson guitar. He mainly sung Jimmie Rodgers songs in those days, and I loved all of them. Every time he'd start to put his guitar back in the case, I would beg him to play "just one more." Usually he would because he sensed how deeply I craved music.
A few years later when I was 13, I took a neighbor's old Stella guitar to his home and asked him to show me some chords. He showed me the three chords to "Sitting on Top of the World" and said, "Don't come back until you learn this song, and when you do, I will show you three more chords and a new song." I don't recall going back. He had launched me, and I was learning songs so fast that WAGC gave me and my cousin Monk Franklin a 30-minute show on Saturday nights. I was only 15.
I often think of what I owe my Uncle Hoyt. I would have never gotten that radio show, had 45 years of playing in local musical venues, had my current career as a one-man show (just before writing this I played Tyner Methodist) or been on the Grand Ole Opry if he hadn't taken the time to keep playing when I begged him down at Mooresville or to show me those first three chords. Every now and then, we need to take each of our talents and run back the roots to see who helped us with them originally. When I run down my musical roots, they always end up with Uncle Hoyt.
Uncle Hoyt's beloved wife, Toni, died a few years ago, and he went into a deep depression. He could not stand to live without her in their home in Lake Como. He tried living with his son and then his sister, but nothing cured his depression. Finally he decided to return to his home and face all the old memories. He restrung his guitar and started playing nursing homes with a band. Soon his depression lifted as he was able to help lift the depression of the people in the nursing homes. As time went by, the band added more gigs, like the Moose Club, and now he plays several nights a week.
His experience shows the healing power of music -- especially when coupled with reaching out to others with broken hearts and broken health.
I cannot describe how proud I am of Uncle Hoyt. He has shown me that I can face whatever life throws my way as long as I have my guitar. He has shown me that there is no depression my music cannot overcome.
Tuesday night we had a jam session at the home of Clyde and Ruth Scott with brother Blaine, Redbird Clingan and Tom Leach, but the star of the show was Uncle Hoyt. To me, the star of all my shows will always be Uncle Hoyt. Without him, there would have never been a show.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.