The voice on the other end of the phone was strong, excited and instantly familiar.
I'm always glad to hear from Tommy Jett, but this phone call was especially meaningful because it meant he was still "on the right side of the grass," as people like to say.
It's no secret that TJ the DJ nearly left us a couple of times in the last few months. The first time came in April, when he had a serious car accident that severely injured his neck, among other things. The second time came several weeks later, when complications from the injury made swallowing and therefore eating and drinking difficult.
He lost a bunch of weight, became dehydrated and slipped into a coma. The outlook was so dire that friends and family gathered to say their goodbyes. They, along with hundreds of people who grew up listening to Jett spin records on the radio and at parties, also started praying.
"It worked, didn't it?" he said on the phone. "I'm still here."
Jett wasn't calling to talk about his ordeal. He was calling to ask a favor. Not for himself, of course.
Over the last two decades, Jett and I have spoken often. Sometimes it's just to catch up, but usually it's because he's involved in a fundraiser. Most often it has been his own Tommy Jett's Entertainers Reunion, which has raised thousands of dollars for a variety of charities.
This week, he was working the phones to garner publicity for the annual Al Millard Stocking Full of Love events this weekend in Walker Valley. (See story on Page 17 for details).
"I was at the first one and every one of them since, and I plan to be at this one. I might be in a wheelchair, but I will be there," Jett said.
Bruce Coker with the Walker County Sheriff's Department said Jett is a big part of the event every year.
"He's an icon in Walker County, and he's always been a part of the sock hop," he said.
On Sept. 8, there will be a separate event called "A Jett High Night," and this time, the recipient is Jett himself.
The event will be at the Zan Guerry Clubhouse at the Manker Patten Tennis Club on the Tennessee River, and the money raised will help Jett pay some of his medical expenses.
The Beaters and Jimmy Tawater will perform. Tickets are $50 each, and they include drink tickets and snacks. Only 125 tickets are being sold to guests. They are available at tommyjett.com or by calling Alvin Worley at 593-0748.
• • •
In today's Life section, you will find a story on the one-year anniversary of Track 29, the music venue on the campus of the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
One thing that others in the industry, and the food and tourist industries as well, can learn from owners Adam and Monica Kinsey is their willingness to constantly learn and improve.
They spent two years between concept and opening asking questions and, more importantly, listening to the answers. Sometimes the answer is not what you want to hear. We've seen many a would-be restaurateur and club owner fail because they thought they knew what Chattanooga wanted instead of asking.