Lee Greenwood on Conversations at The Mansion with Rick Walker
Lee Greenwood, Grammy Award Winning country music legend, father, and friend joins Rick for the sixth episode of Conversations at The Mansion. Lee talks about how his iconic song “God Bless the USA” came to be, being on stage with Elvis, and being at Ground Zero on 9/11.
About the show: Brand new guest-driven video podcast brings together the most interesting thought-leaders who provide viewers with unique perspectives at the intersection of media, business, politics, responsibility, and work, in a casual, fun, and free-flowing conversation at The Mansion.
1:28 Who Lee Greenwood really is
5:26 Getting Started in the music industry
11:16 Big Bands in the 60s
13:03 On Stage with Elvis
15:58 Paying dues in Vegas
19:45 Rick gives Lee a gift
23:01 What it takes to be a good musician
24:08 Lee plays saxophone at 13
25:25 Being outspoken as an artist
26:29 Writing process for God Bless the USA
30:19 What Brought God Bless the USA to the forefront
34:12 At Ground Zero on 9/11
36:26 Performing at Yankee Stadium right after 9/11
39:00 Does God still bless the USA?
41:24 Losing Religion and Finding it Again
43:40 What Lee’s faith means to him
46:29 The King of Crossover
47:45 Beyonce Covers Lee’s Song
52:00 Lee’s Best Cover Ever
53:48 What Really Happened to Whitney Houston
56:28 Awarded Points of Light
1:00:04 Respect for Wounded Warriors
1:04:09 What a hero really is
1:05:57 Using Music for Change
1:14:10 Lee’s Bible Project
1:16:54 Salute to Lee Greenwood
I was friends with Sammy Davis. Okay, yeah. And he always had the great parties and Caesars Palace. But but you know the Martin occasion we’d run into each other and in one of the one of the casinos, but Sinatra you never never talked to Sinatra. I killed it. You know, sometimes when we touch the honesty’s too much, Whitney Houston, who had one of the greatest voices I’ve ever known. I believe it was two things that it caused her to die. And it wasn’t drowning in the bathtub. Those people that signed the Declaration of Independence, put everything on the line, their family, their lives, the fortunes everything. That’s a patriot. Yes, that will give everything those men and women who die in a battlefield, that’s a patriot, it’s a hero, it had a patriot. So I get out of the car, grab the champagne, what the heck, you know, and I walked right over to him. reach in and grab the cassette out of my pocket and I said turker tree. You know what he said? What? Who are you?
I’m Rick Walker. I’m sitting down with some of my most captivating friends to discuss topics ranging from politics and business to religion and pop culture. Welcome to conversations at the mansion. Lee Greenwood, welcome to conversations at the mansion.
Thanks, Rick. Appreciate it.
appreciate you joining us. So my my first question is who is Lee Greenwood because from the outside we see the awards, the AMA the CMA Awards, the Grammys, the books that will all the great work that you do with patriots, we see the lovely family, all the work you do crisscrossing the nation, inspiring our veterans, but behind the scenes, with your wife in your home with your friends in your church in your community. Who would you say Lee Greenwood is?
You remember the song. I kept trying to think who the artist was. I’ve been so many places in my life and time saying a lot of songs. I’ve made some bed Ryan. I live my life in stages, with 10,000 people watching. I’m alone now and I’m singing his song for you. I live that and I have lived in for the entire time of my career when I got to Nashville, but before that. I’m a farmer from from California. My parents were divorced when I was a year old because of my father’s service in world war two in the Navy and the merchant marine. And my mother just never forgave him because we had there were two of us my sister and I and my sister still alive Listen, Boise, California she I Boise, Idaho. She’s a slightly older than I am. And, and so she My mother was had to work really hard during their nose times as I was growing up as a teenager. So I was raised on a farm with my grandparents. So I learned farming. I learned carpentry. I learned a lot of different things I could have done. I lived and breathed baseball. And I had to make a decision in high school if I was going to go to the Dodgers or go and keep my musical career. So I kept the music and at the age of 17, my grandparents gave me a 55 Chevy and, and pushed me off to Nevada. And I went there and started my career and stayed there almost 19 years in the casinos of Nevada, Reno, Lake Tahoe and Vegas. And then I kept pursuing what I hoped would be my career. And it’s kind of like, you know, when when you think you know what’s going to happen? You should probably read ask him first. Yes, because I think he knows a little better. So just what I gave up, I think well, it’s probably not going to happen. I was 36 or so. And then the cards began to fall into place, which would move me from Las Vegas, Nevada to to Nashville, Tennessee, and start my career there. And when it happened, it just exploded. But I’m still the same guy was back on the farm. My wife and I have two sons Kim and I’ve been married 29 years gorgeous woman that she is yes. Grace me with two beautiful sons are both known. Born in Nashville,
Tennessee. Well done, sir. Well done. Yeah.
And I never thought I’d have two Southern kids, but living in the south long enough. And they were both born in Nashville. And Dalton, our older boy just proposed to his girlfriend who is a Vandy grad, and he he’s getting a PhD in cancer research at Vanderbilt. Wow. And he’s 2026 and his, his brother 22 is a chancellor scholar at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. So I have these wonderful sons and my wife and I guarantee you I mean, we have a celebrity life. Yes, but around our neighborhood. We’re just mom and pop carpool. You know, I mean, we take we went live there for those those years in grammar school, early years, all the way through high school, went on to the games everything always taught them to do their practices and everything you know, so we know missed those opportunities even though you have this overshadowing thing that takes you out on the road constantly and keeps you in front of the public eye. So we we try to push that kind of thing away. When we’re in the house always let my kids know we’re going to work in general what we do. Wow.
So so you grew up the kitchen at 17 you you toured the you did the casino tour. And you were discovered by Jerry Crutchfield MCA music, I think,
interesting story about that I, because I played piano bar as well. My mother was a piano player. Yes. played piano and mandolin actually and, and we had a little piano in our, in our trailer where we were raised on a farm and I was allowed to play it generally in the dark. And I there was two reasons I think for that my grandmother was pretty smart, in fact that she knew if I couldn’t see the keys, I’d have a better ear for the for the music kind of like a blind person. Which I would later hire a blind keyboard player by the way of Gordon Mote, you probably know who that is. He’s from attalla, Alabama, and as a great Christian career. And so I learned from him as well. But I, as a kid, I’m playing piano and and, and my grandmother, I think kept the lights out maybe because electricity was expensive. Yes, maybe that was my motivation. But I learned to play by ear. So am I playing piano bar in Vegas at the Tropicana hotel, and and I’d had several gigs around town with my I had bands of all kinds. I had the Lee Greenwood affair, I had the modsquad I had different kind of names of bands that have wrote music for major shows. But this is a time when the economy hit and I pretty much had to reduce, you know, my overhead so I would work alone. And I actually made a lot more money working alone, you know, just playing camera. And so I bought a record 45 record at the time. And it was please come to Boston. And I loved the song because it was written by Dave Loggins from East Tennessee and I and I still keep it in my show, by the way, but I I not only played it, but then I looked at the label on the record and found out who the producer was. And the producer was Jerry Crutchfield, who ran MCI music in Nashville, Tennessee, he had also had several double awards for producing for other artists, including Tanja Tucker. And, and so I I got on the phone, and I called him and i and i got the number. You know, it’s not like you get the phone now. I know that a and so he was a singer. He came to town with his brothers. And they’re from Paducah, Kentucky. And so he had lost his voice. So my best interpretation would be Hello, just Jerry crutchfield. And he said, yeah, this is Jerry, who’s this? And could he his voice had gone away over the years for some reason, you know? And I said, I’m a singer in Las Vegas. And I said, I’d like to audition for you. that quick. He said, Well, I I’m going to Los Angeles next week. I’ll stop in Vegas can see it. Just like that. Wow. Wow. So he he came and saw me I think at the time I’d moved over to the Flamingo Hilton hotel where I would have my own band again called the affair. And I’m opening for Bill medley, one of the righteous brothers. Yeah. And Elvis was in the main room. And so we’re kind of that, that period of time.
This is about 1974.
Let’s move further. The net 76 I think
okay. 76 was Elvis’s last year to sing in Vegas.
Right. And and so he said, I like what you do said I’m going to set up a session for you in Los Angeles. And we went with Johnny Hobbs, a famous gambler at the time, got a quintet together and went in, did four songs on tape and then set him to Nashville and Jim focus on at the MCA Records label said I like him. He’s different than the artists I just hired, which included George Strait, Reba McIntyre, Barbara Mandrell, and the Oakridge boys. Wow. And so we’re on the same label together. I went there about a year later, recorded another demo with some of the songs I’d written with a Mel Tillis band who was a friend of mine. And then I got the call and said, We want you to come to Nashville, and stay here. And I had to give up everything I knew in Vegas. And that was tough because I’d been there a long time. Yes, I did. And the rest is history.
So I heard that your grandma started you out playing some Stan kitten. Or maybe that was one of the first songs you learn to play by ear.
Yes. Yes. As I mentioned, I played piano at night and my mother was rarely home. I didn’t know my father was 15. So basically, I was on my own, and I was on a short leash. You know, from my grandparents. They were like, if I was going to go out and play with a band, she would bring the bandleader in and make them sit in the living room and and promised that I’d be home right after breakfast, we’d close the bar at two o’clock. I go downtown North Sacramento and have a little somebody in a little diner, and I’d be home because I had to be up at 630 to run track. And so I would just have like three or four hours sleep it, if I was never home is the last time I go out and play with them. So I’ve used the piano as a way to learn songs that I would play. But I was playing sax when more than sing and I wasn’t necessarily I was playing, I was singing in church, okay, I sang the First Baptist Church from the time I was 12 till I was 15. But but I wasn’t really a singer. So I use my ear in order to learn songs off the record. So we had a 78 record of artistry and rhythm, arranged by Stan Kenton, which is he was the father American jazz. And I put it on the turntable and put that little needle down and just listened to it and listen to it and listen to it until I figured out every voicing just by ear, yeah, on a piano. And that’s, I think, my music teacher, Fred Cooper, at in high school at naughty Del Rio high school where I would eventually graduate from, he said, You know, I don’t think you’re going to go to college. So I’m going to give the opportunity to learn music theory, and I learned that in high school, thanks to Fred. And so just learning things by ear like that and applying them to all of the instruments in the band and saxophone became my main instrument, but I played all I played trumpet as you did. Yes, yes. And, and few other instruments just to kind of learn what the ranges were now I have a son 22 is doing the same thing.
Yeah, Parker will say is 10 kidding? Some really experimental stuff, right? I mean, he changed quite a bit. I think he was playing at the Flamingo as well in the early 1960s. Has he had the great live with the Flamingo? 6162 something like that
is before I got there. But yeah, but I you know, in that same era code, the big bands, you can still afford to hire a big band, but you know, yeah, it got it got less and less and less and less after a while you and I love playing and big bands. I mean, good. Gosh,
yeah. Like Yeah, fabulous. And so so when you were running around Vegas, you had Elvis you probably I think Tom Jones was was around there as well. The same time.
We met at the Riviera one night with a friend of mine, and we were setting in a little lounge seat together in the main room after his show or before things started happening and for the afternoon, and I commented on his cufflinks, and he went here. You have the Wow. Wow. I really don’t want to thank you. Yeah, yeah,
yeah, so you also had Sinatra was probably running around there again, because he retired in 71 came back like 7475 something like that. Who Sinatra. Oh, yeah.
wasn’t able to talk to Sinatra, though. I was friends with Sammy Davis. Okay. Yeah. And he always had the great parties to Caesars Palace. But But you know, the Martin occasion we’d run into each other and one of the one of the casinos. But Sinatra you never never talked to Sinatra?
Yeah. But it was a unique type of energy that was in Vegas. I mean, if if one of those guys was in town, I mean, there was energy in all the casinos, one of them might walk in.
Yeah, there was a frenzy. And they’ve always come into a casino in a group, you know. And of course, security had to keep everybody away. But they did that as a publicity thing, you know, to keep keep keep the movement of the Rat Pack alive. Yeah. And we just like backed off and get away from that. Do you know?
Did you ever run into Elvis?
Oh, yeah. Many times. As a matter of fact, when I was playing at the Flamingo at the Hilton, we would always precede his show, we had the largest lounge in town. 1500 seats. Wow. And there was only 800 seats in the main room. And so when Elvis would come in, it would be just before he show, he could walk right on my stage and say, Hey, hi, everybody, you know, and like, we’re here reduced to about this big. At that point. You know, you know, Elvis was very religious. But yes, you know that. Yes, yes. And a very good friend of mine, TG Shepherd, have been friends for many years. He’s one of the few people have the TCB necklace made out of diamonds. It means taking care of business, okay, there was only six or seven of them. And he was so close to Elvis that when he and Elvis would retire for the evening. He would sort of sit there while Elvis would read the Bible until Elvis fell asleep. And then he took his glasses off in the bar and put it next to his bed. Stand Up Close the door. Let him let him go to bed. Wow. That’s how close tg wasn’t. We talked about occasionally about our run ins with Elvis and, you know, Elvis was a wonderful person. He was just, he was too good to everybody around him. And then everybody around him, gave him whatever he wanted, which included drugs. Yes, yes.
Yes. And so probably at the time he was divorced from solar on 73 singing to Vegas will 76 I believe so you were you were there. You know, single Elvis probably a little bit on the plumper side a little bit little
Yeah, he’d hit kind of blown up a little bit by that time. Yeah, it was sad at the end. I hate to see singers or entertainers get like that at the end of their career when they were so powerful that you know at the beginning in the middle of their career, but then things began to reduce and they forget who they are. Yeah, I think and and they let their vices consume them. Yes. And but he still it was a wonderful person. I liked him.
Yes. So I want to know who 1985 you have to kind of fast forward about a decade in 1985 you have a monster year just just an amazing monster year, same year. You want Song of the Year for God bless the USA off Recently, you were nominated for CMA, top Male Vocalist of the Year for the bat the great ballot IOU.
When a Grammy
for that grant, okay, Grammy nominee, yes, yes. You won vocal during the year for your duet with Barbara mandrill. And then you also were nominated for Entertainer of the Year,
never got on me for entertaining the year but I went Male Vocalist of the Year 83 and 84 and ACM Academy country music also 183. About 85 was the crowning success where we won Song of the Year for God bless USA at the same way. And that was, that’s a big deal in Yeah, yeah, I have that credit.
So musicians like to speak about paying their dues. It seems like between 1975 and 1985, you, you probably were paying your dues. In that terminology, what was happening in that timeframe?
I guess, in my pursuit of my career. And I was late when I got to Nashville and started my career at 37. Yeah, I was really struggling trying to find out where I would land. Because being in Nevada at 17 years old, and then that bubble, we play all kinds of music. There was no country on the horizon. Yes. And, and my country’s success would come at a time when it was meant to be but there were others like me, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie milsap, and a few others who had the same kind of r&b approach, but my background is more like, I mean, if you if you look at the wide spectrum of people I would listen to anywhere from, you know, the association, Mamas and papas a fifth dimension, elton john, Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand. I mean, you have to throw them all in a pile and say, What the heck were you listening to? To bring you to country music? Yes, very little country. I mean, I liked Ronnie milsap an awful lot. I liked his approach. Because he again was a schooled musician. blind from birth, but no, I don’t think he was blind from birth. I think he’d lost his eyesight. But it just I love that kind of approach to the music. I’m a. I’m a James Taylor fan. Really? I’m an elton john fan. I mean, those things really inspire me. I’m a Beatle fan. I mean, that when the Beatles took over the English invasion came, I was all over that. I mean, you know, we did MacArthur Park to in one of our shows there. from Richard Harris. Yes. Did some of the Beatles songs I had, I had my own show that I when I was in between bands, and I hired a group from the musician’s union, and had a great piano conductor named Rudy Egan, who was my mentor for many years. And, and we wrote the whole show for 15 piece orchestra and hire them. And I did from beginning to end and I came in we did Ella Novick B, that that that what kind of a jazz approach you know, but it was just everybody kind of figured I was gonna make it. I mean, I had a lot of fans in Vegas and Reno. And and because I was responsible for producing music for reviews. I would write my music for free give them to producers so my band could get the gig. Wow. Yeah. And I had like show after show after show for five or six years in a row all award winning shows. I was the bass player singer for bear touch of Vegas, which won seven years awards in a row and we open it the landmark, then we’re at the Stardust, and then the marina in different switching around at that time, in 73 to 76. I was dealing cards at the Tropicana
Well, we call the 2120. Yeah, that’s how it’s gonna happen.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was before they let you surrender and do all the kind of crazy stuff they do today, I imagine.
Well, yeah, I mean, anybody surrendered? And I thought was foolish. But yeah, I dealt 21, Baccarat, and roulette, okay. And I was there for three and a half years and then while our show was at the Stardust, so I was doubling, work 11 to seven dealing cards. And then our first show was eight o’clock to start us and then we, our line of girls. were booked to do the opening for Paul Anka at Caesar’s Palace for three weeks. So I tripled for three weeks and and got about two hours sleep a night. It’s like he kind of you know why I did that is because it wasn’t for the money necessarily. It was because I wanted to find out how much I could do. Sure. Where’s my breaking point? You know, do I really have a cap?
Yeah. And what’s the farmer mentality during harvest? We’ll see how much I can do. I’m not gonna harvest this morning. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. So one of the things we like to do sort of find is want to give you a gift. The deal with a gift is I want you to tell me a story about why I gave you the gift. And you already you already spoke to that. Okay, a second ago, but there’s little tear tab I think on the on the back of it right there. And we can send that to if you don’t have room to take
this you have an openness. So you know really what’s in here. Well, I think I will find out. Okay, so it’s like a FedEx envelope open that and you open this and then you bring out this album.
Oh my gosh, I don’t
I don’t know if you follow those guys Dizzy Gillespie
and, and the bird.
Yeah, Charlie Parker.
So that felonious monk, you know, Thelonious Monk, they did an interview with him at one time and said, what governs? The changes of a song? Where does the melody go based upon the and he said, anything is good? absolutely anything, even if it’s dissonance, as long as it’s going somewhere while it’s on it leads somewhere for a bass player. It’s like, pretty amazing. Yeah, piano player. Buddy Rich course. I knew buddy. Rich. You did? Yeah, you did. Yep.
Of course he he is one of the pick up the pieces after staying kitten kind of went went by the wayside and count basically went by the wayside. So he was the next big thing, man. I think
I’m a huge fan of the Dorsey’s you know, Earl Bostic, you know, when I play saxophone, I think of robotic in here. Yeah. And Illinois, Jacquet, Sam de terre, who played with Louis premine. And the and the witness, I would go in and watch their their set. After I finish my set at the Sahara. We had our shit well our shows after there’s actually we started. Our first show was four in the morning. The second was 515 in the morning, we’re off. That’s a hard schedule to take because you don’t know when to go to sleep. And so I always go in early and listen to Sam bittern and the witnesses and Sam Butera was like,
how did you did you ever hear the album of Buddy Rich where his daughter gets up and sings? I did not. Okay, so this is a crazy, crazy story you couldn’t do these days. This is a great gift by the way. It’s a cool gift. It’s cool. So those these guys are kind of the anti Vegas guy like this is Oh, yeah, the Bebop. They don’t believe in the big band. Now. They’re New York. Yes. Yeah. These are jazz guys. And so Buddy Rich big bands playing his daughters in the audience. his daughter’s like 1011 years old. And they call her up. Of course, it’s like 130 in the morning. It’s in Vegas. And his daughter gets up there to sing. The beat goes on. Classic. She gets up and she’s drunk. He’s been letting her drink all night. 1011 years old. She’s drunk. Oh, and they had this live album that’s out there. And she gets up there and she just nails it. And he just nails it just just, I mean, like, no problem whatsoever.
That’s talent for you.
Yeah, yeah. So you’ve got Buddy Rich, you also had Maynard first and they came out of that Stan kitten band and Bobby shoe. After that playing played trumpet. I mean, all those guys just ever everyone that was in Vegas during that time period, just had a flood of musical talent just kind of just leak out to the rest of the world.
The same thing happened in pop music. Not too much classical classical always stay with the same what it is this way my my board Parker’s kind of learning about more classical. But yeah, jazz evolved. Contemporary kind of snuck into jazz a little in the jazz snuck into everything. I really believe that if, if you’re going to be a good musician, you have to start with the basics of Bach and Beethoven and Haydn and a few others, and then move to jazz. And after jazz then you go anywhere you go rock, you know, hip hop even. Yeah, certainly. Certainly adult contemporary music. This is great. Thank you.
You’re welcome. You’re welcome. You have Mohawk you got all the celebration. Yeah. Yeah. So and I think I think those guys intellectually are probably superior than a lot of the big band guys as well. I mean, that the context that the texture the, what they’re doing with chord changes in Bebop is is really, really sophisticated. And you really start to see that and how that crosses over into, into the big band goes back and forth, especially in the Latin big bands.
Let me ask you a question. Do you remember the song Cherokee? Yeah. Okay. So the, the beginning of the song, the vs. song is real. It’s an instrumental not not not a vocal.
I never heard the words to it. I’ve only heard the instrument.
There was never any words. So at the beginning of my career, I was 14 years old. My mother gets a gig plan at the adjacent High School. And she wants to show off for a little kid. So bring your saxophone over come over, you know and play. And so I get my horn and I’m nervous and you know, these guys are all professional. And, and a guy said, Okay, we’re gonna play Cherokee, you know that? Yeah, I did not know the bridge. And so that’s it’s easy to add to the bridge. Just say along good. We get to the bridge. I was like, last dddddd I was like, I had no clue where she was so embarrassed. She never asked me to play again. I was like, I’m sorry.
That was an F normally wasn’t it wasn’t jerky. And if I don’t remember, I can’t remember that
they might have played something else to make it easy for me because I had an E flat sax.
Oh, yeah. Tell Yeah, yeah. So you’ve always been really outspoken with your political views, your views on faith? More so than a lot of famous musicians? What? Why is that? Why do you feel you feel a need to speak out?
Well, make no mistake, I don’t use my stage as a pulpit. Yes, I do not talk about my politics unless I’m playing for a conservative group. And they know that, you know, I mean, I did a couple of Trump rallies where there were people there. I did some things for Ronald Reagan, you know, played the White House and stuff. I’m a Reagan, I had to go all the way back there. But when I’m on stage, I’m just a generic entertainer. I try not to let that flow from me because I know other tenors made that mistake. And I don’t want to alienate me that to tell the truth. You know, I have an awful lot of friends on both sides of the aisles. Yes. And they appreciate that as well. I don’t drive that home. Now. If I’m touring with the president, or I’m touring with somebody, I’m campaigning for them. Sure. I’ll mention it right away. I’ll do newspaper things or whatever until tell why I’m supporting that candidate.
You have probably the most patriotic song in all of America. I think CBS call it the the most patriotic song ever. You wrote it and you mentioned that you’re you wrote a lot of music how what was the writing process like to come up with God bless the USA.
I was touring so heavily that I could not spend time at home writing. So I was always on the bus, we would come home. The songs that my producer and I would have chosen, we might set aside 2530 songs it’d be one or two of mine in the pile. And I was proud to say that one of my on my first 10 albums, I had at least one song and every one of the 10 albums. We had some great writers with Jerry Crutchfield at MCA music, he had first call on so much I was a hit artist. Our first song It turns me Inside Out broke charts like never before 22 weeks on the charts, longest running record at the time. And so we really people pouring music into us, but I I was still writing. And, and so God bless the USA was just one of those, I think was like 83 and a fall. And the reason I got to that point, I think I’ve written several other songs during that year. But I knew that God bless USA was not going to be a record release for me. I wanted to put it on the album called you got a good love come in, which is our third album. And then we had a greatest hits album as well, in order to just signify that I have a love for my country. And I’ve had this since I was a teenager, I believed in it I did uso shows at the age of 14 1516 at McClellan and Air Force Base, right near my home in Sacramento, my first international tour was to Alaska before it was a state that I was just out of high school. And, and so I just I wanted to profess how much I love the country. And I’d been seeing a lot of servicemen and how sacrifice including my father, which we didn’t talk much about that when I did get to know him. But he was, you know, he was respected for his service. And I, I respect him for that. So I’m like, maybe, maybe, maybe it’s time to write that. And it’s a couple of things in the news at the time. I kind of tried to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world. And there was some conflict, but the Russians and and America and, and I don’t know, it just spirits inspired me to to write that song that night. So I write it. It’s not quite done, you know, but I took it home and I played it for my producer Jerry and he said, Well, I really liked that it’s, you know, but you got it done yet. And then I hadn’t really pinpointed the cities. Yes. Because I could have put Seattle, Miami, you know, New York, LA I wanted because the population centers. It’s just you have to say New York and LA Detroit at the time course Motown was very possible. The largest economy for the United States. Houston, of course, because of the oil. Yes. And, and then I made I mentioned Texas twice, because just a big state. Yes. And it just kind of all flowed after that. You know, and, and I knew that if I mentioned different cities. I had a shot of getting popular in that city, you know, at some time in the future. So we had the album you got a good love coming. We filmed the video in the London train station. Patrick Duffy was on that as from the cast to Dallas as my friend was a cameo. And we were psyched for summer release on this. And for the for the very first time. Jerry Crutchfield and I agreed to take my album to play for Los Angeles. So I’m going to back up and tell you what happened to bring God bless USA to the forefront, okay. Marilyn mccoo from the fifth dimension was a friend. And on my third or fourth song that we had released, I got invited to do her television show in Los Angeles called solid gold as a guest, you can do whatever songs you want, and I did, I think a couple of the songs that I just released. And it’s Halloween night 1983 and I flew out from Nashville That afternoon, and I had a cassette of god bless the USA that I just demoed in, in Nashville. Geron I’d listened to it, it’s going to be on the album, we decided to put it on the album. And so I finished the taping for solid gold, Maryland and I exchanged greetings at the end. She gives me a bottle of champagne. Thanks for coming, come back again. You know when you can I go out and I get in my limo. It is 810 or so. I don’t fly till the red eye which is 130 in the morning to Nashville that that time they had. I don’t they still may. And I’m like, What am I gonna do for four hours, you know? And so I asked the limo driver, I said, Where does Irving Azoff live at the time. Irving Azoff was the president of universal, which of course, MCA was part of universal as a natural label.
Take me there. Halloween night. So we drive into Hollywood, into Beverly Hills, right in front of his house, not a gated community. There’s about 15 yards between the limo and on the street and his front door. Irving gates off is standing in the front door. It’s open. His three little children dressed as bumblebees go trick or treating. off they go. And he stand there, seeing the limo pull up, figured somebody he knows. So I get out of the car, grab the champagne, what the heck, you know, and I walked right over to him. reach in and grab the cassette out of my pocket and I said jerker tree. You know what he said? What? Who are you? First, who are you? And I said, I’m Lee Greenwood. I’m on your Nashville label. Oh, yeah. Okay, come on in. So we go inside. He said, What do you got? I said, Well, a song I wrote that my producer and I think is valuable enough to put on the album. We have a new album easy. You got a project? Yes. I didn’t tell him what we chosen the single. I said, but yeah, we got an upcoming album. He put it in, listen to the whole thing. Three minutes and 14 seconds, whatever it man. Is it interesting. He said when you finish the project, bring it to me. Okay, here’s what that this was my god steps in because I, you know, we had never let Los Angeles control us. We were a separate profit center for Reba May the Oaks bar mandro. We don’t want la tell us what to produce otherwise become la music. Yes. And so this album, our fourth now we said, let’s see, we can’t get Los Angeles behind us on this one. So we fly to LA. We go into the office. He’s got all the pop boys there. They don’t know. I’m from Los Angeles. So I guess they do any research on me. They don’t have the ability to do that at that time. And so we played the whole album. And so he puts his feet up on the desk and looks at me and he said, What do you think ought to be the single? I knew what the single was going to be already. And I said, I kind of looked at Jerry and Jerry and I kind of just like, you know, maybe let him make the choice. So I said, What do you think? And he said, God bless the USA. Well, I did not he had not said that USA would have been buried in that album. It would have never been heard. And we wouldn’t have had that song. That’s right. That would have been my song. Now, maybe something would come up later. But we don’t know that. Sure.
Sure. 20 years later, 911 hits and you and Kimberly Find yourself a few days afterwards. at Ground Zero.
Yes. I get the call from Mayor Giuliani. And you have to realize that God bless USA was already used in the Gulf War by General Schwarzkopf was already used for Katrina and rebuilding the Gulf Coast. So at this particular time, everybody kind of knows the song.
but he wants me to be there. Marc Anthony’s gonna sing. America the Beautiful bet Midler is going to sing the wind beneath my wings, which I was the first one to record that by the way. And then they want me to sing god bless the USA at the Firemen’s Memorial. Were 300 firemen were killed. And it was a it was gut wrenching. The New Jersey police brought us in with a boat, right? Because you couldn’t come in by by car. And I was just, you know, hard to explain this tension in the air was the thing got me the most is human flesh. We would then sing at the farm tomorrow. And then on YouTube, you’ll have a version with my red white and blue jacket at the fourth Game of the World Series,
which is also on Halloween. Wearing the black leather gloves. Yes, correct.
Yeah, which I hated the I was cold. But you know, I looked at the video and the gloves. Really, they weren’t. They were they were cool. I was freezing. So ended up the Diamondbacks and winning winning that series of seven games. But New York pulled it out twice, and gained five and six. But it was interesting, because then suddenly, God bless you say had a new place. And we became all of America now become aware of it. Not just the military, not just the country music community, or the pop community. But now everybody knew the song. It wasn’t long after that for Janet politano asked if we could play it in the in the welcome message for new citizens. And I said yes. And it is still there.
Wow. Wow. I remember you specifically on a game for the World Series. I think half the world was was figuring out why in the world is crazy Americans having a game to see that we just attacked a month, 50 days, 50 days prior to that. And you get up to saying and somehow some way America’s in mourning, when you start to sing in somehow, some way halfway through the song, you can feel America start to heal.
I felt it too. And it was it was powerful. And unlike that the time at the tape, we’re talking now as a pandemic, we’re just getting over the pandemic. But as the time of that, we could all hug and embrace and share the grief and the pandemic we’d not been able to do that we’d actually separate ourselves from each other, which is really rough, because we’re not that kind of people. You know, we want to feel touch each other shake hands, you know, embrace our family. Stephens been unable to do that. So yes,
yes. In your book does God’s so bless the USA, you actually open with talking about 911, I can tell you page 18 I started tearing up first talking about walking into ground zero, and just the eerie silence and then page 20. I think as you’re speaking about the World Series game, just really phenomenally written. It really, really was well written.
Well, I have a previous book that we released with Pelican publishing years ago, was called God bless the USA the biography of a song rather than the author. Okay, now, I am the author. So I’m gonna go ahead and write about it. And then when we wrote, Does God still bless the USA? It was the question, are we still the same rest Western nation that got started leaving Great Britain fought a revolution in order to gain our independence? And based on faith, are we still that faithful nation? And that’s what inspired that book. My wife and I wrote that one together. It was tough. Yes. And you’ve got the 30 days, patriotic devotions at the end as
well. He actually wrote that she did. Wow. Those are powerful. short, short, but powerful. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. So what was the thinking behind writing the book? Was it a? Was there something happening in America around that timeframe that made you think about that? Or was it something that maybe you just want to be able to show people that God’s still here God’s still present? He’s still imminent working through us?
How old were you? When when 911 hit 2001?
I would have been 22.
Okay, wait, you’re still aware. My boys are 22 and 26. Now, but they were three and six to time. It didn’t take long for us to wear off. grief. Yes. You know, America needs to sport. America needs us entertainment. We need our freedom. We need our free of lifestyle. And we got back to it pretty quick. So within five years, and I came to New York four or five times after that, for the New York Stock Exchange, and we sang for the orphans. We sang for the families that were that lost people in the Trade Towers. And I just it got it got to bother me that people sort of as they moved away from the grief of the of the terrorists Attack. And thank goodness bush 43 was in power, the time is president. So he made the right decisions about keeping terrorism away from the continent, the continental United States. And it just seemed to me like, people were turning away from faith to,
are you doing that? You know? And we did more of it, not less. And so that’s, that’s what inspired you know, the book? Yeah.
It seems to be like God uses grief, God uses pain to get our attention sometimes.
You know, it’s easy. If you’re a Christian, you have you have that example, in your life to say, all for the greater good of God. I don’t care if it’s bad or good. There’s a message here, there’s a reason he’s doing this. And, and because you’d say, Well, why did he let that child die? You know, why do we let all these soldiers die in war? Well, there’s a message there, and we’ll learn it later on. Because he knows the answer.
That’s right. That’s right. Were there any specific challenges that you faced, we spoke about your childhood. But that would maybe have been a turning point for you, where you realize, oh, I’ve got a choice to make here. Either I can be a victim or I can be a victor.
No, I don’t think I was driven as a kid. You know. It and the two driving forces were sports and music.
And I just pursued that with a passion. I think I lost my religion when I left Sacramento. And those years in Nevada, in our pursuing my career, so, so hard, it was a couple of failed marriages, you know, just, and I think I was looking for family, and I didn’t find it. And those those women have children, you know, still that were very close from those marriages. But it wasn’t until I got back to Nashville, started touring, and ran into this woman. You know, Kimberly Paine, who brought me back to Faith, her family’s serious faith, we just lost Kim’s mother last year. very unfortunate. And her father’s still alive at the time of this taping. He’s 86. And just just a wonderful, wonderful, Christian. He goes to the gospel singers in Florida, still. And so I went down there recently with him, and I got to get on stage with the triumphant quartet and sing alive. And we were huge fans of the cathedrals. That was his favorite gospel group, as was ours as well. I sang with Glenn Payne, before he passed as well on an album. And you know, we whenever Jim Payne, my wife’s father comes to the house now, we’ll go to the Alexa Hey, Alexa, play the cathedrals. So then he can listen to the cathedrals.
Yeah, yeah. So how did you finally answer the question? Does God still bless the USA?
Well, if you have to get the book to find that out, but I do give my opinion at the back. But basically, I just, you know, I, I think the jury’s still out. I mean, God doesn’t bless a country, he blesses people, and only if we have faith, will he, you know, bless us, because we have to turn to him for the answers. And we have to rely on him for our path in life. And if you think you’ve got the answer, well, then he’s not going to bless you in the end. And I mean, you know, ask a few of those that he’s that he’s turned around. Yes. Yeah. Try Saul.
So you wear your faith, very, very publicly. What is your What does your faith mean to you? You’ve outworked all of us for an extended period of time. What is your faith meant through that? Do you work the hard part? Because you’re you have a faith that that requires you to work hard? Or is it sort of the opposite? I mean, what what is the what is the interplay between your work and your faith?
I pursue my profession. for a couple of reasons. I love the spirit of music that flows through me. I have a very unique quality to be able to, to communicate with my audience. There’s an awful lot of entertainers, I learned that from then go all the way back to Elvis if you want Kenny Rogers I watched him perform I toured with him for two or three years. Yeah. There’s a magic that happens if an artist can connect with an audience. And so that that’s my that’s my reason for singing and continuing I’m 78 or 79 shortly, probably in a tour now the year but I I have enjoyed what I do. And I know that through me, God is going to reach a lot of people. Yes. And so if I walked the walk, you know and I talked the talk I mean, there’s there’s a lot of people are gonna say I want to know what drives you. I want to know why you’re so strong in your faith. And then I’ll sit down and tell them, but I want them to ask me that question.
Great. You mentioned Kenny Rogers. Sometimes when you’re saying I consider you the the pioneer of crossover. I mean, you can you can sing anything country jazz, contemporary. I can hear Kenny Rogers in your voice. I can. I can also hear Michael Bolton, your voice? Maybe I hear you and Michael Bolton’s voice. I’m not sure what it is. But what? What’s going on in your mind? I mean, it. Are you are you purposely changing how you sound based off with it with the type of the music is? Or is it just your voice? Your voice has so much flexibility in it that it can transform the piece itself?
Yeah, I don’t. I had it because we both understand jazz, Rick, I had to relearn how I wrote music and how I interpreted it. When I got to Nashville, our very first song It turns me inside out was very unlike something I had done prior. When we get to our second hit ring on her finger time on her hands. Now I can push that envelope a little bit. The second song Jan Crutchfield wrote for me, after it turns my inside was a song called she’s lion. It was on the same album. At this juncture. Now I can really expose my range. And at the end of the song, instead of doing verse, chorus, verse chorus, we did verse, verse, chorus. And I went ahead and and just gave him my high notes, you know, at the end of that, and I still do that on stage. Because at that point, people went, Oh, wait, he’s not Kenny Rogers, you know, because all of those soft nodes were much like the way Kenny saying, I also developed a vibrato in my voice, which was very similar to Kennedy’s, but I didn’t get it from Kenny I got it from Tata Vega, who was a background singer for Stevie Wonder. And that was just a chance meeting in Los Angeles. Wow, when I found out that when you use your chest for for your vibrato instead of your throat, it comes out like this. And there’s even jokes in Nashville, you know, it’s like, here comes he. People make fun of me for it. And I made a lot of money on it. So I’m okay with that. And Kenny had that same vibrato and just developed differently from different places. Yeah, but became my signature. And and it would it would be on some of the later songs as well. But that first album has some great songs when we came to ain’t no trick. A no trick on the same album was basically exposing r&b roots. I mean, you know, that’s, that’s totally different than it turns me inside out, which was a tear jerking ballad.
And then in 2011, you recovered by Beyonce.
The men who died
for God bless the USA with the gold microphone, and that
and that was she was trying to emulate your r&b roots sound Well, yes,
she was and that was flattering. We never met and but she donated all the money she made from that recording to the firemen in New York. I congratulate her for that.
Wow. Wow. And then that middler covered your wind beneath my wings, which I had thought that that was that was very operatic in nature.
It was. Yeah. And and so was Gary Morris’s version of the song in country because he did. He did lemmas on Broadway, powerful singer, and and totally different version than mine or bet medlars. But I talked to Larry Henley, the one of the writers, and he said, the way you interpreted it was the way I thought it should have been done. Yes. But I mean, look at the motion picture was in with Bette Midler saying what’s called beaches.
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
And she was famous for singing it in getting over the credit. She won a Grammy as well. Yeah. And to have her sing in at the, at the farmers Memorial couldn’t have been more perfect. Yes. I even asked my wife who was there. We’re standing with Marc Anthony, and I said, I just I feel I should be singing Amazing Grace. I said, you should God bless. The USA is the right song here. And she said, they want it they want to hear you sing it. So we did.
Yeah. Wow. Wow. This is the pre JLo Mark Anthony.
Different Mark Anthony. What? What one other cover that you do is Michael Bolton’s from Hercules I forgot which which song that was but I remember is called go the distance. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.
About I think my best cover Okay, I mean I do go to digital my show cuz I love it. I actually saw it at Disney World. Not Disney World. Universal. I think they put on the plays there live. And I heard it person sing it in the show. I went, Oh my gosh, that’s a great song. I hadn’t even heard it could I hadn’t seen the animated movie. Yes. And so when I heard it, the movie went well there’s a pop version of that Michael Bolton so and and I really love it now hates. I mean, he wears the high range out. You know, I hate doing that. I can get that high. But I don’t like it. But let me tell you the time i think that i i did the best cover ever. I played piano bar for a number of years. So I sang songs from everybody. And I love the song, sometimes when we touch. So I’m on tour with Kenny Rogers. And there was some things that led up to that tour. I had a bus wreck out of Madison, Wisconsin that almost killed my couple members of my band. I’m opening the next night in Ohio. I’m the lead act at The Ohio State Fair Sylvia’s my opening act. And to make a long story short, I kept the band with me. We flew in and got on stage and everybody was injured except me because I wasn’t in the band bus. I had my own band bus. The next night, we open up in Montreal, Canada, with Kenny Rogers, who had to fly into Canada. And I had to replace my bass player with my manager at the time because he played bass for Mel Tillis and knew my music player Mick Faden, who by blesses hearts gone now. And so I go to Kenny, before the show, God bless USA is big at this point. And I said, Kenny, I’m a little uncomfortable. You know, the French Canadians, I’m gonna get lynched here. And he said, do it. Yeah. So we can’t, he was. So I think was t Graham Brown was on first or Sawyer Brown. I can’t remember, which was the opening act we had at that time. Both were great. So I did a little research. And I found out that sometimes when we touch was written by Dan Hill, Dan Hill is from Montreal, Canada.
So what could be more perfect. So I opened I taught I went and wrote the chart for my band that night. And they they played Jean Lorenzo form of my keyboard player was formerly with Kenny Rogers in the first edition. Julia graduate, he knew exactly how to play it. Yes. And, and, and I can play to the piano and sing it as well. But I wanted him to do I killed it. You know, sometimes when we touch, the artist is too much. And at the ends got that real high note that Dan Hill, thank goodness. I think it’s getting the gees are high D and the audience stood up and applauded. Because in Canada, you have to have 75% of Canadian music played on radio of Canadian artists, really. 25% can be International. So they really love their people. And David Foster’s from Canada, a good friend of mine, and Celine Dion. I mean, you know, Michael blue blade named named the axe. And so, at the end after my show, I did a 40 minute set, then I did God bless you were saved. And again, they stand up.
Wow, cool. Wow. Wow.
So I think that was my best cover ever. Yes. onstage? I didn’t go. I didn’t do it again. hardly at all. And went back to just all the country things that I normally do.
What what happens over time to the human voice, especially the male human voice. So you think of someone like Lauren Harris? Michael Bolton, you? I mean, it seems like somewhere in their 60s, the voice starts getting stronger. It sounds stronger anyway. What?
Yeah, that’s not the case for Steve Perry, who is no, you know, journey and he lost his voice. I spoke about Jerry Crutchfield, who was a singer at one time, and he lost his ability to sing. I believe that Whitney Houston, who had one of the greatest voices that I’ve ever known, I believe it was two things that that caused her to die. And it wasn’t drowning in the bathtub. I think she had let her voice go. And if you saw the end of her career, just like Elvis his end of his career, it was a shame that just didn’t really have the chops that she had before. And I think when Clive Davis asked her to sing that, that night at the opening of the awards, I think she was scared to death to sing scared to get to get on stage. And I think that’s why she resorted into what she knew drugs. Yes. And so when she got in the bathtub, the drugs just basically passed out and then she drowned. But it was the fear of getting on stage and not having the voice. That will never happen to me, Rick, if I get to the point where I can’t sing and I know that I won’t go on stage tonight for my charity here in Houston. I quit. I will not come on stage and not be what the people expect. back to here. I took my wife for our 10th anniversary to a 20th anniversary to the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida to see Andrew pucelli. Wow. And I’m curious, I’m such a fan. Can he possibly be that good at this age? Yes, he can. So it gives me It gives me courage to know that yes, as long as I have faith in Him, yes. And and I have a prayer team. Every morning we talk. And I tell them in my PR team, I said, I have to go to do this gig and I am. I’m nervous. I haven’t saying at all in 2020. Hardly. We did seven shows. So gearing up to 100%. That’s a real chore. Yes. I mean, it’s hard work. I’m out in the house screaming I’m playing the piano, everything I know. And for two or three days, my wife says can you please go downstairs? And so I don’t know what it is genetically. I’m blessed. I never had my tonsils taken out at a time when all my generation did while I’m Vietnam era. And so maybe the tonsils have given my vocal cords strength I never smoked. That’s another key. Yes, Nat King Cole smoke, but he had this great voice till the end of his career. But he didn’t have the kind of power voice that I had yet nice, soft, easy voicings. And so I just, I’m blessed with the ability to sing, but I don’t abuse it. And I really, you know, I’m grateful for it.
We spoke through a number of the real power singers in the 1980s. The Whitney or Steve Perry, one of the lesser remembered power singers in the 1980s was Sandy Patty. Good friend and I was just thinking about that a few years ago, many years ago, George HW Bush, you were awarded the points of light or with Sandi Patty. She She appeared with you.
We We are at Disney World in Orlando, not desert, right. We’re in Orlando. And yeah, Secret Service was everywhere. And her and I sang the original song for points alight for W Yes. And George W. And it was just I just before he died by the way, he awarded me one of the points of light which I I am treasured. at home. He was a very good friend. And so so the real story for Sandy Patty, in the tribute to America, in 1986. It would have to be I was gonna say 76 or half the 86 were invited to Philadelphia. And I can’t remember who the host was a famous commentator. I can’t think of his name, you would know him. And so Sandy Patty gets up and sings the national anthem in three keys and she’s pregnant. She’s eight months pregnant Wow. And and killed it. And it’s like, oh my gosh, she can another modulation higher yet, you know, and she finally can waddling back to the inner dressing room and kind of panic a little bit, but she killed it. And so Sandy is a good friend and a great singer.
It must be a challenge for people like you and Sandy, who have these strong voices. There’s always occasion for do I mentioned the great duet with Barbara mandrill to find someone that would actually want to go and sing a duet with you. I mean, you only have a handful of people that that could you could pair your voice with qualitatively.
Yeah, I could probably it’s it’s a matter of quality. It’s a matter of the intonation and it’s a matter of quality matching up because I had an album called a perfect 10 while I was at Liberty, every records I sang with Barbara I think Tanya Tucker Suzy bogguss. And I had the best duet called hopelessly yours. Okay. Our voices were just perfect together. You know, and I love Barbara. I toured with Barbara. I wrote her The title song for the album called we were meant for each other. But the hit was called to me written by my great a former football player. Yes, and, and Barbara and I sang that it was interesting too, because our our two producers Tom Collins who worked for her. Jerry Crutchfield worked for me. They formed a production company because we’re both on the MCA label that allowed us to have that duet. The production company was called Tom and Jerry productions. kind of fun if you’re old enough to remember the cat and the mouse. But they’re I don’t know who I would ask to sing with if I said, Can I have a duet with you? Yeah, that I’m probably like a little like a chameleon. I could probably match my voice to several different singers. But I wouldn’t want to change what I do. I just want to complement the female voice as well. And and not because because I’m a very strong singer, so I’d have to have somebody that’s that strong as well. And, but I’m sure there are a myriad of singers who would, who would probably you know Give me a break.
So we’re both here in Houston. we’ll both be attending the helping the hero helping a hero event tonight, which helps veterans, wounded warriors warriors, enter their homes of their own helps us buy them those homes and finance that. I heard from Meredith Isler that you’ve been personally to 27 of those presentations over the years,
as many as we can, because I still am on tour. But I will fly to wherever the soldier has home. We try to make the groundbreaking and then we make the time we give them the key to the house. And these guys have been seriously wounded. I mean, death was right at the doorstep. You know, losing one arm, two arms, three limbs, we gave a home to this big burly guy had one arm, I can’t recall his name at the moment in a wheelchair because he could not get prosthesis the moon was above his knees. And he scooped up his daughter’s put her on his lap and wheeled himself, you know, wheeled himself into the into the door with the key that we had given him. I have yet to hear one of these wounded soldiers, these these heroes have any regrets? I mean, I know that they got dark nights when they’re sleeping. Certainly, I mean, Gremlins, you know, that will not let you alone. But in, in the public, wherever we are. They’re always positive. They’re, you know, they’re conscious of, they have to be an example for others. Which is, you know, that’s a heavy burden. That is I talked to the the Purple Heart winners a medal of honor winners, they have to wear that metal the rest of their life when they’re in public. And there, they have to be a good example for everybody who they left on the battlefield. And then at the same time, giving encouragement to those around them and keep a smile on their face when they probably, maybe something inside says you should, you know, I’m angry, or I’m, you know, I shouldn’t have this metal or whatever. And the soldiers that we give a home to, these are not cheap houses. I mean, for $500,000 home minutes in a beautiful subdivision. And we gathered the whole community together. everybody that knows we’re building this home for this warrior. They come there that for the groundbreaking and then they come back again, we give them the key and the fire department, the police department, generally the mayor, probably a Police Chief Fire Chief, the the National Guard, we have a police escort. I mean, it’s the whole ball of wax. So I know it’s hard for them to accept that honor. But at the same time, they’re so excited that they can do this for their family, you know, and I want to give a shout out to Justin lane. Justin Lane was a bomb sniffer. In Afghanistan. He did advanced work to check for bombs and street he got blown up a couple times, the last time took his legs off. And he’s about five, six really handsome kid. And I just kind of take a liking to this guy. He wants to be a musician, singer. And he is he’s got a great band in San Antonio that backs them up. And I’m gonna have money opera and he’s gonna he’s gonna come and introduce them to my to my audience as soon as he gets a little better, but he’s trying and we build a great home and, and a studio in his house so we can practice with this band. Wow. Hi, Justin.
I was at a home groundbreaking maybe three or four weeks ago. And there was a 300 acre lake in the in the community. I mean, it was gorgeous. Yeah, just gorgeous. Really pretty spectacular. Is that here in Houston? Those here, Houston. Yes. Yeah, yeah. When I hear about soldiers who are overseas deployed, and they listen to your song, and it just it just changes their spirit. They think of you. And you’re right. A little bit about this in your book, that that Lee Greenwood is is the consummate Patriot, that you’re the Patriot that’s something that you aspire to be. And that’s something that you’re certainly known as, how would you define those of us who are not enlisted? That we’re here? We’re living our lives, we’re doing our work? What does it mean to be a patriot?
That’s a great question. Because let’s go back to the beginning of America, you know, those people that signed the Declaration of Independence, put everything on the line, their family, their lives, their fortunes, everything. That’s a patriot. Yes, that will give everything those men and women who die on the battlefield that’s a patriot, it’s a hero. It had a patriot. But it takes a lot of there’s others that can be patriots as well in supporting the United States and its mission to help other countries be free. I believe politicians are patriots. I believe civil service workers are patriots in the time of our pandemic ARVs our frontline workers are our heroes and and and patriots. So it’s just not the uniform and and and I never want to miss you. Use the word, you know. But when I titled The album at Capitol Nashville, we left MC after 14 years, I went to capitol Nashville, my producer and I went together. And we produced help. Holding a good hand was a hit album, The perfect 10, which is 10 girls all duets, and then American patriot. The reason I titled it American patriot because I wanted people to know that I was born in the United States, I don’t take for granted my citizenship. And those people who become citizens are more patriotic than I am probably, because they’ve taken seven years to learn about all the things about the United States probably know the history better than I do. And, but I wanted, I wanted the title of that album to explain to anybody who would have it in their possession and play it. It’s for them. Also, you know, if you want to be an American patriot, learn the songs, learn what they mean to American Americans. Yes.
You’ve seen some amazing things in your life. A lot of it’s centered around music. Music is a very, very powerful force, powerful force for changing a country, changing lives, instilling values that are in the next generation and others. How do you view music as a tool to effectuate change in the world?
Not until God bless the USA did I think that I was going to change the world with anything I was adding to the culture. I think my contemporary sound when I came to Nashville, Tennessee in 1979 certainly moved Nashville a little to the contemporary side or left or right contemporary side. And it’s cyclical where it swings back now to the hat X. People are more country in their in their dialogue, their dialect. Yes, you know, they have that Southern twang. You could sing a pop song, I mean, darious record, it’s great example, you know, where if you have that kind of accent, you know, but then you can you can do it an r&b song or a jazz song, and make it sound country? Yes. The only thing that made my music country was the fact that I think my soft nut tones, you know, were very understandable, very relatable. And I think that that sincerity, the music, we did song after song after song that had these lyrics that were just powerful. And, but I never set out to do that. Nor i think that i did until God bless the USA came along. And then once USA became in the public site, and and I became admired for it. There was no, there was no way I was going to turn except through my faith. I’m out. I wasn’t going to go. Yeah, I did that. Pretty cool. Oh, man. No, that’s great song in it, you know? No. I mean, I know why God saved me to write that song It took took little time. Yes. You know, it took 3040 years to bring me around to that point. But
you may not have realized what you had if you gave it to too soon.
I wish I had a lot sooner. I wish that I had god bless USA during Vietnam. Yeah, man, what a difference I would have made. You know, and even though I was writing some songs during that era, I’m living in Vegas, and I’m influenced by the things I’m seeing and feeling right around me. And it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t have that kind of depth of, you know, there’s a few songs that I wrote during that time that I brought forward in my, my schedule a contract with MCA. And now I have it backed up to 35 years. And I look at some of those songs. When I first got to Nashville. At the request of then my manager, we ate downtown at some little restaurant across from Vanderbilt. And we’re sitting down to eat and I hear this voice behind me say w bar x rockinghorse y. And it’s a song I had written about a year ago, and what the heck, I turn it and it’s Dwayne Allen to the Oak Ridge Boys. And Larry knew him and had sent him to tape I met before I moved to Nashville, I was in Los Angeles, trying to get my record career going. And there’s a circuit or holiday and right off 405. And there’s a restaurant at the top. And so I went there to have a drink with somebody and I’m sitting at the bar. And the guy next to me says, I know who you are. And he had a little bit of an accent. I knew it from the south somewhere. And I looked at I said, You’re Roger Miller. And he said, Yes, he said, and I can feel the groundswell in Nashville. So again, wow. You know, it kind of proceeded before I went, and I’ll tell you, Rick, I was no hurry to leave Vegas. I liked living there. I like Like the success it gave me, I was making really good money. And I did 7677 I’m like, I leave in this place. Yeah. But there was a cap. And the cap was I couldn’t go from the frontier hotel lounge to the main room at the sands until I went to Nashville. That’s right. And when I did come back as a star, I opened for the Oakridge boys open for crystal Gayle, then I started taking my own my own spot. You know,
you think growing up, I think I’ve read that you would take your you would throw your baseball glove in your saxophone case. And that’s how you would go to school and go round everywhere. Did
you hear the cuz that’s a true story. My grandparents, it wasn’t under the guardianship of my mother. Yeah, she was just too busy, married three times divorced three times. Finally found a man she loved Louisiana and only my stepfather who I loved dearly before he passed on. But because I really wouldn’t take lessons from her in the piano. That’s just the way it is. You don’t take from your parents. I tried. I tried to give my kid Parker some, some some examples of the piano dad going, I got this. Fine. So it’s exactly what happened with me and my mom. And I was like, I’m not gonna play it your way. I’m sorry. So I said, I quit. And I went and played baseball. So she got frustrated that I’m not gonna learn her instrument. Somehow she found an alto saxophone. I think it’s because her grandfather, my my grandfather, Tom Jackson, his brother played saxophone. And I think that was the only reason she brought me a saxophone, while I talked to like a duck takes to water. I was learning songs off the radio within the first two weeks. I already learned how to get the armature set. I was playing. So my grandparents that summer, I guess I was 13. I’m thinking 55 454 5354. They sent me to summer school to learn how to play saxophone better, because I didn’t play at the house much. So the first day I go to summer school and the teacher is four or five of us there. And we’re all supposed to play somebody with a couple trumpets and a trombone. And when I played saxophone, and he saw how I was making a note on this. He said, No, you can’t do that. You have to move. You move your finger down here. And I said, that doesn’t feel comfortable. I said, I can make the same note here. No, you have to do it that way. Well, that pissed me off. Yeah. So the next day, I took my saxophone out, put it in under my bed, and I put my baseball mitt in the sax case, put it on my bicycle. And I wrote over there and went to the baseball park. So all summer, I played baseball. And they never knew I didn’t take a lesson because I kept getting better. And then I also got better at baseball. As matter of fact, I became an all star. Wow. Just cuz I played that whole summer hardball.
Wow. Wow. So I want to submit to you the idea that you were drawn to Vegas, probably because if I think about the types of music kinds of kinds of albums that were coming out, when you were a teenager and even early 20s, where you’re already in that in that crowd, if you look at Sinatra at the sands with count, Basie orchestra, 1966 you look at kittens Big Band stuff much earlier than that. 6162 stuff like that. It was all it was all happening in Vegas.
Yeah. Let me put the geography in proper perspective for those who might be watching and don’t travel much. My mother. We live in Los Angeles, partially when I and I asked her later on in life, I said, I know you’ve never flown on an airplane. She’s That’s true. I said, How Far East Have you driven so I’m, I went all the way to Nevada. If you know your geography, Nevada is right next to California. wasn’t until I started touring till I got the the vastness of our country and the beauty of it coast to coast. But I’m living in Vegas. I mean, it’s a dry place taught, you know, I mean, it is a bubble. But the influences are still there. from all over if you want to listen to them. Yeah. I don’t know I
speak speaking of Sin City, you have a new Bible project coming out very, very soon. I found it interesting that a guy that got his chops in Vegas is now publishing a Bible. Tell us about that. I’m excited about this.
As I wind down my career, and I say that
made two or one more year, we have a team that’s looking for branding, ideas, things, things that will I can put my name on, associate myself with and bring us a revenue stream and so forth if I need it, if my wife needs it if I pass on. And so they said how would you like to be associated with the Bible? I said, I’m a man of faith. Of course, I would love that. So they bring us this idea. They’re going to have a leather bound. True Bible, old the New Testament. So full text, nothing in the middle. Like a lot of Bibles come out with reasons to have something in the middle. Yes. It’s an ivy version. Okay. leather bound cover says Holy Bible at the top, which is what it is. directly under that God bless the USA. And at the bottom, it has two military flags. Like in a V. front cover, they asked me if I would write the lyrics of god bless the USA, but just the course. I’m proud to be American. Well, he sent one free just a course and I and I signed it. That’s the only place my name appears in the Bible. I said, my name will never appear next to Jesus Christ. Yeah, I promise you. So it was a copy. And that’s the copy of the front inside the front page. In the back. When you turn the Bible over and you finished the last book, then it’s the pledge of allegiance, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. The reason I liked this idea was because not just for new citizens would come into the country but everybody else who maybe not remember what those documents say, yes. So through faith and how this country gets started. I’m offering an example of our of those documents you may never be able to see unless you go to the library or you look it up on your internet. It’s it. It’s your bedside, it’s right here. That’s great. So when you have a question in the Bible, it’s Pico time, how does this apply to when America got started? Or her where we are now? Go ahead and read some of the Constitution, see what it says look at the amendments and see those amendments we have you know why they’re there?
Yes. All kinds of of inalienable or unalienable rights are just all right. They’re based in
the by Natalie about rights. Yeah, yeah. And a lot of conversation about the Second Amendment. I’m more concerned about the First Amendment. Really, yes, you know,
freedom of speech. Yes. October 12. You have the big concert in Alabama. Salute to Lee Greenwood. Tell it tell us about that.
This is a tribute to my music, not to me. I wanted to before I quit touring, I want to do one of these shows. And we had one for Kenny Rogers. We had one from Michael W. Smith in Nashville Bridgestone Arena. This is going to be in Huntsville at the Von Braun center. It’s 10,000 seats. I’ve played there a couple times before, beautiful venue. It’s to honor the writers, the singers, musicians, producers, engineers, that made 40 years of hits for me. And so I’ve invited 40 singers, from all walks of life, you know, mostly country, but outside of that as well. Who will sing my songs while I sit there and listen to
no pressure? No pressure? No,
I have no doubt whoever we pair with one of my songs is going to do a fabulous job. I you know, these are people I admire. These are great singers, all of them and and they’re going to interpret my music differently than I did. But it’s going to be kind of cool to hear it
you will perform at least one song? I
don’t know. I would hope.
I’d like to I’d like I’d hope that that the producer will let me do that is saying at least god bless USA at the end. But everything else I’m hands off.
Yes, yes. As we start to wind down our time together, there’s been an absence of personal responsibility guy like you grew up on a farm. You learn how to work hard, get your work ethic. That’s very, very evident your success. But we see a newer generation coming forward that maybe doesn’t have the sort of work ethic that doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own actions. Maybe they blame others for the situation’s they’re in. How do we fix this evident problem of people not wanting you to be personally responsible here in the United States and a lack of general work ethic and wanting things to be given to them?
I don’t see it my family. I mean, I got a 22 year old, a 26 year old and they’re hard workers. My wife’s a hard worker, you know, we we project that. I believe I have to blame parents. If you know, we all want to give our kids a better life. We certainly have the resources to have our kids spend their their youth in the Caribbean. No, you know, you work Work hard, you know, and unlike me, Dalton are 26 shows the first kid in my in my family to go to college. So it wasn’t that it was get out of high school go to work. So maybe that’s the reason is many people that have more opportunities today to find a higher trade, and not just father and son businesses because that’s kind of gone away. Very few kids want to be a plumber elector, Dad, I don’t know why, but they make pretty good money. But it may be the fact that they get higher learning and go on to college and then then they don’t have that serious work ethic. Like if I don’t make money. I’m going to starve. Yes, you know, and that was it. And the thing that drove me as a kid was not just my my responsibility that I learned by being a farmer or having my first band and no I was responsible for five other guys to work is that if I wanted to put pressure on myself I want bought a new car to work my new car now You better go to work are you gonna lose a car? You got to lose something, you know that’s valuable that you probably will have a more incentive to work really hard. And, and maybe not the way I was driven as a kid. I mean, I’m, it’s hard to wear me down. I’m like the Energizer rabbit. But
what is your greatest hope? For America over the next five or 10 years? What would you like to see happen?
I like to see go back to where we were with time of peace. I’d like to America be the leader of the world, like it was, as I remember it. Let’s say after Vietnam, I’d like to see the the whole world and we are becoming more worldly with the trade deficit with China and and, and conflict with with regimes would like to kill us.
And I’m talking about North Korea and Iran, you know, where terrorism is bred I it I hate that it’s become a religious thing, a religious conflict? Because it seems like more and more, we’re going back to the days of Israel, you know, and and, and try to settle the Palestinian Israeli issue. I
mean, gosh, darn, that was amazing. At least we got to believe we could talk and not kill each other. But I risked the whole world would be and I have a joke about the only way we’re going to bring peace to the entire world is have an alien attack.
I mean, it’s got to come from Mars. The whole world. Wait a minute, you know, you saw the movie?
independence? Yeah, you know, so that’s what it is. It’s like, wait a minute, there’s Okay, let’s all band together here. Can we? You know, please, at any time, I’m sure that’s happened when common enemies have a deeper threat. And they become friends. what’s what’s the theory, the the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Yes, or something. I fight how that goes. But enemy mind that was the show. But I I just wish for peace. And I pray for peace. But it’s going to be a long time coming Unless the Lord has something else to do with it. And, you know, we see so many things that draw you to Is this the end of days? I mean, I’m sure people have had that question for as long as humanity’s known Christ. It’s like, there’ll be signs. You know, it’s funny they could we had the breakout of the locusts the other day and, and Dalton, my older boy said, this could be it, Dad. Yes, it could be son, but you’re not gonna know it.
That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Well, Lee, thanks so much for your time. Thanks so much. For example, I mean, you’re you’re an icon. You are a rock star, literally. And it’s such an honor to spend a few minutes with you. Thanks so much for sharing for your heart and your most part, for the most thing, your patriotism and your example of how we should live our lives as Americans.
I was proud to be in dimension. Thanks. Great. Thanks. Thank you.