Interview with Arthur Godfrey (continued)
[At this point, I pointed out Jim Fleming from Fleming Tamulevich, and explained to Arthur who he was, and how influential his booking agency was in the Folk World. Where others might have been reluctant or "cool" or a host of things, Arthur was completely fearless and focused on the opportunity of introducing himself to Jim. Although I explained that his agency was practically in the business of turning down hordes of hungry songwriters on a daily or weekly basis (and certainly at Folk Alliance, which I'd witnessed first hand at their Exhibit Hall booth), Arthur was completely undaunted, and was merely considering his imminent words, apparently. At one point, he stood up as Jim was ending his conversation, and waited nearby.
When Jim turned his way with an order of food to go, Arthur approached and introduced himself, out of earshot. I was surprised to see Jim give Arthur the compulsory fifteen seconds, then put his food down, let it get cold for what seemed like a full ten minutes, and exchange cards. This cat's got more than just cajones, I thought. He believes in himself so strongly that other people are truly compelled to check it out. It's a disarming blend of humility and confidence that creates the time necessary to tell you his story, short version. He's serious as a heart attack.]
AG: Thank you. [We talked a minute about stuttering. He said that he had problems with words that had s, t, or w in them as a Catholic school kid. Spelling bees were nerve wracking, hoping he didn't get a word with one of those letters. I said, "Yeah, and then you grow up and win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest." I didn't mention that I'd never lost a spelling bee as a Catholic school kid, and wondered what it would be like to win the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.]
PM: He gave you a lot of time, Arthur, that was cool. [I made a remark about his cajones.]
AG: You know, it sounds corny, but I believe in myself. And I work hard.
PM: Yeah, it's really different, Arthur, and I'm learning. I know a lot of people who have balls, but that deeply rooted belief that I see you have in yourself, that's a different thing.
AG: I know how I like to be treated, so I always start by saying, "Could you give me a moment of your time, I know you're very busy," and usually, they will. If I go to a seminar and someone like you or someone like him is talking, I'm never part of the group that rushes him directly afterward. I always wait in the back corner with my head down until everyone is gone, and then I go up and do my thing. It's not an act, it's just my way.
PM: Hey man, it works. When I saw Jim put his food down...he got to that crossroads very quickly and said to himself, "Okay, I'm gonna give this character a few minutes, and see what he's about." What did you tell him, how much about yourself?
AG: I told him everything I told you, but in that amount of time. And the packet that I gave him has my CD in it, and a CD of a country song for Nashville that I want to pitch to EMI for the contract that I won in the contest. [The prize was a single song contract with EMI, but it did have a $5000 advance against royalties attached to it.] I love Nashville. I was down there recently, and I was talking to all the cab drivers, they're all songwriters, everybody's a songwriter down there. I was in one of the touristy country bars downtown, and I asked a guy onstage who was playing for tips to play a Hank Williams song. He asked if I was a songwriter, and I said yeah, that I was in town because I'd won this contest. He said, okay, then he was gonna play me his hit, and started singing "When it's time to relax, one beer stands clear..."
PM: Next time you're down, we'll have to have you appear on one of our Puremusic.com Writers Nights at The Basement. [He will be appearing on our June 13th show.] I need to make a few calls, see if I can get you on Billy Block's show, or something like that.
AG: Thanks, Frank, I'll see you down there, for sure.