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Kidding Around
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The Homecoming Friends remember the sweet, hopeful and sometimes embarrassing glories of their childhoods!

BILL GAITHER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I built a platform with a wooden microphone and pretended to be a radio announcer broadcasting the return of our service men from WWII.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? Our trio sang, “Everyday Will Be Sunday By and By” in a Seventh Day Adventist church.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? Anything to do with radio.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Hands down — Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s.



GLORIA GAITHER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I believed that if I jumped off the top step of our farmhouse stairway, I could fly!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I was 4, I sang “Search Me, Oh God” with my sister at our state camp meeting. I had to stand on a chair to be seen above the pulpit. The bottom fell out of the old chair and I fell out of sight in the middle of the song.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? A missionary to Africa.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Fishing with my mother, dad and sister until dark on a Michigan lake, then coming back to the cabin we had rented, cleaning the fish, and frying them to eat after midnight.


TANYA GOODMAN SYKES

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? Clearly the goofiest thing I believed as a child is that giant, stop-sign eyeglasses looked good on anyone! ARGH! The second goofiest thing I believed was that babies came from kissing.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? One of my most embarrassing moments was when I hugely exaggerated a story to my dad about a neighbor getting a pool table. It was one of those small tabletop ones, and I kept telling my dad that it was this huge, full-size pool table. My dad got all excited about it and said, “That’s great! Let’s go see if they’re home.” I was mortified and started nervously rambling off excuses about why it wasn’t a good time to go over there. At that point I think my dad realized that I was lying or at the very least GREATLY overstating the truth, but he forged ahead. As fate would have it, they were home. There in the den in all its glory was the world’s tiniest pool table — my cheeks were blazing with embarrassment! My dad didn’t have a lot to say about it— he didn’t have to. I’m so glad he followed through and made me learn a powerful lesson that day…TELL THE TRUTH!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? That answer changed almost daily! At various times I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, a doctor, a singer, a writer and a news reporter.

What is one of your sweetest memories of your childhood? Some of the sweetest memories I have as a child are the days I spent hanging out in the WSIX TV studios in Nashville when my family was taping the “Gospel Singing Jubilee.” There I was surrounded (and doted on!) by countless “aunts and uncles.” They were so kind and patient with me and told me funny stories, laughed at my silly jokes and became a part of my extended family. I’m forever grateful for those times I shared soup with Uncle Les (Beasley) and made handkerchief baby dolls with Aunt Dottie (Rambo). They are tightly woven into the fabric of cherished memory.


FAYE SPEER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I always believed that the old hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves” really said, “bringing in the cheese” and sang it loudly!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? I became so enthralled with a monkey grinder that passed by the parsonage where we lived that I began to follow him down the street and got lost!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? A nurse.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? I was shopping one day with my mother and we found the perfect winter coat for me. I fell in love with the beautiful dark green Chesterfield with a black velvet collar. I was crushed to learn that the coat was too expensive for us to buy. That evening I told my daddy about the gorgeous coat that I wanted and the next day he took me back to the store and bought it for me!


WES HAMPTON

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I used to believe that different races of people had different colors of blood.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? In high school I was in show choir. After an hourlong performance, I noticed my pants had been unzipped the entire time!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I grew up telling people I wanted to be a doctor. Deep down I wanted to sing!


KAREN PECK GOOCH

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? I had a wild imagination. After watching Mary Poppins, I was totally convinced that I could fly holding an umbrella. One day I was playing outside when I noticed a big black cloud in the sky. The wind began to blow. Quickly I ran into the house, grabbed an umbrella, then waited on the porch for a gust of wind to blow. When the wind was so strong that I could hardly stand, I opened the umbrella and jumped off the high porch. To my surprise, the umbrella flipped upward and I fell downward! I was bruised for days. Needless to say, I never tried that trick again.

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? Our family loved watching “Gunsmoke” on television. I always liked it when the cowboys broke bottles over each other’s heads. The problem was that I believed they were really doing it. One day Susan was sitting on the floor watching TV. I came up behind her and hit her over the head with a coke bottle. To my dismay, the bottle didn’t break! She chased me all through the house. It’s a miracle that I lived through that one!


JEFF EASTER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? That wrestling was real. I used to watch it with my grandpa and he never told me any different.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I was about 13, my daddy called “Little Jeffrey” up to sing a special song. We rehearsed the song in the key of D, and when I started to sing, Daddy hit me a chord in the key of G (much higher). The song was “I’ll See You in the Rapture” and I began way too high and was too embarrassed to stop. By the time the chorus came, I sounded like Alfalfa of “Little Rascals” fame. I started crying and ran down the aisle out to the bus. Some people thought I was in the spirit…I was, but it wasn’t a good spirit!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? Either Johnny Cook of the Happy Goodman Family or a junk dealer like my grandpa!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? At bedtime, my brother and I would always ask my daddy to bring us a glass of water and he never turned us down. So many nights that turned into deep discussions or fits of laughter that I still remember today. I remember vividly that’s how my brother Steve asked Daddy about salvation for the first time.


LILY ISAACS

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? One of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood was when I was 5 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. We lived on the first floor in an old apartment building. Our fire escape was all enclosed. The neighborhood was sort of rough so Mom wouldn’t let me go out and play without her being along. Instead, she spread a blanket on the fire escape and let me play with my toys in the summer sunshine. One day, there was a big racket with some neighborhood children in the street just below me. Nosy little me couldn’t see what was going on, so I forced my head through two of the fire escape bars. BUT I couldn’t pull it back out! I screamed and cried as loud as I could. Frantically my mother came running out. She tried and tried but she couldn’t force my head back out either. She greased my ears with butter and Crisco, but nothing worked. Finally she called the NYC Fire Department. They had to saw one of the bars in two to let me free. I don’t think I ever played on the fire escape again. But the NYC firefighters are still my heroes!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? One of the sweetest memories I have as a child is when I would reach under my pillow in the mornings and find a dollar. My father was a bread baker. He had to leave early in the evenings, and He would come home in the wee hours of the morning. My father was a quiet man and a man of few words. His sweet way of showing me his love was to slip a dollar under my pillow. When I would feel that dollar under my pillow, I knew Daddy was home safe and he was saying, “I love you.” How I miss him!


JOY GARDNER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I thought the louder you sang, the more anointed you were. My mom’s music professor told her if I sang as hard as I was singing as a child, by the time I was 18, I wouldn’t have a voice. Oh well, voice or anointing — how do you choose?

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I was about 8 years old, I had a crush on a young evangelist who came to our church. Later I heard he was scheduled to be at another church close to my hometown. My pastor and his wife invited me to go to one of the services, and we had to leave in the afternoon to arrive on time. My mom could not be home to help me get ready. The babysitter was trying desperately to comb my hair but I hated everything she was doing to it. When they arrived to pick me up, I wasn’t ready. My dad had come home, heard all the commotion and, after much frustration, tried to hurry the process along. He picked up the hairbrush and a rubber band and proceeded to put my hair in a ponytail, ordered me to the car and instructed me to apologize for my rude behavior. I left humiliated and crying. My hair looked awful! It was all twisted with lumps and bumps everywhere. I was so embarrassed, I sat on the back row of the church and after the service, hid until it was time to leave, never speaking to the evangelist. I can tell you this: from that day on, I learned to style my own hair! I had my priorities right!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a wife, mother and singer. In our world, where church was the community my family focused on, if I wanted to be a wife, mother and singer, I needed to marry a preacher. So I told everyone I wanted to be a preacher’s wife.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? As a child, I was always fearful of the dark and hated being alone. One of the sweetest and most comforting memories I have was the many nights I would awaken, slip into my mom and dad’s room and crawl in bed with them. Snuggling close to them made everything all right. I have to admit, even after moving away from home, whenever I would come back to visit, at bedtime I returned to that place of solace between Mom and Dad, and in that moment I was a child again.


DAVID PHELPS

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I thought when the Lord returned and took us to Heaven with him, we would spend eternity looking and dressed the exact same way we were at the moment He swept in. Because of this, for a good while, I would shower and use the restroom really quickly. I didn’t want to have to walk the golden streets wet and naked or otherwise indisposed for eternity.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? One Sunday evening I fell asleep during the church service. When it was over, my parents had choir practice and didn’t want to wake me, just to have to wait for them. When I woke up 30 minutes or so later, the sanctuary was empty and all the lights were off except one overhead spotlight shining on the podium. I was sure the rapture had occurred and I had been left behind. I began running through the church screaming and crying at the top of my lungs. Door after door I threw open, only to find dark empty rooms. Finally with my hysteria at its peak, I exploded through the choir room door bringing the rehearsal to an awkward halt. Not seeing my parents right away, I remember my first thought was that the choir didn’t make the rapture cut either. However, as soon as I saw my dad coming, I realized no rapture had occurred. Frankly, if Dad didn’t make it, I never had a chance.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? My family used to sing together all the time: at home around the piano, concerts in church, and my favorite — in the car on long trips. The radio would turn off and we would find a part. Of course back then, I would be singing my part while lying down across the dash in front of the back window! Who knew it was so dangerous?


REBECCA ISAACS BOWMAN

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I always thought that my electric blanket (on the high setting) would catch on fire. So every night I would wait for Sonya to fall asleep and then turn her electric blanket down to low. She would wake up freezing and be so mad at me!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? Every year we would have an Isaacs family reunion in the hills of Kentucky. I couldn’t wait for that day because we could play and run in the mountains with all my cousins. One family reunion I will NEVER forget — I was about 8 years old. We had been playing for hours when I realized I needed to use the restroom. The only restrooms on site were outhouses. So my cousin and I headed off to the outhouse and realized some of our boy cousins were following us. They were picking on us and throwing rocks at the outhouses. So we thought we would outsmart them and took off up the mountain in hopes of losing them. Sure enough, we lost them and found a great shaded, hidden spot to relieve ourselves. I kept watch as my cousin went first. Finally it was my turn. Just as I began, I quickly realized my cousin had disturbed a bees’ nest. Hundred of bees began to swarm after us. My cousin took off running while I was still pulling up my skirt. I too began to run, but tripped over a log. My bare bottom was the first place I got stung. So, here I come— running, screaming and crying down the mountain. I was too scared to realize that I crashed the family reunion with my skirt still at my knees. Was I ever embarrassed! I walked away with over 25 bee stings from head to toe! And a mad sister who also got a few bee stings!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a “cash register lady” at the grocery store. I wanted to enter those numbers real fast and make those typing sounds with my fingers!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? As kids, Sonya, Ben and I would always sing a few songs at my dad and mom’s concerts. We would sit in the church and wait patiently for our turn. Sonya and I loved to wear the plastic hair barrettes that were popular in 1980. The only problem with the plastic hair barrettes was they didn’t snap very well. One concert, we were singing in three-part harmony, acting like sweet little angels. All of a sudden we go for our high fancy ending and, POP... Sonya’s pretty little plastic barrette flies open. Ben, Sonya and I began to laugh so hard we were crying. The only one not laughing on stage was our dad. Oh no. We knew we had to straighten up and get it right. Once again, we sing the last chorus coming in for the high fancy ending and, “POP.” Her barrette flies open again. Were we ever in trouble now! I smile every time I remember that day. We finally regained our composure and sang our fancy high ending by the third time.


KELLY NELON CLARK

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? All my life I’ve loved chocolate milk. I would get up very early to meet the milkman who came to our house. He only delivered white milk. I would beg him to bring chocolate milk the next time, and he would always say, “We didn’t have any brown cows this week — maybe next week.” So I always believed that you had to get your chocolate milk from brown cows.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? My aunt Sue took my brother Todd and me on a train trip from Atlanta to New Jersey. It was so much fun until I had to go to the bathroom. We didn’t know that when the train stopped the bathroom doors locked. Well you guessed it—I didn’t make it. Even worse, my mother forgot to pack my under garments, so I had to wear my brother’s underwear for the rest of the trip. I was so humiliated. I can’t believe I am telling this!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? My response never changed. “I want to be a gospel singer just like my daddy.” I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? To be honest I was challenged in the math department to say the least. In about the third grade, we began to do long division. I just didn’t get it. I was failing miserably and my teacher never took the time to help me understand. I remember crying and telling my father that I felt like a failure and didn’t understand it. He came to my bedroom that night and we sat for three hours going over it until the light turned on for me. He never got upset, never lost his patience and stayed with me until I finally understood.


MARK LOWRY

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? That the rapture happened and I’d been left behind. I’d sneak down to my parents’ room to make sure they were still there.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I was about 15 years of age, I was at youth camp and had made friends with a blind girl. She was about my age, and she was going to sing at the evening service. I led her to the stage and went around a pole but she didn’t. She hit it square between the eyes. The entire audience of young people gasped. They were probably thinking I did it on purpose. I was horrified. I finally got her to the stage and she said, “Well, Mark doesn’t get his ‘seeing eye dog license’ this year.” Everybody laughed. Then she sang “He Touched Me” while a knot grew on her head.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? When Mama would make me and my older brother take naps in the summertime, the window would be open above our bed and a breeze would be blowing through the screen. She would rub our arms and stomachs...very lightly...until we fell asleep.


WOODY WRIGHT

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? My brothers are four and six years older than I. In the ’60s, they were listening to the pop music of the day like the Beatles and others. I, of course, was a HUGE Monkees fan. Our disagreements about music were often more than vocal. I remember betting a week’s worth of chores that in the Monkees hit song “I’m A Believer,” a part of the lyric was “when I needed sunshine on my brain” as opposed to the correct Neil Diamond lyric, “when I needed sunshine I got rain.” I still have an urge to wash dishes, make beds, vacuum the rugs and feed the dog when I hear that song!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? I was probably most embarrassed when my cousins and I were playing monster in my aunt and uncle’s basement. We were chasing each other around the pool table when I decided to run out the sliding plate glass door — while it was closed! I spent a large part of that seventh year of my life with dozens of stitches, a leg cast, bandages, a wheelchair, crutches and a crushed ego!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? There was never any doubt that I would be pursuing a career in music. My grades in school reflected that fact! My notebooks all had record company logo drawings on them, and the names and photos of my favorite gospel groups were hanging on my bedroom walls!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Highly successful studio and occasional GVB and Homecoming piano wizard Gary Prim’s grandmother was my third grade teacher. Mrs. Prim was a sweet lady, who had an incredible amount of patience with our class. One day while she was out of the room, I began throwing paper wads around with a couple of other fellows. When Mrs. Prim returned, she caught the other two in the act, and instructed them to go wait in the hall for some good, old-fashioned “board of education to the seat of knowledge” discipline. Then she asked if anyone else in the class had participated. After a few seconds I sheepishly raised my hand. Mrs. Prim asked, “Woody, are you sure you were throwing paper wads?” I said, “Yes Ma’am, I’m sure.” “Come on out here,” she said. That was the most painfully wonderful lesson I learned in all my elementary school days. I am thankful for the memory of Mrs. Prim, and for her grandson, with whom I have spent more time creating musical moments in the recording studio than anyone!


REBA RAMBO MCGUIRE

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? Who can say what is “goofy?” As an only child I had a vivid and elaborate imagination. My best friend was my invisible dog, Germs. He was as real to me as the computer I’m using to write this story. Germs and I were inseparable for many years until the grown-ups ceased to find my stories cute and began to be embarrassed by my tales of dancing with angels and playing in the forest with Jesus. So, I began wondering if there was something wrong with me, and I learned to be quiet about that magical realm of living. Fortunately, Father eventually sent people into my life that celebrated my ability to look beyond the natural into the otherworld dimension. Happily, Germs still comes around occasionally for a midnight visit.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? My most embarrassing moment as a child was in the third grade. I was trying to be creative and helpful by secretly teaching five of the little girls in our music class a counter melody and lyric to the song, “Silent Night.” I believed it would spice up the otherwise bland rendition we were scheduled to perform in the school’s annual Christmas Pageant. When dress rehearsal began, our music teacher, in corrective shoes and coiled tight hairdo, rapped her baton on the stand and we started singing our special surprise arrangement. Suddenly, her face turned blood red and she fumed, “Who in the world taught you this terrible part?” Every kid in the room promptly pointed their accusing fingers at me. She grabbed me by the earlobe and started pulling me out the door, down the hall to the dreaded principal’s office. Tears dripped from my chin as she taunted, “Who told you that you could sing? You’ve got the highest, weirdest voice I’ve ever heard!” I didn’t sing for a long time after that.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I always was fascinated with medicine and was convinced I was going to be a neurosurgeon. I was happy that my parents were Christian artists but I was certain that I just didn’t have it in me to live in the glass house that accompanies performers and ministers. Today one of my best friends, Carla, is married to a celebrated neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul. I have to be careful and not bore him by asking too many questions because I’m still so intrigued with the wondrous mystery of the brain and spine.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? I have always been a river child. My grandparents, mom, dad and I would get up long before sunrise, pack up the trucks and go fishing. I loved watching the sunrise on the water as the swirling mist kissed the breathing ripples. Nothing smells like coffee perking on a campfire or tastes like bacon and eggs with fried potatoes and onions! I always carried a notebook, and Mom and I would write little poems between casting our fishing poles into the cool water. Dad was always smiling and was so peaceful he usually nodded off and napped until he was jerked awake by a large-mouth bass or catfish striking his bait. We often stayed till long after dark, roasting marshmallows on the fire and telling elaborate stories. It was perfect!


SHERI EASTER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? That if I dug a hole deep enough in my backyard, I would dig through to hell. My friends told me not to dig too deep because if you saw the dirt turning red, that meant you were getting close. In hindsight, I realize that I lived in Georgia, famous for its red Georgia clay. Many times I stopped digging for fear of reaching Satan’s lair.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I was young, I was very bashful and sometimes when I traveled to concerts with my family, they liked to introduce the children. One night I remember in particular, they announced from stage that they were so happy to have Polly’s daughter traveling with them and asked for me to come on stage. I was so embarrassed that I hid under the product table and wouldn’t come out.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? A singer, a secretary and a lawyer. Most days I get to be all three!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Summertime. Because my mama handled most of the office work for the family, she would go down to my grandma’s to work in the office every day two to three hours just before lunch. While she worked I did everything from helping Pop pick strawberries, shelling butter beans and shucking corn to riding the tractor and eating watermelon. Some days I’d help my uncle wash the bus and other days I’d “help” with the office work by writing my name on paper at the desk with Mama. My grandma usually had a sewing project, which meant I could play with her colorful buttons. Every one of these summertime activities brings a smile to my face. It was simple. It was sweet.


AMBER NELON THOMPSON

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? At Christmas we would always be driving home at night from my grandparents’ home. I remember even at the age of 12 years old the newsman would come on the radio and say that Santa had been spotted in the air. We watched the sky all the way home and I just know I saw him delivering presents.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? When I lost my two front teeth—and of course my parents made me sing. It happened to be around the holidays so the audience seemed to love it as I sang, “All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!”

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? No doubt...a singer like my family, but sometimes I would pretend to be a teacher. All of the people on the bus were my students.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? My granddaddy playing games that taught me how to spell! And falling asleep with him on the couch watching Disney movies!


CANDY CHRISTMAS

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? During the winter months, I believed that if I made too much noise while playing in the snow, that I would scare it away and it would stop snowing. Which often happened (I thought). I would be so excited to see the snow falling, I would run outside jumping and squealing with excitement. The snow would soon stop falling. It never occurred to me that we lived in Louisiana where it seldom snowed, and there was almost never accumulation if it did snow. I always thought I had scared it away!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? I had brand new baby blue Easter shoes that were very slippery on the bottom. We had gone out to lunch after church where I saw my school sweetheart and his family eating, seated near the ladies restroom. (I was in the sixth grade.) Waiting to catch his attention, and hoping he might notice my new Easter frock and shoes, I pretended to need to go to the restroom. As I started my processional through the restaurant, and made my way to his family’s table, my slick shoes found a slippery spot on the floor and I did the splits and “slid into home plate” right beside their table. I hid in embarrassment in the restroom throughout the rest of their meal until they paid their check and drove away.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Some of my sweetest childhood memories are of nights spent with my grandmother. She always sang funny little songs to me in the dark until I fell asleep. She would give me a flashlight to shine into dark corners of her bedroom in case I thought I saw any monsters.


LORI APPLE

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I wasn’t very gullible as a child. Explanations were part of my daily routine. Santa Claus did not make it to many Christmases because I pointed out the logistic impossibility. As you can imagine, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were also out of the question. However, when I heard my Aunt Angela was going on a blind date, I looked forward to meeting him and seeing what adjustments he had to make in an unaccommodating world. After a few dates, we were introduced and the first thing I said to my family was, “He’s not blind. He can see!”

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? One of the most trying times in my childhood lasted two days. Most children look forward to this moment but when it happened to me I was mortified. There was a gaping hole whenever I opened my mouth for the world to see. My brother affectionately named me “Toothless Wonder.” I looked like a seasoned hockey player. I could feel the air gushing through the massive gap. I didn’t want to talk or smile.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I was torn between two professions as a child. I wanted to be a veterinarian or a medical examiner. As I grew older the list easily narrowed down. I loved many animals. However, there were a lot of animals I didn’t want to touch like snakes and some fanged, demon-possessed cats. So there went being a vet. Being a medial examiner would allow me to give a voice to the dead. But, not all my patients would be clean or “fresh.” I could not deal with the smell. So here I am!

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Not too many people know I became a mother at a young age. When I was 5 years old, Christmas was extra special because I received the best gift, a fluffy white toy poodle named Sugar. She was my shadow. I taught her everything she knew from where to find food to how to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. Sugar was my most loyal childhood companion.


ANN DOWNING

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? I grew up going to singing schools, all-day singings, Saturday night singing conventions — wherever there was singing, my folks took me. I loved it. A sweet memory for me was when I was about 9 or 10. A kind older gentleman walked up to me after a Sunday afternoon singing. He stuffed a five-dollar bill into my hand — thus my first “pay” for singing and playing. Now to me that five dollars could have been $5,000. I kinda think that five-dollar bill is still in our farmhouse somewhere — I’m sure I kept it.


JASON CLARK

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? For years my dad has told countless stories of grandeur and adventure. One of those stories was about his numerous missions as a Special OPS Navy Seal. I didn’t realize he was just entertaining us. I believed he was an actual Navy Seal. Maybe I should’ve clued in when we would head to the lake and he could barely swim!

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? While in the second grade I was paddled in front of the entire school by our principal for trying to drive a parked bus. Good thing I couldn’t figure out how to release the airbrake!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? A gospel singer and a fighter pilot.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? We were very poor as I was growing up and this year was especially tough. I was 10 years old and really wanted an ATV three-wheeler for Christmas. An elaborate gift for any child...especially one of our means. My mother sewed hundreds of Puppy Christmas stockings for my brother and me to sell. For weeks we would spend our evenings walking from house to house to sell these cute homemade Puppy Christmas stockings. I don’t know how many we sold but somehow, someway, my brother and I got that three-wheeler for Christmas!


GENE MCDONALD

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I believed that the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car was real.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? We were singing at a homecoming and I was wearing a white suit. During a break I was playing with some other boys and I slipped in red clay mud. Then I had to go back on stage and sing in the now not-so-white suit!

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be a gospel singer.


JEFF HAWES

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I can remember always thinking that I was a real teacher. I did everything: pick the imaginary kids up on my school bus (lawn mower), prepare them a snack (JELL-O and crackers), take them to P.E. (our swing set), blow the whistle when it was time to go and even hold Christmas parties in my bedroom for my students—while we listened to Johnny Mathis’ Christmas cassette. Yes, I did paddle myself if you’re wondering.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? The year was 1986 and I was 3. I would not turn down a chance to sing for any reason, so when Mom took me to church one Sunday night, I was prepared to sing my signature song, “Amazing Grace.” His grace was amazing that night! The service had already begun by the time we arrived, so I begged and begged Mom to ask Mr. Music Man if I could sing. Feeling like she had to do this, Mom asked him, and he said YES. Well, when I walked up on the stage, the nerves hit me like a ton of bricks. I started singing and made it through the first phrase and went blank. I couldn’t remember anything. I had sung this song a million times in my three years, and I was shocked. I grew even more nervous and started to cry. I had to think of something. I yelled out “Mom, you made me to do this!”

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? Although I did love playing school, there was nothing I wanted to do more than sing. From as early as I can remember, I went around singing all the time. Thanks to home videos, I have endless hours of embarrassing singing moments. One hilarious moment in particular was when Mom recorded me singing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” I had my little microphone with cord in hand, standing in a chair, singing my heart out. I WORKED it! Then it was time for “Chantilly Lace.” At 4 years old, I knew every word and was certain I would marry that giggle-talking, wigglewalking pretty face.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? I will never forget fishing with my dad. That was our time together, and I cherish those memories. Almost every afternoon after Dad would get home from work, he would load up the fishing poles, the cooler with cokes and candy bars, grab me, and head out in the jeep. We would fish for hours. I can remember the smell of mud, fishy water and leaves burning in the fire. Embarrassingly, I slightly remember using the bathroom in my overalls almost every trip, but I knew that Dad would take care of me. Usually I took home the bragging rights of catching the most fish, and Dad would take home the thrill of making me the happiest kid in the world.


Oak Ridge Boys’ DUANE ALLEN

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I believed that if I did something wrong, the devil would send a pitchfork up from the ground and take me directly to hell.

What is one of the most embarrassing moments of your childhood? After overhearing a discussion one year about the family business, I went to school and told my classroom the story. The story was that if my father did not get his annual loan for planting and harvesting cotton for the up-and-coming year, we would lose our farm. Then I told the entire class not to tell anyone.

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I first wanted to be a rancher — until I heard the great groups sing. I loved the gospel groups: Sons of the Pioneers, Mills Brothers, the black gospel groups — any group that sang in harmony.

What is one of your sweetest memories of childhood? Getting to sing all by myself on my oldest brother’s radio show as the result of winning a singing contest. My parents bought me a cowboy outfit, complete with boots, hat, gun and holster.


MORGAN EASTER

What is the goofiest thing you believed as a child? I used to think that “gunpoint” was an actual place. I always heard of all of these bad things happening at “gunpoint” and I was thinking, “Why would you go back there?!”

What did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted so badly to be a Wal-Mart greeter or the cashier. I just thought that was the coolest thing that people got paid to smile and say, “Hello!”

What is one of your sweetest memories of your childhood? Every night before we went to bed, the four of us (Mom, Dad, Madison and I) would crawl in Mom and Dad’s bed and just tell stories. Our stories mostly consisted of me being a princess and my brother being the bad guy! I also loved going to Grandma’s because not only would we have amazing conversations, but she always had me a moon pie and ice cream with a glass of sweet tea!