One night during the summer of 1989, I was over at my friend Del Rendon’s house. We both lived in Starkville, Mississippi. We also both played guitar. After playing half the songs in the Led Zeppelin acoustic catalogue, we started to talk. Del tried to convince me to start playing music for a living with my friend Shannon who is an enormously talented vocalist. Shannon was also over at Del’s house that night so we both heard an earful of compliments from our kind and humble friend.
By the middle of the summer of 1990 Shannon and I were both making ends meet playing in the local bars and also in a few bars in the Mississippi Delta. The bar we played in the most was called the Bully III in Starkville. That was where Del waited tables working for our mutual friend David Lee Odom. It took a lot of convincing but one night Del got up on stage with David and sang an old Zeppelin song. The crowd went wild. Then, Del stayed on stage and sang a song he wrote called Brainstorming. It was and still is my favorite Del Rendon original.
Eventually it was my turn to encourage Del the way he had once encouraged me. In 1993, I had finally achieved my goal of getting a PhD and landing a job as a professor. Before I left town I told Del to pick up where we left off. Starkville has a long and proud tradition of great local music. It also has a tight community of musicians who really look out for each other. Jim Beaty, Bill Cooke, Jeff Cummings, Jeff Rupp, the list goes on. I’ll never forget those guys who have dedicated their lives to making people smile with their talent, their love of music, and their love of the people they play for. (Sorry but I have a love of ending sentences with prepositions. It’s something I’m really not ashamed of).
I’m not sure I can really describe the happiness I experienced when I came rolling into Starkville one weekend in 1996 to play in the wedding of an old friend. That happiness set in as I drove past the old Bully III and saw Del’s name on the marquis. After I turned the car around and found a parking space I slipped into a seat at a table in the back of the bar. Within just a few minutes Del recognized me. He called me up to the stage to play an old tune (Zeppelin, of course) called Your Time is Gonna Come. It was a great time and it was great to see Del playing guitar and singing in front of a live audience without a hint of the old shyness that used to keep him off stage.