Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Celebrity You May Actually Have Heard Of

I seem to recall having made name-dropping disclaimers on this blog before, but the fact is, as you've probably observed, I like having connexions to famous people. Does anyone not like this, actually? I mean, maybe someone doesn't. I just don't know what that's like. So, just this once I'm going to stop fighting it and stop pretending I don't actually care, and am going to let it all out, okay? We've covered the (tenuous) Rob Bell connexion and the (late) Lloyd Alexander connexion. Here, as far as I can remember, are the rest of them.

My uncle, Phil Madeira, is one of those famous people you have to be in kind of an elite crowd to have actually heard of. No, I'm really serious--he hangs out with famous people and writes songs for them and plays in their bands, and his name is in all kinds of album credits, but unless you really pay attention to stuff like that (and, lately, listen to country music), you might not necessarily know his name.

When I was in high school, I was also a lot more into "Contemporary Christian Music" than I am now, so it was pretty cool to get autographed black and white tour photos of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Even cooler, since my tastes have always been a little fringe-y, was hanging out with Phil Keaggy and his family, and Ben Pearson and his, at a party during fall break. And best of all was having breakfast at a Nashville pancake house with Steve Taylor and his amazingly talented artist-wife Debbie. (We went to their house briefly afterwards, which is how I found out Debbie was amazingly talented.) Since I'm being all braggy right now, I'd just like to observe that I met both Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson before Donald Miller did (for his Blue Like Jazz movie) . . . but neither of them offered to make a movie of my life.

A few years later, I went to a Steve Taylor/Newsboys concert and, after a brief reintroduction, Steve remembered me and suggested that all my friends and I get together with him for a photo. (Maybe I'll scan it in here one of these days . . . although I'm pretty sure I was in a bad-hair phase at the time.) He should have. My brother and I had black and white tour photos of him, too, and he had signed my brother's "Any nephew of Phil Madeira's is a nephew of mine." So when it came time for me to get my photo (the day of the pancakes), he just wrote, "Any niece of Phil and El's . . . Your loving Uncle Steve."

In more recent years, Uncle Phil has been has been hanging out with the likes of Buddy Miller, who I met in Greenfield, MA a few years ago. But this year, both of them are playing as two of Emmylou Harris' "Red Dirt Boys." They were played in Portland, ME on Saturday, and Uncle Phil managed to get me two passes to get in. My friend Folk-Musician Gale drove up with me and Oscar, we put Oscar up in the hotel room I had booked for the night, and we went to the concert.

It was truly amazing. The music, if nothing else. Also, can I just say that Emmylou Harris is, physically speaking at least, my new post-sixty-year-old hero--she could belt out an entire concert of songs and wear a sleeveless tunic and strum a guitar, and she never acted tired and there was no upper-arm jiggle. Not even a little. How does she do that? (I should note that my parents are my other post-sixty-year-old heroes . . . but I'm pretty sure even my mother wouldn't try the bare-armed guitar-strumming thing.)

Also, I was so proud of my uncle. Other band members just played their drums, or their guitars, but Uncle Phil? He played piano, guitar, accordian, and sang in a trio with the lady herself. It's cool to be related to him because of the connexions, but it's cooler to be related to him because of himself. Still, I don't mind, as a final punch, posting this photo:


cardiokid said...

This, Jenn, was a good hair day. Really a fun blog. Thanks. Steve Taylor (your Uncle Steve) is a great hero to Beth, me and our eldest son, Jon. We love his stuff!

Marty said...

Whoa, I've read of Phil Madeira I believe in CCM before back when I subscribed in the early 90's. Very cool post Jenn.

Barry Pike said...

You already know I like this, I'm sure. I've been a fan of your uncle's for a long time.

This is super-cool. And, you are right, Emmylou Harris still looks and sounds great...I don't care how old she says she is.

Phil Keaggy and Steve Taylor,

The Sixes said...

Very cool. It struck me that maybe your Uncle Phil knows my Uncle Fred - who used to manage Harry Chapin, Chet Atkins, Earl Klugh, and Michael Johnson among others. When I was growing up, I got to meet lots of famous people, including once when I spent a day at songwriter Randy Goodrum's house in Nashville. Uncle Fred's current wife has written hits for Reba McEntire and other artists, But I don't think any of it was as cool as what you've described!
- Heather

Morning Coffee said...

your Unca Phil is one cool dude..and, from reading your blog, I think you've got some of his genetic coolness.

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