A Hidden Calling
I have a deep, dark secret – at least it might seem deep for those who don’t know me well. I have a hidden calling that comes to the forefront of my life on occasion, and at times, it makes life very interesting.
Many moons ago, before the big water came, say about 1973-74, I was a young lad in high school, figuring out the whole pecking order, seniors were on top of the mountain, the rest of us were just looking out for the rocks rolling down the hill. During that year, I?met a gentleman who came to our school to provide a sound system for a musical.
Mr. Lyle Booth came from Cherokee with a truck loaded with sound equipment of all types – cables, speakers, amps, microphones, you name it, Lyle had it. Of course, as a sophomore, I?was one of the “chosen ones” selected to help bring equipment into our gym from his truck (at the time, it was selection based on ability to carry stuff).
When everything was carried in, I hung around (i.e. skipped study hall) to watch Lyle set up his gear, run cables, etc. I asked questions and he explained everything he was doing, the reasons why, and what would happen. I soaked it up like a sponge – this was something totally foreign I’d never really thought about – and it was interesting.
To my surprise, Lyle showed me the main mixer panel, explained what each control would do, and told me to “try it out”, using a tape deck playing back a Statler Brothers tape. As I?tried the controls, I?could hear what changes I could make to the sound and at that moment, I?was hooked.
Fast-forward a few years. I stayed in touch with Lyle over time, and when I was a freshman in college in Storm Lake, I got a call from Lyle just before Christmas. “You doing anything next summer?”?he asked. The school year ended on something like May 12, and on May 15, I was in the cab of a one-ton truck pulling a 36-foot fifth wheel cargo trailer full of sound gear headed towards Fort Smith, Arkansas for a 10-day outdoor rodeo/concert date with Lyle and crew.
That was the beginning of a summer filled with lots of miles of travel, lots of setting up equipment and tearing down equipment, and meeting some fantastic people along the way. I was turned loose with my own truck after the Arkansas trip and spent my summer cris-crossing Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and dipping into Kansas and South Dakota.
Along the way, I was honored to work shows featuring Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, The Statler Brothers, Buck Owens, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, Rex Allen Jr. and other artists, as well as lots of tractor and truck pulls, demolition derbies and amateur talent shows.
I learned a lot about sound systems and running live sound, and over the years, I’ve acquired some equipment of my own as a “stress reliever” or hobby, if you will. After 40-plus years of working with live sound, the one thing I’ve always strived for was Lyle Booth’s cardinal rule: “Loud isn’t best – you want clean and clear.”
Lyle and his wife have been gone several years now, but I still recall my time with Booth Sound fondly.
So, my secret is now known. That’s why you don’t see me at a lot of events – odds are I’m behind a control console very close by – doing something I enjoy, something that challenges my skills and allows me to help others and have some fun at the same time. It’s a Win-Win!