We all have a stash of stories about ourselves we like to tell.
Over the years you tell these stories over and over again, learning which stories work and which ones don’t.
And you keep telling the ones that prove to a roomful of strangers that, yes, you are a witty or charming or sincere human. We tell these stories until they become a part of us.
Stitch them together and they begin to form a picture of who we think we are. Not who we really are, but a composite of the person we project to the world. Oftentimes, these tales might have very little in common with events that really happened.
Your spouse will probably tell you when you stretch the truth just a tiny little bit. Not out loud, that would be rude. But, with a roll of their eyes as they hear the hundredth retelling about “that one time I blew out the Eustachian Tube in my ear while sneezing because I didn’t want to lose the cough drop in my mouth.” That happened to my friend Dave. Ask him and he’ll also tell you his Little League story about hitting a triple at Pottawattomie Park and getting stranded on third base, which resulted in his team losing the game and missing out on the playoffs.
Or my friend Rick, who got chewed out by his father for being wasteful because he left a nickel on the floor of his car. Or my friend Mike who along with me and Dave created a baseball stadium in our living room complete with batter’s box, pitcher’s mound and foul lines. Somewhere out there is a book of scorecards our girlfriends kept of the game we made up; Indoor Whiffle Nerf ™
These are the stories we tell, sometimes adding or deleting elements to make the story funnier, sadder or just flow better. And that’s how I ended up lying to Lyle Lovett.
In the early 90’s I was working as a DJ at a Classic Rock station. That meant playing the same 500 Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel songs ad infinitum. Radio pays pretty poorly now and it was only slightly above minimum wage then.
But, there were perks. Free tickets to concerts and sporting events. Free food and beer. Once I was asked to introduce BB King at a sold-out show. Before the show, they made sure I rented a tuxedo so I would look respectable. Backstage I watched BB, his band and his crew eat dinner off paper plates. They invited me to join them, so I grabbed a plate, but I was too starstruck to do anything but sit there and stare.
The Classic Rock station I worked at certainly never played Lyle Lovett, but I was a huge fan. I discovered him in the bins of records when I briefly worked at a broken-down country station in 1990. They played Top 40 Country Hits from an old trailer in the middle of a field in Bloomington, Illinois. There was a hole in the roof of the studio, so when it rained, you had to hold a coffee can over the turntable to catch the raindrops before they splattered on the records.
Lyle didn’t have many country hits in the 80’s or 90’s, but the 45’s of singles like “Cowboy Man,” “Give Back My Heart” and “If I Had a Boat” were in the station’s library and the DJs were able to pick a few songs each hour to fill out the playlist. So, I’d always spin a few songs from Lyle, Steve Earle, Willie and Johnny in between the empty Nashville pop of Kenny Rogers, Amy Grant, and Eddie Rabbit. At least Toby Keith and Billy Ray Cyrus hadn’t been invented in 1990.
So, when I heard Lyle Lovett and His Large Band were playing nearby, I had to go. I secured tickets through MCA, Lyle’s record company, and they even sent me backstage passes for after the show.
If you’ve ever been to a Lyle Lovett concert, you know he puts on one of the greatest shows you’ll ever see. He doesn’t run and jump around the stage like Bruce Springsteen and he’s not a virtuoso on the guitar like Eric Clapton. But, what Lyle does is so much more difficult and endearing. He entertains simply by engaging the audience with his gentle, self-effacing humor. Add to that his crack band, soaring gospel backup singers and Lyle’s smart and funny songs, and you’ve got a fantastic night of music.
After the show my then-girlfriend and I were told to wait for Lyle in a small room. They said that Lyle likes to review the show with his band right after and he wouldn’t be long. So, we waited for a half hour and then Lyle shows up. No manager, no PR person, nobody to rush him out the door. Just us and Lyle. Of course, he is totally gracious. We make small talk about the show, his band, the weather, and then I ask him to sign the CD booklet for “Joshua Judges Ruth.” And that’s where I made my first mistake.
My girlfriend and I had been together for quite a long time at that point. We did most everything together so when Lyle asked who he should make the inscription out to I gave him both our names.
And that’s how he signed it.
Of course, we broke up soon after.
Two years later my life had completely changed. I’m living alone in a huge house I had bought with my now ex-girlfriend. I’ve changed jobs, too. But, most importantly, I’ve met someone special.
At the end of July, we’d been dating for a grand total of three weeks. What I didn’t know is that over two decades later, we’d still be together.
Back then, I was frantically trying to impress her with my favorite books and restaurants and organic gardening skills and, of course, Lyle Lovett.
So, when he came back to Boston to play Harborlights Pavilion, I used my connections at MCA and again scored tickets and backstage passes. The night of the show, I was shocked when the usher escorted us to our seats in the front row! I’d never sat in the front row for anything, much less a concert by Lyle Lovett. And I gotta say, it’s pretty great. With no one in front of us, it almost felt as if the band was playing a private show for me and my new girlfriend.
After the show, it was a little more chaotic than the last time I met Lyle. There were a lot more people backstage waiting to meet him. But, Lyle was his usual gracious self and made time for everyone in the room.
Now, everything up to this point is completely true as best as I can remember. But, this is where I tell a lie to Lyle Lovett. And it’s not even a good lie. I mean, there’s no point to telling this lie. When you tell a lie, a lot of times it’s to spare someone’s feelings, or to make yourself look better, or to get out of a sticky situation. This lie does none of those things.
You see, when Lyle signed that first CD booklet, he addressed to my and my ex. And I was happy to have his autograph, but I selfishly wanted one for me alone.
That spring, Lyle had a very public divorce from his wife, actress Julia Roberts. So I said “Lyle, I know you’ve signed a CD booklet for me before, but, well, my girlfriend kinda got it in the breakup and you of all people would understand. So, could I get another?”
Lyle signed the CD booklet of “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band” with the inscription “Thanks Brent. Thanks for keeping this one. Lyle Lovett ’95.
Funny? Check. Charming? Check.
In the years since this happened, I must’ve told this story over a hundred times. Just like I told it in the paragraphs above. It’s become part of my repertoire, a good story to tell when people are sharing stories about meeting famous people. And, it’s a pretty good story because it shows that Lyle is one of the good guys. And I don’t come off too poorly either. I told that story so many times that I had come to believe it as rock solid truth.
But, last week I found a bunch of relics from the olden days. Ticket stubs, photos, backstage passes, and there in the pile, a signed CD booklet of “Joshua Judges Ruth” inscribed to me and my ex-girlfriend. She never took it, I never lost it. I had it all along. It even moved with me four different times without being detected.
And the worst part is, if I would’ve told the real story, complete with me lying to Lyle Lovett about the autograph, and then coming clean to my friends that I was really just being selfish and wanting an autograph all my own, the story would’ve been even better.
So, I’m sorry I lied, Lyle. But, I’m more sorry about missing out on a great story.