By Tom Mailey
Brad Paisley is playing Thunder Valley Friday night and while Brad is, today, one of country music’s most recognizable stars, it wasn’t always that way.
Back in 2001, when Brad was still a promising young artist best known for his first two hits, “We Danced” and “He Didn’t Have To Be”, he had a show scheduled at the old Splitfire Bar and Grill in Vacaville (remember that place?). But, being a big fisherman, Brad wanted to toss a line in the water while he was out here. So, we made arrangements with a local bass fishing guide to take Brad out on Lake Berryessa and I was lucky enough to get to come along.
I picked him up at sunrise from his bus, which was parked at a hotel in Vacaville and I was told by his manager that he absolutely had to be back no later than one o’clock because he had an in-person interview with another country radio station from our region. I’m not one to do a rival station a favor but this was his manager talking so I said “No problem”.
We met up with our guide, Larry Newby, at the Markley Cove boat launch and by seven o’clock had our lines in the water. Immediately, Larry and I and another guest on the boat started catching fish. Brad though..? Nothing.
And it went on that way all morning.
It didn’t matter what we did, Brad couldn’t get a bite and we couldn’t quit getting them. We even tried handing him the pole once a fish was on so he could fight it–a gesture he rejected because, being a purist, it wouldn’t really be his fish (I respected the hell out of that).
Well, 11 o’clock rolls around and I suggested that maybe it was time to head back.. Brad answered no, we weren’t leaving til he hooked a fish. Cell phones were a thing in 2001, but there was no signal where we were, so I had no way of reaching Brad’s manager, who’d given me his number. No worries, I thought. It’s still early.
11:30, still no fish for Brad and I said again that we should probably be heading back.
Again, Brad said, flatly, no.
Now it was getting toward noon and I know we were pushing it, so–even though it was with a rival station–I reminded him about his scheduled interview. Brad’s reply?
“They can wait.”
About 15 minutes later (which seemed like an hour)…finally! Brad ties into a bass and reels it in. It couldn’t have been more than 12 inches but Brad got it up to the boat, grabbed it by the lip, and as he tossed it back in declared,
“Ok, now we can go in.”
Larry’s bass boat must’ve hit 70 back to the marina and I must’ve hit nearly that racing down narrow, winding highway 128, sweating like a madman because I knew his manager was going to hold me responsible for being late. And we were late. Shortly after the clock struck one, Brad was at last able to reach his manager on the phone, and to my best recollection this is how it went on Brad’s end, in that calm, even-keeled way Brad has of speaking:
“…No, it’s not his fault….No. It’s not…Don’t blame him…I told them we had to stay out there…. I know about the interview…They can wait…We’re almost back…No, it was my call. Why? Well I had to catch something…Right, OK….Don’t be mad….Tell them to hang tight…We’re almost there.”
Then he turned to me and asked “Do you want tickets to the show?”
I declined because frankly, I was afraid to bring the car to a stop at his bus for more than even a few seconds because I didn’t really believe the manager wasn’t still royally upset with me. So as I bid farewell to Brad I breathed a sigh of relief and pulled away with no sign of the manager anywhere in my rearview mirror and I was happy to know that, while Brad finally got his fish and and that radio station finally got their interview, I’d gotten a story I’d be able to share for the rest of my life 🙂
For ticket information for Brad’s show at Thunder Valley? Just click here