The Right Side of MemphisBy: Jennifer Scott
It was June 2012. The Annual Country Music Fan Fair was going on in Nashville, Tennessee. It was quite different from the year before. Stars were everywhere, but something strange was happening. A few of the country music artists were having personal troubles. The tabloids had not yet learned of any of the topic headlines. Quite a few of the normal fan fair participants were nowhere to be found. It only appeared to go unnoticed by those who weren't huge fans of theirs. Since it was an entire week of entertainment, there was always hope that they may show up before the last day.
A very crucial part of Music City's popularity is credited to photographers and journalists, but no one wants to praise the paparazzi. The most cherished are the interviewers. So, undoubtedly, Nashville's very own Lori Brook and Chuck Shane were all over the convention halls. They never missed a bit of the excitement. They even took time out to sign some autographs for their fans as well.
Mysteries were waiting to be unraveled. They were right under everyone's noses. One photo-journalist in particular would be the first to play a major part in it all. She was a novice, but put all of her time and energy in her work. Like Brook and Shane, she wanted to be part of all the exhilaration that goes with show business. Country music was her lifeline and Ricky Todd was the reason. She loved the glamour and glitz of Nashville, but she adored Ricky even more. Little did she know that he would not be at fan fair and neither would quite a few others.
It was day three and Billie Garris was losing all hope. Then, she saw one of her favorite country singers. He was preparing to sign autographs. She had seen him in concert a few times. This was her first chance to actually have a conversation with him. The line was starting to form, lucky for her; she didn't have to wait in it long. She was in his fan club and also doing her job. She wasn't thrilled with the idea of asking him the same standard questions that they usually hate answering. She could see Bobby Douglas’ face from where she was standing. She could tell that he was having a bad day. The line was still long and it was extremely hot. Finally, Bobby’s manager gave his approval for the media to get their cameras ready. Billie was a good friend to someone who worked for Country Star magazine. They had used some of her work in the past. So did Bobby Douglas’ club newsletter. As soon as she thought of a few of her own questions to ask him, that's when it was canceled. They told the crowd that he was not up to being interviewed at that time. He took a break, which is when some gossip started to spread. They were saying he wouldn't be signing any more autographs. Some also said he may not return the rest of the week. Several reporters liked turning opinions in to facts. Billie was not like that at all. She only reported the truth, or what she thought to be the truth. She was determined more than ever to find out, not just for the fans, but for herself as well.
Billie wandered from booth to booth, snapping pictures here and there. She'd even stop to hear some interviews for some of the new artists. She wanted to have the latest information on all of the famous or rising stars to fill her journal. She was wondering where Chris Brady could be in the building. She had not seen Ricky Todd either. Time had slipped away before she noticed it. She realized she had to find out what went on at Bobby Douglas’ booth. She started to rush back through the crowds. Some reporters were still around. Most of the fans had moved on to other lines for autographs. She tried to push her way to the front of the barricades. One of the reporters told her that Bobby’s manager had said, “No More Comments.” Now, Billie was really curious.
She found out when Bobby’s’ stage show was going to be and she made the arrangements. She put her press pass on, but then decided against it. She assumed in his current state, he might be a little less considerate to someone with the press. He could be more honest with a fan. She would be going backstage as a fan club member only. The show only lasted about forty-five minutes, compared to his normally two hour concerts. While she was waiting backstage, she started to worry. She just knew he would cancel his meet and greet with his fans. But, he didn't after all. He was gracious enough to talk to them. It was only a small room full of people. Billie noticed that Bobby's wife and children were not there. She could only assume they didn't want to sit through all of the boring details. Before she had a chance to ask that question, someone else beat her to it. He said his family went to visit her parents. That was odd to Billie because she remembered him saying in a previous interview, that they only visited during the holidays. “Perhaps a family emergency,” crossed her mind.