We were not cool.
In high school, being cool is important. We weren’t.
Pat Alger was a skinny, red-headed kid from the wrong side of the tracks and with no father around. So he had at least three strikes against him that kept him out of the cool kids’ clique.
I had just moved there (outsiders remained outsiders), did not have the right clothes and suffered from terminal acne (it killed my social life.) Most of the legacy cool kids did not even know my name.
Pat and I became close friends. However, he was one grade behind me and another reason for not being cool was bonding with an underclassman.
Pat’s initial attempt at being cool was to follow the path of the Beatniks, if you remember those. He took up the bongo drums and would come over to my house and accompany my efforts on my pawn-shop-sourced guitar.
Pat showed a passion for the guitar so I taught him the basics: how to hold it, how to hold a pick and the four chords that are needed to play virtually any rock-n-roll song of the era. On Saturday nights I would be playing in a band in the local VFW, ELKs Club (I lied about my age) or a small town prom.
Pat would be at home teaching himself how to make the guitar do what he wanted it to do. What he wanted was for the music in his head to somehow come out of his guitar and his voice.
Pat attended few of the dances in high school and the only ones I attended were when my band was playing there. We weren’t outcasts, but we weren’t “in” either.
My last significant memory of Pat was the night we were kicked out of a dance at the Hogansville Civic Center. When the band that was playing that night took a break, a few of us went onstage, fired up the equipment and began playing “Memphis,” getting as far into it as we could before the band members rushed back in and shut us down.
As often happens, we lost touch. Now, five decades later, we each continue to travel with more of the road behind us than ahead.
Pat is a songwriter now, but not just any songwriter. He has been voted “Songwriter of the Year” by numerous associations and is in many Halls of Fame. In fact, he has earned just about every award a songwriter can receive. He was the opening act for the Everly Brothers who have never lost their loving feeling for him.
He was honored in his hometown with “Pat Alger Day,” and many of his high school alumni showed up.
Along with his musical successes, he has also become a man, a gentleman and a humble sage.
I take absolutely no credit for his success. He is self-taught, self-driven and self-made. The point is, I had the opportunity to sow a seed and, in this case, it took root, it fell on “good soil.” I’ve taught a lot people how to play the guitar. Many gave up when they realized it is not as easy as it looks. Others played for a while and were discouraged, usually by the weeds, the negative reactions from others.
Pat is different and there are many “Pats” that will cross your path. Some will disappoint you by quitting too soon. Others may reject what you are trying to teach them. But keep on sowing seeds.
Teaching others is one of the most rewarding activities there is. So, for more than three decades, I have autographed every book and closed every correspondence with “Teach Others!”
Today my guitars are mostly wall ornaments; my fingers no longer obeying the commands from my brain. Still, if someone wanted to take up the instrument, I’d be willing to teach.
There are many videos of Pat’s work online; here is a link to my favorite. Pat performs a hit song he co-wrote with Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayer.” This is an amateur video recorded at the Blue Bird Café in Nashville. I like it because you will get to know him as he chats for a few minutes. Then you will see the magic, the impact of his seed-sowing as his audience reacts.
QUESTION: How many seeds will you sow today – knowingly and unwittingly?
Here is a song Pat wrote: “Seeds” performed by Kathy Mattea:
The Parable of the Sower
[Matthew 13] That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
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