I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 29, 1945. Famous people with whom I share a birthday are Mary Tyler Moore and Andrew Johnson, the only president besides Bill Clinton to be impeached. I grew up 15 miles east of Louisville in Middletown. School began for me in the fall of 1952. I hated school, everything about it. My first grade teacher grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me because I tried to work a puzzle which was too hard for me without first asking. She was a dominatrix. She had two huge dogs which she prized, and maybe that is why I hate dogs to this day. Anyway, I went through grade school and high school without opening my mouth. I sat and waited for the bell to ring at three o'clock so I could go home and listen to rock & roll records on my small turntable. I bought Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson. Only in my senior year did I find a means of expressing myself publicly. It was 1964, the year of The Beatles. I latched on to them. I looked in the mirror and saw John Lennon. If I had no talent and was too lazy to work, at least I could grow my hair. My hair became my vocation as I sat up half the night trying to write songs. My mother pulled me out of bed each morning by my arm. She was determined that I would graduate from high school. I strolled through commencement like a zombie in that silly cap and gown. The cap crushed my Beatle hairdo. Thank God it was over!
Little did I know, it was only beginning! President John Kennedy was assassinated during my senior year. This set off a tumultuous chain of events which took 15 years to run its course. The Vietnam War, race riots, illegal drugs, religious fanaticism, women's liberation, homosexuality and the political corruption of Watergate piled wave upon wave. I plowed through my 20s. I got an Associate degree from Lindsey Wilson College in central Kentucky in 1967. I was majoring in English. For the first time, I was taking an interest in literature. I was reading novels and grappling with European history. I thirsted for knowledge. I was eligible for the draft and like other young men, confused about Vietnam. The war made no sense. Nor did the draft. We were told we were in Vietnam to contain Communism. I had trouble understanding what a Communist was. No man could look at another and recognize him as a Communist. The isolated geography of Vietnam was a problem. It lay behind the Philippines on the map. It did not jut out like the Korean peninsula. It was hard to get to and hard to defend. The draft was hard to justify. Something in me was saying no man had the right to take another man off the street and put him in a war against his will. Nevertheless, the draft was real. You went when you were called or risked the chance of being sent to prison. After getting a third year of college as an English major, my draft papers came. My education was without direction, and I went into the Army in October, 1969. I took basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After advanced training in radio school, I received orders for Germany. I recall standing in formation and looking at those orders. What a relief! By 1970, most of America had turned against the war, and Richard Nixon was slowly pulling troops out. Vietnam was becoming something that people wanted to forget. I set out for Germany. I had studied German for two semesters and knew a few words. Once in Frankfurt, I readily found that the prostitutes spoke fluent English. I avoided them. I was thinking of the girl I left behind. I knew it was over but consoled myself with false hope. I did not care for Germany. It was dark and depressing. Buildings were drab. It was like going back to the Middle Ages. I ended up in a nuclear platoon. Over my head! German beer was very potent, and I drank too much. By the time I received my discharge, America had changed. Hippie life had become a norm with young people. A grass roots religious movement was sweeping the country as baby boomers searched for answers in the aftermath of war. They looked to Buddhism and various forms of mysticism. Cults sprang up, and I got involved with Jesus freaks. We attended a Pentecostal church, spoke in tongues and wrote gospel songs. Jesus Paid My Debt came from this period and to this day, I regard the essence of the New Testament as ultimate reality.
In late 1973, I recorded a song called Long Live Rock & Roll. It was a tribute to what was then 20 years of rock & roll. I pressed 1,000 copies in Nashville and mailed them across the country. I would hear from that song in 1981 while working for the State of Tennessee. The people who had the publishing on Long Live Rock & Roll called to say Elvis Presley had recorded my song and that RCA had released it on an 8-record set called Elvis Aron Presley. I was ecstatic! Wasn't this what I had dreamed of? I went to a record shop and bought the vinyl set. I took it home and played it only to be disappointed. It was my title, and I was credited as the writer, but it was not my song. It is hard to say what it was. The band was jamming, and Elvis was groaning in the background. My father said it was my song. I knew it was not. We argued. It makes a funny story now, but it was all secondary to the fact that making a record gave me new hope. I could do things. What next? I decided to finish college with help from the GI Bill. I had a plan. I had the idea of being a librarian since I had read a variety of books by this time and wanted to be around them. It did not occur to me that I did not have the temperament of a librarian. I was a bull in a china closet. But I had to do something. I finished my Bachelor's Degree in English at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. Nearly all my courses were independent. I wrote papers and took them in. I studied Greek drama, Shakespeare and the British Romantic poets. I was out of my mind but graduated and moved to Nashville to pursue a Master's Degree in Library Science from Peabody College. Peabody is now part of Vanderbilt University, and I am living in an apartment complex at Vanderbilt 34 years later as I edit this bio. It is hard not to believe in full circles. I got the MLS and took a library job at Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, east of Nashville off Interstate 40. It was a high school. For someone who hated school, I could not get enough. I was in my early 30s, and working with teenagers gave me a sense of responsibility. I quit drinking and tried to hold myself as an example for young people. I put on the same uniform I had worn in the Army. It was not easy. I was neither a soldier nor a librarian by nature. These were things I was caught up in from my youth. My second year at Castle Heights, the songwriter in me came out. I put together a band composed of students, and we recorded an album with my friend Bill Davis. I met Bill while attending Peabody. He was a music major with ambitions of writing serious music. He would make quotation signs with his fingers when he talked about "serious music." Our album was centered around a song I wrote called Phoenix. We called the album Rising from the Ashes. I was fascinated with the idea of resurrection, rising from one's ashes. I liked comebacks, and comeback songs became a category within my catalog. I came to suspect that I was knocking myself down so I could have the opportunity of making still another comeback. The album left me closer to the students than to the faculty, and I received a pink slip. I could no longer do the military thing. I was 32. Jimmy Carter was president, and times were good. Disco music was on fire. ABBA was on the radio with Dancing Queen, and The Bee Gees burned with Night Fever. I wanted a girl friend. I wanted to get married. I bought a house in Lebanon and moved in alone. By October, 1978, I had another library job, this one with the State of Tennessee in Nashville. Jesus! I was not cut out to be a librarian!
Fate stepped in! While at Castle Heights, I fell in love with the wife of a faculty member. We paired off every night in the cafeteria. We gazed dreamily into each other's eyes and confided our feelings of alienation. "We are under siege." she said. Her hair was dark, and her eyes were blue. Her skin was seductively pale. She reminded me of Madame Bovary from Gustav Flaubert's novel: the tragic, lonely wife waiting for some mystery lover to whisk her away to a better place. I wanted to. I thought it was going to happen. I contemplated it for two years. There was one huge obstacle. She had two young boys, and it was not in me to take someone else's kids. The spell broke. I bought the house and lay in bed every night for 10 months grieving over this woman. Her husband finally told me she had a boy friend, a disc jockey from Knoxville. There would be a divorce, but she was not moving in with me. The pain cut like a knife. I vowed that if I ever became enamored with another married woman, I would strike like lightning!
It did not take long. I went to work at the Tennessee State Library. My assistant sat at the desk behind me. It was Karen, the future mother of my son. We got to know each other quickly. She was married to a man who worked on another floor of the library. It was the same story, another unhappy wife. She said that the week before, she had loaded her car and driven around the block only to return because she had nowhere to go. Karen wanted a house. Her husband wanted to drink up their money and run to Florida every time he got a chance. She wanted a baby. He did not want one because he had a child by a previous marriage. Karen and I sat side by side, checking in serials. The chemistry was strong. We rubbed our legs together. Other employees noticed. Ten days after I took the job, Karen was in my bed in Lebanon. We set up a pattern of Thursday nights. She told her husband that she was selling Avon when she was driving to Lebanon to be with me. One night, we met on a corner by the library to go to a movie. A fellow worker drove by, and we were sure he saw us. We saw a Woody Allen movie that night called Interiors, possibly his worst. Then things came to a head. I told Karen to leave her husband and move in with me. I had a house and promised her a baby. She was not sure. We lay on the floor in my living room after sex. She cried and said she needed six months to think it over. Her mascara ran. I laughed and told her she looked like Alice Cooper. Six months was too long! I insisted that she move in right away. She said she would do it after Thanksgiving. She spent Thanksgiving with her detested in-laws and later recalled thinking, "This is the last time!" Karen's daddy rented a U-Haul and moved her belongings to my house the next day while her husband was at work. It was Friday, and we fell asleep that night in each other's arms. It would be that way for a while. We did the right thing.
Confrontation with the husband was inevitable. He was waiting for us Monday morning, pacing on the sidewalk outside the library. We clashed over the next few weeks. The climax came in the lobby of the library. It got physical! He was bigger; I was more determined. I had him by the hair with his head down. I was a matador; he was a bull. We inched toward the stairwell. A wrong move, and we might have gone over!
I heard a bellowing voice! "What in the hell is going on here?!" I looked up. It was the head librarian, a crusty, cigarette-smoking dyke. Behind her, library personnel were peeking through the main doors, their necks stretching to see the fight. It was over. Fisticuffs are not expected from library-types, and I was given two-weeks notice. Karen and I left together, and I never used my degree again.
I had been through Las Vegas the previous summer and got the idea of finding work there. Karen and I loaded my Ford Maverick and left for Vegas on Flag Day, June 14, 1979. We drove west on I-40. A couple of nights in motels, and we found ourselves cruising down Las Vegas Boulevard. We rented an apartment and looked for work. It was useless, at least for me. The trip gradually turned into a tour of the American west. After a month in Vegas, we retreated to Nashville. Karen got her divorce although it took a year because her idiot "husband" contested it. He sued me for "alienation of affection." I could not believe a lawyer would take such a ridiculous case. He found one stupid enough. Karen and I were married in April, 1980. I came in one morning from working at the U.S. Post Office, and she informed me that it was time. I was going to wear bluejeans, and she made me change into slacks. We drove to the courthouse in Lebanon. A woman married us, and I tipped her $20. One picture was taken of Karen and me kissing. I felt no different now that we were married than I had when we were living together.
These were years of travel, my 30s. I was fascinated with great places. Suddenly, I was free to go to places I had heard about all my life. My galleries are filled with pictures. Karen took them while I wrote papers. After a while, I had that full circle feeling. I was repeating as prices rose.
Karen and I began watching Dallas in the fall of 1979. It sounds crazy but when J.R. and Sue Ellen became parents on the show, I realized that I was going to be a father. I never thought it possible before. Karen and I knew we would be parents. We also believed we would have the boy she so desired.
I collected books on human sexuality. I had about 20. I studied diagrams of the female reproductive organs. I learned about ovaries, Fallopian tubes and the uterus. I visualized my sperm cell working its way through Karen's tubes to fertilize an egg.
Karen removed her IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) and began trying to get pregnant. Things sometimes go awry, and it takes a couple of tries to get them right. That is how it was. Karen was pregnant by late 1982. In March, 1983, she called me where I was working as a printer for the State. She was at the doctor's office. There had been a miscarriage. I recall walking through the streets of Nashville with tears in my eyes. That night, Karen and I hugged in the kitchen, and I said we would try again. She must have gotten pregnant the second time around June 11. Michael Brandon Colyer was born 9 months later on March 11, 1984. As it turned out, the pregnancies were so close that only one of the babies could be born. It was hard to understand and hard to explain. It had to be God's will! I came to feel that God brought me to Nashville for the purpose of becoming Michael's father. Years later, I felt He brought me back to help Michael after he got older. Karen and I divorced, and I ended up living in my parents' basement in Louisville. But I lived with my son over a year, long enough to establish a permanent relationship. He never forgot me.
I turned 40 in my parents' basement. It seemed like my life was over. I would be in the basement 12 years: 1985-1997. We perceive time differently after 40. It becomes a running facet. Days, months and years slip by with little meaning. We approach 50. We watch ourselves turn gray and feel our strength ebb. We despise the music of the day and have no interest in television. We long for our youth and are envious of the younger generation.
"I must go on!" I wrote that line on New Year's Eve, 1985. Everything since has grown from that seed. Michael came first. I was virtually broke but started going to him when I could afford it. There was no pattern. I drove to Nashville when something in me said the time was right. I would get a motel and do things with my son or bring him to Louisville. My parents sometimes went with me. I would have been on the street without them. It was the same for Karen. Her parents built an apartment onto their house for her and Michael.
The basement years passed! I read books and wrote papers. I watched movies. I revived ABBA. I went to Las Vegas and to Sweden. Bill Clinton was elected president, then reelected. It was 1997, and there was a 70s revival. I had an environmental song called Save The Planet which I advertised in a local music paper. A lady in southern Indiana answered, and I went to her house. We made a tape in her living room. I continued to believe in that song and finally recorded it in Nashville at Direct Image Studio. I sang it. For such a song to gain acceptance, we need to be in a liberal era. A War on Terror is not a favorable climate. Hopefully, we will win the peace.
I ended up back in Nashville in July, 1997, in an apartment on Music Row. I began writing songs like crazy. Girl songs! It was the Shania Twain era. In retrospect, it seemed inevitable. God brought me back to Nashville for my son. He was 13, and it was better to be close so I could go to him when he needed me. We began having meals and seeing movies together. We talked about life, school, girls and the future. We had many conversations riding in the Nissan truck which I bought on Broadway.
I was singing my songs on public access TV in Louisville and recording girl singers with Kenny Royster in Nashville. My biggest challenge was trying not to fall in love with the singers. Songs poured out of me: God Given Talent, Hard Earned Love, I Feel So Country, All Roads Lead To You, Love Me Just A Little, I Looked Twice!, Put Me On The Spot!, A Man Is A Man & The Truth. I was a genius in my own mind as the 20th century faded into the 21st. I did karaoke. I sang the songs of the big four: Elvis, The Beatles, ABBA and Shania. Being older, it did not bother me to get up and sing a Shania song. I was writing for women anyway. I tried not to be affected by 9/11. It was impossible not to be, but I have learned to keep an eye on the future. I took Michael to Florida while he was still in high school. I took him to New York City and to Washington, D.C. in his third year of college. We went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in 2007, and to California and back to New York in 2009.
Elvis, Beatles, ABBA, Shania Twain, Little Big Town