Music Softens Attitude Toward 'Horns

LITTLE ROCK -- Northbound of Morrilton on I-40, one of those classic country stations cranked up "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and touched a personal soft spot for the University of Texas.

Before spewing out traitor or other epithets, know that some of us would hang on Bob Cheyne's every word about Razorback football and get so wound up that we had to throw the football back and forth during halftime.

That was in the pre-pressbox days, when Mickey Cissell's last-minute field goal took an eternity to get over the crossbar for 24-23 in Austin in 1960 and when Danny Brabham's fumble into the end zone two years later opened the door for Texas 7-3.

Two years later, downtown Little Rock turned into horn-honking heaven when Marvin Kristynik's two-point conversion pass fell to the grass and Arkansas won 14-13. In the sports department at The Arkansas Gazette, the noise from Third Street below was unbelievable.

Fast forward a few years to the time when developer John Cooper began putting on a golf shindig for college football coaches and media. The first one was at Cherokee Village. Later, the venue was Bella Vista and, at the end, Hot Springs Village.

During the tournament years, Frank Broyles and Darrell Royal were among the best golfers and played practice rounds together, gunning their cart across a fairway to any open tee box. For the 36-hole tournament, they were often in the same foursome, but the competition was fierce and they did not share a ride. Usually, it was coach-media in each cart and, by the time the tournament moved to Hot Springs Village in the mid-70s, Royal and I had played several rounds together.

Always with class, he endured the homegrown applause for Broyles' tee shots, even when his were better.

In 1974, the round was almost over when Royal mentioned he had a "picker" in from Austin and that the singer-songwriter was about to change record labels. "You're going to be hearing a lot from him real soon," Royal said. That was high praise from a man who knew his country music makers so well that he was comfortable dropping in on Ralph Emory's all-night show on WSM in Nashville. He invited me to bring my "bride," and we went straight from the pool-side luau.

Royal's digs included a large rectangular room almost devoid of furniture. Aganst the wall sat sportswriters and others, maybe 30-40 people, most of them with ties to the Southwest Conference. In the middle of the room was a small man, clean shaven with short hair, probably about 40. His guitar was already showing lots of wear.

In a voiced distinctive and pure, mostly he did songs he had written. With a glare, Royal would shush anyone intruding on the music. When a request was appropriate, the most asked-for tune was a short one about Jesus being a Baylor Bear, something that coach Grant Teaff probably would not appreciate.

Eventually, those of us who cared about trying to break 80 the next morning put golf in front of entertainment. When the performer broke for some refreshments, we headed for the door. A perfect host, Royal introduced us to his friend.

We noted the name and, on the next payday, tried to find some of his albums. Not popular enough for a section of his own, the records were hard to find.

A year later, Willie Nelson released Red-Headed Stranger, which included the smash single "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." It's pretty hard to get worked up about a football team so closely associated with the man who introduced you to a whole new musical genre.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media Group's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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