I was working in country radio!!!!! YES!
I had always dreamed of being involved in country music. Some way, some how. Luckily for me I met radio people at a bar in 1997 that gave me that chance.
A year or so went by (as I worked graveyard shift answering phones) when we had a station event/concert that would stay with me here 20 years later.
I was still a senior in college, and I would show up between classes and ask my boss if he had anything that needed to be done. On this particular day.....he did. He called me in his office.
"Ritch, I need you to head to airport and pick up the band that is playing tonight."
What? Me? Picking up rockstars?????
"They have all their gear, so make sure you take the 3rd seat out of the van so it all fits."
"Absolutely" I told him.
How cool? I was going to pick up the band, one of the hottest new band's in country music - The Ranch.
I went home to my apartment quick, showered and changed.
Once back at the station I grabbed the radio station vehicle and headed to the Lincoln, NE airport. If you've never BEEN to the Lincoln airport, let's just say there are Wal-Mart's bigger than this place. This was PRE 9/11, so I parked the vehicle out front and walked inside.
I had no idea who I was looking for. I had seen pictures but didn't know if I could pick them out. So I waited at the bottom of the escalator....and waited. Til I saw a guy I thought I recognized.....keith urban.
We exchanged hellos and then the other 2 members of The Ranch joined us. We had to go to baggage claim...and wouldn't you know it, they brought ALL of their gear. Amps. Guitars. Basses. Drums...everything.
We load up the luggage cart as we make small talk and get to the van. I open the back door and that's when my heart sank.
I forgot to take out the 3rd seat.
Trying to play it off, I said 'I got this' and proceeded to shove every piece of musical equipment in the van until it fit.
We finally all got in the van so I could take them to the hotel. Their manager, ticked off, in the passenger seat, Jerry Flowers (Bass) behind him, drummer behind my drivers seat and Keith Urban....in the middle, crouching down because there was a guitar case hanging over his head.
I was mortified.
I tried to make small talk with the manager and band to the hotel, but they weren't having it. They were MAD.
Here I had one job, take the 3rd row out, and I didn't.
We get to the hotel, unload the stuff and they have ZERO to say to me.
I close the back hatch and say 'Have a great show.....see ya tonight.'
Nothing. Nothing was said.
I was heartbroken. I messed up. The one job I had, to be involved in country music and I ruined it.
Fast forward to the show that night. Sold out. Folks were dying to see this new amazing band. I knew that I had to take them to the airport in the early morning so I wasn't going to stay long.
Before they started, I walked onstage and asked if they would sign my CD. Without any of them saying a word to me, they signed it.
I simply said 'Have a great show, I'll see ya at 4:30 in the morning." And left.
I went home, not really sleeping, but I guess I slept a few hours. I got up, went to the station and grabbed the vehicle and headed to the hotel to pick up the band so they could catch their flight.
I drove there, still thinkin about the night before and how stupid I looked. I rolled up, and 2 of the guys were already outside smoking with their luggage.
I got out, said hello and told them I would load their stuff. Got to the back of the van and.........
Realized I STILL hadn't taken the 3rd seat out. Seriously???? What the hell am I doing?
I load it up like the day before and we sit like the day before, cramped.
The entire way back to the airport, I'm shaking, I'm sweating....I'm Done. I can't believe the first chance I have to be close to a famous band and I screw it up. I knew my time was numbered.
We roll up to the airport, again, no one saying a word to me, and they start unloading their gear. They had grabbed a cart, loaded it and one by one...all walk into the airport to catch their flight with not even a thanks, or see ya later.
I was devastated. How could I leave this impression on a band I loved.
As they all loaded up and walked into the airport, I stood there at the back of the van with the hatch open. Both hands/arms on the door....it felt like I hung there as I stared at a large oil stain on the pavement. To me at that time, that oil stain looked like a black hole and I wanted to jump in it. And then......
Almost snapping me out of my trance, I felt someone hit my side. It was Keith Urban.
I turned to look at him and he said "Don't worry mate, it wasn't that bad at all. God Bless you." and handed me $20.
I didn't say a word. I was stunned.
He walked in to catch his flight and I went to the drivers seat, at 4:30am at the Lincoln airport and bawled like a baby. I'll never forget how him doing that made me feel like a person again.
**Funny sidenote:** Years later in the mid-2000's, Keith was in Omaha headlining one of his massive tours at the Centurylink. We took a bunch of listeners back to meet him. I walked up to him and said 'Hi Keith, my name is Ritch Cassidy....."
And before I could say anything else, he smiled at me and said:
"Ritch, can I have that $20 back I loaned you?"
~God Is Good~