Cowboy Crush traveled to Europe for a few festivals this summer, but while in Europe they wanted to visit with our troops stationed there. While in Europe, Cowboy Crush traveled to Italy and performed 3 show for our military over the Fourth of July Holiday.
It was a rare pleasure to share a holiday with the troops that sacrifice so many of theirs. We hope that we brought a little slice of home to our courageous defenders overseas. – Cowboy Crush
SUNDAY, JULY 2, 2006:
For those of you who only get my “military” road reports, I departed Nashville on June 21st to produce a festival in Paris with Buddy Jewell, David Ball, Elizabeth Cook, BR459, and Cowboy Crush. Spent almost a week in Paris and then flew to Switzerland with Cowboy Crush. Met up with Carlene Carter and Danni Leigh for the festival that I work with there very year. Now for the rest of the story….
Grabbed a couple of hours sleep then got everyone checked out for the drive from Switzerland to Italy. Our bus and driver arrived on time. Charlie (your very typical Italian) is our escort. I met him years ago when the Bellamys were touring Italy. He’s great – very organized and very entertaining. He sure knows the best places to eat in Italy, too! Only problem we had with him before is that he drove at about 110 miles per hour all the time. Of course, in Italy they are all crazy drivers but it was pretty frightening at times. Better that he escorts us instead of driving. J
I discussed our tour with Charlie and learned that the contact in Italy where we mailed our autograph sheets never gave them to him! We’re not sure where they are now and will have to try and locate them somehow. Otherwise, we have no photos to sign on the entire tour of Italy. Not good.
Finally located the autograph sheets and our contact left them on his desk in his office and forgot to give them to Charlie. He is now in Egypt and his office is 2 hours from where we are located. He is going to have to get someone to open his office and drive these over tomorrow before the show.
We arrive at the base in Vicenza at around 5:30 pm…much earlier than I expected. We stopped twice on the drive down and one of those stops was for a quick lunch. We are staying on base in lodging and it’s a great “inn”. I am in a suite so that I can have internet access. Was able to log right on, but AOL access is blocked. But, my dear friend LTC Sughre (who just left this base for Belgium) set me up with someone who came over and took care of me. Sgt. Baxter brought a cell phone with a modem and installed Bluetooth on my computer. Now I can log straight on to AOL. Can’t believe I was just at this base 2 weeks ago with Lee Ann Womack.
I called a couple of the ladies that I had worked with on the Lee Ann concert and invited them to dinner with us. We went to a great traditional Italian restaurant. But, once again the portions were so large, we ended up leaving a lot of food on our plates. It was great to listen to Charlie’s colorful stories during our meal.
Tomorrow morning we get to go into Venice for a few hours of sightseeing, then our first concert for the troops is tomorrow night at Vicenza on the same stage where Lee Ann performed.
For the very first time, yesterday I sent entertainment into Iraq without me. It was SO HARD to do but I had commitments in Europe that I could not get out of and it was important for the troops in Iraq to have entertainment over the 4th of July. I have a great guy escorting Jessica Sierra (one of the finalists on American Idol last year) and OSB Band (rock group out of Boston for 5 shows for the troops in Kuwait and Iraq. I’m sure the tour will be just fine without me, but I sure do hate not being with them. Not many people would say they would rather be in Iraq than in Switzerland and Italy! J
MONDAY, JULY 3RD:
We were supposed to go into Venice today to sightsee for about 4 hours. But, I was worried that no one would make getting the autograph sheets delivered from Aviano a priority. So, I sent the girls to Venice with a couple of soldiers and I stayed behind (again). Thought I was going to get to go to Venice when I was here 2 weeks ago with Lee Ann Womack but that didn’t work out either. But, I’ve been there several times and it was much more important for me to take care of business than to go sightseeing.
Spent the majority of the morning on the phone trying to reach someone at Aviano who would agree to bring the box of photos to me. When that didn’t work out, someone suggested that I rent a car from the car rental place on base and DRIVE to Aviano – 2 hours from here. Evidently, they do not know about my lack of a sense of direction. No one would ever see me again if I left here driving a rental car. Even the people who live on this base said they get lost trying to drive to Aviano. So, one of our contacts finally found a wonderful man – Chaz – who agreed to drive me over so we could try to figure out a way to get the box out of the “locked” office. It took us almost exactly 2 hours to reach Aviano and by the time we arrived, someone had managed to retrieve the box of photos and had it waiting at the front desk for me. We grabbed a really quick lunch and headed back. We were not so lucky on the drive back. We sat in traffic for about an hour so the trip back took about 3 hours. But we made it back in time for sound check and the show is at 9 pm tonight.
Trenna – the lead singer – had very sad news last night. Both her father and her uncle pilot small planes. Her uncle crashed his little Cessna and was killed instantly and her 11 year old nephew who was also in the plane is in critical condition with third degree burns over the majority of his body. From what she can find out from her family, her uncle had engine trouble and put the plane down on a road near Tulsa, Oklahoma (where they live). He thought he had fixed the problem and took off again. They think the tail of the airplane clipped some power lines and he went nose first into the ground. He was killed instantly. Need to keep her and her family in our prayers. It’s hard for her to be over here instead of in Oklahoma with her family.
Just learned that they are not opening the base up tonight to allow the local population to come see the show. So, the crowd will definitely be smaller than when I was here with Lee Ann. But, it will still be a good treat for the troops deployed here.
The weather turned bad right before it was time for them to perform. The Commanding General and his wife came backstage to see them prior to the show. I remember them from the concert with Lee Ann Womack. He is all about taking care of his men and women. He always brings some of his staff back to meet the entertainers and makes sure they get an autograph and photo taken. In my opinion, that is a sign of a true leader.
It started raining during their first song but no one left. The girls gave another rocking performance and everyone was talking about how talented they are.
Girls signed autographs for about one hour after the show. Approximately 500 people attended the performance and lots of people came up to me afterwards to comment on how great the show was. The girls were surprised to see so many families and small children in the audience. Probably 90% of the troops that were deployed to Afghanistan have now departed Vicenza and gone to their next assignment. I ran into a soldier in our lodging who had just arrived here from Korea where I knew him well from my many visits there.
We have to leave at 7:30 am tomorrow and drive for about 5 hours to Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy.
TUESDAY, JULY 4TH:
Got up early to check out and get everyone else up. Gave everyone a wake-up call at 7 am for a 7:30 am departure. Good thing I did because several of them did not get their wake-up calls. Our escort – Charlie – was the only one who was late! And, of course, he was the one telling everyone last night that we were leaving at 6:30 am!
It seems like a week ago that I started writing this report. We drove for 5 hours to Livorno (Pisa). The girls got to see the Leaning Tower – in the distance – on the way in. We aren’t even going to have time for them to go by and take photos of it!
Our lodging is not on the base this time. We are staying at a nice hotel that supposedly has wireless internet connection. Yeah, right, if you stand in a certain position in the lobby. You know me…got my laptop and walking around looking for a signal. J
The concert took place not on the base but on the “American Beach”. It is a private beach right on the Med and only the military families and the local Italians who work on Camp Darby were allowed to attend. It was hot but there was a wonderful breeze coming in off the water. We had to start the show early because of the World Soccer Cup tonight – Italy plays Germany. I just realized that I came to Europe on the first day of the World Soccer Cup and I will leave on the last day of the games. And, everywhere we have been, that country has won their games. We must have brought them good luck.
There were only a few people at the concert but once the music started, the place filled up. It was mostly families but there were some single soldiers and lots of Italians. Most of the Italian men were wearing little speedo swimsuits and we got a good laugh out of most of them – especially the ones who should NOT have been wearing them and the majority of them fit into that category! Near the end of the show, a group of men walked in wearing wigs and dressed in different costumes. I was intrigued and had to ask them if they were performing after us! I told them they were very brave men to come to an American Beach dressed as they were. They said that they were Marines from Britain and since it was a holiday, they dressed up. I did remind them that it’s Halloween, not 4th of July, when they should dress in a costume! I met several men who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had seen one of the performers that I’ve taken there. Love it when that happens. It’s not the same “feeling” as performing in Iraq or Afghanistan but in all honestly, the troops appreciate it just as much.
We finished the show and signed autographs until around 8:30 pm. The soccer game started at 9:00 pm so we came back to the hotel for dinner. There were fireworks at about 10:00 pm from the American Beach and we could see them from our hotel. I am sitting in the lobby now and people are watching the soccer game. It has gotten really loud outside – car horns honking and lots of yelling, so I’m wondering if Italy won.
Just found out that North Korea launched their test missiles today. Scares me because I have dear friends stationed in Korea. Can’t believe they actually followed through with their threat.
We have to depart at 6 am tomorrow and drive for 8 hours to Naples!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 5TH:
Brutal, brutal drive to Naples. Never again will I put entertainers in this type of travel situation. AFE should have provided a bus with bunks so that we could travel overnight and they could get some sleep. It is impossible to lay down in the seats, the roads are terribly bumpy plus the driver is constantly slamming on the brakes, our escort sits in front and yells in Italian into his cell phone and the air conditioning has two settings – HIGH and OFF. It’s too hot when it’s off, so the option is to layer on as many clothes as possible and then we still freeze. Everyone is getting a cold because of the miserable travel conditions and lack of sleep. Then, our escort advised that the sound company said that 6 am was too early for them to get up so they were leaving AFTER us and had no idea how to get to Naples. Thankfully, I have not paid them any money and if they are late for our show, they will be paid considerably less than previously arranged.
We arrived at 2:30 and of course, the sound company was not there. They didn’t arrive until 30 minutes later and then it took them a couple of hours to set up. We went to lodging which is on another part of the base about 30 minutes drive away. Got all the rooms and keys and went to yet another building to our rooms. Of course, I got all my luggage up the stairs and my key wouldn’t work. Had to hike back over to the reception desk and ask for another key. They wanted to call maintenance and have them check the door. I told them we had a show that night and didn’t have time to wait for maintenance to show up. They gave me another room and then I had to go with Charlie (our escort) to pay for the sound company. When we got the total, it was over $3,000 more than we had contracted! I had to have my office call D.C. and get approval for the additional charges.
Rushed back to lodging to shower and dress for the show. Then my office called and said that someone had tried to charge over $3,000 to the Visa on July 3rd and that they had frozen my credit card! That was the sound company in Vicenza who kept telling me that the transaction did not go through. It went through the first time (as I suspected) and then they tried to run it through about 10 more times, so thankfully VISA froze the card. I had just instructed my office to wire the money to the sound company and we had to quickly stop that transaction. I know that when they said the Visa didn’t work, they tried my AMEX. Hopefully there is not a $3,000 plus charge on that card as well. One thing is for sure, I will not do these AFE tours again unless we can use the production company and bus company out of Germany that I know and trust. The backline that was provided by these companies was terrible. All the drum heads were old and the bass drum head was busted. They didn’t have any replacement parts.
Finally got showered and we departed back to the other base for the show. This is a HUGE Naval Base. It is a beautiful facility and they are still adding to it. The show is outside but again, we are up against the World Soccer Cup. Spain plays tonight at exactly the same time the girls perform! Even with that competition, we have a pretty good crowd. Lots of nice folks who are very helpful. One young man gave me a ride to another part of the base to buy coffee for everyone. The K-9 patrol was here with a beautiful black dog who was very friendly. But the dog likes to eat and he thought my blackberry was something that looked tasty. Almost lost my hand and blackberry to him. J
Had a really long autograph line and the girls gave everyone in line a copy of their 2 song cd. The security detail that we had was excellent….so helpful. They offered to order us pizza and have it delivered so we could take it with us when the show was over but Charlie (our escort) told them that he already had dinner taken care of. Had I known his idea of having dinner taken care of was to go to a restaurant at midnight and have a sit-down meal, I would have ordered the pizzas! Charlie had also told me that Subway on the base was open until midnight. We arrived there at 11:45 and they had been closed for hours. Charlie didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and because of him we did not have any dinner.
I have to get up and be ready to depart by 4:45 am tomorrow. Early morning flight to Greece with a connection in Rome. Thankfully, there is no show tomorrow night. But, they do have to do a radio interview late tomorrow night. Show on Friday in Athens and then we fly ALL night to Oslo (with a connection in Amsterdam!) and then drive for 3 hours to Vinstra for them to perform that night (Saturday). Glamorous life, huh?