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Summer Guide - One night at Chastain

Emmylou Harris and me - alone at last

I once almost killed Emmylou Harris.

Not that I meant to. In fact, I am, like, totally in love with Emmylou Harris. Not the "Wow, I really love your music" kind of love. It's more like the "Oh my God, can I drink your bathwater?" kind of love that, you know, can be kind of scary.

So I really and truly didn't mean to almost kill Emmylou Harris. In fact, she's probably the most represented artist on my iPod. Even though Bruce Springsteen in 1978 at the Fox Theatre is forever and always No. 1 on my list of best concerts I've ever seen in my life, Emmylou at Chastain Park in 1993 is a close, very close, second.

A friend was a honcho at AT&T and called to say he had tickets. "I don't know where the seats are," he said. "I just know they're table seats." Oh, great. Right smack-dab in the middle of the Great Chastain Conversation Zone. A part of me couldn't bear the thought of fighting to hear Emmylou Harris – the closest thing to a heavenly voice on Earth – sing over some big-haired Buffy talking about getting her nails done. But ... it was Emmylou, and the tickets were free.

Much to our amazement, our table was stage center, front row. It was a perfect summer night, and the sun was just setting when she walked on stage. At first, I sat directly in front of Sam Bush, the mandolin and fiddle player. Then, after a couple of songs, I moved my chair over toward her. I was now directly to Emmylou's right, probably five feet away from the woman of my dreams.

My back to the crowd, I was so close to her that I might as well have been on stage. Springsteen once said he picked out one person in the audience every night to sing to, and on this night I knew Emmylou had picked me. She looked directly at me at least once every song. It was as if she was giving me a private concert and the only reason everyone else was there was to witness it.

Emmylou came back out for her encore and asked, "Does anyone have a request?" After the din subsided, I yelled out as loudly as possible, "Boulder to Birmingham!" – I knew that song was close to her because she wrote it after the death of Gram Parsons. Emmylou smiled and I knew I'd hit the perfect note. "Yeah, 'Boulder To Birmingham.' I really feel like singing that song." And she did, just her acoustic guitar and her aching voice. After the show, I asked her roadie for Emmylou's set list and he gave it to me.

It was more than 10 years later when I almost killed her. I was at Turner Field, racing up the dugout steps from the clubhouse after an interview, when I turned the corner and stopped dead in my tracks, because I was suddenly about to plow over someone. I looked up. It was Emmylou Harris. I stuttered: "You, you're, you're you!" She probably already knew that.

We chatted, and I discovered Emmylou is a Braves fan and schedules her tours so she can take a night off to catch a game when she's in Atlanta. Finally, I asked her, "I don't do this very often, but would you sign my notepad?"

She shook her head, no. At first I was taken aback. Then she said, "I think we've got some pictures here. Let me check." Twenty minutes later, Emmylou Harris literally ran up to me with an 8-by-10 glossy portrait. And signed it: "To Scott, Happy Trails, Emmylou Harris."

It is framed and I am looking at it as I write this. And, you know what? That Springsteen show was great. But he never wished me "Happy Trails."

So Emmylou, I beg your forgiveness. How could any other concert even begin to compete? I confess: That was abso-fuckin-lutely the best concert I ever saw.

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