Trip to Nowhere: An Unforgettable Journey
As I look back throughout those memories of Nashville, the hard lessons I have learned then and along the way have made me truly thankful for each and every step that I have had to take to make me who I am today. Nashville did not change me but the events surrounding my life at that time, did. However, this does not excuse any parent from the idea that it is alright to send their child out into the world alone without supervision, to live out a dream, whether it be their dream or the child’s dream; and not expect there to be consequences to follow. Do not be naive to the idea that nothing will happen to your child because things do happen and if you think closing your mind to such thoughts will make you feel better, guess again!
I saw horrible things at age sixteen that no child should have to ever witness, I saw kids my own age walking the streets with guitars hanging off their backs, begging for food, waiting for the chance to be heard, to be discovered, only to be ignored, walked over, passed by, and I often wonder how many of those innocent souls made it out alive.
One afternoon, a man came into town claiming to be a talent scout out of Nashville, Tennessee. His name was J.T. Willy. My parents talked it over with me and asked if I wanted to audition for this man and that they would be willing to allow me to do so. My heart was pumping because this was a chance of a lifetime for me. I wanted to go to Nashville and I felt I was ready, so my dad made the phone call and this gentleman and his wife showed up at our doorstep. He was a big man, not much to speak of. He was a smooth talker and his wife was mousy and did not say too much. He made himself comfortable in my parents’ living room, while I sang my heart out for him. J.T was also a singer and he sounded just like Johnny Cash, and after I was finished, he complimented me and told my parents “I can make this young lady a star.” He then invited us to a place in Madison, Wisconsin where he was performing with some friends and wanted to see how I would do with a live audience and my parents agreed. When we arrived, there was another man present, his name was Casey. After being introduced, I was then thrown up on stage with the band and again, I sang my heart out without fear, capturing my audience without incidence.
Here is where the problems began; my parents were told they had to pay $250.00 upfront in order to confirm my position within the company. We then signed a contract without any lawyer present, which is an absolute no-no. My parents believed that what they were doing for me was a good thing and had no idea the contract was bogus and just for show.
My first road trip was to Bismarck, North Dakota with J.T and his wife. My Second trip, J.T. decided to send me out with Casey to Redwood, Minnesota to perform for a week with a band and I ended up coming home three days after because Casey tried to take advantage of me in a hotel room and when I denied his advances, he dumped me with the band and left. The band put me on a bus and sent me home. You can imagine how horrifying it would be for a sixteen- year-old to have to encounter this type of situation and be far from home.
Nashville bound! A dream of a lifetime, or so I thought. Once I arrived, my nightmare began. One lie after another and the so called company was office space they rented on Music Row above another Record company. They had a cot set up in a spare office for me to sleep in. Months had gone by and nothing, I went into the recording studio and recorded Hey Big Man, and Baby With You…but later found out that all I did was record my voice over someone else’s. When I started demanding answers, and wanting to do more, they became frustrated with me, in return they sent me on a bogus trip to Florida, informing me that this was a hotel circuit job. I had no idea it was a one way ticket to nowhere.
I arrived back in Nashville to a locked building with an eviction notice. I was ditched. I decided I had to fight back and survive and I did just that. I hid my luggage, walked the streets, worked in a soup kitchen, and survived. There is more to this story but the main point is never sending your child away with someone you barely know.
Make sure you do your homework first before you dive into something that you think looks really good. What happened to me has happened to many others and I am sure my story sounds cliché. I am leaving so much out and what this did to me years ago. The self esteem issues I dealt with, feeling like a failure and loosing the one dream I lived for the most. I had to walk away from singing forever. I buried these memories for many years because it hurt too much! Nashville is the place to go to showcase your talents, but in the heart of it all, the darker side is rarely seen unless you actually have lived it. Trust me it is not as glorious as it seems!
I am sharing my story today so that I can help prevent others from doing the same thing my parents did. I am over the blame game as it should be now. But I was only sixteen! What did I know?
Tracy Leigh Ball Bio:
Tracy Leigh Ball was born and raised in the beautiful state of Wisconsin and still reside there today. Currently a full time student earning her BA in English at Ashford University, Tracy plans to become a Teacher of Creative Writing. Tracy is a published author of 4 books; three poetry: Expressions of Life,
Silent Whispers: Poetry from the Soul, and Dancing with Words, and her first Fiction/Mainstream novel:
Tracy hopes to one day run and maintain her own magazine strictly for writers of all genres and she hopes to teach all ages about writing, and inspire everyone to believe in their dream of becoming published authors. Everyone has a story to tell, it is how you present that story that will forever form the relationship between you and the reader. Tracy believes that anyone can tap into their creative side if they just believe!
Sonia Marsh Says:
I can only imagine the emotions you must have gone through, from the moment T.J. complimented you and told your parents “I can make this young lady a star,” to the incident with Casey trying to take advantage of you in a hotel room. As you say, “I am sharing my story today so that I can help prevent others from doing the same thing my parents did.”
Thank you for making parents aware of what happens when you send your child away to become a “star” without taking the necessary legal steps and more.
Please leave your comments for Tracy below, and she will be over to answer them.
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