I used to hang with Lyle Lovett. He is unlikely to remember me specifically, but I’ll tell ya we had some laughs. Lyle and I went to college together and both were journalism students, He had me by a few semesters so initially I was reluctant to approach the student with the puffy hair that some mornings resembled Abe Lincoln’s stove pipe. Then I saw him alone sitting along the edge of the MSC fountain. A place a lot of us Texas A&M students hung out at. It was a central location. They place you went between classes to, you know, look at the opposite sex and gaggle with your friends or make new ones.
And thats what I did. I approached the troubadour and said hey “what’s up?” He said nothing just working out some tunes. Cool can I sit here? Sure he said and he plugged along. We hung a few more days while Lyle sang to anyone who would listen. Initially there wasn’t a lot of them. It never bothered Lyle. Sometimes his friend would sit with him. He introduced me to Robert. Yea it was him Robert Earl Keen. I was like cool nice to meet you. Then they would play together. And Lyle would tell a lot of jokes. He was a funny Aggie.
Some nights Lyle would get a paying gig. And we would make it out to see him. But a lot of times it was at the country bar and well we were rockers. Most bars and concert venues weren’t really sure what to do with Lyle. Was he country? He certainly wasn’t rock, but he did have an edge to him. And then there was that hair.
Then Lyle was gone. He graduated and hit the road. Certain he was going to make it in the music world. (And well he had that journalism degree from Texas A&M to fall back on). It was a different era. It was hard to stay in touch with people. No cell phones, texts, nor email. Lyle slipped away with life on the road. Every now and then we’d road trip to Austin to catch him and Earl Keen perform. That happened a lot back in the day but less and less now. But our connection was severed. My loss.
Four year after graduating, Lyle released a record. I, of course, bought it and heard some familiar tunes. They were just sketches when I heard them last and now they were fleshed out living things. They were songs and good ones at that like “Cowboy Man” and one he wrote with Earl Keen called “This Old Porch.”. His humor remained in tact with his ‘wedding song’ “An Acceptable Level Of Ecstasy.” He was on his way.
Next thing I know he’s in the movies, marrying the most beautiful actress ever and now playing outdoor in Avon’s Nottingham Park. I recall those afternoons at the MSC and a few nights of watching Lyle grow. He gave it everything he had and turned it into something special. My fellow Aggies at the time didn’t know what they had. Most of them just awkwardly nodded at the guy playing guitar with the funny hair by the fountain. They have since made good in Aggieland by naming Lyle (along with Dr Steadman by the way) as Distinguished Alumni a few years back. To me, Lyle was always distinguished all those many years ago.