When last we left Alan Rhody, he was staying at the home of friends Lynn and Joanne in Orange Beach, Ala. and preparing to head for Montgomery and four additional gigs on his Gulf Coast tour. Meanwhile Hurricane Opal was approaching with winds up to 150 m.p.h.
Gove Schrivner, a singer-songwriter friend from Nashville (who had recently moved to the area), arrived with news that the police had advised anyone not well underway to remain where they were. Alan decided to press on.
Reaching the end of his host's driveway, Alan turned on the car radio and heard the voice of a police officer warning that a good number of people were going to be caught on the highway when the hurricane hit and that "a vehicle on the open road in 100 m. p. h. winds is no place to be during a hurricane."
Alan picks up the story: I turned around and went back to the house. Gove had decided to tough it out in his little cinder block house a mile and a half inland from Lynn and Joanne's house which was right on the water. He invited all three of us to join him for a hurricane party.
Lynn and Joanne are world-class cinematographers with awards and a documentary library of their work as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in their home, all of which they could not begin to take out of the house. They decided to stay there!
Gove and I begged them to come with us where they would at least be a little safer farther inland Their minds were already made up.
We said our goodbyes with uncertainty and headed for Gove's.
We made a stop at the local market for beer and ice. Gove already had plenty of wine, batteries, some canned food and other hurricane essentials. Upon arrival at Gove's, I pulled my car across the street into an open area near an elementary school ball field. I removed my two guitar cases from the tailgate of my wagon and set my Martin D28 and my Takamine on the ground behind the car. I walked around to the driver's side again to survey the contents and decide what else to take into the house. I noticed the power lines above and over only about ten feet from where I had parked. Better move the car over a little more, I thought. I got in, started the car and threw it into reverse.
Bam! I heard a thump and a low dragging sound. Oh, God! No! I jumped from the car to see the case containing my Takamine wedged under my car in the red mud (it had been raining all morning). I walked to the rear of the car in total fear. The Martin case was laying over and partially under the rear bumper. I opened both cases and checked the guitars. They were all right. "Thank you, Lord," I said out loud. I'd always heard horror stories of people running over their instruments in the driveway, but thought I'd never do anything so stupid. Well, when you're getting ready to sit through a hurricane, you tend to be a little stupid. I took my two guitars over to Gove's and cleaned the cases off with water and rags. Then I moved my car again, this time over to Gove's yard next to his truck, brought the rest of my stuff in and opened a beer.
Once everything was relatively in place, Gove and I sat talking and drinking, with no electricity. It ceased almost immediately. The wind was whipping up real good outside. The trees were starting to bend over a bit. The time of Opal's arrival had come.
Looking out Gove's front window we saw a car drive by slowly. Is that guy crazy?, we thought.
"Get off the road you monkey!," I shouted.
We both broke out in laughter.
"Get t'house you hurricane monkey!," I said again. Again we both laughed, more this time.
"Don't you know Opal's comin'? And boy is she pissed!," we both doubled up laughing in hysteria.
Now I'll admit, we both had had a few beers by this time, but it wasn't the alcohol, it was the anticipation of an oncoming monster called Opal. After singing "Cover our windows up with boards, doodah, doodah, when Opal comes, won't worry no mo', all da huh-cane day," we decided we were "Huh-cane Slaphappy," calling each other huh-cane monkeys and laughing uncontrollably.
All silliness aside, we were very, fortunate. For, as most of you now know, Opal hit, for the most part, on Pensacola Beach and east of there all the way to Ft. Walton Beach, doing tremendous damage. Not only that, but she didn't slow down all the way up to Atlanta, doing big-time damage to Montgomery, Auburn and all points in between.
Gove and I watched the Country Music Awards that night after the power came back on surprisingly soon. We kept joking and laughing, but knew inside that somewhere east of us people were in real trouble.
We went over to Lynn and Joanne's the next morning. They had lost their dock, but other than they, they came out real good.
The Flora-Bama [a club on Perdido Key, Fla., where Alan was scheduled to play] had a foot of water in it. When we drove out on Perdido Key to assess things, we found the Flora-bama open! All the carpeting had been pulled up in preparation for new covering to be installed that day. We were amazed.
My gigs resumed Thursday and carried on through the weekend with great success.
I was treated to a Little Richard concert the night after I performed at Bay Fest in Mobile. The 62-year-old legend was the headliner at the festival that night and was entertaining as well as inspiring with his nine-piece band, including two bass players!
I made my way to Auburn and on to Tuscaloosa the next day, thankful to have come through my first hurricane experience in one piece — along with my guitars.
Alan Rhody is a hit songwriter, touring recording artist and freelance writer. A Louisville native who has lived in Nashville, Tenn., since 1977.