The Augusta and Arnie Story
The year is 1960. April. Eight-year-old Mike Stone walks into the den and asks his father what he’s watching on TV. “ This is the Masters golf tournament son, and that is Arnold Palmer, my favorite player.”
That’s all it would take.
Fast forward to April 2014. The better part of a lifetime has passed. Mike’s wife Connie two years earlier has convinced him to start writing songs and take them to the recording studio. For close to half a century he’s been playing guitar and piano and singing lead. Not his day job, he’s winding down a successful career in his family company.
Other than a brief absence 2000 to 2006 Mike has regularly attended the Masters golf tournament since the late 1980’s. Since he has been the last 6-7 years in a row, he’s not going this year. Instead, he envisions spending the time playing golf at his Florida home, and watching the tournament. He will be fine not attending the tournament this year, right? Well, that’s the plan.
Wednesday morning of tournament week he plays golf with his friends. He settles in mid-afternoon to watch the par three tournament. As the music starts and the high definition pictures pierce his senses, the realizations that he will not be attending this year’s tournament, that he will not see Augusta National this year, are overwhelming.
“I remember feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was almost desperate, it was pathetic. I was pathetic. It’s the kind of yearning that feels like an out of body experience.”
Without intention, no previous ambition, he picks up his guitar and starts articulating his feelings. It begins on Wednesday afternoon, by mid-morning Saturday, he will have written a tribute to the Masters titled “One Week in April”.
Returning to his Tennessee home the following week he heads to the recording studio and begins work on his new favorite song. On and off, it’s ok, it’s not. We got it, we don’t. “One Week in April” will take nearly two years to record in its first iteration.
It’s April 2016, Connie and Mike Stone are watching the beginning of the Sunday round of the Masters telecast. They have just returned from attending the tournament on Thursday and Friday.
Jim Nantz welcomes the audience and a summary of the traditional events leading to Sunday are presented. The traditional beginning of the tournament, tee shots by the honorary starters is markedly different this year. Arnold Palmer will be there, but not hit his shot. It is painfully obvious he is not in good health.
“I will never forget the look in Jack Nicklaus’ eyes. It was a look of hurt that penetrated my spirit. Then Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said, “Arnold Palmer will always be part of the Masters.” His statement was so powerful, so resolute. It chilled me. I looked over at Connie and said, “I’m writing a song about Arnold Palmer.”
On Monday, Mike and Connie have business in Nashville. On the drive over Mike is ecstatic, believing that the song is coming quickly, the outcome excellent. Not to be.
“In my mind, I had composed the chorus and the melody on the drive over. I sang it aloud and in my head all day. The next day in front of my word processor, I went to work.”
And work he did. Day to days. Weeks to months. Plenty of material, but none would prove worthy.
“I had written literally several pages of lyrics, and quite frankly, it was all garbage. I couldn’t articulate it properly. I was stuck.”
On September 25, Arnold passed. Mike is sad for obvious and personal reasons.
“I was sad for his family and the rest of the world. He was loved. I was narcissistically and personally sad that he would never hear the song in this life.”
Several days later Mike would be watching Arnold’s memorial service streaming on the Golf Channel from his office.
“April to September I’d been stuck. The words didn’t come. Halfway through the service, I’m writing.”
By the time the service is over the song “Thank You Arnie (We’re Your Army)” is finished.
In the fall of 2019, Mike would re-record all of his original material from his first project, including “One Week in April”. This time he would be recording in Nashville with his producer and keyboard artist Sandy Tipping. In August 2020, Mike would tweak two lyric lines and “One Week in April” is finally finished. The work features 12 original songs. 11 written by Mike. In early 2022 both One Week in April and Thank You Arnie were re-recorded with members of the Nashville Symphony.
In an age of cynicism, few singer-songwriters are as positive and unapologetically heartfelt as Mike Stone.
Join Mike as he takes his message of positivity to the masses, sharing his uplifting and inspiring music.
Rocky Top Rocks, The Story
For those of you who are familiar with the origins of my songwriting, you know that my golf songs were inspired in and around my experiences with the game. I have four golf songs you might have heard, one more coming out in a few weeks. Incredibly, Rocky Top Rocks is rooted directly from my golf. Stay tuned.
On Saturday, July 16, I played Dorchester, Fairfield Glade, with my Wednesday/Saturday group. I rode with one of my closest friends. Additionally, and for good measure, I drove him home after the round. The significance of those events will be immediately revealed.
The following Monday morning, he calls me. “I have Covid.” My response was well, how in the blankety-blank do I not have it? Monday afternoon, I tested positive. Tuesday morning, I get my antiviral drug, and by midday, I’m really feeling bad. Attempting to quarantine from my wife (she will test positive three days later), I retreat to our bedroom, and now I’m watching SEC Media days. I will watch it for the rest of the week in its entirety. By the way, those who offer that this version of Covid is mild didn’t have my rendition.
On Thursday, Tennessee’s Josh Heupel is on the podium. Additionally, Hendon Hooker is also in the interview area. Hendon is truly a remarkable young man. Good as they come. Josh’s time on the podium is nothing short of sensational. By now, as an old friend of mine used to scold me, you’ve been smoking that Rocky Top weed again. Just meaning, I’m pretty high on the Vols.
Without thinking, I sing out “Rocky Top Rocks, Rocky Top Rolls.” The next moment is still very funny to me. I immediately look around my bedroom, like someone should have heard my new lyrics and melody. Of course, no one is there. Ha! Realizing no one is there, I say out loud. “Oh hell yeah, we are writing this song.”
Golf, Covid, SEC media days. “Rocky Top Rocks, Rocky Top Rolls!”
No BS. That’s how it happened.
A few additional thoughts. The song was co-written by my co-producer, Sandy Tipping. We wrote it via FaceTime. He in Nashville, me in my Lake Tansi home.
The lyric “you might catch a glimpse of Peyton” was a game-time decision. The other option was Elvis. I actually polled our band about it.
I’m chagrined to admit the lyric “it’s 100 thousand people shouting go Vols go” is not completely mine. My original lyric was “it’s the thrill of being there and shouting go Vols go.”
During the last writing session, Sandy said. “I love the word thrill, but there is a better lyric. Doesn’t that stadium hold 100 thousand people?” DA! Of course, that’s going to be the lyric.
The song is simply a tribute of love to our state of Tennessee. It’s a feeling when you feel it that you can’t let go.
ROCKY TOP ROCKS, ROCKY TOP ROLLS!
Latest Single Release: The Open Song
ENJOY the 150th Open Championship, with “The Open Song.” July 14-17, St Andrews The Old Course.