The phrase “he was larger than life” gets said quite a bit in our lives and sometimes it can lose it’s punch when describing someone because we hear it so much. When I say that Ralph Emery was larger than life, it means what it says.
I didn’t know Ralph Emery and only met him a handful of times, but I knew him, if that makes sense. As a kid growing up in Nashville, he was that legend who had a T.V. show that was much more than a T.V. show.
Every morning, the Ralph Emery show was on channel 4 and everyone tuned in. I am not sure the other channels were even on the air because no one I know watched them. Ralph and his cast of characters were my family. They were your family. They were our family. Outhouse races, come on! The school bus report was golden television. The chalk-off was perfect. All of it!
Kenny Star, Tom Grant, The Soap Sisters, and on and on would be on there to sing. The commercials, as far as I remember, were all done live and oftentimes they would turn into an absolute train wreck. We couldn’t get enough of it. I knew the Ralph Emery show band better than I did my extended family. In fact, I have only been star struck twice in my life, Kenny Stabler and Tom Grant.
You explain to someone who did not grow up here about Ralph Emery and that show and they would probably shrug their shoulders and say, O.K. Try pitching this story today and a consultant would have a heart attack about ten seconds into your pitch. Consultants are usually wrong anyway so you know that show would be good.
For us, it was our show. However long we watched the show that morning getting ready for school, the world seemed perfect. A bunch of local yokels just having fun and my God, we wanted to be a part of that.
And on one spring day, in 1986, we were. About five of us, seniors at McGavock, had talked about going over to see the show in person for a long time and we did. Got there, rang the doorbell, someone came up and we went downstairs and there in front of us, Ralph Emery. He came over to us during the break, said hi and asked if we wanted to sing, “There Is No Business Like Show Business.” Umm, yes! We sang that song, horribly, in front of the band and Ralph Emery and had the two sweet old ladies singing with us. My Lord, what a moment.
Every time I would see Ralph’s name mentioned, I would always think back to that moment and all those mornings watching him and his gang have the best time in the world.
Rest in peace, Mr. Emery. Thank you. It was more than a T.V. show, so much more.