Tag Archive for rj

Once upon a time…

When you were growing up, who was/is the best storyteller in your family?

 
Three people come to mind as storytellers in my family for different reasons.

1. Uncle Eldred always fascinated me with stories, because he was so well-read, well-educated, well-travelled, and he incorporated all of the above into his excellence in preaching.

2. Joke telling: my brother, RJ, my Uncle Paul, and my Aunt Myrt (PawPaw’s brother & sister) All three could really keep you laughing!

3. My daddy’s stories always kept me mesmerized, because of all his life experiences…starting in 1899!

:-))

The Speller’s the Feller

What was your first memory from elementary school?

 

That’s easy…and once again, it comes back to the teacher.  

I was blessed that the lady who had taught RJ and (I think) Bubba when the family lived in Beasley had moved to Freeport and was also my first grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Elizabeth Bailey.

Coming from a family of three older brothers who were constantly competing with one another, I developed a very competitive nature! THUS, my fondest memories from elementary school were the ‘spelling bees,’ because I was so competitive and a darn good speller!

 I hate these iPhones which do your spellllling for you!   :-)!

Ain’t She Sweet

What was the first instrument you learned to play and who taught you?

 

I started playing two instruments at about the same time (both of them were inspired by my love and admiration for my brother, R.J.), the trombone and the ukulele!

Uncle R.J. loaned me the trombone he had played in high school, and I think I’ve already told you about joining the Junior High band in the 7th grade at Orange, Texas.   R.J. could make that trombone sing! His inspiration was the band phenom from the 1940s, Tommy Dorsey.

R.J. had purchased a little ukulele. He showed me as I listened to him what a simple instrument it was to play!    The first song he taught me was “Ain’t She Sweet”!   I thought I was a real musical stud when I strummed (and sang) that tune!    It was just a short step from that ukulele to the guitar!

I Made a Lotta “Do” (Re, Mi) as a Kid

How did you learn to lead singing? Were you taught by someone?

 

My daddy, M. Roy Stevens, was widely known in the Churches of Christ for his voice, song leading, and his ability to teach others how to read music (do re mi fa sol la ti do).  We had a poster board with those shapes on them near our kitchen table. He would make Nancy and I sing the scale and intervals, with his idea that the scale is to music like the alphabet is to language.  I can still hear him saying, “Now remember, Do is shaped like a housetop, Re a bowl, Mi a baseball diamond, Fa a flag (or a pennant) Sol an egg, La a rectangle, Ti an ice cream cone…and then you’re all the way back to Do!”…..and then he’d make us sing it….over and over. We were being trained to sing when we were little, even though we didn’t appreciate until much later.

Brother Roy was in demand all over our brotherhood to teach singing schools, and his little son was right there with him, soaking it up by osmosis!   One of his famous quotes that was indelibly imprinted on my young brain was, “There’s nothing better than good acapella singing, and nothing worse than bad acapella singing!”.

The seventh grade was probably one of the most important years in my musical development. At 13 years old, my voice started changing and getting much deeper after I passed the squeaky stage.  Dad had an 8:00 Sunday morning “remote” radio broadcast from one of the classrooms at the 9th & Elm Church of Christ in Orange, Texas, and he needed help in the bass section of his live chorus.  Guess who? I felt pretty important!   Nancy, too…she was singing alto!  The older folks were amazed how these two ‘kids’ could read music They just didn’t  know how much of himself he had poured into us.

Another thing about the 7th grade was that I joined the junior high band, because I wanted to play the trombone like my hero brother, R J. He could literally make a trombone sing. Our band director (a legend in his own right) was a curly-headed Italian musician named Cermenaro. Everyone called him Mister C.! I never heard what his first name was…..but he was a great teacher! The first thing that each section had to do was to learn to play ‘scales’ on their instrument…. And, you guessed it….a light bulb went off in my young brain!  ‘This is just what my dad had been teaching me…Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do… “The alphabet of music…a language all its own!”

I can only imagine how thrilled Dad must have been when his young son came home from school that day so excited, because everything he’d been teaching me finally made sense. From that day till this, I’ve loved to sing, to lead singing, to write music. I like to think that, in all that, I’ve made a difference in lots if lives, just as dad did, RJ did…and now Tim, RJ’s son, is teaching singing schools and preaching in gospel meetings ‘full-time,’ just like his dad did until his death in 2012.

Probably one of my proudest moments as a dad was when our kids “Concord Road”, recorded those two CDs for our 66th birthdays! I hope I live long enough to see someone in our offspring put together a recording of Concord Road, their mother, their spouses, and all their children singing together…. Wow!, I’d even volunteer to lead singing one more time just to hear that group sing!  …..and, I have a feeling that the man who taught me to lead singing just might be ‘smiling’ down from Heaven.

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My Sunday Drives Aren’t in the Fairway

How did you decide to preach?

 

From my junior high years all the way through my sophomore year in college, all I had ever dreamed of doing was to be a professional golfer. Growing up as the ‘baby brother’ with three older brothers–and being very competitive by my nature already–my most exciting times emotionally were those times (starting at age 14) when I would beat, out-putt, and out-drive my three brothers and my Daddy. Thus, I felt sure I could make it as professional golfer.   When I was a senior in high school, I was offered an apprenticeship by the Spalding sporting goods company, which was quite an honor.  That was back in 1958, when many athletes the company thought might be successful were lured into such programs in order to “have the right to their autographs and endorsements” when they did succeed.  It was a pretty heady experience for a very competitive 17 year-old kid. When my dad was taking me to college at SFA in Nacogdoches in 1959 (I’d been offered a book & tuition scholarship there to pursue my 2nd passion which was football, another story by itself), we were talking about my golf plans, and Daddy teared up. When I pressed him about why he was crying, he said, “Son, golf pros make their living on events which culminate on Sunday afternoons, and I can’t imagine one of my sons doing that instead of being in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day.”

That was probably one strong contributing factor (along with several others) in my decision to give my life to preaching….I’d never seen my dad cry before. Without going into all the details of the next two years, we come to 1961. My brother, RJ, who preached in Madisonville, came to visit Mom and Dad in August of that year.   I don’t know if my folks were in on it or not, but after a great visit (including some golf), RJ said, “Nier, why don’t you come to Madisonville and live with us, go to college at Sam Houston in Huntsville, and maybe you could help me preach at a little church called Mt. Tabor north of town….and…..he threw in the real bait, “There’s a couple of real precious girls I’d like for you to meet–one’s a blonde, and the other a brunette”. That pretty much ‘sealed the deal’.

I came to Madisonville on Aug. 20, 1961, preached my first sermon that morning at Mt. Tabor, then back to North Madison where I met a beautiful young lady in a red dress with beautiful long black hair. I made it my mission to get her to marry me…..and…..I’ve been preaching ever since!  :)).  

I believe God was in it all the way! One precious daughter, three precious sons, and twelve glorious grandchildren are all proof that God called me to Madisonville.

 

Football Teed Me Off!

When you were a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

6_fbgolfballAs a little boy, my dream was fueled by the golf matches at Thanksgiving between my Dad and my older brothers.   I first just dreamed of being able to  compete with them…then at about the age of fourteen, that dream came true…and I beat my dad and all three brothers in their annual “Thanksgiving Tournament!”

I went on to play golf as a freshman at Aldine Junior High School, and then when we moved to Haynesville, Louisiana, I played three years as member of the Haynesville Golden Tornadoes…lettering in both golf and football.

Being so very competitive, I thought that I wanted to go to college on a football scholarship, and that’s how I wound up at Stephen F. Austin at Nacogdoches, Texas in 1959.   About four games into the season, I realized that I was not going to go anywhere in football.   That’s when I turned back to my first love–GOLF!

In 1960, Dad and Mom moved to San Antonio, and I moved home to be with them with the dream of playing golf for SAJC. (San Antonio Junior College).  I not only made the team, but our team won the Texas Junior College Championship with me as the team captain, convincing me that my future was in golf.

The next step for me was to find a four year college where I could pursue my dreams in golf. In 1961, my brother RJ was preaching in Madisonville, and he invited me to come live with him and his family and enroll in Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  I came to live with RJ on August 20, 1961, and on that day my life and my dreams were forevermore changed!   I met a young lady named Betty Jo Farris…and the rest is history.

Note:  I found it interesting that yesterday (February 13,  2014), I received an invitation from Kenny Bounds wanting me to play in the 2nd annual Madisonville High School Invitational Tournament at Raven’s Nest Golf Course in Huntsville.  It’s been 5 years since I’ve even played golf…The Legacy Lives On!!

God Bless the Workin’ Man

You mentioned your Dad worked for the railroad in Wharton.  What jobs did he have when you were growing up?

 

beasley_txWhen Nancy & I were born (1941&42), Dad owned and operated a little drugstore with a soda fountain in the little town of Beasley, Texas.  Back in those days, pharmacists didn’t have to go to college to be certified to open up a pharmacy.   Dad had worked under the supervision of an old guy by the name of Slataper who owned a drug store in Rosenberg.   I think that’s where he was working when your Uncle Bubba and Uncle RJ were born. He moved out to Beasley and started his own business there, primarily because that’s where Mama’s sister (Aunt Sally) & her husband (Uncle Henry Ellison) lived.

Mamaw’s family all stated coming to Texas from Kentucky around 1910 and by 1914 at the death of her daddy, William Benton. Her mother had died in 1908 giving birth to her 12th child, uncle Bill. Mamaw was born in 1904, Aunt Tamar in 1906 and then Uncle Bill in 1908. 
     

My daddy’s dad, known to everyone as Brother Tex (Texas Hulan Stevens), was a circuit riding farmer/ preacher in the late 1800s until his death in 1932.   Instead of a horse, he would ride from town to town on a train called the Rock Island Line…..and his middle child, Roy Stevens (1899-1969), would travel with him and lead singing for him.   It was at one of their stops at Beasley or Rosenberg that a young lady named Hallie Mae Benton caught Roy’s eye (she was 14, he was 19), and in 1919 they got married.  He was 20 and she was 15.

They lived on a farm in a little community called Fordtran down between Halletsville and Victoria. Their first baby boy was born when she was 16 and only lived a few days…. Eldred was born when she was 17, Texas Hulan (Uncle Bubba) when she was 19, and Uncle RJ when she was 23.   I, Benton Lanier,  came along when mom was 37.  When I questioned her at her 75th birthday if I was kind of an accident or a surprise, she demurely replied that I was more of a disappointment:)) She then said, “Nancy (born not quite a year later in 1942) was the surprise. I would have never had another on purpose….you were my last shot at a little girl.”

When Granddaddy (Bro. Tex) died in 1932, my daddy began preaching at some of his daddy’s appointments in places like Beasley, Rosenberg, Wharton, and Rock Island.   Many said that he truly felt a calling, not only to preach, but to try to fill his father’s shoes. In 1942 after Nancy’s birth, the 26th & North Shepherd Church of Christ in Houston called Dad to be their preacher, and he became a “full-time preacher” for the rest  of his life.
    

He taught all of his children the value of hard work and I can’t tell you how many times I heard him quote the apostle Paul, “if any won’t work, neither shall he eat!”   I often heard him say, “Always remember who you are.  Number one, you’re a Christian and number two, you’re a Stevens–in that order, and don’t you ever forget that!”

He was good at anything (as far as work was concerned ) that he tried to do.  Businessman, construction work, and one thing that sticks in my memory is his typing.   He used his 2 huge forefingers to literally make his old Underwood (desktop) typewriter sing!   He used to say, “I’m a hunt and pecker, but I want you to learn to type the right way!”   …and he made sure that Nancy and I took all the typing courses that we could in school.