- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

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Nashville, TN, February 14, 2005 - -
In between trips to Europe in the first couple
of years of this century, my wife Patty and
I would stay with Roger Schutt, "Captain
Midnight" to his fans, at his palatial digs
at The Fairways out on the Nashboro Village
Golf Course. We often stayed for months on
end, and when we did we were the Captain's
constant companions.

Together the three of us old friends would
watch the television of elderly people: Law
and Order and Magnum and old Rockford Files
for instance, along with westerns and other
old mystery shows, including the high-brow
British ones, with the sometimes sly
self-tribute thrown in - - Mid's appearance
in a Waylon bio piece, for example. This
avid televiewing was relieved by usually
daily trips to Larry's Loading Zone, since
burned down. Getting ready to go, Midnight
would call out "Wardrobe!" and disappear
into his closet. He would emerge a few
minutes later dressed in one of his two
motifs: dress slacks with Western boots and
pearl-button shirt or, if it were a
football day, his fleece pullovern with
jeans and leather "Titans" jacket.

Midnight had a blue Mercury Cougar. It was
a pretty together ride when I first made
its acquaintance in the year 2000, but
around the time Midnight moved into the
Leah Rose Towers a couple of years ago, and
even a little before that, it had begun to
require almost weekly attention, usually
involving great expense.
He and Tompall Glaser had been feuding for
years, a love-hate relationship stretching
at least all the way back to when Waylon
decamped from Glaser Studios, and one day
we were riding around in the Cougar, and at
the end of a Tompall story, Midnight says,
"I'm gonna fix his ass good, though. I'm
going to leave him this car in my will."
"Jesus, The Drinking Years, or 13 Jews Go Into a Bar"
He was most famous in the music world for
his stints as a disc jockey, but he didn't
begin his professional life with that as a
goal. He was released a year early from
the Air Force to go to divinity school, but
the nascent version of the iconoclast he
would later become didn't last long in
those environs.
Simultaneous to divinity school, he
continued his journalistics efforts as a
newspaper reporter, then as a news
reader at WLAC. It wasn't far from that to
disc-jockeying. "What really did in the
divinity school thing was, I went over to
Billy Graham's place to interview him, and
it was a Saturday and I was going to spend
the night at his house. After he showed me
to my room, he said, 'Well, tomorrow's
Sunday, and if you want, I can have them
wake you so that you can get to church.
But I personally don't bother with that too
much anymore. We'll probably sleep in.'
Right then, I figured well, hell, if Billy
Graham doesn't go to church, what real
point can there be in it? I didn't know it
then, but the real attraction of being a
preacher was the opportunity of speaking to
an audience."

When I had first known Midnight, I had
figured he would most likely in one way or
another live alone forever. During the
decades of my hiatus - some would say exile
- from Nashville, Midnight was one of the
few old friends I kept in touch with.

I was delighted when I learned that he had
married his lady friend Betsy, whom he
called Scout, after the little girl in "To
Kill a Mockingbird", who not only
loved him but was also Frances Preston's
assistant. And Frances takes care of her
people. This was important, for Midnight's
list of assets at the time was as short as
that of his copyrights, and had he not
married Scout, who provided for him even in
her death, chances are he would have ended
up somehow on the skids. Or not on the
skids, really, for mixed in with the casual
acquaintances are some solid gold friends,
and they would have worried enough about
him to care, but the beautiful thing is
that Midnight was able, because of Scout,
to have a comfortable, relatively
money-worry free retirement. An old age
made dignified by his lack of need. After
she died he wore her wedding ring on a
chain around his neck.

One day not long ago we weere sitting in
Sam's Bar on 21st Avenue, and Midnight
says, "You know, I've always wanted to do
something scientific. So I'm going to will
my body to Vanderbilt University for
medical study."

"You're just trying to figure out how to
remain the center of attention even after
you're dead," I said.

"Yep. And I have."

I first met Midnight in l972, during what
he referred to as "just ONE of my heydays."
His basic gig seemed to consist of
reminding the important planets around whom
he revolved just how unimportant they
were. This rolling reality-check made him
close, hell, irreplaceable, to several
extraordinary people whose names you would
recognize, and who would otherwise have
drowned in either self-importance or

There was a celebration of the life of our
friend Vince Matthews last year at Douglas
Corner. I heard about it and went by to see
if I could encourage the Captain to come
with me.
"There'll be a lot of old friends there
who'd really like to see you, man," I said.

"Oh, I don't know. You know I retired from
the business a long time ago. I'm not
sure I want to go. It's getting late,
anway...past my bedtime."

"Come on, man, it's only 7 now. We can go
over there and if you don't want to stay,
I'll bring you right back home."

"Well, okay then. I just don't want to get
too heavily involved, you know? I'm a
little reluctant lately."

So we went over there, and naturally we
hadn't been there but ten minutes before
Midnight was on the stage roasting every
celebrity there, to the delight of the
crowd and himself. I hadn't seen him so
pumped in years.
I was taking him back home. "I thought you
had retired from the stage and screen," I
"Well, you might not understand, Panama,
but sometimes a man has to be responsive to
the needs of his PUH-blic." There was a
marvelous little self-satisfied grin on his
face as he said it. It was, I think, his
last opportunity to be responsive to the
needs of his PUH-blic.

A couple of years ago, Midnight leased out
his Nashboro Village condo, and moved into
his apartment on the 12th floor of the Leah
Rose Towers. He soon became a Hillsboro
Village fixture. His last hangout was
Sam's Bar on 21st Avenue, right down the
street from Vanderbilt Hospital, where
every once in a while, for the next little
while, his body will indeed take center
stage for the edification of medical

After that, his ashes will be interred next
to those of Scout.

Goodbye, Captain.


An acid wit that splashed
Gurgled against its surrounding river banks
To me, so venerable and subtle
A look could be a discussion
Actions so very genuine

My Grandfathers are both gone now
The Captain and the Nelson
This morning broke into my ears
"Captain Midnight has died."
The first thing on the air.

Like the chill that has seized our hearts
The warm spell snapped into fairy flurries.
Tiny, solitary, like the diamond in Captain's ear
And my Mother's evasive tears.

Oh I want his Scout to meet him
Laughing by the sunlit creek
He'll always be special;
The sunset is emptier now,
Without him to look forward to listen to,
Along the journey, his music was his voice.

Radio waves still in space.

                                      Megan R.R.A. Finley
                                                   Copyright 2005, Panalama Music
                                                   Used by Permission