by Randall Beaird
A few years ago (1998), Country Music Singer K.T. Oslin was at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville to be honored as a Distinguished Alumna. I was invited to cover the event by a local newspaper. I fell in love with country music in 1976 while listening to Eddie Rabbit sing “Two Dollars in The Jukebox.” I was thirteen. Eleven years later K.T. began her triple Grammy run. Probably known best for “Eighty’s Ladies” and “I’ll Always Come Back,” Oslin sang “Hold Me” with such emotion in 1988 the chills came in waves the first time I heard it.
Born in Arkansas in 1942, K.T. was known as Kay in 1960 as a drama major at Lon Morris College. She chose Jacksonville in large part due to the reputation of legendary drama professor Zula Pearson. Oslin was also famous then, being “Class Favorite” and playing many leads. She has never married.
Freshman classmate Richard Dixon said, “She was the most congenial and accommodating person you’d ever meet.” By the time K.T. hit Nashville in the mid 80′s, legendary songwriter Bob McDill said she had the most outstanding talent of anyone he’d ever seen.
I couldn’t make the press conference at 1:30 on Friday, though someone said I could interview K.T. after the banquet. I know the happy, naive fool and play it well–I told everyone. Loose lips spread the jinx seed, and some people burn their bridge before they get there.
The sun fell into whispering oaks as I showered under cloud nine. My suit was perfect, my shoes dry and thirsty. Desperate, with no polish in sight, I whipped out the pam vegetable spray. One whiff of the buttery aroma and I was ready for something special. That kind of shine deserves a commercial.
After arriving and meeting Oslin’s agent, Stan Moress, I was tagged the “very nice fax man” and put in line to meet KT I shook the hand of a living legend and sat through dinner on the edge of my seat. If someone shot a starter pistol, I would have been nothing but a blur hurdling tables. Tributes were paid to Oslin in a frenzy of remembering, laughter and tears. The rafters shook as K.T. reminisced.
Afterwards, I stood on the fringe of the panting fans and classmates. I was happy for them–eyes fixed, teeth blazing, shoulders twitching with pens in hand, but I still thought my selfish please hurry prayer. I felt like a snow cone juiced with zeal, but starting to melt.
They could have been turtles circling the last leaf of lettuce. I could have been the kid staggering toward the last popsicle. My own little world was melting right before my eyes. There were just too many people and not enough time–a sad reality surrounding celebrities. Stan hovered like a guardian angel and informed me nicely, the interview would have to be postponed. It was only near midnight.
I left a note hoping I could be squeezed in on Saturday and staggered away a sad stack of bones. Saturday came along with K.T.’s condolences–she was too tired. After numerous meetings with faculty, alumni, and students, it was easy to understand why.
So if you come over for dinner, dust off your stories, trot out a few jokes–just don’t tell me you’re too beat to answer a few questions about your first hit single. And there’s got to be some singing, maybe even a duet. Because late at night, in my dreams, I’m still living that loss. K.T. Oslin, the one that got away.