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He's known simply as The Voice. And one listen to country classics like "Set 'Em Up Joe," "Today My World Slipped Away" and "Is It Raining at Your House" confirms it. Vern Gosdin's smooth, heartbreaking baritone was a mainstay on the charts for nearly 20 years. He toured with George Jones, Conway Twitty and countless others. He remains an important influence on today's country stars, such as Brad Paisley, who covered "Is It Raining at Your House" on his current album, and George Strait, who put Vern's 1982 hit "Today My World Slipped Away" back on the charts in 1997.
But after years of hitting the road, home is where Vern's heart is now. "I love to stay at home," reveals Vern, who lives outside Nashville. "There's nobody there but me and I run things - everything." He smiles. "The dishwasher, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner ... I run it all."
On a more serious note, this touring veteran makes a solemn assessment of the music business. "Being on the road is a place where you can have fun without enjoying yourself," he says. "My goodness, it's a rough life. I don't wish it on anybody. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it differently. I wouldn't take every date that came along. There was something that had me thinking I was supposed to do that - that it was part of my job. But the more dates you do, the less popular you get with the people. If they don't get to see you that much, there's a demand for you."
Though today he performs only a few times a year, Vern does have some fond memories of touring. "One of the things I enjoyed most was when I worked with Conway Twitty and George Jones," he recalls. "I think we toured for about three years straight. We had big crowds every night, doing the music business like it should be done. I really enjoyed the people. They were everybody's crowd - mine, Conway's and Jones'. It was obvious that they were there to see all three of us."
Today, you'll most often find Vern at home writing songs. "It's my favorite thing to do," he says. But even though he says he has enough songs for a new album, don't look for one any time soon. "I've got to convince myself to do it first," he admits. "I've got some good material, but the key would be hiring the right pickers."
And the right label. "I don't want a major label - no way," he declares. "I've got enough problems! If I put another record out, it'll be just so I can have some fun. I don't care about making money."
He doesn't have to. George Strait's resurrection of "Today My World Slipped Away" brought Vern - who co-wrote the song with noted Nashville producer and Sony label exec Mark Wright - financial security that every songwriter dreams of.
"I made over a half million dollars on 'Today My World Slipped Away,' " notes Vern. "I still own the song [publishing]. I've had people tell me, 'George Strait did your song, but he didn't do it like you did.' That makes me feel kind of funny, because I'm not out there trying to compete with George Strait. He's my buddy. Anything he does is fine with me.
"But I want to tell you why I made so much money on that song," adds Vern. "All across the United States, radio stations would play George's version of the song, and then they would play mine next and have the public call in to decide which one was better. Well, I got paid for both plays.
Vern smiles. "Sometimes you get lucky when you least expect it."
-- Wendy Newcomer