In the late 1990s, veteran country performer Tommy Overstreet completed his autobiography. But, nobody ever read the book. The singer told Billboard there was a good reason for that. "After I read it, it bored me to tears," he said.
"I decided I wasn't going to do anything with it, and my wife agreed," Overstreet explained. "A couple of years ago, we were sitting around, and she said 'You didn't do an autobiography, but you've seen and done more things that most ever dream of, and you've had a most interesting life. Why don't you write about the interesting people that you've rubbed elbows with and the events you've been a part of?"
Overstreet wisely heeded his wife's advice. The singer has just released "A Road Less Traveled," a book that shares anecdotes about several of his fellow performers and career experiences.
"We wanted it to be a book where a person could read a chapter, lay it down on the coffee table, pick it up again a few days later and read another chapter," he said. "We didn't want people to feel like they had to read the book overnight. I feel we accomplished that, I think."
One memory Overstreet shares in the book was a Houston meeting with a rising talent from Memphis named Elvis Presley. "I went to high school with a fellow by the name of Tommy Sands," he recalled. "We were real good friends, and he came to me telling me he had a show down at the Eagles' Hall. We hopped in his old Hudson and we got there early. I had heard of Elvis Presley before on Biff Collie's radio show singing 'That's Alright Mama' and 'Good Rockin' Tonight.' I was really impressed by him. Tommy went into the office to change into his stage clothes, and I was back by the snack bar not too far from the stage. Tommy went up on stage, and this fellow comes up, and asks me how I was doing. He said 'That Tommy sings pretty good.' I said 'Yes, he's a good friend of mine. We're here to hear the new guy out of Tennessee named Elvis Presley.' He says 'Hi, my name's Elvis.' We talked for a few minutes, and he was a nice fellow. I saw him several times over the years. We weren't close friends, but we knew each other, and I was a big fan of his."
Overstreet also has fond memories of his string of hits from 1969-1986, which included eleven top ten singles on the Billboard Country Singles chart. He said he got some good advice about song selection early. "My uncle, Gene Austin, always told me that you had to have songs that speak to the heart, and you had to have songs that spoke to other people's heart. I always tried to do that. I always thought of who I was singing to, which was the audience, and hopefully I did."
However, there were some regrets. He worked the road at a fever pitch during those days, and his home life suffered as a result. "There were 329 one-nighters, then 36 days in Nashville in a years' time," he said. "I also recorded two albums and did a European tour for eighteen days. Unfortunately, my ex-wife and I separated and divorced. The music business and what we do in that career is not great for relationships. You're gone too much. I wouldn't encourage anyone to work that hard. I shouldn't have. I should have stopped and smelled the roses, and spent more time with my family. But, you learn those things in hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20. As you go down this road, you do what you think is the best thing at the time, and I did. Unfortunately, it cost me some heartbreak and disappointments, but that's how life is."
However, Overstreet rebounded – remarrying and enjoying his golden years at his home in Oregon. He looks back on his life and career with a great deal of contentment and satisfaction.
"Life is dear to me," he said. "I've had a wonderful time, met some interesting people, and had some success along the way. I've had a blessed life, and I can't complain at all."