Jason D. at Gulley Park

Jason D. Williams

Jason D. Williams

Cathy and I lived for 30 years of our life in El Dorado, Arkansas where I practiced medicine as a general surgeon, and where we raised our 3 children. In the spring of 1999 we began making plans to move to Florida. Leaving our home, where we had family and many friends was a very difficult and emotional experience, but we felt led by the Lord to move to Clearwater, Florida where I joined the staff of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. I was to be the Medical Director of their new church sponsored medical clinic. Following opening of the clinic in February, 2000 I was able to work for 2 months before realizing this clinic concept was not the right fit for my skill set. Again with much prayer and agony, we made a second move to Fayetteville, Arkansas where I became a director of the Wound Care Clinic at Washington Regional Medical Center. This was not only a great fit medically for me, but Cathy and I were in the town where our daughter Ginny and husband John Luther lived, and that alone made this move exciting for us!

Soon after making the transition to Fayetteville, I received a call from Frank Luther, John’s father that Jason D. Williams was performing at Gulley Park during their annual summer concert series. Gulley Park is a beautiful park which hosts 6 or 7 concert artists annually during the summer months for an outdoor concert which is free to the public. The concerts are well-attended with perhaps as many as 500-600 people taking advantage of the cool evenings to see and hear an array of outstanding performers.

Jason D. was well-known to Cathy and me because he was from El Dorado and his parents, Hank and Marie Williams were very good friends. We were members together at the First Baptist Church and in the mid-1980’s had gone with them on a church sponsored mission trip to Brazil. We had known Jason D. since he was a young boy and had watched his musical career develop. He had an amazing talent of piano playing that was similar in style to the well-known Jerry Lee Lewis, but many believed Jason D. was more musically gifted than Jerry Lee. On one occasion when Jason D. was between concerts, he came to our home for a visit, and I asked him to give us a mini-concert. His wild piano playing style resulted at one point in his playing several bars of the song with the heel of his boot. Cathy made him stop playing, thinking he might seriously damage our heirloom baby grand piano! He just smiled, stop playing and continued visiting with us.

Cathy and I were glad to join Frank and his wife Janice Luther along with Ginny and her husband John to Gulley Park for the concert that evening. In all the years we had known him, we had never heard Jason D. in a full program. The performing pavilion was surrounded by people seated on lawn chairs and with many sitting on blankets on the grassy slopes of the park. It was a pleasant, cool evening with lots of excitement and anticipation of a fun evening. Jason D. did not disappoint anyone expecting to see and hear robust and lively piano playing and singing. His style ranged from classical to rockabilly, country to jazz and finally rock and roll. He played sitting and standing on the stool, standing without the stool and even a few bars playing behind his back. I don’t think he ever stood on his head while playing, but looked as if he wanted to. His songs included “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On”, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Drinkin Wine- Spodie-Odie”  all of which he has on several albums. There were so many songs which I can’t remember their titles, but all were lively, raucous and fun.

At the completion of the concert, he remained on stage for folks to come to the platform to ask questions about his life and playing style. I told Cathy and our group I was going to work my way through the crowd, and see if I could say a few words to him. By the time I got to the stage, he was almost finished with the Q and A session. I did hear one young lady who appeared to be in her early teens ask, “How much practice would I have to do to play like you?” His quick reply with tongue in cheek was, “Honey, you could practice 100 years and not be able to play like this,” as he ran his fingers up and down the keyboard several times. He then shouted, “Thank y’all for coming out!” and ran off the platform to get in his motor home which was parked behind the stage.

Undaunted, I walked over to the motor home and knocked on the door. The windows were tinted so I couldn’t see inside. Some man, who I assume was his manager barely opened the door and asked, “What do you want?” I said, “Tell Jason D. that Dr. Moore is out here to see him.” From the back of the vehicle I heard him shout to the man, “Let Dr. Moore come in.” He hugged my neck while we exchanged greetings. He teasingly asked, “Were you out in the audience tonight?”  “Of course I was. Why would I be standing in your motor home right now, if not?” He said, “If I had known you were out there, I would have played more religious songs!” I quickly said, “I’m already going to tell your Mom about some of the bawdy songs you are singing these days!” “Oh please don’t tell her. She already fusses at me about some of them.” We had a good conversation about his current life and his career, and he asked about Cathy and our kids and why we were now living in Fayetteville. I asked him if he was taking his family to church, to which he replied, “Not as much as I ought to,” so I didn’t ask any more “religious” questions.

The last time we saw Jason D. was about 5 years ago while we were visiting our son John, his wife Gina and our 3 grandsons in El Dorado. We were walking downtown at lunch time and saw a car had stopped in the middle of the street on the square. As we walked past the car, the driver’s window was open and Jason D. was grinning widely waiting for us to stop and talk. He was home for a brief visit with other family. His parents, Hank and Marie had departed this life a few years earlier. Cathy and I sure loved the Williams, and know they were proud of their talented son, despite some of the bar room songs he played so well!

Dr. John

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One thought on “Jason D. at Gulley Park

  1. Yes, “robust and lively” is a good description for Jason’s playing! And I can hear Marie chastising him just like she did Tom and his long hair back in the day. I still miss Hank and Marie…. sweet folks.

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