I’m quite familiar with folks from the south being called “Rednecks.” I’m also aware of Oklahomans often referred to as “Okies.”
John Steinbeck made the term “Okie,” a household name in his book, “The Grapes of Wrath” a book about the Tom Joad family’s travels from Oklahoma to California during the Depression of the 1930s. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do.
I was scrolling through the Internet the other day and came across a news story on National Bubba Day, which is celebrated on June 2 every year. It peaked my interest to learn that more than 50 million people in the world are referred to as Bubba.
That’s a lot of Bubbas.
The news story noted that Bubba is a US Southern slang word for a younger brother. It may also be a name given to someone with limited education who is rather poor or an overweight man.
“While people use it as a term of endearment, sometimes it is also used as a term of ridicule,” the news article noted. “National Bubba Day was created to address this. It is all about positivity and it should be seen as a name that shows appreciation.”
The late T. Bubba Bechtol, a comedian and former state and national president of the US Jaycees, which happens to be headquartered in my hometown of Tulsa, founded National Bubba Day in 1984 to celebrate everyone who is called Bubba.
While he was with the US Jaycees, T. Bubba was featured on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethons and numerous other national television and radio shows.
Ironically, Debbie and I were backstage guests of T. Bubba Bechtol at the Grand Old Opry on our honeymoon on Friday, Oct. 1, 2004.
When we learned earlier this year of T. Bubba’s passing on Dec. 19, 2021 at the age of 76, we were both surprised and saddened.
When planning our honeymoon, I saw that T. Bubba was a featured comedian at the Opry the evening we planned to attend. I wrote him an email and told him we would be visiting the Opry while in Tennessee.
He promptly wrote back and asked if we would like to be his backstage guests. Heck, we couldn’t turn that offer down. What a treat!
While backstage at the Opry, we met and got autographs from the now late Porter Wagoner, Little Jimmy Dickens and honky-tonk singer and songwriter, Jean Shepard. Also featured that evening was Ricky Skaggs and Chely Wright, who we also got autographs from.
Prior to our Opry visit, we were asked to send copies of our Social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses to T. Bubba’s home in Pensacola, Fla. so he could send them on to the Opry. I suppose for background checks. Between the time we sent him the items, Hurricane Ivan struck Pensacola and destroyed his home, his belongings and our paperwork.
He never turned our names in to the Opry and as a result, we almost weren’t allowed by security to enter backstage as our names were not on the guest list.
We arrived at the Opry and made our way to the famous artist entrance only to learn that we were not on the guest list. I was pleading our case with the security guard, but it didn’t seem to do any good. It had to be a move of God as all of sudden, he decided to call the receptionist and we were given the OK to enter the building. All the receptionist asked was that we have T. Bubba come check in and let her know that we were his guests.
When we told T. Bubba what had happened, he chuckled, saying “I never have guests, so that is probably why they let you in.”
According to his obituary, T. Bubba worked in finance and later got involved in the US Jaycees, as mentioned above, before getting involved with the National Speakers Association, where he earned his professional designation as a Certified Speaking Professional.
The syndicated columnist and humorist Lewis Gizzard heard T. Bubba speak at an event and they became friends. T. Bubba joined Lewis’s management team and his second calling as a stand-up comic took off.
He made several appearances on Crook and Chase’s “Music City Tonight.” He was hired by Opryland Production to host “Boots, Boogy and Blues” at the Governor’s Palace Theater in Sevierville, Tenn. Then his first performance on the Grand Old Opry was on Oct. 24, 1998. He performed on the Opry more than 200 times. He was twice awarded Comedian of the Year by the International County Gospel Music Association due to his family-friendly style of comedy.
What a treat and memory for Debbie and I to meet this man and be his backstage guests at the Grand Old Opry.
Some years after meeting T. Bubba, we sent him a photo taken of us and him at the Opry. He signed it and sent it back to us. It’s a nice keepsake.
T. Bubba Bechtol leaves behind two boys, Bubba Jr. and Little Bubba, and a host of other family members.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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