In light of all the recent talk about football players protesting, I thought I would retell a story that was originally printed August 2015 in The Greeneville Sun. It is amazing how some stories are timeless, but, sometimes we just need a reminder about who we look to for wisdom and inspiration. After all, we would not have to debate what football players are doing or not doing if we don’t put so much value in them. Maybe this story can help remind us of who the real celebrities are in our life.

From sports figures and politicians, to musicians and actors, we are bombarded with images and stories of the rich and famous. Let’s face it- it seems like we live in a world that is obsessed with celebrity.

Personally, I have never been star struck. I have, however, been awestruck. Let’s take Dolly Parton, for example. She can play multiple instruments, writes beautiful songs and sings like an angel. Then, if that was not enough, she runs a hugely successful business franchise. I guess you can say I am in awe of her talent and it would be a dream of mine to get to know her. Not because she is a star, but, because she came from nothing to achieve her goals by shear talent and hard work.

There have only been a handful of people and times in my life that I have been awestruck by someone. This is a story about one of those people.

Meet Keith Wampler. To know him was to certainly love him. He was not famous, although he was very talented. He was not rich- at least not in the monetary sense. He was, however, bestowed with riches money cannot buy. Keith was “real”. He was the kind of person who said what was on his mind and never put on airs or tried to be someone or something he was not. Truth be told, I could fill years worth of newspaper stories about Keith, but this story sums him up best.

Through social media and the internet, Keith reconnected with an old high school friend. They had not seen each other in over twenty years and were given a chance to get together. His friend was now the bass player for the one and only Tony Orlando, and he was coming to Greeneville to play a concert.

If you ever heard the song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon (On The Old Oak Tree)” or “Knock Three Times (On the Ceiling If You Want Me)”, then you have heard Tony Orlando. In fact, if you ever watched television in the mid 70’s, you probably saw The Tony Orlando and Dawn show.

Tony Orlando was kind of a big deal, but you would not know it by Keith Wampler who, after seeing the concert, was invited back stage to meet everyone.

Keith walked right passed Tony Orlando and greeted his friend with a big hug then, with out skipping a beat, handed his camera to the famous singer and asked if he would take a picture of he and his friend, David Shortt, the bass player. Tony replied with, “Don’t you want a picture of me?” Keith, without any hesitation said, “Well, I have not seen my friend in over 20 years.” I can only imagine that Tony Orlando was amused by Keith Wampler and proceeded to take the picture as he said, “Well, you have never seen me.”

I am not sure if Tony Orlando has ever met someone quite like Keith. Someone who valued his long lost friend more than the celebrity in the room. You see to Keith, his friend was the star.

Keith eventually had a picture made with Tony Orlando, and just like the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at the photo, it looks as if the famous singer was happy to finally be included in a picture with Keith Wampler.

Sadly, Keith passed away at the young age of 48 shortly after reconnecting with his friend. I was awestruck by Keith and blessed to know him.

I have no pictures of me and Tony Orlando. But I am proud to say that I have a few pictures of me and Keith Wampler. Life is Mysterious.

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