If you have spent any time listening to PGA TOUR Radio on Sirius/XM the past month or so, you surely have heard Mike Stone’s advertisement for his new album Hey Man featuring his two flagship songs “One Week in April” and “Thank You Arnie (We’re Your Army)”. Mike was kind enough to put the guitar down long enough to talk with me about his love for the Masters and Arnold Palmer.
Cart Path Only: I read that you started playing guitar in the 60’s, having played off and on through the 70’s and picked back up in the 90’s. What has your professional life been like since then and have you always been working in the music industry?
Mike Stone: Well my family ran a publishing company that the best way to describe it was like a Car Trader for airplanes and construction materials. From the time I was about 31 or 32 I ran the construction magazine. I ran it for about 3 decades. I was always playing music. I didn’t start writing music until I wrote “Pretty Blue Green Eyes” in 1970-something when I was at the University of Tennessee.
Cart Path Only: I’ve listened to that song. Is that about your current wife?
Mike Stone: Actually it was about a girl who I had a crush on in college, but to this day she’s never known that the song was for her and I’ve never spoken her name out loud. My first wife used to think the song was written for her but I never told her any different.
Cart Path Only: That’s incredible. Hopefully it doesn’t get back to her what the real meaning of the song is about.
Mike Stone: Yeah, yeah well I don’t think it will. I used to own a couple radio stations. I bought them back in the early 80’s and with those radio stations you could actually get media passes to go to the Masters. And so I started going to the Masters in the early 80’s and went for I’m guess 16, 17 years in a row and developed a love for the place.
Cart Path Only: So did you just buy the radio stations to get free Masters tickets?
Mike Stone: (Laughing) No, no, no those would’ve been the most expensive tickets in history.
Cart Path Only: What about Augusta National and the Masters is so special to you that warranted you sit down and write a love song to it?
Mike Stone: I can remember growing up, my first memories of golf were with my dad watching the Masters and watching Arnold Palmer. He won the Masters I think in ’58, ’60, ’62, and ’64. I would’ve been a little fella then. But I just remember how much the crowd was for him. It was really easy to become a fan, as a little guy, of Arnold Palmer right out of the gate. So to me Arnold Palmer and the Masters were almost synonymous if you will. So when I finally went to the Masters for the first time I was just blown away by the beauty of it.
Cart Path Only: What year was your first Masters?
Mike Stone: Probably ’83 or ’84. We went in ’86 and of course that’s the year Jack won. I went with a close friend of mine, his wife and my wife, and we didn’t stay for Sunday. I mean you can’t make this shit up. We’d been there for three days and I mean 3 days at the Masters will wear you out.
Cart Path Only: I bet. You can barely walk afterwards.
Mike Stone: Well not only that but there’s a lot of drinking and partying that goes on at the Masters. In the homes and the condominiums and the motels, I mean it has got to be one of the great party weeks in America for the folks that get to go. If you listen to the lyrics of “One Week in April” you’ll hear in the break “sweet magic memories in my mind, they touch, they thrill me every time.” It’s about the golf but also the memories of being there. A friend of mine rented a home down there that had tall Augusta pine trees and it seemed like after enough Johnnie Walker Red you could just stand out there and just watch the pine trees sway back and forth.
Cart Path Only: Is there any one memory that stands out as your favorite from the 16 years you went down there?
Mike Stone: There’s just so many. I’ll give you one though. My first wife and I are there on a Wednesday at the Par 3 (competition) and we look to our right and it’s Ken Venturi. The week before I was playing golf on a par 5 and I had knocked it on the green in 2 and had about a 20 footer for eagle and I three putted. And I don’t if motor mouth or diarrhea mouth but I start telling him about me knocking it on this par 5 in two. My wife at the time was giving me a hard time about leaving it short and Venturi turned to me and said she was giving me the needle. And that was the first time I’d ever heard anyone use “giving you the needle”.
I can remember Curtis Strange came up on 18 and was putting just off the green and the ball broke out of the hole at the very last minute and he turned around and looked at us and, pardon my French, said under his breath “God damnit”. And my friend without even looking up goes, “Curtis, it’s been doing that all day.” Oh and it really pissed him off.
Cart Path Only: So when did you write “One Week in April”.
Mike Stone: I should tell you in the early 2000’s when I sold the radio station, I stopped going for 8 or 9 years and I guess in 2008 or ’09 we started going back to either the Thursday and Friday rounds or the practice rounds. I had gone for 3 or 4 years in a row and I guess in 2013, I decided we didn’t need to go this year. And so I was in Miramar Beach Florida during that time and had gone out to play golf with some of my friends on that Wednesday. I was right in the middle of writing songs for what would be my first CD and I had never even given thought about writing a song about the Masters. And as I got home the Par 3 contest came on and I realize that I wasn’t going to be at the Masters this year and I got physically ill. And that’s how I came up with that song. I was so upset and that’s what came out of it.
I never set out to write “First Week in April” and then the flip side of that is I never set out to write “Thank You Arnie (We’re Your Army). Both songs originated from the Masters. So it’s the same year that Arnie died-
Cart Path Only: Is that when did you decide to write “Thank You Arnie”?
Mike Stone: Yes. So Connie (my wife) and I had gone to the Masters and we were back home and watching the Sunday telecast of the Masters. And as he does every year on Sunday Jim Nantz recaps everything that’s happened during the week up to Sunday. And this was the first year that Arnie was not hitting a golf shot with the honorary starters. And I remember them showing a close up of Jack Nicklaus and there was a sadness in his eyes, a pain, because Arnold wasn’t playing with him. And it just resonated with me. So I looked over to Connie and said “I’m writing a song about Arnold Palmer”. The next day I wrote the chorus on a trip to Nashville. “He’s the king of course and sky, doing good deeds all his life. He’s been our hero all along, a love affair that’s millions strong.” And I thought, man I’ve got this. I’ll have this song written in another day. And I got stuck. Not for a little while but for weeks then months and then he died. I was devastated. For two reasons. I was devastated because he died and I was devastated because he would never hear the song. So I’m in my office and I’m streaming his memorial service on the Golf Channel. So I’m going back and forth between the video and the Microsoft Word Program and by the time the service was over I had written the song.
Cart Path Only: As someone who didn’t get to see him in his prime, what about Arnie was so enthralling to watch and what made him so special that made you write this song about him?
Mike Stone: He had charisma that was undeniable. He had the “it” factor before anyone could materialize or articulate the “it” factor. People wanted to be like Arnie. He was a hero. He was a Clint Eastwood type guy playing golf. And I can remember when Nicklaus came along. [Laughing] I hated Nicklaus. Because Nicklaus would just beat Arnie like a dog.
Cart Path Only: Do you see anyone now that resembles Arnie’s charisma?
Mike Stone: [Long pause] No. I mean if you can combine a bunch of guys you can get close but, no.
Cart Path Only: I heard your promotions on PGA TOUR Radio for “Hey Man” with your songs “Thank You Arnie” and “One Week in April”. How did you get connected with PGA TOUR Radio?
Mike Stone: At the encouragement of my wife I began to reach out to them. But it’s funny, I really decided I wasn’t going to push One Week and Thank You Arnie as I am now but I realized those two songs are both so unique and I’m kind of in this space by myself and I’m crazy not to use those songs to promote my album. Someone asked me if I died and could only have one song recorded what would it be and it would be One Week in April.
Cart Path Only: If you don’t mind me asking and if it’s too personal it’s ok to not answer but how much is your ad spot on PGA TOUR Radio?
Mike Stone: Ummm, well I wouldn’t want to put it out there. Let’s just say I’ll spend five figures of my own money with them.
Cart Path Only: I’m assuming you’ll run the ad through the Masters. Is that how long you plan on doing it for? Have you received any traction from the ad spots?
Mike Stone: I’m actually planning on doing it through the Open. I was talking to my rep there at PGA TOUR Radio and he said that the announcers are referring to the coverage as One Week in April. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And there’s also this podcast, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it called No Laying Up that I’m going to listen to and try to get on.
Cart Path Only: Depending on the success with the advertisement on PGA TOUR and your two golf songs do you think that is something you’ll pursue more as a focused niche in that type of songwriting?
Mike Stone: No no. I have another song that’s not complete that is similar but it’s not set out to be sports related. I never force lyrics. I set out to write a song that was my answer to “We Will Rock You”. I even had a cheerleading team come in to do the harmony. I bet I had 87 hours of studio time on that song and at one point I realized “This sucks.”
Cart Path Only: Are you planning on going to the Masters this year?
Mike Stone: I am not. This will be the first year since I wrote One Week in April that I’m not going.
Cart Path Only: We’ll have to see what song comes out of it this year then.
Mike Stone: I keep thinking I’m going to be ok with it but we’ll see. I actually was thinking about doing a show in Augusta but I’m not ready to do that just yet.
You can listen to Mike’s album on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon. Follow Mike on Facebook for updates and a chance to see him live someday.