Rick "L.D." Wayne

Jeff Johnston, NRA Country Beat Reporter

Just like in the movies, 18-year old Rick "L.D." Wayne tossed a beat-up six string in an old pickup and steered north out of Columbus, GA. He kept the hammer down until the signs said Nashville. With calloused fingertips for his only reference, he played his way into a steady house-band gig at Merchants Restaurant downtown, and pretty soon he was hanging with names in this budding country music hub. A singer/songwriter known as Tom T. Hall strolled in one night and the two got to talking. Then they got to playing. The fresh-faced Wayne became Hall's lead guitarist and they hit the road. That was back in 1973. And this isn't a movie.

After 10 years honing his craft on tour with Hall and moonlighting for the likes of Johnny Rodriquez, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jerry Reed, Roy Acuff and Porter Wagoner, Wayne met a young cook in the kitchen of the legendary Nashville Palace. His name was Randy Travis. Travis was making ends meet while on the verge of stardom, but he needed a lead guitar. Wayne obliged, and he's been playing with Travis ever since. It's taken him around the world, to the Grand Ole Opry many times over, and allowed him a steady living doing what he loves. L.D. made it, and he thinks you can too.

"I figured out quickly that in Nashville you must play for the singers," said Wayne. And if you listen to his music-as a simple YouTube search for any of the aforementioned artists will reveal-you'll subtly hear what he's talking about. Wayne doesn't screech and overpower with his guitar constantly like Eddie Van Halen, because "country singers don't want somebody playing all over them," he advises. Wayne compliments the star, and that's his secret. That, and being sociable.

"I'd find out where a good band was playing at a small venue and go listen and learn. I'd hang around and try to meet them. Sometimes I'd strike up a conversation, and we'd stay in touch. I believe that if you have the talent, you can't be afraid to show it."

Rick "L.D." Wayne, who cites his favorite artist of all time as Merle Haggard, adds that if you're a musician who wants to break onto the scene, you should listen to great players and determine what makes them good. Then find a niche and stay in it. Don't try to be a player you're not. "If you're good at something, keep doing it. It'll show eventually."

Now 60-years-old and a grandfather, L.D. has finally eased his foot off the pedal somewhat. He still freelances for John Anderson and a handful of other acts as they need him, but now he's spending more time in the outdoors. He loves bowhunting whitetail deer. Over the years he's hunted many states, but it's a tall 10-point buck near his home just south of Nashville that's currently haunting his dreams. But while L.D. waits for next season, he'll continue making music. "Country, blues, rock, anything," he says. "I'll always play music." Wayne's a musician, right down to the 15th fret of his favorite pink Fender.

As for his nickname? He was so young and innocent when he rode into Nashville that Tom T. Hall teasingly called him "Little Darlin'." That's right-L.D.-and it stuck. And that goes to show, sometimes it's not just your name, but the names you know. And now you know L.D. Wayne.