Opinicus Publishing Company
Opinicus Publishing Company was founded in 1984, and registered our Service Mark with the State of Missouri. Prior to this, I owned and operated Photographique, which became a property of Opinicus Publishing Company.
As Photographique, I performed all sorts of photography work. After my brother started Jessie Janes Productions, we began producing music shows for charities like the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Fire Fighters, etc. I was in charge of Public Relations. At first, it was just shooting photos for newspapers to promote shows, but one small paper told me that if I wanted captions for my photos, I needed to write them myself. They never did set a limit for me on just how big those captions could be, so my captions quickly grew into full blown stories. Soon, I was doing far more writing than photography. Throughout my time running Photographique, I always wore my trademark Vietnam boonie hat. People referred to me as that hippy looking dude in the boonie hat. I had each entertainer I worked with autograph that hat for me, with two exceptions, and those were people I strongly disliked (George Jones and Duran Duran).
Fellow Missourian, Don Darnell and myself, after a show.
The Hager Twins-Don Darnell
The Hager Twins were famous for being part of the Hee Haw TV show. They were friendly and loved to joke around. Don Darnell opened for the Hager twins, and I thought he was every bit as talented as them, and was certainly more personable. He was from Missouri. I caught up with him a few years ago, and he was still performing, down at Branson, Missouri.
The Thrasher Brothers-Down Yonder Band
The Thrasher Brothers were some talented guys. Their claim to fame was many TV show theme songs that were popular at the time. They gave a great live performance too! Down Yonder Band, who opened for them, quickly became one of my favorites. They were a Missouri band from Adrian, Mo. They hadn’t hit it big, but these folks could perform, and they played their hearts out. They were so sweet and down to earth, it was impossible to not love them. We hired them many times to open for big name acts.
The Garrett Brothers Band
The Gairrett Brothers Band were a lot of fun to hang out with. They hailed from Montana, and were the salt of the earth. I spent quite some time hanging out with them backstage that night, and the next day when they performed for the KC Parks & Recreation at Swope Park for a free concert. The youngest brother, Jim Bob Gairrett still performs, and played steel guitar for the Kenny Chesney band for many years. Jim Bob is one hell of a steel guitar genius!
Vern Gosdin-Down Yonder Band
Vern Gosdin was one of the nicest human beings you’d ever want to meet. When I told him I planned to do a story on him, he asked if I’d mind going for a walk with him. He explained that going for a walk before a show helped him focus and calm down. We walked miles of back hallways in the RLDS Auditorium, and talked like old friends. He was asking me stuff as much as I asked him. Occasionally, we’d encounter fans who tracked him down for an autograph, and Vern was very gracious with each and every one. I really liked and admired Vern as a human being, even more than as a performer. One cool thing happened during the show, I’ll never forget. I was out in the center aisle with the audience setting up to start shooting the show, and the local radio disc jokey picked a little girl out of the audience to introduce Vern Gosdin. I look up on stage, and who should be standing there but my own daughter! I looked over at my wife, and she just grinned and shrugged her shoulders. He did not know that she was my daughter, although he did know me. Brandie said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Vern Gosdin!” The audience roared and started cheering, and Brandie was a little frightened at first, from all the noise, then she didn’t want to leave the stage, having got a taste of show business!
Hank Williams Drifting Cowboys Band-Down Yonder Band
Hank Williams Original Drifting Cowboys were consummate professionals, and consummate gentlemen. They had lots of stories about Hank Williams, and each was top-class with their instruments. At one point in the show, they left a mic center-stage where Hank would have stood. The lights dropped low, with them in the dark, and a single spotlight in Hank’s spot. I swear, you could almost see Hank Williams ghost standing there with his old band. I loved these guys!
George Jones-Down Yonder Band
George Jones was absolutely THE WORST performer I ever met. He was an arrogant little prick. I watched him make a sweet little old lady break down in tears. He was so stoned when he took the stage, that he slurred and mumbled, and forgot half the words to his own songs. The audience booed him. George refused to sign any autographs, and was the only country music artist I ever met who did that. He tried to refuse to sign autographs for my brother and I, but we made it clear that we were holding his pay check unless he agreed. He signed our photos of him. He got his paycheck.
Judy Rodman was one of my favorite performers I ever met. She was so genuinely down to earth, and really loved her fans. She was new to success in show business, and was sincerely grateful to her fans. Her biggest hit was “Girls Ride Horses Too”, and she’d been named female artist of the year by the CMA. After her show, she stayed to sign autographs, until every last fan got one. She was and still is a real treasure. I got in touch with her a few years ago, and she is still every bit of a sweetheart!
Dreams Come True
While working with the Independence Fire Fighters, I became friends with Bob Warden, their president. They were planning to present a young boy with Muscular Dystrophy, with a check to help make his dream of a trip to Disney World a reality. Bob asked me to help publicize it, and I quickly agreed.
Again, the Fire Fighters asked for my help, and I could not refuse! They were giving a show for children featuring Whizzo the Clown. I grew up with Whizzo’s TV show and he was my hero as a kid. When I was three or four, he did the grand opening of a supermarket near me, so I talked my mom into walking me to the store so I could see Whizzo. I was just as excited to see him as an adult, as I was when I was a kid. Whizzo was just cool!
KSHB TV-41/KC Zoo
Another charity I worked with involved the Kansas City Zoo. The Zoo was getting a couple rare snow leopards, and was trying to raise money to build a habitat for them. KSHB TV-41 decided to help the zoo with fundraisers. The first was called Picnic In The Park. Living near the zoo, I wanted to help, so I did a story on the event. Later, I was contacted by Lisa Valenti, the host of KSHB’s AM Live show, and she said they would be doing a series of events at the Country Club Plaza over the summer, to continue the fund raising, and she wondered if I would help them promote the events, they would call Breakfast With Lisa. I readily agreed, and the following stories followed.
I was hired by Columbia Records to shoot photos of a new band that was hitting the top of the music charts at the time, called Duran Duran. The show was in January, and it was well below zero outside. I was supposed to meet the record company rep at the stage door downtown prior to the show. I was wearing a coat, but waiting out there with me, were a couple dozen groupies who wanted to get backstage and be with the band. These girls were all drop-dead gorgeous, and all were wearing skimpy spandex mini-dresses, high heels, and were flaunting everything they had. The roadies for the band came out and selected which girls they wanted, and let them in. I was waiting in this sub-zero cold for almost an hour. Finally, just before the show was to start, the record company rep came and got me. Little did I know, that the extreme cold had caused a 5-cent plastic part in my camera to get brittle, and break. I went in, and quickly shot a roll of film. What I didn’t know, was that broken camera part caused the camera shutter to remain open. So, when I began rewinding the film, it all got double exposed with light and ruined the roll of film. So, rather than end up with my photos in Rolling Stone magazine, I was left with essentially useless photos. I was so pissed off, I took a hammer to my $1200 camera, and beat it to death. All, because of a 5-cent piece of plastic!
By this point, I had finished writing my first volume of five, of my military history book, and for the next 35 years, my life revolved around my history project.