This past Saturday, Darryl Worley held his 15th Annual Tennessee River Run on the banks of that body of water, in his hometown of Savannah. The weather – Sunny and highs in the mid 70s – couldn’t have been any better than if the hitmaker had made a deal with Mother Nature himself. However, the artist behind such hits as “Awful Beautiful Life” and “I Just Came Back From A War” admits that it’s not entirely that simple. Last year, the Run – held the same corresponding weekend in October – felt like something akin to a ‘Winter Wonderland,’ with highs hovering around 50, and a cold rain falling throughout the day.
“Oh, my gosh. This is a gift, I’m telling you,” Worley told Sounds Like Nashville before taking to the stage. “My dad couldn’t make it today to do the prayer, so I filled in for him, and I certainly thanked Him for this weather, because a year ago, we weren’t in such good shape. By now at this point last year, a lot of people were starting to give up, but it’s a lot different this year, for sure. It’s pretty out there today.”
In a decade and a half of making the Run a special event in the lives of Tennesseans, what stands out in Worley’s mind about the performances over the years? “I remember bringing Charlie Daniels down for it. I think we might have had fifteen or twenty thousand that night. Having Ronnie Milsap in was amazing. That was the very first time that I ever gave up the closing spot. Since then, I’ve always put another artist in that spot because it just felt right. I got to go out with my friends, and just enjoy the show. That became part of the tradition of what we do.” This year, Worley gave that honor of closing the show to Randy Houser, who entertained the Hardin County crowd along with Kellie Pickler and Chuck Wicks. “Tonight, Randy will hang out and close the show, and I’ll get to watch.”
Since its inception, the Tennessee River Run has benefitted many causes through the Darryl Worley Foundation, with perhaps the biggest being the construction and opening of the Darryl Worley Cancer Center in Savannah. The hometown boy takes a lot of pride in what he has been able to do, though he is quick to say that no man is an island. “Without a shadow of a doubt, this Foundation is full of people who have very giving hearts. Everybody has really seemed to open up their pocket books this year. We raised fifty thousand dollars last night at the Songwriters’ event, and all of the events have done well. I think this will be our biggest fund-raising year in fifteen years, so hopefully, it will continue to grow. If it was going to taper off, I think it would have already done it. I think we’re on a whirlwind track to keep going straight up. My prayer has always been that when I’m long gone, somebody will still be doing this for this town and community, and thankfully, the Foundation now reaches out a whole lot further than that now.”
And, making the year even better is the generosity of the artists who play the Run, who took significant pay cuts in their normal nightly fee to come to Savannah. “It doesn’t get much better than this. Chuck gave us an incredible deal to come out. We didn’t know for sure if we were going to be able to get Kellie, but midway through it all, she confirmed, and I called Houser up and explained to him what this was all about, and he cut us a big discount. We got everyone for a pretty reasonable amount of money, and I don’t have to try to match Randy’s singing. I’m happy to go on before him,” he said with a laugh.