Tad Dickens reviews a concert like no other. As Entertainment Editor for The Roanoke Times, he captures narrates a performance with the language of both critic, musician and master storyteller. Earlier this evening I watched him post videos and another excellent recap of one of the most influential artists of my passion – I just wish I could of been there.

Tad was covering the Elton John concert in Roanoke last night. I watched him post videos and updates on Facebook during the show. I was even more impressed with his recitation of the sights and sounds within minutes after he returned home. This story appeared on the Roanoke Times website and is another fine example of this writing machine.

I’m still scratching my head too as to why I didn’t drop all the details of the day job and take the day off and join him. After all, Elton John is the very reason why I’ve been playing piano since I was a teenager.

It was somewhere along the mid-seventies that the Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water albums directed me toward the piano for the rest of my life.

I spent the greater part of my teenage years learning how to bang those keys like Elton and I missed out on a chance to see him – again – with one of my favorite musical co-conspirators and bohemian friends – Tad.

I first met Tad when we used to run into each other at garage-band episodes while attending Central High School. He comes from a terrific musical family. His father, Tommy Dickens still plays music in the Kingsport area most every weekend and his sister, Keri is a great singer too.

One of East Tennessee’s most iconic bands of the past thirty years was Brian and the Nightmares and Tad was the mercurial drummer for that group who remain legendary on the streets of Johnson City.

The journalism bug bit him and he worked for the Elizabethton Star and eventually made his way to Roanoke where he continues to inspire me with his stories and passion for music.

Each year, he orchestrates a difficult task of bringing together local musicians for the annual Mike Mahaffey benefit.

Mahaffey passed away suddenly several years ago and Tad’s big old heart still keeps on raising money for Mike’s kids with a motley crew of players who perform around Thanksgiving. Over the years, I could never turn him down to join him either. After all, friends like these are hard to come by. He listens, he gives and he’s one hell-uva musican. Together, we’ve performed with John Cowan, Matt Mahaffey, Hans Rottenberry, Cherly Spinizolla and a legion of other talented players.

Nevertheless, Elton seems to be still tearin’ the house down at the senior mark and who know’s next time around, maybe I’ll buy the beer, the tickets and drag Tad to a show. Although he may have to turn in a story the next day, perhaps we can leave some things unspoken for our recollection and tall tales for old men.