Are you sure you want to answer that?

Sometimes in life we have a sense of foreboding, a phone rings and we know there is bad news on the other end of the receiver.
Do we pick it up and find out the feeling is true?
If we don’t, we will never know. If we do and it’s not what we expected, we are worried for nothing.
Perhaps there is the feeling at the pit of our stomach when we are speeding down the highway that makes us place our foot on the brake.
Have we averted a disaster, we wonder?
The answer may never be revealed or it can be bolstered in our mind when we find an accident just ahead of us.
We have been equipped with such feelings, some are innate, some are learned, some are simply inspired by God’s messengers speaking to our soul.
I know there was one night I was driving through the mountains on a road I knew like the back of my hand. Audibly in the cab of my truck I heard “Slow down!” There was no one to say it either in my vehicle or outside in the early morning hours in a sparsely inhabited area of the mountains.
As I rounded the next curve, just after slowing, there standing in the road were more deer than I had ever seen in one place in my life. I would have likely been killed at the speed I was going before, but the audible voice – changed the potential of my future.
Was it only in my head? Perhaps. Was it a woodsman whose voice cut through the speed, the radio, and the closed windows to be so audibly clear? Perhaps. I think it was one of God’s angels helping me thwart disaster.
There are many points in life an inner voice or an outer one could help us to steer clear of a place which will change the life we know in a negative way. I pray that we all hear it, heed it and hopefully make the appropriate choice.
Should you answer the phone? As Franklin Roosevelt said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear is simply – False Evidence Assumed Real. So, answer the phone, it may be good news.

Actor/Entertainer/Author Randall Franks honored at 42nd Annual A.S.E. Awards

Entertainer Randall Franks was among the recent honorees at the 42nd annual Atlanta Society of Entertainers Awards receiving the Bluegrass Band of the Year Award with his Georgia Mafia Bluegrass Band.

Franks, who is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from the TV series “In the Heat of the Night,” starred in three TV series and 15 films. Musically, he is recognized as an International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend and Independent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.

“Performing among some of the best performers in our state in many genres is a great honor,” Franks said. “It is such a blessing to do it with a talented group of performers in their own right. I know each of us are thankful for the recognition that what we do is touching others.”

A.S.E. executive co-director Phyllis Cole (left) presents Bluegrass Band of the Year to Randall Franks (fourth from left) and the Georgia Mafia Bluegrass Band – from left, Pete Hatfield, Jerry Burke, Helen Burke, J. Max McKee, and Rick Smith. (Photo: JLynne Photography)

A.S.E. executive co-director Phyllis Cole (left) presents Bluegrass Band of the Year to Randall Franks (fourth from left) and the Georgia Mafia Bluegrass Band – from left, Pete Hatfield, Jerry Burke, Helen Burke, J. Max McKee, and Rick Smith. (Photo: JLynne Photography)

Appearing as part of the Georgia Mafia Bluegrass Band were Pete Hatfield and Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame members – Jerry and Helen Burke, Rick Smith, Dean Marsh and J. Max McKee.

Organized for a special PBS TV appearance in 2009, the band still receives requests for appearances, Franks said.


See Randall Franks and the Georgia Mafia Bluegrass Band on YouTube with “The Old Black Fiddle”

The group which is made up of members of several other acts will be included on Randall’s upcoming “30 Years on Radio and TV Volume II” CD from the Share America Foundation, Inc. expected out in November. The CD will raise funds for the Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship encouraging youth in Appalachian music.

Franks became a country music personality as a youth beginning appearances at major country, folk, bluegrass and gospel events such as Country Music Association Fan Fair, National Folk Festival, National Quartet Convention, National Black Arts Festival and for the Grand Ole Opry. With 24 career albums in four genres, his latest is “Keep ‘Em Smilin’” He has performed to over 145 million fans around the world.  He is a syndicated newspaper columnist featured across the Southern and Midwestern U.S. and an author with eight books including his “Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand” releasing this week.

Some among the genres and entertainers performing and receiving honors at the event were Jazz – Joey Stuckey; Western Swing – The Junction Band; Blues – The Danny Miller Band and The Mike Watson Band; Classic Country – Highridge; Comedy Bluegrass – The McKee Family Band; Traditional Country – Donna Robinson and Friends with special guest Katie Deal; Bluegrass Gospel – Hickory Wind Bluegrass; Contemporary Country – David Gardner; and Southern Rock – Southern Breeze ATL.

Country musician Jerry Braswell, who performed with numerous stars from Porter Wagoner to Ernest Tubb, received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Horizon Award winner was banjo stylist Landon Fitzpatrick.

Some other performers included Lorraine Guth Parker, Danny Gardner; Mitzie Gardner; Greta Hopkins; and Megan Burke.

Actor/Entertainer/Author Randall Franks book Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand highlights celebrity stories, photos and recipes

Encouragers III Front CoverAuthor/actor/entertainer Randall Franks said he hopes the third book from his Encouragers series will inspire people to make a difference in the lives of others.

Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand,” released this month worldwide from Peach Picked Publishing, shares 58 stories of actors, musicians and everyday folks who played a role in Franks’s life.

The two earlier books in the series are “Encouragers I: Finding the Light” and “Encouragers II: Walking with the Masters.”

“Through this wonderful process of writing this book series and seeking to explore the gifts of encouragement shared with me by others, I have tapped over 150 stories of folks who God sent into my path and they were willing and able to realize their role in nudging me forward,” he said. “This latest volume by far does not finish the list of those who impacted my life or those that God will send my way in future but it does allow me to acknowledge a few who have spent some time with me along the way.

Randall Franks Violet Hensley Encouragers III a

Randall shares his new “Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand” for centenarian Violet Hensley when the American folk legend debuted as a Grand Ole Opry guest star. Hensley is seen in the book’s Moments in Time section and will mark 50 years performing at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. this fall. (Photo: Randall Franks Media/Sandra Flagg)

“Whether for simply a moment in time, or for an extended period, we are here to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” he said. “I pray by reading these stories, looking at the photos, or even cooking one of the celebrity recipes, your day might be improved. Possibly this time shared will propel a life towards an uplifting goal through the blessings of your and God’s guiding hand.”

The third volume highlights performers such as “Star Trek” luminary James Doohan and Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens; American icon Bill Monroe and “The Dukes of Hazzard” legend Sonny Shroyer; country music masters Harold Bradley and George Jones; bluegrass hall of famer Kenny Baker; “In the Heat of the Night” star Alan Autry; and heralded gospel music performers Karen Peck, the Watkins Family and Tim Lovelace.

Franks said guiding hands who share their knowledge, skill, hopes and dreams can bring forth destinies yet undreamed. His book features narratives about and interviews with those who contributed to the direction of his life and career.

Franks, who is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from the TV series “In the Heat of the Night,” starred in three TV series and 15 films. He became a country music personality as a youth beginning appearances at major country, folk, bluegrass and gospel events such as Country Music Association Fan Fair, National Folk Festival, National Quartet Convention, National Black Arts Festival and for the Grand Ole Opry. With 24 career albums in four genres, his latest is “Keep ‘Em Smilin'” He has performed to over 145 million fans around the world. Musically, he is recognized as an International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend and Independent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist featured across the Southern and Midwestern U.S.

Randall Franks Glenda Jones Encouragers III

Randall Franks signs his latest book “Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand” for Glenda Jones at Georgia on My Mind Day at the I-75 Visitors Information Center in Ringgold, Ga. (Photo: Randall Franks Media/Bill Jones)

The 448-page book includes over 58 stories and 395 photos including special Moments in Time photos featuring over 125 stars from Dean Cain to Dolly Parton and Jeff Foxworthy to Third Day from Randall’s personal collection and 72 celebrity, family and friend recipes.

The book is available for order at for $25 including postage and handling, and through book outlets around the world.

It is also available from Amazon here

Like the book series on Facebook

Featured stories in Encouragers III: 

TV and film personalities: Alan Autry, James Best, Dan Biggers,  James Doohan, Jeff Foxworthy, Robert Goulet, David Hart, Geoffrey Thorne, Sonny Shroyer, Tonea Stewart,  and Robert Townsend.

Country and pop music personalities: Harold Bradley, Johnny Carson, Phyllis Cole, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones, The Jordanaires, Merle Kilgore, Patty Loveless, Mac Magaha, “Doc” Tommy Scott, Frankie Scott, Buddy Spicher, Buck Trent, and Leona Williams

Bluegrass artists:  Eddie and Martha Adcock, Kenny Baker, Byron Berline, Jerry and Helen Burke, Vassar Clements, Peanut Faircloth, John and Debbie Farley, Otis Head, Bobby Hicks, Barney Miller, Bill Monroe, and Tater Tate

Gospel artists:  Albert E. Brumley, Jason Crabb, Ernie Dawson,  Lou Wills Hildreth, Tim Lovelace, Karen Peck, Dennis Swanberg, Tim Surrett, and the Watkins Family

What’s Next?

I can remember standing nearby as I watched my mother move through business projects.

She would finish one task and from her mouth I’d hear the words, “What’s Next?”

In many respects that is how I have looked upon my entire life and career. I complete one task, one project, or reach a goal, then I refocus my attention on the next one at hand.

By flowing from task to task, always keeping one’s eyes looking forward, many goals may be achieved.

Many people rest upon the completion of objectives, spending time looking back at the achievement.

This can often be a great moment. That is as long as only a moment is spent looking back.

It is so easy to allow past successes to prevent our forward momentum.

Sometimes it is simply in getting tied to the ways we have done something and being unable to change as the world changes around us.

What’s Next?

The answer could be: I need to re-evaluate why the latest project did not eclipse the success of an earlier one.

What’s Next?

The answer could be: I should define a path that brings us closer to achieving a goal we have never even imagined we could accomplish.

What’s Next?

God grants each of us the ability to imagine it, the will to strive towards it, and the hope to achieve it.

I pray your “it” enlightens, emboldens and uplifts the world and all of us that wonder “What’s Next.”


An American Legend and the Opry – Violet Hensley


Violet Hensley on stage at the Grand Ole Opry on Aug. 6. (Photo by Marcia Campbell/

There are moments which bring people together. Common experiences such as championship wins of athletes or sporting teams, pivotal events which shape our nation or world, or iconic performances or awards highlighting those who inspire us through performance.
I was honored to be among just such a group on Aug. 6, 2016. I traveled to Nashville to see a legendary folk fiddle performer and maker Violet Hensley. I spent a couple years of my life helping Violet bring together her life story for the book “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way: The Violet Hensley Story.”
God Lord willing, Violet will mark her centennial as she celebrates her 50th year as Silver Dollar City’s longest serving spokesperson and folk artisan at a special event on Oct. 21 in Branson, Mo.
She has entertained countless millions both live and on television through appearances on American standards such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Regis and Kathie Lee” and countless other shows through decades of performing.
One performance dream which she had yet to realize was an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The show came on the air when she was 9 years old and was initially heard on a battery-powered radio in the rural Arkansas farm area of Alamo where she grew up. Now known as the Whittlin’ Fiddler from Yellville, it was another Arkansas fiddler named Tim Crouch who read of her dream in her autobiography and called Grand Ole Opry star Mike Snider. Snider then arranged for her to guest on his portion of the Grand Ole Opry.
The hit making country group Shenandoah had just left the stage as a place was prepared for her and though now her sight is limited by macular degeneration, her daughter walked her to the stool that stage hands had placed center stage near where all the country legends have performed.
As the Opry announcer passed the show back to Snider, the excitement was already building. He began an introduction, and barely got out his first few words out: “I’ve had the privilege to introduce a lot of great people on the Grand Ole Opry but it’s rare I get to introduce a National Treasure and I have one sitting hear beside me. This little lady was born in 1916…”
When the audience responded with a standing ovation that filled the Grand Ole Opry House. A wave of sound flooded the stage as the centenarian’s face beamed, as did that of her daughter Sandra and grandson Sterling who joined her musically on stage with Snider’s band. That moment broadcast across the world on and on the same airways that she listened to as a girl with her fiddle playing father brought people lining the stage to tears.
She is one of America’s first nationally known female fiddlers and fiddle makers. She inspired generations of girls and boys on every imaginable children’s show from coast to coast to know they could play American music and even learn to build a fiddle if they desired. Someone who became the image of one of America’s most iconic theme parks and thus a part of the fabric of America itself.
Much like Dolly Parton is to Dollywood and Mickey Mouse is for Disney – Violet Hensley’s smile, laughter, wit and uplifting spirit, helped shape the family memories and experiences that fueled rhe Midwestern American culture. On this night America was giving something back to her – love for a century of entertaining, teaching, and encouraging, while all the struggles and hardships that went along with it.
Among the audience in the Opry house and listening were many of her descendants, but in a way, all of us whom she had touched through radio, TV and in person were her musical descendants. Had this occurred just a few years earlier, she probably would have placed the fiddle on top of her head and while she fiddled and sang “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,: she would have danced a little jig, but tonight she selected the fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” and seriously applied her expertise to make her Ozark forebearers proud.
She accomplished that goal and more. I think all that were touched by the moment will always remember it. Though now the focus of our attention is split between hundreds of media sources, unlike in the days when there were just a handful of clear channel radio stations like WSM or two or three local TV stations. In those days, you knew what everyone would be talking about the next morning.
This was one of those moments to talk about. If you missed it, maybe you can at least learn more about this amazing American Legend by visiting or liking “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way” on Facebook. There is much to learn about life from someone who lived 100 years, raising a large family while living as a farmer, migrant farm worker, and keeping the tradition of Ozark music thriving.

Actor/entertainer/columnist Randall Franks launches newly designed receives an in-depth online revamp from
widening its focus to cover all areas of the career of Randall Franks.

“I am so excited by the new look of the website,” Franks said. “We initially came to the web with three different websites in 2009. This new design by Chris Davidson combines all these into a one-stop-shop covering all aspects of my entertainment career, music businesses and where I invest my charitable energies.”

The new website incorporates dozens of photos, videos and highlights Randall’s work as an actor in 15 films including his latest “Broken” with Soren Fulton and three TV series including a page dedicated to his work as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night.”

“It was so much fun looking back through all these photos and videos,” he said. “I hope it will be as much for all who visit.”

The International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend now has his musical successes in bluegrass, country, comedy, Christian, and Appalachian folk music featured independently on their own pages.

“We also feature special pages on my production company – Peach Picked Productions, music publishing companies and my public relations firm,” Franks said.

As an award-winning author and journalist, visitors can read about his eight books and his upcoming releases such as “Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand”. Each week millions read Randall’s syndicated “Southern Style” newspaper column which appears each Wednesday on his website at

Randall dedicates much of his time to philanthropic endeavors including his work with the Share America Foundation, Inc. and its Appalachian music scholarship program.

The revamp includes its

“Folks can also find contacts on numerous organizations that I participate in and support with my time on the Community Service page,” he said. “We also have a special page – Initiative Ringgold focusing on my service in my hometown of Ringgold, Georgia. Check these out and see how you can help.”

Visitors can check out Randall’s latest film, book and music releases including his 2016 “Keep ‘Em Smilin” CD at his new store page, visit to see all the changes.

Ringgold’s Randall Franks achieves Certificate of Excellence and attends Leadership Institute


Ringgold Councilmember Randall Franks receives awards from GMA Municipal Training Board Chairman Norma Tucker, and Associate Director of the Carl Vinson Institute Stacy Jones

Ringgold Councilmember Randall Franks received the prestigious Certificate of Excellence from the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute at the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) 83rd Annual Convention in Savannah on June 27.

He was also recognized for completing the annual Robert E. Knox, Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute.

“A key component of elected service is seeking out opportunities to improve what we already do for our residents and our visitors,” Franks said. “Learning what is done in other cities around our state as well as the most effective and appropriate ways to conduct our business help each of us to be good stewards and offer a better vision for the future of our community.”

The Georgia Municipal Training Institute, a cooperative effort of GMA and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, provides a nationally recognized series of training opportunities for elected city officials. To receive a Certificate of Excellence, a city official must complete a minimum of 120 units of credit, including at least 54 hours from the required list and the Robert E. Knox, Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute. The training program consists of a series of more than 50 courses.

The multi-day Leadership Institute, co-sponsored by GMA and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, featured a nationally recognized training development consultant and speaker. Participants also engaged in role-playing exercises designed to cultivate and enhance leadership skills.

 “This is an outstanding achievement,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton. “We commend Councilmember Franks for this accomplishment and for the dedication he’s shown in using this valuable resource to become a more effective city official.

 “The Leadership Institute is an outstanding program and widely acknowledged as one of the best of its type in the country,” Norton said. “We highly recommend it to any city official who wants to be a more effective community leader.”

Franks is Ringgold’s former vice mayor and currently serves as Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Program Chairman. He was initially elected in 2009 and served Catoosa County and Ringgold as public information officer and volunteer coordinator during the 2011-12 tornado response and recovery efforts. He is former vice chairman of the Ringgold Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, research, training, employee benefit and technical consulting services to its over 520 member cities.

On which side do I fall

I recently found myself sitting in the doctor’s office for an annual test that I take. This was the first time that I noticed that the waiting room had been divided into two. On one side it was marked well side and on the other side it said sick side.
I figured that I should sit in the well side and before long I noticed someone else sitting in that side coughing.
I am sure this new division is to try to keep germs from spreading but since they are both sitting in the same room; I wonder about how effective the practice really is.
Why do you think folks that are well are going to the doctor?
I like my doctor, but I just don’t decide that he is lonely and go visit him and the pay for the
privilege of seeing him.
I really wonder if this division will soon bring on a new class action from one group or the other claiming they are being discriminated against because they can’t see the TV in the waiting room  as well, or the well folks have to walk further when having to go to the bathroom.
Maybe the Census department will add a couple of new categories upon which to divide us up, sick and well.
We may find the politicians working to curry favor with each of us to gain our votes by legislating more benefits to one side or the other.
As I sat there pondering the potential of these two new political powers, I wondered what would be the real defining criteria of membership?
I am in the well side because I am there to get an annual test. I get an annual test to make sure medication is not making me sick. I take medication because I am not well. So I really don’t qualify to be on the well side or I wouldn’t be taking meds in the first place.
So now I should be sitting on the sick side, but those folks might give me something, so I refuse to acknowledge that I should be there instead.
In reality, all of us must be sick in some way or we would not be there, maybe the signs should read somewhat sick side and sicker side. That way we are all in this thing together.
Really considering what our country is currently facing – the divisions that seem to be widened by the media and politicized by elected officials, maybe creating some new groups is not the best idea.
Maybe the best idea is to eliminate the divisions, create better understanding, foster cooperation and work together to make sure we are all along for the ride. Ultimately, whether we are well or sick, old or young, rich or poor, one color or another, one religion or another, one political party or another, one ethnicity or another, we must remember that within the borders of the United States of America, the goal is to be one people – Americans. The divisions we choose to align with or are born into must not prevent us from being that!

Foggy Mountain Troubadour – Curly Seckler inspires

“First you cross the tie over this way and pull it back around and then…,” is how I remember Curly Seckler describing to me how to tie a string tie as he wore on stage. A lesson shared in my youth from a musical hero whose tenor voice soared in my mind as I listened to Flatt and Scruggs, and the Nashville Grass. I had convinced my mother to take me to see Curly in Nashville at an earlier point because I wanted to meet him and we searched out his home in a trailer park and went up one day and knocked on the door. He was so gracious to welcome us and share some time with an aspiring youth. He recounted this visit many years later at my mother’s home going service.

Sometime later as a bashful young fiddle player, I stepped to the concert area of the Lavonia Bluegrass Festival and find a place on a wood bench and peered up at the stage as the emcee prepared to bring on The Nashville Grass.
By the time my musical ability began to advance, the legendary Lester Flatt was ailing so I never got to see him perform except on TV or listening by radio before his passing on 1979, but on this day, I was going to see his band, the Nashville Grass perform. They were the closest link to the music which fueled my passion for bluegrass. As best I recall, Tater Tate was on fiddle, Blake Williams was playing banjo, Charlie Nixon on Dobro, Pete Corum on bass and the amazing Curly Seckler leading the troupe.
The music electrified my soul. After the show, I made my way backstage and once again was welcomed by a man who truly became one of my dearest friends in life.
A few weeks ago I received in the mail from University of Illinois Press Penny Parson’s book “Foggy Mountain Troubadour: The Life and Music of Curly Seckler” and I found myself once again feeling like that youth anxiously standing outside the door waiting to see one of my heroes.
As I looked inside and devoured the 239-page excursion walking along the path of the development of American hillbilly music that eventually became what we know as country, bluegrass, and Appalachian folk music, I was deeply impressed with Parson’s great depth of narrative, her enthusiastic approach to the inclusion of research which set the story in history; and the variety of interviews with notable performers and everyday folks who played a part that propels the story forward.
Curly, an International Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer, who is now retired at the age of 96 living with his wife Eloise outside Nashville saw the industry’s growth looking out of a car, bus and truck window mile after mile along the two lane roads crisscrossing America. He saw the American people from the stages of tent shows, movie theaters, the roofs of drive-in theater concession stands, courthouses, school houses, auditoriums, music festivals, and radio barn dances going by many names including the Grand Ole Opry. He helped sell two of America’s consumer staples Martha White flour and corn meal.
I learned more about his professional approach that opened doors for other legends like the Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jesse McReynolds and so many others. How his musical and vocal ability kept him always within sight of another opportunity around the corner with yet another group or musician which contributed so much in their own right to our musical experience. The book details his musical intersections with artists such as Charlie Monroe, Bill Monroe, Ramblin’ “Doc” Tommy Scott, the Sauceman Brothers, Shenandoah Valley Cutups, Steep Canyon Rangers, and countless others.
The depth of his experience and relationship with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the other key Foggy Mountain Boys sets in stone his place of honor as the final surviving 1940s and 50s member of the Foggy Mountain Boys. In case, that doesn’t ring a bell, he was one of the musicians who inspired Paul Henning to feature Flatt and Scruggs music on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” making the group’s stars a household name.
“Foggy Mountain Troubadour” is a must read for anyone who would like a window into the world of the American South, the rise or country music and its early stars, and especially to gain an appreciation for an American musical treasure – Curly Seckler.