, Muskogee, OK


June 22, 2014

Singing through the summer, and then some: These coaches have some hobbies that go beyond the casual

Coaching and music wouldn’t seem to be compatible.

At least not simultaneously.

Too much strain on the vocal chords making those appeals to young men to adjust their defense, pick up the hustle, or the occasional bark at an official. But after a few weeks of offseason rest, it seems to be more than just an occasional hobby for several area coaches, all coming off the hardwoods in March and moving to another type of stage.

Haskell boys basketball coach Wes Hayes, known on stage as Wesley Michael Hayes, has walked the line between a potential career in it and continuing in the footsteps of family, including his uncle Ken Hayes, the former Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Bacone and Northeastern State men’s basketball coach.

What started in a drum solo at 12 years old in front of a crowd at Coweta High School moved into an occasional karaoke show and playing with some buddies at Branson, Mo., with a group called Goldwing Express.

“Those guys really put me at the forefront,” said Hayes. “I was the lead for some of their shows and they encouraged me to start writing my music.”

So did some personal trials, including the death of an infant son from heart-related issues that sprung up after what the family said was post-surgical errors. The boy was 16 days old.

“I found myself wrestling with a lot of personal demons,” he said. “There’s no greater pain in the world that watching a son suffer. Those were dark times and I was a hot-headed fellow, and for me I needed some place to go.

“So I began writing about life experiences. I don’t write about make-believe events. It’s all what I’ve lived.”

And, about his family. There’s a song called “McLain” written about his mom, who was born in McLain, and another called  “Yesterday” about his granddad.  And on occasion, those real events are beyond his family. He put together a song about the father of Mike Adams, a former Tahlequah AD, whose dad was killed in action in Vietnam while Adams was young.

“Mike’s sons never got to know him,” Hayes said. “It was out of respect for veterans and the price they and their families pay. I think there’s a lesson there for people who don’t truly respect veterans and what they do.”

The style is a mix of David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., and a more recent newcomer in Jamie Johnson.

But Hayes’ songs are more than not, original.

“I love people singing my lyrics back at me because I know it has resonated with them,” he said.     He passed on a developmental offer for A&M records at 32. He was recently singing in Nashville, a guy who had heard him offered to pay his way to take part in a showcase event on Music Row. It was about 100 yards from the Grand Ole Opry.

“When people believe in you and love your music enough to get you out there, it’s something you go do,” he said. “At my age, I don’t care if I get that break. I get just as much out of standing on a stage at the Coweta Fall Festival, playing the 10 a.m. spot, and having people from home singing my lyrics back at me. To me, this is what it’s really all about.”

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