Welcome to State Of The Union, appearing each month in bluegrass now magazine! This column provides the spouses of professional bluegrass musicians with a forum in which they can share their insights, observations, and experience with fans and other bluegrass spouses.
March 2004: Garnet Imes Bowman on SINGING WITH RONNIE
When Garnet Imes Bowman talks about her life, one can't help but be a little envious.
She's lived in Nashville for 14 years. She's worked and recorded with folks like Kenny Chesney, Chely Wright, Sara Evans, and Don Rigsby. And for the past year and a half, Garnet has provided harmony vocals for her husband's band.
Her husband, by the way, happens to be Ronnie Bowman.
Garnet's role in Ronnie's music has evolved a great deal. At first, she was his unofficial road manager, traveling with The Ronnie Bowman Band. She sang on his album Starting Over. “Then, in August 2002, one of the guys in the band got sick two days before we were flying to the Fox Family Festival. Ronnie said, 'You're gonna have to sing.' I was like, 'NO!'”
Garnet wasn't a neophyte singer, but this was no ordinary gig. “I was a nervous wreck! I didn't want anybody to say, [in disgusted tones] 'Ohhhhhh, man. He's got his girlfriend up there singin' with him.' Ronnie said, 'Honey, when you open your mouth and they hear you, if there was any doubt, they'll know.'”
She also worried about the guys in Ronnie's band. She'd been traveling with them, helping out with the tour, and she felt comfortable around them. How would they feel about her being onstage? “They all said, 'We don't care if Elmer comes back! You're gonna keep singin'.'”
And so she has, and it's worked out quite well. Just for the record, Rob McCoury (member of the Del McCoury Band) and his wife Lisa were instrumental in getting the couple together. “Lisa called me one night and left a message: 'Hey, one of Rob's best friends is in town-Ronnie Bowman!' I didn't know who Ronnie was.” Lisa was sure the pair would hit it off. “But Ronnie was going through a really hard time; he and his wife had split up. I had come out of a really long relationship. And I didn't go!”
Fate (and persistent friends) finally threw them together. But it wasn't till after they'd been dating for a while that Garnet finally saw Ronnie perform. “The first time I saw him onstage with Lonesome River Band, he took my breath away. I thought, 'Oh, my goodness! Now I see what everybody's talking about!'”
Garnet Imes Bowman is cute and gamine-like and charming. She's great fun to be around. She sparkles. But she's married to one of the handsomest guys in bluegrass music. That's got be a intimidating, right? She chuckles. “Ronnie is such a sweetheart. He's always telling me, 'You're beautiful. I'm so glad you're my wife.' He really means it! He really thinks I'm beautiful. I'm like, 'Well, you just keep thinking that, honey.'”
She is still awestruck by her husband. “One of the things I miss because I sing with him is not getting to sit out front and watch him.” At the IBMA awards show in October, Garnet happily sat in the audience and watched Ronnie present an award. “Oh! He had this long tan jacket on, with black leather pants. And he looked so… ohhhh… gorgeous. When he walked out on that stage, I just sat there and thought to myself, 'That's my husband. That's my husband! I'm a lucky girl.'”
Garnet and Ronnie were married on September 29, 2002. Dan Tyminski and Rob McCoury were in the wedding; Don Rigsby, Russell Moore, Tom T. Hall, and Bobby & Jean Bare provided music. The wedding was followed by a honeymoon at a mountain chalet in Gatlinburg, a vacation Ronnie planned himself. He's that kind of guy, Garnet says.
“You know what he did when he proposed? He planned the whole evening! When I got home, he had all the candles lit. There was a fire in the fireplace.” Garnet was thrilled when she saw the table Ronnie had set for dinner. “I said 'Ohhhhh, you got sushi! Yay!' That's my favorite thing. Then he goes behind a pillow on the couch, and pulls out a bunch of roses.” She still didn't suspect anything unusual. According to Garnet, this is standard behavior for Ronnie!
But he wasn't finished. “What I didn't notice was in the roses . . . my ring!” Ronnie got down on one knee and proposed. “I said, 'Are you sure?!? He said, 'There's more thing.' He'd gotten some strawberries, put 'em in a bowl, and had a bottle of champagne! Now come on!” Garnet exclaims, with disbelief and delight.
Strawberries, champagne, roses. What girl could resist?
“And sushi!” she laughs. “He knows how to make me happy. It's really the sushi!”
Visit Garnet and Ronnie online at www.ronniebowman.com.
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