Ricky Van Shelton at Gretna High School, 1970

By Henry H. Mitchell

Ricky Van Shelton at Gretna High School, 1970

Ricky Van Shelton at Gretna High School, 1970, from the school yearbook, The Junction.

Music His Obsession

Ricky Van Shelton was graduated from Gretna High School, Gretna, Virginia, in 1970. His yearbook entry consists simply of his portrait and his name. Most other seniors had a string of extracurricular activities listed under their names, but not Ricky!

His classmates recall that Ricky's music WAS his extracurricular activity, his sole obsession. His proud uncle Howard Watlington (who in his later years attended as many of Ricky's concerts as he possibly could) remembered Ricky's playing the guitar and singing “when he was just a little fellow.” His friends say that whenever and wherever two or more musicans were gathered together, there was Ricky in their midst!

A Fun Side, An Anonymous Good Deed

One high school “running buddy,” the Rev. Charles D. Scott, has reminisced about Ricky's fun-loving side. One incident involved their slipping away to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for an unauthorized vacation. During their time of enjoying the sun and the surf, they were approached by a frantic woman, screaming for help.

Charlie and Ricky quickly ascertained that the lady's young son had disappeared in the waves. Both strong swimmers, they plunged into the ocean and retrieved the boy, who was limp and not breathing. They brought him up onto the sand, where Ricky administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. By the time emergency personnel arrived, the boy was conscious and breathing on his own. As soon as the professionals came onto the scene and took over responsibility for the child, Ricky and Charlie slipped through the gathered crowd and “made tracks,” all the way back to Virginia. They hadn't even given their names, not wanting anyone to know they had been in Myrtle Beach!

So somewhere out there is probably a nearly-40-year-old man who does not realize that he owes his life to the quick thinking and skilled assistance of country-music-star-to-be Ricky Van Shelton!

This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.