Songwriter feels connection to youth ranch (video)
Oct. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.
Updated Oct. 14, 2013 at 5:14 a.m.
YOAKUM - Allen Shamblin grinned from ear to ear as he met an 18-month-old resident of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and a house parent.
"I am so humbled by what I see here," said Shamblin, an award-winning songwriter in his second year as host of the ranch's 32nd annual fundraising celebrity golf tournament, concert and dance.
"I just want to hug those house parents and thank them. My heart is deeply moved," he said on a tour Friday.
Shamblin's connection to the home for abused and neglected children runs deeper than just his duties as host of the fundraiser.
His mother, Alice Shamblin, spent more than a decade in an orphanage.
"My mom grew up in the Tennessee Baptist Children's home from about age 2 to 14," he said. "Both her parents had passed away within weeks of each other."
Shamblin said that makes helping Bluebonnet Youth Ranch close to his heart.
"This has a lot of personal meaning for me. I know the impact of a place like this. I know it in my bones what it can mean to a child. I know what these house parents mean to a child," he said.
"If you can change one child, you can change the whole lineage of a family - if you can get that branch headed in the right direction.
"Some children end up in homes like this because of some serious brokenness with addictions and some painful situations, and that can keep going on for generations, but if you get them in the right situation, that can go the other way, and you can have generations of healthy and whole children."
Shamblin said his mother never came out and said she was raised in an orphanage, "but I could tell from the stories she told. She was a great storyteller."
His father, Jim Shamblin, also was a wonderful storyteller, he said. His parents' ability likely influenced his success as a songwriter, Allen Shamblin said.
He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"The TV wasn't a big deal when I was growing up," Shamblin said. "It was the supper table or front porch where stories got told. I was fascinated. I was glued to every word they said. That's where I got my love for storytelling."
Line drives to lyrics
Shamblin's first love, however, was baseball.
He played four years of varsity baseball in high school, but the center fielder injured his throwing arm his senior year, and reality set in.
"That was all I considered doing as a kid. I was consumed with it," he said. "I had big dreams, but my physical attributes and - I guess - my skill didn't live up to my dreams."
Shamblin said he took up the guitar in the 11th grade, teaching himself to play while he was on six weeks bed rest with mononucleosis.
"I loved music," he said, noting that he played saxophone in junior high school. "I was the eighth and last chair. Reading music didn't come easy to me, but I felt music deeply. Words and music impacted me in a powerful way."
Born in Tennessee, Shamblin moved with his family to Huffman when he was 7. He earned a degree in marketing from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
He worked as a real estate appraiser, first in the Houston area and then in Austin.
"I wasn't enjoying my job. I was miserable," Shamblin admitted.
"I asked myself what I was passionate about, and it was music. I began writing after work every day."
One day, after finishing a song about 2 a.m., Shamblin was having lunch in an Austin cafeteria with his best friend, Tim Janecek, who happens to be from Yoakum, and reading his lyrics.
"This lady overheard me and came over and introduced herself," Shamblin recalled. "It turns out her best friend was a woman named Martha Sharp at Warner Brother Records."
At the time, there was also a country music recording artist at Warner Brother Records named Randy Travis. In 1990, Travis released Shamblin's song overheard in the cafeteria, "He Walked on Water."
The song made it to No. 2 on the Billboard country charts.
That opened the floodgates for Shamblin, as artists like Bonnie Raitt, Keith Urban, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery, Wynonna, Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, LeAnn Rimes and Peter, Paul & Mary, among many others, recorded his songs.
New event host
Shamblin, who now lives outside Nashville, has remained humble and was hesitant to take over the host's role for the Bluebonnet fundraiser when Red Steagall stepped down.
"I don't consider myself a celebrity. I'm a songwriter," he said. "It was a request to get out of my comfort zone. So I said I'd give it a try. Last year, I really had a great time. As long as I can bring something to and help further the organization, I will come out of my introvertedness to be here for Bluebonnet."
Shamblin had a little help making that decision - former University of Texas football coach, the late Darrell Royal.
Youth ranch board member Claud Jacobs also recalled how Shamblin was selected.
"Darrell Royal said so," said Jacobs. "When Red told us he was going to step away, we asked Darrell who to talk to. He pointed to Allen. Allen was hesitant, but Coach Royal told him to. He could spot a genuine person. Red also said he trusted Allen to take it over."
At the time, no one knew that Shamblin's mother had lived in an orphanage or that his best friend was from Yoakum. Janecek's sister, Kim Reeves, is now the administrator of the ranch.
"It was fit from heaven," said Jacobs.
Shamblin, who had played in the celebrity golf tournament before becoming host, said Victoria felt like a second home to him.
"Victorians seemed like people I grew up with," he said. "I'm humbled by the way people come together for these kids.
"I'm here to serve this organization. I want to associate with people who want to serve this organization. I want their heart to become connected to it."