Following a dream
“Charles Lovelace, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Lovelace, formerly of Marlinton, was on Channel 7 on the Lori Gregory Show, December 16, 1963. He sang two songs which were written and composed by him, “Angel” and “Good Bye Baby.” Most people in Roanoke know him by the name Chuck Love.”
How does one go from being a young man in a small town like Marlinton to appearing “on TV?”
Perhaps the leap was made as a result of a few words of encouragement from a band director.
Charles Lovelace, Jr., aka Chuck Love, graduated from Marlinton High School in 1961. It was there that he and a couple of friends, David Buzzard and Jerry Butcher, started a band known as The Drifters.
The Drifters were playing music in the band room at the old Marlinton High School one day, and Lovelace was lending his voice to a tune. When class was over, some of the students, who had been in class on the next floor, came to the band room to ask who was singing.
“They said it was awful,” Love recalls.
But MHS band director Sam Brill showed up and told Lovelace that he would never realize his dream if he let their remarks hold him back.
Love took that advice and ran with it.
His mom and dad, Charles Sr. and Mary Madeline Malcomb Lovelace, wanting to give their children every advantage, moved the family from Marlinton to the Roanoke, Virginia, area.
With the change in location, and confidence in his talent, Love moved on to meet and perform with some of the biggest names in country music.
“I met and performed with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs at the Clifton Forge Armory,” Love said. “I did a show with Hank Williams, Jr. and I did a show in Waynesboro with Connie Smith and Carl and Pearl Butler.”
One of his favorite performances was with Bobby Bare.
“I’ve met Charlie Pride and Marty Robbins,” Love said.
Love came by his talent naturally, as his dad played music on a radio show aired from Ronceverte.
“My dad did a lot of Marty’s songs,” Love said. “Folks told him he sounded just like Marty. Daddy had a photographic memory. He could sing over 100 songs, and he never wrote anything down.”
Love said he knew Marty Robbins well – so well, in fact, that he named his own son Marty.
Love has a brother Steve, who lives at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, a sister, Patty Lovelace Starkey, now living in Roanoke, Virginia, and a younger sister, Korena Lovelace Haynes, who lives in Christiansburg, Virginia, but he says he is the one who “took after their dad.”
“I got my first guitar from C. J. Richardson,” he said, “and I still have it.”
But there were a few years when Chuck “didn’t have it,” He sold the guitar to Judson Howard.
“I sold it once when I was eighteen,” he said. “I sold it for twenty dollars to buy some school clothes. Then when I was twenty-five I bought it back. I should’ve never parted with it.”
Howard bought the guitar but never learned to play, and he sold it back to Love for $20.
“After I got it back, I told him I wouldn’t sell it for no amount of money,” Love said. “It was sentimental. It was my first guitar.
“I wrote most of my songs on a little B-25 Gibson. I wanted a J-200 like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, but I couldn’t afford it. At the time I was making $30 a week, that guitar cost $800.”
He has one now.
“I paid $5,000 for a guitar for Chuck and he will part with it before he parts with his first one,” said Love’s wife, Agnes.
But Love’s choice in instruments is not limited to two guitars.
He has “too many guitars to count” – with makers’ names like Gibson, Taylor, Martin – even a 1926 and a 1927 Martin, and a Stella from the 1800s which is inlaid with pearl – a treasure he bought for $25.
“I almost have a music store,” he said.
Agnes added, “I have not been in my living room for 25 years. It’s full of banjos, fiddles, three sets of drums, pianos and I don’t know how many PA systems. I’m a very understanding wife.”
But through the years those instruments have paid off in personal satisfaction, personal appearances and personal success.
Love hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
“I’ve written and recorded two songs about West Virginia, he said. “One was “I Grew Up in West Virginia,” and the other was “West Virginia Blues.”
An October 26, 2000 article in The Pocahontas Times reported the recording of Love’s CD, “Love Country Style.”
“The CD cover pictures a barn near Dunmore and Love’s publishing company, Snow Shoe Publishing, is named for the Pocahontas County resort,” the article read.
Love also had a show on Blue Ridge PBS. It was the first country music show ever broadcast from there, he said.
“It was on the same night and the same time as the Glen Campbell Show,” Agnes said.
The show ran for 20 weeks. Love’s dad appeared with him from time-to-time and he still has those memories.
“I recorded them and I can watch them,” he said. “Me and my daddy talking, and one time he said, ‘son, don’t you forget who taught you how to sing.”’
Love does recitations and two of his favorites, which he wrote, are “Roses for Momma’s Birthday” and “My True Friend, Midnight,” about his black lab.
Love retired from Yokohama Tire Factory in Salem,Virginia, where he worked for 30 years.
“That inspired me to write a real good song, “Good Bye, Tire Factory,” Love said. “I recorded it. Then people asked me if I was enjoying my retirement, so I wrote a song about that, too.”
That song takes a humorous look at retirement, telling about his wife giving him a list of things to do, like “wash the dishes.”
The song says, “If this is what you call retirement, I think I’ll go back to work.”
Love worked the night shift for 28 years – from midnight to 8 a.m.
“That’s what kept our marriage going,” Agnes laughed. “I worked from 8 to 5.”
The couple will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary on October 29.
But life hasn’t been all “country songs” for Lovelace and Agnes.
Love had knee surgery a while back that didn’t go as planned. He developed an infection and nearly died, he said. Recovery took 10 months, during which he could not walk.
It was a life-changing experience for the couple.
“We had our life planned,” Agnes said. “We had worked hard and thought we would retire and travel and do. This hit us and it changed our whole life.”
Love credits his recovery to prayers at church and people coming to visit and encourage him. As a result of his trouble and the support of his friends, he began to write gospel songs.
“I had written a couple of gospel songs before,” Love said. “But then I got serious about it.”
Love has written and sung a lot of songs since his first release of “She’s Back in Town” in 1967.
He began with albums and 45 rpm records, moved on to 8-track tapes to cassettes to CDs.
“Chuck has the fourth generation singing now,” Agnes said.
The couple’s 12-year-old granddaughter, Cameron, cut her first CD when she was eight years old, singing “The Puppy Song,” written for her by her grandfather. Carrying on the tradition, she chose “Cameron Love” as her stage name.
Love is friendly and funny, and always ready to sing. One of his goals was to play at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas – and he did. Perhaps not the conventional way, but he played there nonetheless.
While on vacation with family members, Love took his guitar case into the lounge, took out his guitar and commenced to singing.
A security guard put a stop to it, because only “paid performers” were allowed to sing there.
Love wasn’t offended.
It’s enough that he can say, “I’ve played Caesar’s Palace.”
Some goals are easy, but dreams are another matter. They do not come to fruition overnight.
Love cut an album several years ago, “Music with Love.” It was five years later that it finally aired on a country music station in Roanoke, Virginia. But once it hit the airways, one song from the album, “We Belong Together,” stayed in the Top Ten for 13 weeks and went to #3 on the most requested song list.
Sam Brill’s words have stayed with Love through the years as he worked to realize his dream.
I’ve tried,” Love said. “I’ve tried. I’ve tried it all.”
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com