LETTER TO THE EDITOR
LOCAL Life asked Gregg Russell to share his thoughts on what it means to be local. Russell has been writing and performing music for nearly 45 years and he is best known here for his evening performances under the old Liberty Oak Tree in Harbour Town where through the years he has delighted some 3 million fans, young and old alike. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].
Story by Gregg Russell + Photos Courtesy of The Sea Pines Resort
Looking back to the beginning of my music career, the best training ground I could have received was the time I spent at Walt Disney World while finishing up graduate school at the University of Florida. I was just trying to make some money on the weekends and was part of a musical trio that would roam through the park, find a shady place, and entertain guests.
An agent from Atlanta walked up to our trio one day and said he books talent for resorts in the Southeast and wondered if we would be interested. The other two felt their futures were bright with Disney World, but I told him I would love to give it a try after I graduated, that is, if he would take me as a single artist.
I came to The Sea Pines Resort for a two-week gig, and when I went in to pick up my paycheck after it was completed, they asked me to stay for another two weeks, and then another two weeks after that. Nearly 45 years later, I’m still here, having performed in Harbour Town for more than 3 million people over the years, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, plus special concerts and holidays.
Hilton Head Island is home to me; it’s a true community and the only place since college I’ve called home. I tell my wife, Lindy, that I’m headed out for a quick trip to the grocery store and I’m invariably gone for more than an hour. Whether it’s Publix, Harris Teeter, or wherever, I run into friends, neighbors and even visitors who just want to check in and share their stories with me.
When I moved here, there were only a few thousand people who lived on Hilton Head Island, and the tourism industry wasn’t anything like it is now. Credit to The Sea Pines Resort and Hilton Head Island for creating a wonderful place where people want to visit and return generation after generation after they get a taste of it. There’s something here for everyone, whether as a visitor or living and working here.
Lindy and I can’t tell you how much we value this community and our friends. Our Hilton Head Heroes nonprofit organization wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of so many local people giving their time and talents. Our mission is to bring families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses to Hilton Head Island for a vacation. From restaurants to dolphin cruises, landscapers to pool cleaners, and those who clean and prep the rooms at the Hilton Head Heroes House, it has been a genuine community effort to provide memorable visits for these families when they need it the most.
I owe debt of gratitude to that agent from Atlanta who showed me the way to this beautiful place. I wasn’t sure I could make a living out of being a musician, but it was the late Sonny Anderson, the legendary director of casting and talent booking for Walt Disney World, who strongly emphasized to me the importance of connecting with people using humor and music. He said to remember that people came to Disney World to forget about the outside world and have a day of fun, and that has carried with me throughout my career here.