Stu Evans - H.G. Listiak Story - "Don't mess with my cred"

I canít believe itís been 7 years since we lost our dear friend HG, I learned so many valuable (and trivial) things from him, and his passing has taught me some of my most important life lessons. The one thing I know now is how strange and healing the grief process can be. Whenever I think of HG, and itís still almost every day, itís always with a big smile. When I see someone who has just lost a loved one, I can tell them without reservation, "This gets better with time." And Iíve learned that time moves very strangely in the months and years after your loss. Everyone expressing condolences means well, and theyíre all in a different place dealing with it. Thanks to my friend Steve George and Hospice of the Valley for some timely counseling!

If you havenít taken a few minutes to listen to some "Welcome to my world" commentaries on the site, you must. The first thing youíll realize is how wise HG was and great at communicating really important insights in about 60 seconds. Whenever I talk about whatís going on in the world today, I donít have to wonder what HG would think - I know! And even if you disagreed with him vehemently, you could usually find a piece of what he wrote that was indisputable. I think Aaron Tippin sang it best when it came to describing HG: "Youíve got to stand for something, or youíll fall for anything." Without getting too political, I think he would look at whatís been going on in Arizona these last few years, cheer for state sovereignty, and then remind all of us that you can stand up for what you believe without being uncivil, coarse, or mean. Iíll let you read into that whatever you wish.

A few months ago, CBS radio asked each of us to write about "the best country song of all time". The post was shared on all the stationsí blogs (including KMLE Country 108 of course). Hereís what I wrote:

The best country song of all time? Seriously? One? To me this is a ridiculous question, because a great song makes you feel like it was written just for you or your situation at the time you hear it. So my favorite country song "Down To My Last Teardrop" by Tanya Tucker doesnít even come close, because itís just a funny way of singing about a nasty break-up, and I hope Iím long past that part of my life.

Then there are incredible songs like "He Stopped Loving Her Today", "Unanswered Prayers", "Iím Already There" and "There Goes My Life" that all seem perfect, depending on your mood. Or I think about some of the first songs that got me hooked on country music - "Galveston", "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "A Boy Named Sue", "Could Cry" - my list is huge.

So, right now, in the last part of 2010, I would have to say that the closest to a perfect country song that Iíve ever heard is the one that makes me feel many emotions, every time I hear it. I crank our KMLE speakers up almost every time I play it.

In April 2004, my on-air partner and great friend of 15 years suddenly died. HG Listiak was singular. Thatís the best way to describe him. You can get a small taste of his life and on-air antics here. I could spend pages trying to explain him to you. Shortly after he passed, maybe two weeks, I walked into the studio to get ready for my show, and our mid-day personality, Lisa Malay, said, "Stu, did you hear the new Tim McGraw?" I had not. She played it, opened the microphones to talk about it with me, and I was struck almost speechless.

"Live Like You Were Dying" was exactly the song I needed to hear at that moment. It was gut-wrenching to listen to the words, having just lost someone so close. But what makes it perfect now is that the song, just as my memory for HG, has evolved for me. I now find it joyous, inspiring, and a periodic reminder of how short and precious our journey together is. If youíve never really listened to the structure and lyrics of this tune Tim sings for his father, check it out.

Is it the best country song I ever heard? This year it is. Darn close.

So, as always, words are never adequate to convey my feelings about one of my dearest friends. HG was a mentor, father-figure, faithful partner, and THE most colorful dude I will EVER know. Did we ever have fights or disagreements behind the scenes? Rarely - and just little stuff. Whenever I would make more than one technical mistake (I ran the control board and all of the various production elements for our show), HG would lean into the room and shout, "Brother Stu, fire up and focus". Those words have gotten me through some very difficult days.

And the only time we ever stopped speaking to each other lasted about three days, circa 1991. We used to have a much funnier time off the air than you could imagine. But one day, HG just brought in whatever material he had ripped off the news wire for me, set it on the counter, and walked off scowling. After three days of this, I could no longer attribute this behavior to him not feeling well, or being bothered about something personal. He would almost always tell me if something strange was going on at the Listiak house.

"HG, did I do something to upset you?" I asked.

"Damn right you did," was his terse reply.

"OK, Iíll bite."

"You destroyed my credibility!"

What had I done? I wracked my brain.

"You called me a goof!"

It came pouring back to me. We had been doing something on the air, I asked HGís opinion, he gave it to me, and I made the mistake of laughing about it, and saying something like, "You goof!"

HG took nothing seriously, except his reputation for accurate reporting and honesty. And I take nothing too seriously. After my profuse apology, and a sworn promise that the next time I said something so out of line, he would call it out right away, I donít think we ever exchanged a genuinely cross word again for 13 more years. We laughed about that episode Ďtil the end.

Rest well my great friend. And if you, dear reader, have a story to share or something you remember us, or just HG, saying or doing, would you take a sec and do it, please?

Best wishes,

"Big Shoe" Stu Evans

April 27, 2011

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