Dykes, who lives in Cleveland, has shared the stage with the biggest names in the business. He performed with Peter Frampton, Vince Gill, Chet Atkins, John Fogerty, James Burton and Duane Eddy. Dykes has also been a regular performer at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry since 1996.
“‘The Lights of Marfa’ shares my personal and career history and the unexplainable chain of events that happen in a person’s life that one can’t figure out why,” said Dykes. “You realize that it has to be God.”
The 56-year-old said he moved to Cleveland 18 years ago, thanks to Lee University, First Citizen’s Bank and the people in the community.
“When I first came to Cleveland my daughters were going to be starting college and we loved Lee,” Dykes said. “I knew a lot of people here and we were looking for another place. We lived in Nashville. So I called Danny Murray — a good friend of mine who lives here — and he put me in touch with First Citizen’s Bank.
“So Lee and the bank were two reasons I moved here. I got a house — sold it. Then they helped me get another one, and another one. They were so good to me.
“Also this small town of loving people — that’s another reason I moved here. Dr. (Paul) Conn is one of my life’s heroes. I just think he is one of the most celebrated people of my life. If you asked me the top 10 people that I really appreciate it would be Paul Conn. And there are a lot of good people here.”
Conn, president of Lee University, said, “Doyle Dykes is an original and so is this delightful book. It tells the story of a talented, unpretentious man in an interesting and honest way. For the many people who, like me, have always admired Doyle’s artistry and a guitar, this book will be a fascinating look inside his life. I enjoyed it immensely.”
Dykes uses the image of Marfa — a small West Texas town known for its inexplicable flying balls of light during the night — as a metaphor for the mysterious works of the divine. In Chapter 1 he wrote about the cold night on Feb. 5, 2010, when he and his daughter Haley saw the Marfa Mystery Lights appear out of nowhere in various colors, splitting apart, melting together, appearing, disappearing, flashing and spinning in amazement.
“I realize that God’s peace and joy, and His love and the miracle of His Grace, are much more miraculous than any mysterious lights in a desert,” Dykes wrote. But seeing those baffling lights with his own eyes reminded Dykes of the lights of opportunity he saw to shine and honor the very One who gave the gift of music.
His memoir is punctuated with equally mysterious, faith-associated stories, including the strange way Dykes reunited with a guitar mentor he hadn’t seen in 30 years and how at age 18 the church-going youth from Florida was invited to play in Elvis Presley’s backup band, The Stamps Quartet.
“I remember the women who were escorted up, and then the party cart appeared, pushed by Elvis’s stepbrother,” Dykes wrote in his book. “Things were heating up quickly and I was just about to call it quits and leave when one of the Stamps came up and said, ‘Oh, don’t pay any attention to this stuff.
“Why don’t you come down to our private room where you’ll be more comfortable?’ I was so thankful, yet I felt something was wrong in my spirit about all this ... suddenly it was like God spoke to me directly: ‘Which King will you play for? Which King will you serve?’”
Other anecdotes include how Dykes responded to an armed holdup with his children present, playing “Amazing Grace” for a cynical radio DJ in Europe, his friendship with the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and some of his most memorable Opry performances.
Dykes managed to weave stories from decades in the music industry with how his faith influenced his decisions. The insights he discovered in looking back over his amazing career offer fans and other musicians an up close and personal look at what kept one man true to himself and to his faith.
The iconic guitarist even shares the experience of his first performance in church and what inspired him to make music his lifelong career.
“My Dad ‘Bubba’ was a singer and a guitar player, and my mother was a singer for ‘special music’ at church,” wrote Dykes. “They would stand my brother and me up in chairs and gather around us and we’d sing four-part harmony around one of those old Shure ‘Elvis’ microphones.
“I was only 4 or 5 when we started singing in front of an audience. Dad would play his 1952 Gibson Les Paul gold top. I sang bass two octaves high, and my brother sang the lead.”
In another excerpt, Dykes wrote about his mentor and the touchstone in his life named Barry Lackey.
“I’ll never forget the time a young sailor came up to my dad after church and asked if he could play his guitar. Dad wasn’t all that inclined to allow strangers to play his beautiful red Gibson 335, but this young fellow seemed harmless — and actually we were all curious to hear him play.
“He took a thumb-pick from his pocket and began to play like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. It completely blew Dad and me away! He called it ‘spider-picking’ — I called it ‘amazing!’”
Dykes calls Lackey the biggest impact on his learning of anyone he ever met. After losing contact with his mentor for some 30 years, Dykes wrote about the tearful and remarkable reunion they experienced, reminding him of those mysterious lights of Marfa.
“That day Barry saw the ‘Lights of Marfa’ in his own way,” Wrote Dykes. “There is no way to explain this kind of mysterious yet warm event that happened to two people totally unaware of each other’s existence, and how a desire and a prayer brought the light in.
“The lights of enlightenment and encouragement came to me through Barry when I was a young teenager. Many years later, those lights reappeared to us both.”
Explaining why he wrote his book, Dykes said, “With all my extensive traveling and busy schedule, I rarely have time to visit with people very much. It seems I’ll go in for a concert and do a sound check, get dressed and then leave shortly after shaking a few hands and possibly signing something for someone.
“I rarely ever have the opportunity to visit and share my heart. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what this book is for. Let’s talk about God, guitars, family and maybe even little things like some of my favorite guitars and what strings I use and so on.
“I’d like to tell you about how I came to meet Christ and what got me into the guitar and who some of my musical influences have been. I know everybody has their stories to tell. I hope you’ll enjoy reading some of mine.”
Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame legend Roy Clark said, “Doyle’s book, as well as his exceptional ability on the guitar, is an expression of how he walks the talk and gives to others without holding anything back. We are all blessed he shares his life and talent with us. When I grow up I want to be just like Doyle and play like him too.”
Dykes will soon debut a new cable television show, which he will host with other acclaimed guitarists. He and his wife, Rita, have four grown children.
“The Lights of Marfa” is available on amazon.com, bookamillion.com, barnesandnoble.com, Lifeway Stores and Christianbook.com.
For further information visit www.doyledykes.com.