The Unexpected True Story Behind Fastball’s “The Way”

In 1998, Austin-based band Fastball hit the top of the charts with their hit single The Way. The song is catchy, and people clearly liked it, but many have no idea what the song is actually about. The true story behind the song’s inspiration is pretty incredible. When Fastball released the song, what most people heard was the romantic tale of youth and an endless road trip.

Lela and Raymond Howard
Lela and Raymond Howard. Source:

But once you know the story behind the song, you’ll never hear it the same way again. The story starts in 1986 in Salado, Texas. Two people, named Lela and Raymond, are strangers. The two of them are both grandparents and in their 70s.

When Lela Met Raymond

As it goes, both of them had lost their spouses, and they resigned to spending their golden years alone. That is until they met each other. Lela and Raymond, of course, fell madly in love and got married. They decided to share everything – their last name, their families, and their love of music.

Lela and Raymond Howard in an old picture

Every summer, Lela and Raymond would pack up their Oldsmobile and drive 15 miles from Salado to Temple for their favorite summer activity: the fiddling festival. In June of 1997, that’s what they set out to do. Another summer, another fiddling festival. It became a tradition and something for them to look forward to.

Missing On a Trip to Nowhere

Despite the fact that Raymond was already 88 and recently had a stroke, and while Lela was 83 and starting to show signs of dementia, it didn’t stop them. And so, on that summer day, they hit the road to the fiddling festival like a couple of crazy lovebirds.

Singer/songwriter Tony Scalzo in his home studio.
Singer/songwriter Tony Scalzo in his home studio. Source:

A few days later, in another part of Texas, a guy named Tony Scalzo (the bass player for the band Fastball) sat down at his breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper in hand. He sat there as he read the headline: “Elderly Salado couple missing on a trip to nowhere.” All that was known was that Lela and Raymond Howard were headed for a festival, and never came back.

Their Kids Were Worried

Once the two were deemed as missing, search parties were sent out. A few days later, Tony read another headline: “Family still mystified by disappearance.” It didn’t take long for Tony to become obsessed with the developing story. Who were Lela and Raymond? And what happened to them? So he wrote a song about them.

Lela's granddaughter, Rhonda Alford Coleman (left); Lela's son, Hal Copeland (middle); Lela's grandson, Randy Alford (right).
Lela’s granddaughter, Rhonda Alford Coleman (left); Lela’s son, Hal Copeland (middle); Lela’s grandson, Randy Alford (right). Source:

And it wasn’t until after Tony played his song for his band and they decide to record it, that he read the final newspaper headline: “Elderly couple found dead in car two weeks after trip to festival.” Oh boy. Lela and Raymond’s bodies were discovered in their Oldsmobile, at the bottom of a canyon, many many miles away from where they were supposed to be. The next year, when their family heard Fastball’s song, they must have been stunned.