Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pickin’ and Singin’

Whew. It’s been a good singing and guitar week so far.
Sunday night Rick, Becky, and I went over to Bremerton to watch the Brothers Four and the Kingston Trio in concert. Yes, Bremerton. Bob Flick of the Brothers Four expressed his thanks to Mapquest that so many people showed up.
The two groups had been doing a “Fiftieth Anniversary Tour,” about fifteen dates in three weeks, in California, Oregon, and Washington. This was the last date of the tour, and you could tell they were glad to be done and ready to go home and kick back a little.
That did not stop them from giving a great concert.
The Brothers Four have maintained the same sound over fifty years – the epitome of mellow male harmony. People a little younger than I am (that is to say, under 60) might not know who they are, but, talkin’ about my ge-ge-ge-ge-generation, people my age and older sure do, and in Japan they are loved greatly.
The Kingston Trio is a franchise, more or less. Two of the original trio are gone now. Dave Guard passed away in 1991, and Nick Reynolds passed away a couple of weeks ago. John Stewart, who replaced Dave Guard in the trio in 1961, died last January. Bob Shane, the sole survivor, retired from touring and now the trio is represented by George Grover, Bill Zorn, and Rick Daugherty. Grover has been the banjo man for the trio for over 30 years; Zorn played with the trio back in the 70s; and Rick Daugherty was Glenn Yarborough’s replacement in the Limeliters for many years. Bill Zorn was a Limeliter with Daugherty for a few years. So they have plenty of folksinger/trio cred, and while they don’t sound like the original three, they sound pretty good and they sing the old songs and a few new ones and indulge in snappy patter, which I envied. Being an old singer/songwriter myself, I can only say that you should never underestimate the importance of snappy patter on stage.
We Tuels have a connection with Rick Daugherty that goes back a ways. He directs operas down in the Bay Area, including for Sonoma City Opera, and has directed my father-in-law, Mark Tuel, in many operas. We mentioned Mark to him and he was delighted to hear of him and meet my Rick, and to hear that, at 87, Mark is going strong. “He’s made of iron,” Daugherty said. Yup, he pretty much is.
Becky and I bought stacks of CDs and listened to them on the way home, and here at home since.
This morning I had my own gig to play. Occasionally I sing at the local nursing home. Most of my audience gets wheeled in; some are no longer verbal, and some are what you might call a little too verbal. I took the summer off to do other things, so hadn’t been back for three or four months. There was a big crowd – the lunch room was packed!
I tend to sing songs from my parent’s youth: It Had to Be You, Melancholy Baby, Always, As Time Goes By. Songs like that. Red River Valley, a little Johnny Cash, Misty, Me and Bobby McGee – it’s a fairly eclectic mix of songs that were popular over the middle twentieth century.
One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can find the lyric to practically any song in about a minute, and I print up lyrics of songs I’d like to sing and put them into a three-ring binder. I don’t always learn the songs, but today I turned the page and there was the lyric to “Plastic Jesus,” a song I have never performed before. I hauled off and sang it, and got to hear the words with the same sense of discovery and amusement my audience had: “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus, riding on the dashboard of my car…” We all had a ball.
But then someone asked me to sing Stardust, which I keep meaning to learn but don’t know. Flo Ann was there, though, and she knew it and she has a nice voice, so I said, “Let’s have a singalong. Flo Ann, you lead it,” and she did, and a lot of people sang along, and that was sweet.
At the end we all sang “You Are My Sunshine,” and then they got ready for lunch and I got to visit with Christine, a friend who has been severely disabled by multiple sclerosis. It is for her I learned the Johnny Cash tunes, and I thank her for it, because everyone seems to like his songs.
So, a good gig. I came out exhausted. Singing takes energy, and that’s not my long suit these days, but it felt good to pick and grin once more, and of course the applause never hurts. I’d like to take a nap, but instead I’m going to haul some discards up to Granny’s Attic, our local thrift store supreme. The more I get rid of, the happier I am.
Hope your week is going well also.

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