Archive for the ‘1973’ Category

Saturday Single No. 592

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

I’ve been doing kind of a fun daily music post at Facebook lately. It started Monday when I saw someone post something about an event in 1968, that incredible year now fifty years gone. And I got to wondering, just for fun, what the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 had been fifty years ago on Monday. So I checked it out and found it was Jerry Butler’s “Never Give You Up,” a decent piece of Chicago soul.

And never being one to let a good idea go underworked, I kept at it, posting one a day:

Forty-nine years ago Tuesday, the No. 49 record was “Special Delivery” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Forty-eight years ago Wednesday, the No. 48 record was “Everybody’s Out Of Town” by B.J. Thomas.

Forty-seven years ago Thursday, the No. 47 record was “Booty Butt” by the Ray Charles Orchestra.

Forty-six years ago Friday, the No. 46 record was “Immigration Man” by Graham Nash and David Crosby.

And forty-five years ago today, the No. 45 record was “I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star)” by Glenn Campbell.

I’ll probably keep on with the daily posts through the 1970s, or at least through 1978, which will have been forty years ago and will make the series total eleven posts. So I’m about halfway done. And this morning’s post is the first time that the date of the post and the date of the chart matched: The Glenn Campbell record showed up in the Hot 100 that came out on May 26, 1973, exactly forty-five years ago today.

It being Saturday, of course, I’m looking for a Saturday Single, so we’re going to dig a bit further into that chart from forty-five years ago. We’ll likely not find our single in the top of the chart, but here’s the Top Ten from that week:

“Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group
“My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Daniel” by Elton John
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree” by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando
“You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“Pillow Talk” by Sylvia
“Little Willy” by the Sweet
“Drift Away” by Dobie Gray
“Wildflower” by Skylark
“Hocus Pocus” by Focus

That’s a mixed bag, to be sure. The singles by Dawn, Sylvia and the Sweet were never among my favorites, and I tired quickly of the Stevie Wonder and Focus singles. The rest were good records but none of them were anything I thought of as great. The best one here was “Drift Away,” and that didn’t make my top 250 when I put it together as the Ultimate Jukebox in 2010.

But let’s look lower. Since my Facebook post this morning looked at No. 45, let’s look at the records in other “5” positions in that forty-five year old chart:

No. 15 was “Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players
No. 25 was “Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston
No. 35 was “I Can Understand It” by the New Birth
No. 55 was “Shambala” by Three Dog Night
No. 65 was “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain” by the Dramatics
No. 75 was “Peaceful” by Helen Reddy
No. 85 was “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple
No. 95 was “Outlaw Man” by David Blue

Well, that’s an interesting mix: A fair amount of R&B, some pop, one classic riff and one utterly lost record.

That lost record, for those keeping score at home, is Blue’s “Outlaw Man,” which would move up one more notch to No. 94 and then fall out of the Hot 100 entirely. It was Blue’s only entry in the Hot 100, and it had been pulled from Blue’s 1973 album Nice Baby and the Angel, the fifth of seven albums Blue would release (none of which charted in Billboard.).

To top off that run of futility, Joel Whitburn notes in Top Pop Singles that Blue, who hailed from Providence, Rhode Island, had a brief life, dying while jogging in December 1982 at the age of forty-one.

Two of Blue’s seven albums and one additional track are in the digital stacks, and though I don’t know them well, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard of them. And because “Outlaw Man” popped up for attention today, it may as well be today’s Saturday Single.

‘How’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

So, today we finish our project titled Journalism 101, combing the digital stacks for tunes that have in their titles the various one-word questions that make up the foundation of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

It’s finally time to look at ‘how,” and when we sort the 72,000 or so tracks currently in the RealPlayer for that word, we have 1,164 of those tracks remaining. Many, of course, must be discarded.

That includes more than 160 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf, more than 100 tracks from the Old Crow Medicine Show, the soundtracks by Howard Shore from all three films in The Lord of the Rings series, two full albums – Howlin’ and Howlin’ at the Southern Moon – by a group called Delta Moon, the 2005 album titled How To Save A Life by the Fray (except for the title track), full albums by Howdy Moon, Jan Howard, Howie Day, Catherine Howe and Steve Howe, and the wonderful album Showdown! by bluesmen Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland.

And that’s maybe half of the chaff we have to discard. Still, there’s plenty of grain, and we’re going to let the RealPlayer decide, ordering the tracks by time, setting the cursor in the middle and going random four times.

We start with a track from one of the two acclaimed country rock albums Gram Parson recorded in the early 1970s. (He called his stuff “Cosmic American Music”). “How Much I’ve Lied” come from the 1973 release GP, and it’s a weeper, with Parsons telling the object of his affections that he’s an unworthy and dishonest rascal:

A thief can only steal from you, he cannot break your heart
He’ll never touch the precious things inside
So one like you should surely be miles and miles away from me
Then you’d never care how much I’ve lied

I’ve never liked a lot of Parsons’ stuff. With the Byrds, with the Flying Burrito Brothers and on his own, he got all the notes right, but seemed to miss the feel of the music more often than not. Maybe if I’d heard his work back when it came out, if the music Parsons made with those two groups and on his own had been my introduction to the genre, I’d feel differently. But from where I listen, the music of the short-lived and admittedly tragic Parsons falls short of country glory.

We leap ahead to the 1990s and a far different aesthetic: “How Will You Go” by Crowded House, with the close harmonies and musical production values that meant that nearly every review of the group’s work during the late 1980s and early 1990s included the word “Beatlesque.” The track comes from the group’s 1991 album Woodface, one that I had on cassette about the time it came out. I don’t know it as well as the group’s self-titled 1986 debut album, but I recall liking Woodface on those 1990s evenings on Pleasant Avenue when I turned to the stack of cassettes on my bookshelf instead of the bins of LPs on the floor. I can’t say I noticed “How Will You Go” back then, but it’s pleasant enough listening, though the lyrics seem a bit uncertain in direction. The track includes a surprise tack-on of about a minute of “I’m Still Here,” not noted on early track listings.

And courtesy of the massive Lost Jukebox project we get a nifty, poppy 1970 tune called “Teach Me How” by the Harmony Grass. The record, according to the notes at a site that catalogs all 170 volumes of the LJ (each with, I would guess, more than twenty-five tracks), was a United Kingdom release on RCA Victor. It’s got a nice backing track, it’s got tastefully stacked vocals with some Four Seasons flourishes, and its tale is one of a young man imploring his loved one to teach him how to survive when she leaves him: “You are my shoulder to lean on. What will I do when you’re gone?” Written by Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer (before she appended the Sager), the record is a gender-flipped cover of a Chiffons B-side from 1968. Today, we’d call the tale one of dysfunction and co-dependence, I suppose, but I would have liked it if I’d heard it come from the speakers of my old RCA radio in 1970.

Our last stop is a familiar one: “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Pulled from the 1994 album Wildflowers, a single release went to No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Rock Male Vocal. I’ve never written much about the late Mr. Petty, though I like a lot of his work, including this one. So let’s just listen:

Saturday Single No. 580

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Given the ways the days and dates intersect on the calendar as the years go by, sometimes there are stretches of years when a specific date – like today’s: Saturday, March 3 – are kind of rare. In the stretch of years I call my musical sweet spot – the years from, oh, 1968 through 1975 – there is just one time when March 3 fell on a Saturday: 1973.

I could, as I have sometimes done, look to earlier or later years in search of a single for a Saturday morning. March 3 fell on a Saturday in 1979, a year that holds little interest musically, and in 1962, which does hold more interest but will be saved for another day.

So off to 1973 we go. The top ten in Billboard on this date forty-five years ago was:

“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Dueling Banjos” by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell
“Last Song” by Edward Bear
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” by the Spinners
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Love Train” by the O’Jays
“Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” by Deodato
“Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver
“Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend” by Lobo

Well, there’s nothing there that falls in the “no, please don’t” category, but the only ones that I truly love are the singles by the Spinners and the O’Jays. I do like “You’re So Vain,” but it’s on a second tier, and I liked “Killing Me Softly . . .” when it came out, but I’ve long since gotten tired of it.

And, as we generally do, we’re going to look deeper at this particular Hot 100. Instead of playing Games With Numbers or getting too fancy, though, we’re just going to look at Nos. 40, 70 and 100 and see what we find.

At No. 40, we find a cross-over from the world of country: “Soul Song” by Joe Stampley, a Louisiana boy who – according to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles – had sixty-one hits on the country chart between 1971 and 1979, with four of those going to No. 1. “Soul Song,” which peaked on the pop chart at No. 37, was his only record on the Hot 100. I likely heard it back then, but I don’t recall it. Listening this morning, I find it kind of dull and repetitious. Not my deal.

Candi Staton gives us some groovin’ advice when we get to No. 70: “Do It In The Name Of Love.” The biggest hit for the Alabama-born Staton, of course, was 1976’s “Young Hearts Run Free,” which went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 and was No. 1 on the R&B chart. “Do It In The Name Of Love” has a good funky vibe to it, but then, so did a couple thousand other singles in 1973. It peaked at No. 63 on the Hot 100 and at No. 17 on the R&B chart.

At the bottom
of the Hot 100 forty-five years ago today was “We Did It” by Syl Johnson, an R&B performer who was born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago. “We Did It” was one of seven records Johnson placed in or near the Hot 100, none of which reached the Top 40. (He had twelve records in the R&B Top 40, with his greatest success being his 1975 cover of the Talking Heads’ “Take Me To The River,” which went to No. 7.) Like the Staton record, “We Did It” has a good groove, this one provided by Willie Mitchell’s production. It peaked at No. 95.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the No. 100 record sounds pretty damn good this morning what with the groove and the horns and all, and that’s enough to make “We Did It” by Syl Johnson today’s Saturday Single.

Listen To The Wolf

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Looking for a tune with the word “moving” in its title – trying to match our reality with a post for today – I came across Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moving.” It’s a basic Wolf joint, and I wondered as it played: How many Howlin’ Wolf tracks sit on the digital shelves?

The answer turns out to be 149, ranging temporally from some sides recorded to the RPM label in West Memphis, Tennessee, in 1951 to “Moving,” a track from The Back Door Wolf, which was released in 1973, just three years before the Wolf laid down his harp. The track, like many others on the digital shelves, came from the box set Chess put together in 1991.

And since we are moving, and because I have some duties along that line today – we are making progress, but Monday’s arrival of the moving van looms large – I’ll just offer “Moving” here and get out of the way. I hope to offer a post on Saturday, but we’ll see how things go.

Saturday Single No. 576

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Let’s go back to 2007: After flailing around for a couple weeks in January and a couple of days in February – ripping LPs and a few singles to mp3s and then trying to figure out what to say about them – I stumbled across what I really wanted to do with this blog eleven years ago today.

We’d had a difficult night, the Texas Gal and I. An ailment of some sort – and I do not recall what it was, whether she’d been ill or if it had been something wrong with Mom – brought us to the emergency room after midnight and kept us there for a couple of hours. As morning came, I felt compelled to post something here, even if it could not be an album, as I had planned.

And after a paragraph of explanation, I wrote:

But I thought I’d at least show that I was still alive and still blogging by tossing a single out into the ether.

So as I was wandering through my music files, I came upon a single that was – for a few weeks, at least – omnipresent in Denmark during the nine months I spent there many years ago. No matter where my girlfriend of the time and I went that autumn, we heard – sometimes just off in the distance – Lecia & Lucienne singing “Rør Ved Mig” (which translates roughly, I think, into “Stay With Me”).

When I got back to the U.S. in the spring of 1974, I was startled to hear coming from my radio the same tune and nearly the same arrangement, but this time with the words in Spanish. I’ve never been able to determine whether Mocedades’ “Eres Tu,” was the original song and “Rør Ved Mig” was the second-language copycat, or the other way around. And it could be, I suppose, that there are other versions of the song out there in other languages, although in the more-than-thirty-years since I spent my time in Denmark, I’ve heard none.

A couple years after I came back to the U.S., my Danish brother visited, and during his visit, I mentioned “Rør Ved Mig” to him. After he got home, he mailed me a copy of the single. I don’t suppose I’ve played it often, but I did every once in a while. And then I got online about seven years ago and found an MP3 copy out there on the web. It pops up on the RealPlayer now and then.*

And whenever I hear “Rør Ved Mig,” it has the same effect: For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing “Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .”

I headlined the post “Taking Me Somewhere Else,” and the following Saturday, I wrote about Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising” and titled that “Saturday Single No. 1.” I’ve wished for a long time that I’d thought to call “Rør Ved Mig” the first in this long-running list of Saturday Singles, because it was with that post on February 3, 2007, that I found what I wanted to do with this blog: tell how music and my life have been viscerally intertwined, probably since the first time either Mom or Dad sang me to sleep in September 1953.

As is my habit, I’ve since found several other versions of “Rør Ved Mig” or “Eres Tu” or whatever you want to call it, in several different languages. I’ve not indexed them well, which puts another item on my list of tasks for after our move. But even if those versions were easily accessible, this eleventh anniversary spot belongs to Lecia & Lucienne, and “Rør Ved Mig” is today’s Saturday Single.

*I should note that the mp3 I found online did not stay long in my files after I got my turntable. The mp3 shared with that post eleven years ago and that I used to make the video above was recorded from the single that my Danish brother sent to me in 1975.

One Chart Dig: January 20, 1973

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 20, 1973, forty-five years ago tomorrow:

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
“Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina
“Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu” by Johnny Rivers
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield
“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas
“Oh, Babe, What Would You Say” by Hurricane Smith

And, as might be expected, those ten records slap me right into the middle of my sophomore year at St. Cloud State, sparking memories of music theory classes, of Cokes with a young lady who worked the main desk at the Learning Resources Center, of lengthy bull sessions in the office of the small TV studio next door at the Performing Arts Center, of a cross-country skiing weekend in Wisconsin with the Luther League from Salem Lutheran, and of trying to figure out where I belonged.

In that last category, three things come to mind. It was about this time when I realized I no longer fit in with the group of kids I’d hung around with for much of my freshman year and quit trying to spend time with them. It was around the middle of January in 1973 when a young woman in my philosophy class invited me to join her for coffee at Atwood Center after class to meet her friends, a group of people that turned out to be The Table, the center of my on-campus life for the next several years. And it was around this time when a friend of mine from church asked me to go to a meeting one evening and take notes for her, a meeting set up to assess students’ interest in spending the next academic year in Fredericia, Denmark.

So even though I felt lost and uncertain as the month began – and even though I never got past friendly Cokes after work with the girl from the main desk – I can look back at January of 1973 and see from 2018 a hinge on which my life pivoted.

Looking through the rest of the Hot 100 from that long-ago time, I don’t see any records that really speak to those days (though I do note that Shawn Phillips’ “We” – a record that showed up in the Atwood Center jukebox during the autumn of 1974 and became one of the touchstones of my life – was sitting at No. 92 in the second of its three weeks on the chart).

So I looked for something I might never have heard that sounds good, and I found, parked at No. 66, “Daytime Night-time” by Keith Hampshire, a native of England who grew up in Canada. I don’t recall the record at all, though if I’d heard it back in 1973, I probably would have liked it, what with the piano in the intro, the horns throughout, and the vocal very reminiscent of David Clayton-Thomas. It peaked at No. 51 during the second week of February.

Saturday Single No. 566

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

One of the main currents that’s run through my adult life – and thus through this blog – is the impact of the time I spent in Fredericia, Denmark, through St. Cloud State during the 1973-74 academic year. It was, as I think I’ve said here before, the greatest formative experience in my life, a foundation for almost anything I’ve done, thought and written over the past forty-four years.

I wondered for years if my attachments to my time in Denmark and to the memory of the more than one hundred students who shared that experience were excessive, and I wondered if they were mine alone. But when I broached in late 1993 to a few of those folks that we should plan a twenty-year reunion the following summer, I learned I was not alone. Others felt the same way about the impact of those days in Denmark and in their connections to those who were there.

We are, as one of us noted in an email this week, brothers and sisters. In our day-to-day lives, we are – as is true of any large group – closer to some than to others. But when the largest of life’s sorrows come to one, all of us feel it. And this week, we grieve for the loss of one of our own.

I’ve written before about Dewey, telling of our 450-mile trek to watch the Super Bowl on television in Hanau, Germany, and remembering our pilgrimage to the headquarters of the Adidas shoe company in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. I’ve likely not noted that as we resumed our Minnesota lives and for some years after that, Dewey was one of my closest friends.

We finished college pretty much together, and he was one of two from our Denmark group to stand at my side when I married the Other Half in 1978. He was troubled but supportive when that pairing failed in 1987. When I landed a job in the Twin Cities suburb of Eden Prairie a few years later, I stopped by his office every now and then. But my life turned left in 1999, and I saw Dewey only once more, at our 2004 reunion.

Dewey was a very private man. I had no idea he was seeing anyone until I was invited to his wedding in the early 1980s. And when he began having the physical difficulties that were eventually diagnosed as ALS, he held that pretty close. He had to be persuaded by his life-long friend Cal that those who were in Denmark with him should know, and Cal passed the word on to us at a gathering a few summers ago. I emailed Dewey, and in his reply he said things weren’t too bad, a typical Dewey response. Neither of us said anything about his prognosis in the few emails we sent back and forth after that. But we knew.

The end came last Monday, November 20, and Cal emailed us all that afternoon. Emails went back and forth in the next couple days as we shared our tales of Dewey and our grief. In one of those emails, I shared a graphic I made a few years ago when a Facebook acquaintance died. I found the photo online; the text is the chorus of a lyric I wrote about thirty years ago.

Be A Candle

Do we need music today? Well, I remember visiting Dewey in the mid-1970s when he had an apartment in Minneapolis, and he introduced me to the music of Jackson Browne, for which I’ll be forever grateful. But nothing from Browne’s catalog seems to fit perfectly here, not even “For A Dancer,” Browne’s meditation on grief. So I’ll reach back forty-four years for a tune that we listened to in the lounge at our youth hostel as the end of our time together in Denmark approached.

Here’s America’s 1973 track “To Each His Own.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Another Departure . . .

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I woke this morning to the news of another musical loss:

Singer/songwriter Michael Johnson, who spent a good share of his performing life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, died Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offered a look at Johnson’s life and career in today’s paper, and that story is here.

The headline on Bream’s story highlights Johnson’s recording of “Bluer Than Blue,” and it’s true that “Bluer . . .” was Johnson’s greatest chart success, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart during the spring of 1978 while going to No. 12 on the magazine’s Hot 100. And I recall hearing “Bluer Than Blue” on the radio during my days in Monticello, just as I recall hearing Johnson’s 1979 single “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” as it went to No. 5 on what had become the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 19 on the Hot 100.

Both of those were fine singles, and beyond the musical pleasure I got from them, there was a little smidgen of joy as well that the man who made them was based in Minnesota. (Johnson, who was born in Colorado, made his home in Minnesota from 1969 to 1985, then returned here in 2007 after spending the intervening years in Nashville.) But that Minnesota connection is only one of three connections I have to Johnson’s music.

Another connection came through this blog during its early years, when I was exploring the music of Patti Dahlstrom. (Posts about her and her four 1970s albums are here.) During our email exchanges at the time, Patti noted that she and Tom Snow had written “Dialogue,” the title track of Johnson’s 1979 album, and she sent me an mp3 of the demo she and Snow had recorded. Here’s what Johnson did with it:

And then there was the first connection, the most visceral of the three. Johnson’s first album, the 1973 release There Is A Breeze, was one of those that we had on tape at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my 1973-74 college adventure. It probably didn’t get dropped into the tape player as frequently as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers & Sisters, but it was there.

And, as I’ve noted about the other music I heard in the lounge during those Danish days and nights, it only takes a few notes of any of the tunes on There Is A Breeze to remind me how those days and nights felt as well as how important they were in making me who I am today.

Of the seven or so mainstay albums were had on tape during our time in Denmark, Johnson’s There Is A Breeze was probably the last one I looked for, and it was difficult to find, though I admit my searching during the years 1974-77 was sporadic. I had other stuff to do and other music to find. My chance came during the autumn of 1977. I was working as a public relations officer at the St. Cloud CETA Center – CETA was a federal jobs program – and a co-worker brought in a box of records he was going to take across the street to Axis, a store that sold new and used records along with leather coats and hats.

And in the box was a copy of There Is A Breeze, which I gladly took home, listening to it that evening in the lake cabin where the Other Half and I were living for a couple months until we found out where my permanent job search would take me. And the first strains of the first track, “Pilot Me,” whisked me a few years back and four thousand miles away.

As I noted above, I remember hearing Michael Johnson’s two most successful singles in 1978 and 1979, but I have to admit I’ve not followed him closely. I had a vinyl copy of Dialogue, his 1979 album, but it did not survive the Great Vinyl Sell-off of last winter. And rummaging through the ’Net a couple of years ago, I found a two-CD repackaging of Johnson’s first three albums, beginning with There Is A Breeze, so I was also able to let my vinyl copy of that album go, too. (It was worn and a little banged, and no longer sounded very good.)

I suppose that if I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to take into account – as did Jon Bream for the Minneapolis paper – all of Michael Johnson’s career as I write this morning. But what we do here – what Odd and Pop and I try to do – is to consider the music that’s mattered to me over the years. And with a stop at “Dialogue” to salute a distant friend, and acknowledging as well that Michael Johnson made a lot of very good music in his seventy-two years, I have to say . . .

Well, anyone who reads this space regularly knows where that’s going: There Is A Breeze is one of the treasures of my life, and here’s the opening track, “Pilot Me.”

Saturday Single No. 549

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Well, I slept most of the morning away – rare for me, as I generally am up by 7 a.m. on weekdays and by 9 on Saturdays and Sundays – and time is flibbering away quickly, as it does these days.

We have no plans other than finding somewhere to grab a nibble this afternoon and then making a stop at the nearby grocery store. I think this evening we’ll invest some time in writing thank you notes, a hand-cramping exercise that’s painful in several ways.

So I find myself sleepy and uncertain, and maybe “thank you” is the way to go. Here’s B.B. King showing some gratitude to his audience with “Thank You For Loving The Blues” It’s from his 1973 album To Know You Is To Love You, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Sixty Years On

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

It might have been in March, it might have been in May. It likely was during April, but after sixty years, there’s no way to know.

So I’ve not known when this spring to mark the day in 1957 when two boys – five and three years old – ventured across Kilian Boulevard on their tricycles to meet the three-year-old boy whose family had moved into the white house kiddy-corner from theirs during the winter.

That new boy in the neighborhood was, of course, me, and the boys heading my way across the intersection – and I can still envision them pedaling down the middle of Eighth Street as it crosses Kilian – were Rick and Rob.

Over the years, folks have asked me who in my life have I known longest outside my family – it’s the kind of question you get in parlor games or on long, dull drives – and I’ve never been able to really answer. I don’t truly remember who was in the lead on that tricycle trip from across the street. I think it was Rob, but I’m not certain. If it was, then I’ve known Rob longer than I’ve known anyone except my family. But he holds that spot over Rick by no more than two or three seconds.

Truth be told, they hadn’t set out from their house just to welcome me to the neighborhood; they were off to hit the candy counter at Wyvell’s Store, the little neighborhood grocery another block west and half-a-block north from our place. I remember talking with them for a few moments, and then I watched as they made their way on down Eighth Street, turning their trikes into the alley halfway down the block and then onto the dirt path leading to the next corner, a path on the margin of someone’s lawn that had been worn by years of tricycles, bicycles and feet, all looking for a slight shortcut on the way to the neighborhood store.

(I haven’t purposely looked in years, but I’d bet that if I took a brief excursion from Kilian down Eighth today, I’d see that same dirt path through the edge of that yard. When we were kids, an elderly woman lived there, and a dim memory tells me that she was grandmother to the kids who lived in the next house along the way to the store, but I’m not sure. The lot is empty these days; sometime after I left home, the house there was badly damaged in an explosion, and what was left was torn down. I’m not sure if the lot is unbuildable, but it’s been years and it’s still vacant. As to the store, I’m not sure how long it had been Wyvell’s or who had owned it before then. Sometime around 1960, an older couple bought the store and it became Tuey’s Grocery, and then, right around 1965, it was sold again and became Norb’s Superette. Norb hung in there until sometime in the 1990s, when he retired and the store’s interior was remodeled to make it a house. Its exterior, though, proclaims clearly its origins as a neighborhood store, one of many such that used to be found along the streets of St. Cloud.)

And that was how I entered Rick and Rob’s lives, as a brief delay during a trip for candy. Not too long after that, I would guess, I joined them on a trip to Wyvell’s as well as heading across the street to play at their place, in the best yard for kids in the neighborhood. (Their dad was a manufacturer of fences and playground equipment, and their yard was, in effect, a testing ground for prototypes, with swing sets, teeter-totters, small merry-go-rounds, monkey bars and other climbing stuff.)

As we got older, Rick and I paired off more often and Rob went his own way with other friends. Rick and I were closer in age – five months apart – while Rob was nearly two years older than I. But there were plenty of times over the years when the three of us did things together, and there were times when Rick wasn’t around for some reason, and Rob and I hung out.

In the first couple decades of adulthood, we saw each other rarely. We were busy setting up our lives, I guess. Rick was a member of the wedding party when I married The Other Half in 1978. I was a member of the wedding party and read a portion of Scripture when Rick got married in 1982, and Rob has told me I’d have had the same duties at his wedding in 1983 had I not been living in Missouri. But our contacts during the late 1970s and through the 1980s were limited, although we did have a couple of table-top hockey tournaments during the latter half of the 1980s. (Those tourneys were when Schultz joined us; he and Rick had kept in touch since high school.)

I entered the nomadic phase of my life in the late 1980s, not settling down until 1992, when I began to see the brothers together and separately again, but those meetings were sporadic. It wasn’t until the Texas Gal and I moved to St. Cloud that I began to organize get-togethers twice a year, with table-top hockey and baseball being the ostensible reasons.

And reconnecting with Rick and Rob, and with Schultz, whom I knew during our high school years, is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’d hope it’s been that good for them, too.

So what tune is going to match that? Well, nothing precisely, but one that comes close is “My Old Friends” by English singer/songwriter Duncan Browne. It’s from his self-titled 1973 album.

Inner light, inner light, shine brightly on my old friends.
May they go on, never fall, never think that I don’t wish them well.