I don’t have idols. Idols will let you down, You see, they have one Achilles heel: they are human-beings.
What I do have is individuals I immensely respect. Men and women who I have known who have done, or at least tried to do, things of importance. Importance to the world, their community, or maybe they’ve simple made the space around them a happier, gentler place while they walked on the planet. One of those people in my life was my father.
He was not only a gentleman, but a gentle man. He taught me that you could tell the character of a person by how they treated children and animals. One day he just gave up hunting. When I asked him why he said “I’ll do my hunting with a camera from now on Laura.”
He was a gypsy of sorts. He held many jobs in his life. He owned two separate bars, one in Washington state, and one in Alaska. He worked for Montgomery Wards during WWII in Montana where he delivered ordered goods to the Japanese interment camp. He was married 4 times. He lived all over the country.
But he was musician.
He played bass. He studied for 1 year at the University of Nebraska, and then dropped out.
He wanted to play.
He played jazz, dixieland, big band; he just wanted to play. He played with small bands all over the country. He played with Lawrence Welk for a while. He said Larry was and asshole and couldn’t take it. He left him before he became Lawrence.
My dad was a showman. He had a big sense of humor, and an even bigger smile. He instilled in me the importance of music. More than just a love, it was a discipline. We played the piano game. I would sit with my back to the keys and he would play a note. “Flat or sharp?” “Middle C?” It wasn’t a punishment, it was a game. He taught me to sing. He made sure I knew who Ella and Sarah were before I knew John and Paul.
Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie.
He loved the blues. He loved New Orleans blues.
He died in 1992, I wanted to play Louis Armstrong’s version of Just a Closer Walk With Thee at his funeral, but it was before the rampant MP3 internet cache was available, so I had to settle for a 70-year-old soprano from Rush City singing it.
Not the same.
So today, here is a small payback to my dad, The Gypsy Wannabe. Well, actually, he was the Gypsy, I guess I’m the wannabe.
I still can’t find Louis’s version on-line, but I did find a classic funeral New Orleans sound. Here it is Bob, and thanks.