The e-mail that started it all

(Originally written in the middle of the night on 11/16/2007)

After the briefest conversation with a coworker today, I now find myself inexplicably transported back to the murky headwaters of the early 1980's. After leaving the comfortable confines of rural Haymond Elementary School (my last class there may have had as many as 15 kids in it - encompassing 5th & 6th grade,) I started a new school year at Grafton Middle School in the big city. The 2000 census reports a population of 5489 for Grafton, West Virginia. I think it was actually a bit larger in the 80's, but not by much. As far as I was concerned the switch was a welcome entry into an eye opening new cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Soon after arriving at GMS, I made a great new friend named Scott S. We probably found each other due to the fact that we were both geeky smart musicians. Basically the kiss of death in the greater Grafton milieu. It never mattered to me that Scott was 100% Filipino in a 99% Caucasian town. Luckily my parents raised me in such a way that I never had a reason to consider skin tone relevant when dealing with other humans. In retrospect I'm sure my friendship with Scott was beyond strange for some Graftonians. Then again, we were each beyond strange in our own way so our friendship made sense.

Upon entering 7th Grade I hadn't been exposed to much music other than what my parents listened to. Believe me, the music could've been better. Then again it could've been worse too. There are more than a few of my parents' old records that I still enjoy today. As an example: if you say "Willie Nelson" or "Neil Diamond" I will most often reply with "Heck Yeah!"

Geeky as he was, Scott was a big city Grafton kid & he was into Styx. He believed in them with the truehearted fervor only an adolescent boy can sustain & was convinced that they were singlehandedly responsible for defending & saving the sacred craft of rock & roll against evil forces. It was never clear to me who the evil forces were, but I liked Scott & therefore I liked Styx as well. With great sadness I'm forced to report that I even owned a few of their solo albums after they broke up. In fact, I performed my first psuedo head banging maneuvers to Styx solo albums. The Horror!

If I'd only known Mick & Dave back then I might've been lucky enough to rock out to Rush or Triumph. All things considered, it turned out all right. When I was in 9th or 10th grade, a new girl moved to town from LA. She introduced me to The Police. Shortly after that, I started hanging out with a kid who's college age brother turned us on to Dead Kennedys, Black Flag & Fear. Around the same time I met an exchange student from Australia who brought Midnight Oil & Talking Heads to the party. After that I just kept going & never stopped exploring. Somewhat strangely, my exploration ultimately led me to several years in which I listened to nothing but Classical & Jazz but that's another story.

In some ways it's never gotten better than when I loved Styx more than anything.

Required listening: Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) from Pieces of Eight


Mick said...

OMG, I have totally erred! I've got a couple more things to recall about Chuck, namely, the notable albums IMHO. I thought the Hollywood Bowl album was overblown, though it was a fellow trumpeters' fave. MY FAVES were (and I still own them) Land of Make Believe and Chase the Clouds Away, which may not age that well, I admit. BUT the Chuck GEM is actually the super-early quartet record Alive!, which I may have gotten from you, JT. That is the first version I ever heard of the Sonny Rollins (?) classic "St. Thomas." And it ain't bad.

Mick said...

A couple of other notes: I agree completely witht the session cats aspect of LATHB, and I learned to name-drop dudes unknown to me like Charles Meeks and Chris Vadala. I'm recalling now that I think I actually must have seen Chuck b/c I remember Chris Vadala in this dumb jumpsuit that Chuck seemed to make everybody wear but himself.

Finally, I think Chuck must have been a big stoner. I just feel this from glancing across the press shots of him on allmusic.com.

I can't believe you saw him in the Hamptons. How crazy.

jaunty said...

Mick- It looks like we're actually commenting on the Styx post here, but the masses will no doubt figure it out. I vaguely recall the "Alive" album, but you already owned it when we met. I've never seen it for sale anywhere. You might be holding a genuine collector's item.

"St. Thomas" is indeed from Sonny Rollins.

My College Trumpet Professor was Chris Vidala's roommate when they were in school. One of my weekly private lessons was once interrupted by CV's call. He was a bit freaked out because CM had just fired the band.

I saw Chuck in concert once, but I don't remember the jumpsuits.

Anonymous said...

Come on, it was the 80s and sorry about the lack of BeeGees. Who knew you wanted that??? I've been waiting for you to start a blog--but now I guess I have to get up to speed, since I missed the Styx stuff. And, regarding that, you shoulda listened to Kevin Ford. He would have told you what to listen to. Jane T.

J-Sun said...

Chris Vadala -- yes, boy oh boy does that name ring a bell. I know we're on the Styx post here, but I wanted to comment where everyone else was. We did see CM in concert, at the Creative Arts Center in Morgantown. Afterwards, we went out for pizza. I don't think the band was in jumpsuits at the time. Maybe CM was influenced by Devo...

bill quinn said...

I was into Styx, they had that album with the block of Ice on fire. I'm not one for names. But that hang man is coming down from the gallows and I dont have very long. When I saw them at Rupp (yes, I was front row, and camped out for tickets, and all that) ... I remember thinking, "oh dear tommy shaw is so short, and the others are so tall". That's all I remember, I think the stones hit Rupp a short while after that, and that changed alot of things for me.

So glad for the T-blog, and you're officially on my blog-o-sucker. Ye'haw!

jaunty said...

Welcome Mr. Q--

Now repeat after me; "My name is Bill & I used to like Styx." Don't fret, yrr in good company.