December 15, 2009


The Battle of the Bands is in two weeks.

It’s a big deal: TV, radio and newspaper coverage, a live recording featuring the top five bands on a two-disc LP and all-but-guaranteed additional bookings.

You’ve been saving money from your after-school job for nearly a year, working for $1.45 an hour. You need $995. You know it will add a new dimension to the band’s sound and could certainly help in this contest. You have it on lay-a-way, but it won’t be paid off in time for the “battle.”

There’s only one thing you can do: ask the music store owner to let you use the electric piano that afternoon and then return it – something he has never allowed with an item this expensive. Because of it’s popularity with national groups like The Left Banke and The Association, it’s in high demand and his is one of only three in the entire state.

To your complete surprise, he honors your request.

After the event, you go back to the store, excited to tell him your band came in second place and came close to garnering the top spot because that band violated one of the rules and was nearly disqualified. The owner smiles warmly while you recap the day’s events. “Man, it was incredible! There were so many people! You should’ve been there! It was great!” As you head out the back door to bring in the keyboard, you feel a tap on your shoulder.

“Just take it home with you and keep paying on it like you’ve been doing. I know you’re good for it.”

“Really? Thank you! Thank you!

“You’re welcome. Oh, and by the way, I look forward to seeing your band again.”


“Yes, again. I was there today. You guys were great.”

The rest of the summer is a whirlwind of engagements, local TV show appearances and newspaper articles. You’re having the time of your life.

But then comes Fall and with it, the start of another school year.

It also means the 2nd Annual Lecture on putting aside what grown-ups are reluctant to even call a “hobby.” This time, the lecture comes from an uncle on your mother’s side, who, for some inexplicable reason, feels she needs his help raising you.

He starts out with the usual, “It’s time to put away the music and concentrate on your studies.”

This year, you decide to disagree. “I can do both.”

“No you can’t, and you won’t,” he says, truly startled at your opposition to his command. “Playing music will get you nowhere. You need to forget this nonsense and bury yourself in your schoolwork!”

Then comes the “never-been-done-before” move: you talk back to your uncle. “I just shelled out a thousand bucks on this ‘nonsense’ and I am not going to forget about it for the next nine months.” You back up slightly as the last words come out of your mouth.

In rapid-fire, non-cohesive – yet seemingly rehearsed – verbal bursts, he yells, “What did you say? You can’t talk to me that way! How much? Does my sister know about this?”

Feeling somewhat confident that you weren’t going to get knocked across the room, you only answer the last question. “Yup. Mom was there when I bought it.”

Now comes the other lecture – the one where your mother scolds you for talking back to an elder and implicating her as a co-conspirator. But after a few finger-pointing comments, she finds humor in the situation.

“You really said that to him?” she asks, starting to smile.

“Yeah. I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut,” you admit, while revealing a certain pride in your “performance.”

Breaking into laughter, she says, “Yes, you should’ve.” Then, with a failed attempt at regaining her “I’m-upset-with-you” composure, she mumbles, “Don’t let your grades slip.”

She had a love for dance, working her way through college teaching at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Her unrealized dream was to someday go to New York and dance on Broadway. At seventy years old, she still commanded attention when she hit the floor.

Thanks for understanding, Mom.




  1. Love you dad. Impeccable timing on this entry for me, and it’s inspired my entry #992. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome and thanks for continuing to bring me into the 21st century.


      • As I mentioned in another post, I remember that piano. It was the coolest thing in the world! You guys were an insperation for me to get better and find serious musicians to work with. I’ve accomplished a lot. Plus I’m and in good health! Mike Carr

  2. Hmmm, I think I know the uncle you talked back to 🙂 Good for you. I’m guessing he didn’t know what hit him.

    • My lips are sealed – at least on these pages.


      Thanks for responding.

      • As I mentioned in another post, I remember that piano. It was the coolest thing in the world! You guys were an insperation for me to get better and find serious musicians to work with. I’ve accomplished a lot. Plus I’m and in good health! Thank God!! One other thought. I assumed your parents bought you the Rhoads. Now, 50+ years later I learn you earned the money to buy it. You’re a remarkable person Mike! All the best, Mike Carr

  3. Am I supposed to cry?

    • If that’s what you feel like doing, by all means.


    • Actually, I saved up the money ($995.00) working a job, to buy the Rhodes. As I mentioned in “The Hobby”, the piano was not paid for when the music store owner allowed me to take it for the performance at the Northland Battle of the Bands. And, when I brought it back to the store, he told me to go ahead and take it home, knowing I would make the rest of the payments.

      • Yes Mike.. I should have said.. 50 some years ago I thought your parents bought it for you. I believe you. :)..I remember Ziggy Coyles stores. Is that where you bought it?

  4. Dear Cousin,
    What you failed to mention is that you had a brilliant mind and teachers said you’d make a terrific engineer. Remember the buildings and landcape you created with your Lionel train set? As I recall, your mom wanted you to excel in college becuase you were so very capable. No one doubted your musical ability (you were the top student and featured classical performer at our piano recitals). However, unlike many talented musicians you also had other career options. Perhaps that is why family members were conflicted when you chose music first.

    • Thanks for responding, Denise!

      I’m not so sure about the “…brilliant mind.” If I excelled in any area, it was due to my creativity.

      Some people thought I’d make a good engineer. Others thought I’d make a good attorney. Still others thought I’d make a good architect.

      Bottom line: Once she realized I wasn’t going to fall into the typical entertainment “traps,” Mom was happy I followed my heart’s choice, and not the choice of other, well-intentioned family members.

      As I look back on my life of nearly sixty years, I know now more than ever, I made the right decision.


  5. The biggest life lesson I am learning, I am learning from you. To really know who I am – and to follow my heart. Thank you for teaching and helping me each step along the way. (I know it is not easy)

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